Polar Adventurer Ann Daniels Shares What Gear to Pack for Arctic Expeditions

Explorer Ann Daniels

My name is Ann Daniels. Mainly, I’m a Polar adventurer but spend a lot of my time speaking to Corporate companies about leadership and overcoming challenges to achieve results. I’m originally from Bradford, West Yorkshire and got into Polar expeditions at a later age after having triplets.

I love what I do and consider that to be the most rewarding activities but when not speaking and adventuring, I spend time with my family. We love orienteering around Devon and spending time at the beach in summer and winter. I am currently at home in Devon planning, organising and preparing for my next adventure, taking a group of disengaged and/or recovering mental health individuals on a last degree (60 nautical miles) to the North Pole.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How and why did you get into polar exploration?

I got into the world of Polar exploration after reading a newspaper advert asking for ordinary women to apply for selection for an all women’s relay to the North Pole. It was a chance opportunity and although I had no outdoor experience and was a mum of young children, I just thought of reasons why I should apply, rather than the overwhelming reasons why it would be a bad idea. After a lot of hard work, I got on the team. This expedition was the start of my love affair with all things cold.

To get in shape and prepare for the expedition, I focused on spending every minute when not looking after the children, training and with the help of friends learning how to operate in the outdoors, including the basics, such as how to read a map.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How do you prepare for your expeditions?

Preparing for an expedition takes total commitment, resilience and pure hard work. Not only on your physical fitness and strength but to raise enough money and ensure you have the best possible kit out there. I only read adventure books for the love of them but do research kit and equipment before every expedition.

Montane have been my clothing sponsor for many years and I rate their kit highly. I wouldn’t use them if I couldn’t rely on them when my life and the success of the expedition is at stake. Hilleberg are the best tents and MSR cookers are the only cookers I would use. My expertise is in the colder regions of the world and particularly the Arctic Ocean, which requires specialist skills and knowledge. I also do smaller adventures in Norway and Scotland. Sometimes fun things come up. I have cycled from John O’Groats to Lands end, taken part in triathlons and ventures in the mountains far and wide. Most of those ideas come up with friends in a pub. There’s nothing like a night out with friends to conjure up mad, wild ideas.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How do you finance your expeditions?

The expeditions I’m involved in require a large amount of money and I therefore fund raise and mostly have a title sponsor. This, of course, means you need to make sure the sponsor gets value for money and a good business plan is essential. You have to be able to justify the financial outlay by the sponsor. I am lucky to have had some amazing and supporting sponsors back my endeavors. Most of the money goes on logistics. To operate at the ends of the world is a costly business.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How do you eat and sleep while on expedition?

Whether in the mountains or the Polar Regions, it’s essential to take all the rations you need, which is the reason I need to be strong as well as fit. I take expedition foods.com which taste great, supply all the nutrients I need and are light weight to carry. I also supplement the meals with chocolate, nuts and protein bars so I can eat while travelling. I use a Hilleberg tent, the MSR wisperlight and the Ajungilak Denali sleeping bag with a fleece liner.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How do you bring your things with you?

In the Polar regions, I use Eric Philips sledges or if I’m on other adventures elsewhere I prefer the Osprey pack in the appropriate size. It’s a great design and comfortable to carry even when fully packed. There are plenty pf pockets in easily accessible places and the straps are wide enough to distribute the load. I try to stick to one bag while moving but inevitably will have more than one at base.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How do you organize things in your bags?

I always organise everything meticulously in my bag and keep things in similar places at all times so I know where everything is in an emergency. Also, when you’re tired or the weather changes suddenly, routines and knowing instinctively where things are can make life so much easier. If I am going somewhere where the weather is changeable, I often take a waterproof Montane bag to help keep things dry. A waterproof bag can be great but often there is compromise in how many pockets there are and I am a huge fan of pockets and compartments so if I don’t take a waterproof bag, I ensure I keep my kit in lightweight dry bags. Soggy socks at the end of the day is no fun for anyone.

Explorer Ann Daniels

How do your bags and gear hold up?

I only take the best and don’t compromise with kit so yes the quality of my gear and bags is good enough. I will only take what I need for the adventure and after I’ve packed my bag will go back through it to see what I can leave behind. It’s a mistake to keep adding things. Every item in your pack, no matter how small will add to your burden and can mean the difference between success and failure.

I wouldn’t change any of the brands or equipment I use, although I do re-evaluate what to take before every adventure and will try new things on the market. In the polar regions, there are constant repairs and maintenance to do along the way and of course when cycling a long distance things can break but for shorter adventures I check everything before I leave and mostly it shouldn’t need repairing.

Explorer Ann Daniels

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

Preparation is everything so very rarely do I wish I’d brought something along but if weight weren’t an option, I would take more soap and deodorant with me (I once went 80 days without washing or changing my clothes) and it would be great to change my underwear and socks every day.

In my opinion, you should never leave home without a windproof lighter and a high quality multi tool, (I use a weatherman wave as it has a spike that can be heated up and pushed through hard plastic for repairs. Plus, of course, a compass and map. Never rely completely on technology, which can break or just simply stop working.

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

My trusty Petal Tikka head torch, which has lasted so many adventures and I wouldn’t be without.

Other favorite gear would be my GoPro Hero 5. You have to be disciplined to take video when your exhausted or the terrain is difficult and the weather appalling but those clips are the most interesting. I can shove it on my head and forget about it while I keep moving and I have now so much more footage in extreme conditions than I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Explorer Ann Daniels

What is your best advice for other explorers?

Plan everything carefully and think of what might possibly go wrong and what you can do about it before you leave. If things get tough and it’s safe to do so, keep going. Getting through the tough times make the best memories in the end. There’s no magic to getting out the door, just make the decision to do it and take the first step, the rest will follow.

New adventurers, get as much advice from those that have done it, research properly and plan meticulously.

Experienced adventurers, don’t get complacent with familiarity and find new things to test yourself. New experiences are the magic in an adventure. You are never too old or experienced to learn something new.

Explorer Ann Daniels

What will the future bring?

I am working with a charity that helps young adults who are either recovering from a mental health problem or who have had a difficult start in life and putting together an expedition to take a group of them on a last degree (60 miles) to the North Pole. We will be working with NASA on a relevant scientific program and making a film to reach out to other people in difficulty and hopefully give them hope.

My own daughter who has suffered with mental health problems is my inspiration behind the project and will be in the team. I am so proud to be able to share my world and my adventure with her and other young people.

Visit Ann Daniels on her website and follow her on Twitter


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