Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Expedition Equipment July 19 2007

Kit either excites you or it doesn't. For me, I have the sort of reaction when walking into a mountaineering, cycling or windsurfing shop that a 4 year old boy would feel when entering a giant model train emporium. This has many consequences, ranging from being permanently impoverished and needing to hide purchases from my wife (well, for a day or so before confessing), to being responsible for the equipment we bring to the Antarctic.

Naturally I took on the job with gusto. A few 100 hours of research, discussion and negotiation later, I confess my zeal has diminished a smidgeon. There's only so much time a half-normal person can dedicate to finding the perfect middle layer fleece. Tell me if you know of such a thing and help end my misery.

Although it's 16 months until the start of the expedition, we've had pretty much all our expedition kit for some time now. We need it so far in advance in order to test each item and learn how to operate, look after and get the best out of it. As lighter/stronger/more efficient kit enters the market, we may upgrade individual items but by and large what we have now, we will take South.


If we don't have the right kit, we will, at best, not get very far. So this part of the preparation needs to be totally right and I feel a massive amount of responsibility. I have been consumed by research into what works and what doesn't at -40°C. My task has from time to time been hindered by having to get to the bottom of what a product really can do, when unrealistic descriptions given by some outdoor manufacturers of their products promise the moon. This is far from universal, however, and it became clear quite early which manufacturers really cater for expeditions to remote and hostile places, and which cater for high street adventures.

We've benefited greatly from the experience of Matty McNair here. Matty is a world-renowned polar guide and whilst she does what she does because she loves it, her approach to technique and kit is ultra-practical. Efficiency is the mantra.

You can find the latest incarnation of our kit list here on the website. I'll post separate articles on what we're taking and why, lest any of you fancy walking 900 miles to the Pole.

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