[Usual reminder: if the terms “PQ” and “USAP” don’t mean anything to you, start here, and work your way forward.]
Maybe it’s something that distinguishes a particular kind of nerd, but I love gear. The stuff you wear, especially. I can’t tell you what fraction of the fun of flying a WWII plane comes from the fact that you get to wear Nomex and a helmet without pretension, but it’s not negligible.
Astronauts, of course have the coolest gear. I mean – is there any bit of gear on/above the planet that tops a spacesuit? No, I didn’t think so.
If you’re headed for Antarctica with the USAP, you get gear, too. Not as awesome as astronaut gear, but it rocks in its own way. The most famous piece of USAP gear is “Big Red” – your parka. Big Red will be issued in Christchurch NZ, prior to boarding the C-130 to McMurdo, and volumes have been lovingly written about it (e.g. here, for a photo and smidgen of text). Big Red will be your friend. Big Red will save your life. Big Red is, as you might imagine, big and red, and has a bizillion hard-learned features sewn into its folds. Fur-lined ruff. Double zippers. That radar-reflective patch on the back to help them find the body if you wander away. Some features, I guess you try not to think about too much.
Most of the gear, you don’t get until you actually show up in Christchurch. But, there’s an important piece that you’re allowed to get right away. Bona fide Antarctic Glacier Goggles (okay, “glacier glasses”, technically, but “goggles” sounds better for some reason). The USAP recommends that you use Opticus, who have a line of six or so fashionable styles that are designed to prevent your baby blues from getting fried by Antarctic photons. They have names like “Sherpa” and “Venture” and “Eclipse”, and Opticus folks were kind enough to send me sample frames of each so I could figure out fit/looked best.
I think the consensus is the “Altice Chullo” (second row, all the way on the right) as soon as I’ve made sure that “Chullo” doesn’t translate to “penguin bait” in any known language.