So you’re going to Churchill. You’ve waited your whole life for this. You’ve researched the bears, the hotel, the food, the tours, and you are all ready to go. Except, what do you bring? How cold will it be? This is northern Canada after all. We’ve put together this handy guide on what to pack to get the most out of your polar bear adventure.
Warm (very warm) jacket & pants
This seems obvious, but we aren’t talking about just any old winter jacket. If you live in a place that gets anything less than -30 degrees Celsius in the winter, you’re going to need to go shopping, borrow from a friend or rent a proper jacket. You need a parka with fur, down feathers and high tech fabrics. On top of those features, it should be waterproof and windproof. You’re about to embark on one of the most barren and harsh landscapes in the world and it’s crucial to bundle up. This goes for your pants too. Don’t skimp on this. Underneath your jacket and pants, you should wear several thinner layers – a must for cold climates!
Boots and socks
When it comes to selecting a pair of boots to bring, you want to think lined, think thick and think waterproof. If you’re on a tundra vehicle, you’ll want them to be extra warm because you won’t be moving around as much as you might on a walking tour. If you’re embarking on a safari, your boots need to be comfortable and preferably lightweight to suit the hours of walking in potentially marshy, squishy conditions. Cold, wet feet are the perfect way to ruin your otherwise amazing holiday. There is a general rule for not layering socks – so we recommend a single pair of high quality wool socks.
Hat, mittens, scarf
You need it all. Your head, ears, mouth, nose all need to be covered. Don’t be fooled if you look at the forecast and see mild (0 degrees) temperatures. When the wind picks up, you will want to be protected. It’s clever to wear a thin pair of gloves under a thick pair of mitts. That way, when you need to snap a photo, simple take off the thick pair of mitts and your hand will still be covered as you click the perfect shot. Having a hat that cover the ears is important, especially if your jacket doesn’t have a hood (but try and get a jacket with a hood–you’ll thank us).
Camera, binoculars & a ziploc bag
We assume you want to take a few photos while you’re face-to-face with wildlife, and being able to see long distances when every white rock on the horizon kind of looks like a sleeping polar bear is made easier with binoculars. When it comes to camera equipment, a ziploc bag is a necessity to protect your precious equipment when you’re coming in from the cold – and one that many individuals forget. To prevent your lenses from fogging up when you come inside, fill the bag with cold air, place your camera inside and seal it shut. Once you’re inside, let your camera, cell phone, binoculars and any other electronics sit for about 20 minutes as they slowly come to room temperature.
Sunglasses, lip balm & warmers
It can get bright out on the tundra, brighter than you’d expect (especially with the sun bouncing off of the white landscape), so protect your eyes. Sunglasses also help protect your face from the wind, as will goggles worn in a similar fashion. Your lips will be exposed to sun and wind and will bask in the relief of some lip balm at the end of the day. You can help keep your toes and fingers extra toasty by slipping hand and foot warmers into your mitts and boots. Bring a few extra to offer to others – it’s a sure way to make friends in the north!
Pajamas, robe & slippers
This one is for after hours, rather than actual polar bear viewing. When you’re visiting northern Manitoba, it’s almost inevitable that the northern lights will make an appearance. And since the show tends to start late, it’s likely you’ll be roused from your sleep by a guide. If you prefer to sleep, au naturel, we recommend bringing something you can quickly throw on so as not to ostracize yourself from the rest of the guests.