Gear: what you need for a polar expedition

Ben Saunders and Tarke L'Herpiniere
© Andy Ward

Skiing to the South Pole? Better pack right. Here's what Ben Saunders brought.

British adventurers Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere are on an expedition in Antarctica to retrace explorer Capt Scott's fabled 2,900km return journey to the South Pole which remains unfinished to this day.

Pushing the boundaries of human potential, the Scott Expedition will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history and the next chapter in one of the greatest stories of polar exploration ever told. Having the right equipment is the difference between success and failure, life and death. Here's the lowdown on what they're using.

Outdoor Research Gorilla mask
It's cold enough that you can't have any exposed skin – but because you're working and breathing out moist, hot air, you need breathability. The Gorilla mask provides protection – and a vent for your breath, to prevent ice forming around your face.

Food and fuel
Freeze-dried porridge, energy bars by the dozen and chicken curry in a bag go towards their daily 6,000 calorie diets. Warm meals come at breakfast and dinner, while the pair stop several times a day to snack on nuts, chocolate and energy bars.

Custom Jackets from Mountain Equipment
“A lot of the clothing you see on polar expeditions come from mountaineering,” says Saunders. “There’s not a lot of rain on Antarctica – it’s the driest continent in the world so having a waterproof membane is superlous. And even in sub-zero temperatures, we’re generating a lot of heat pulling a 200kg sledge, so breathability becomes more important.” The team has custom-built clothing from Mountain Equipment to meet their needs.

Comms
Unlike Captain Scott, Saunders is staying in close communication with the outside world, with constant updates to his blog. To do it, he’s using Intel-enhanced Ultrabooks and Iridium Pilot satellite internet service. What’s keeping him from running out of batteries? Solar power from Antarctica’s 24 hours of daily sunlight.

Custom-built sledges
“These are the biggest sledges I’ve ever seen,” says Saunders. “The sledges custom-made out of carbon-fiber Kevlar, hand-made, super-high-tech.” The sledges – super long, with removable sections –  will carry all the food, fuel and shelter that Saunders and L’Harpiniere will need to survive.

 

Alfa Extreme North Pole boots
Hand-made at approximately €1,000 a pair, these boots are similar to what polar pioneer Roald Amundsen used 100 years ago – but updated to use modern materials.

Ski Trab Race Areo World Cup skis
They’re slightly shorter, wider and almost 300g each lighter than traditional skis, optimum for long traverses across the variable snow conditions found on the windswept Antarctic landscape. At 164cm in length, they’re short for maneuverability, but wide enough to provide ample support and grip.

Training
One of the most important things in their arsenal is hard to see – it’s the time put into fitness and training over the last year, which has taken them to the most remote corners of the UK, the Alps, and beyond.