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Getting ready for a polar expedition

Préparer votre expédition polaire

It’s more about the mind than the body

The big day is nearly here. The day you dive into the unknown. You’re about to set off on a journey of discovery to explore the extreme environments of the Arctic or the wilderness of Antarctica. But as a polar expedition is something truly out of the ordinary that will take you a long way away from your day-to-day life, here is some advice to help you prepare for your adventure.

Open your eyes – you’ll be amazed at what you can learn

For most people, the polar regions are still pure, remote lands, mysterious guardians of unspoilt nature with magic and riches that need protection. This is the focus of many cultural, educational and scientific events held each year all around the world. In France, the Été polaire (polar summer), the first cultural and scientific season on the Arctic and Antarctica, is transforming a host of iconic venues into special laboratories for disseminating knowledge, ideas and images about the polar regions – from the Natural History Museum in Paris and various French maritime museums to the Espace des Mondes Polaires Polar Centre in Prémanon. The season’s events, lectures, webinars, exhibitions, performances and screenings provide a host of opportunities for all of us to open our eyes to, marvel at the polar regions and raise awareness about the present and future challenges facing them. You can continue this initial ‘remote’ exploration and perfect your knowledge by reading the accounts of those who have been there – passionate explorers, naturalists and photographers – and the marvellous interpretations of those who have dreamt of going there.

Préparer votre expédition polaire

More than a voyage, a rite of passage

Joining a polar expedition is a radical departure from your day-to-day life. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a triathlete to consider going on a polar trip. Practising an endurance sport for a few months before you leave is a good idea. Hiking in the mountains is the ideal way to train for this type of adventure.

However, “contrary to what many people think, it’s not being in outstanding physical shape that is key to an expedition’s success, but the state of mind of the participants”, says Nicolas Dubreuil, French adventurer specialist of the polar regions. Being isolated from the rest of the world can sometimes leave visitors to the Far North or White Continent with a feeling of emptiness. Just look at this trip as a rite of passage beyond our planet’s last great ‘wild’ frontier. “It’s an opportunity for positive introspection, incredible creative and adaptational growth, a sort of rebirth!” And in the heart of this unpredictable environment, “it’s vital to use your imagination, adapt to the situation rather than trying to control everything”. Learn to share and care for others. And by others, we don’t just mean the other passengers, but also everything that surrounds you. You have the time to pay homage to, observe and learn about your environment, so take it”.


Préparer votre expédition polaire


And remember: the cold is your friend! Without going so far as prescribing sessions in a cold room to convince you, have fun clearing your head by taking a few cold showers, getting a little colder every time, to get your body used to this strange sensation. Who knows? You might even be preparing yourself for your first polar dive! Followers of the Wim Hof method – which involves regularly taking ice baths in water between -0.5°C and 4°C – will tell you: the thermal shock it provokes puts you into a meditative state favourable to connecting with the surrounding nature. It’s an experience to carry out mindfully!

Adapting and letting go to better reconnect with the present moment is probably the best state of mind to be in to make the most of your polar experience. If your mind is ready, your body will follow…

Less spiritual but just as useful…

You have to think about what to pack! There are various apps to help you get ready, focusing on everything from checklists and packing to tips and formalities. For clothing, respect the famous three-layer or onion layering system: first, a synthetic or merino wool base layer. Then, a fleece or thin down jacket. And finally, a parka or thick down jacket. This technique will help you adapt to any situation and adjust your clothing to temperature variations and your activities. Dress warm if you’re going for a dog sled ride but wear ‘lighter’, more breathable warm clothing if you’re going snowshoeing or skiing. You can also use attach hand or foot warmers to your gloves or socks and regulate their temperature via a mobile app.

Préparer votre expédition polaire

With an awakened mind, trained body and buckled suitcase, you’re finally ready to look winter, the cold and ice right in the eye!

Photos credits : © Istock / © Studio PONANT / Olivier Blaud /

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