Polar Medicine Course


Course Dates

  • 19 February 2024 08:00 - 25 February 2024 17:00
  • 26 February 2024 08:00 - 03 March 2024 17:00


Immerse yourself in an Arctic wilderness with seven days to master the medical and expedition skills needed to thrive in the coldest, most remote corners of the earth. This action-packed polar medicine course has recently been relocated to the Arctic Circle and revamped to include more time deep in the wilderness under true arctic winter conditions.

“Thank you so much for an amazing expedition. Enjoyed myself so much and was challenged and uncomfortable at times. Learned heaps.”
Polar Medicine course attendee

You’ll find yourself in the company of polar guides and expert medics with extensive cold environment experience and all set to learn from the best in the business.

Key facts

The unique challenges of exposure and cold require a particular expertise. This packed yet inspiring six day course allows medics to learn from the best, gaining the sort of insider knowledge that can only be shared by those who have faced these conditions for themselves.

You’ll learn how to survive in snow, ice and cold weather and discover how to successfully and safely lead an expedition in these sorts of environments. The course delivers the practical skills and intuition required to master safe polar exploration.

Location: Finnmark Plateau, Norway

You must be either a:

  • Medical or Allied Health Professional OR,
  • A student in your final year of study


You need:

  • Basic navigation skills
  • A good level of fitness
  • Basic knowledge of expedition planning

What’s included:

  • Tutoring, accommodation and meals
  • Skis, snowshoes and hauling equipment

What’s not:

  • Travel costs
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal equipment

What to expect

Based in the Arctic Circle at Ravnastua Mountain Hut on the Finnmark Plateau, the location is a special experience in itself. Sitting at 69.5 degrees latitude and 30km from the town of Karasjok, this remote hut has been run by the same Sami family since 1947 and is a great location to see the Northern Lights

During the week you’ll learn the essentials of polar travel, survival and cold weather medicine whilst immersed in this wild and exposed environment. Our team consists of doctors with significant cold weather experience, Norwegian guides with local expertise and of course, our two renowned Antarctic explorers.

This highly-practical course allows you to experience a polar environment first hand. You’ll travel on skis, before completing sessions on avalanche awareness and rescue to enable you to choose safe routes of travel. You’ll learn to build snow shelters, and sleep in them before putting your new polar skills to the test on a 3 day Arctic expedition followed by a rescue scenario under the expert guidance of the World Extreme Medicine team.

Course content

  • Introduction to Polar Medicine
  • Equipment and Clothing for Cold Weather Environments
  • Hypothermia
  • Cold Water Immersion
  • Frostbite and Cold Injury
  • Pre-Expedition Medical Screening
  • Common Polar Medical Conditions
  • Risk Assessment
  • Medical Kits for Polar Environments
  • Managing Trauma and Medical Emergencies
  • Wound Care
  • Medical Scenarios and Simulation
  • Pulks and Kit Hauling
  • Tents and Camps
  • Kitchens and Stove Lighting
  • Navigation
  • Weather
  • Terrain and Route Finding
  • 3-Day Polar Expedition

What you need to know

This polar medicine course is very practical but is supported by a comprehensive curriculum taught via lectures, discussions and workshops.

We recommend everyone travelling outside their home country and into areas where aeromedical evacuation may be required, have specific travel insurance in place.

For your safety and security, we reserve the right to refuse access to an expedition until we have details of adequate insurance cover provided to us.

To assist with packing, please review and refer to our kit list. Due to the extreme temperatures it is essential to be well equipped to fully participate in the course, so please contact the office if you have any questions.

Please note, all kit below is a guide. There is an endless amount of kit on the market and a huge variance in personal preference and needs. If you have any questions get in touch with the WEM team or consider our friends at The Climbers Shop & Joe Brown who can provide the necessary equipment tailored to your needs.

Expedition Medicine will provide the following equipment to all clients –

  • Nordic skis
  • Ski boots. Please send your sizes to us early, to ensure we can provide your size.

Feel free to bring the above if you have it.

Participants must bring the following:

Outer layer

  • Shell jacket – must be windproof, breathable (not necessarily waterproof), with a generous hood and pockets. Gore-Tex or eVent materials are great! This must not be an insulated ski-type jacket.
  • Shell pants – can be pants or salopettes, must have side zips for venting, must not be tight over base layers as this can increase the chance of cold injury to thighs. If wearing salopettes a drop seat is best to stop excessive clothing removal for toilet breaks.

Insulating layer

  • Down or synthetic jacket – thicker is better and sized to fit over outer clothes is ideal but not essential. Must have a generous built-in hood. If you have a light down jacket and thicker / expedition weight jacket, bring both.
  • Down or synthetic gilet – sized to fit over a shell layer if possible.
  • Down or synthetic skirt, shorts, or pants (optional) – if you are serious about polar travel these can be very useful

Base layer

  • Base layer tops – two sets of high-quality wool or synthetic, it is recommended one is a mesh design. Should have long sleeves, no zips, ideally one with a hood.
  • Base layer leggings – two sets of high-quality wool or synthetic, one is recommended to be a mesh design.

Fleece layer

  • Fleece top – preferably with a hood and a pocket(s). Consider bringing a lightweight (polartech alpha or similar) and a heavier weight (polartech powerstretch or similar)
  • Fleece tights / pants – mid weight, close fitting.


  • Work socks – minimum 2 pairs, warm, padded wool, or synthetic blend. Long to the mid-shin or knee. Ideally expedition weight, should fit over a liner sock.
  • Liner socks – minimum 2 pairs, wool or synthetic
  • Insulated booties / tent mules – perfect for the tent and lodge.
  • Warm boots – whatever your go to warm boot is, Sorels are great or any warm winter boot, ensure a loose fit for warm socks.
  • Gaiter – essential if your trousers don’t have good / proven built-in gaiters. If you have built in gaiters, be sure they are up to the job for long, cold days in soft snow.


  • Goggles – must have good UV protection, thinner frames allow for a larger field of vision, interchangeable lenses are useful especially in low light conditions.
  • Sunglasses – Cat 3 or 4 lenses, wrap-around type or with side shields, no metal frames.
  • Balaclava (optional) – lightweight fleece or synthetic, snug fitting, full face cover.
  • Buff – synthetic or polar buff preferred
  • Beenie hat – bobble optional


  • Liner gloves – 1 pair, lightweight, thin fleece or merino, close fitting.
  • Fleece gloves – 1 or 2 pairs, thick fluffy fleece, nothing fancy needed, should be loose and comfortable.
  • Thick gloves – 1 pair, sturdy ski gloves, gauntlet type with hard wearing palms
  • Mittens – lots of options depending on your needs. Buy in large sizes to fit over gloves for additional warmth.
  • Leather work glove (useful if working with machines, dogs, collecting firewood etc)

Sleeping – Sleeping bags and mats can be rented for NOK500

  • Sleeping mat – inflatable or foam mat, must be an insulated / 4 season mat. If bringing foam, we find the concertina optional are better, they pack smaller. Inflatable mats should be brought with repair kits.
  • Sleeping bag – rated to -40oC, down is much lighter and packs smaller. The bag should be a good size, with some pace and a generous hood, full length zips are important. Consider an over bag for your current lighter weight sleeping bag, rather than investing in a new sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping bag liner – choose from lightweight to heavy insulating liner dependant on your needs
  • Bivy bag (only required if you would like to try a night in a snowhole) – anything waterproof and big enough for your sleeping bag, army surplus stores are great for these.

Eating / drinking

  • 1 litre Nalgene bottles – bring two or three! Wide mouth bottles are best. We prefer Nalgene as they don’t leak and last forever. One may be used as a pee bottle, popping something in that rattles will help you pick the right one at night!
  • Insulated Nalgene bottle cover – optional but can be essential if it’s cold enough.
  • 1 litre thermos and mug
  • Metal spork, or long handle spoon i.e. Life venture titanium long handle spoon


  • Rucksack – day sack size for your time out in the snow 30-45 litres will be fine depending on your kit, I’d recommend aiming toward the higher end of that range.
  • Large duffel bag – adequate size for all your kit. Clothes for the lodge – anything comfy
  • Hand warmers
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
  • Earplugs – anything that works for you
  • Compass and whistle (GPS if you have one)
  • Emergency rations, snacks
  • Leatherman or other multi-tool – not in hand luggage
  • Torch – head torch is best with spare batteries
  • Toilet paper, or biodegradable wet wipes
  • Sunscreen – high factor
  • Lip slave – SPF 45+
  • Tuff sacks / dry bags – as required
  • Small waterproof bag containing passport, airline ticket, credit cards and money
  • Personal first aid kit (see below)
  • Lighter/matches and flint steel fire lighter
  • Laptop / tablet
  • Powerpack / portable charging unit/continental plug

Personal First Aid Kit containing at least the following:

  • All regular medication (double quantities to keep in two separate places)
  • Ibuprofen / paracetamol or other appropriate analgesia
  • Imodium
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Gauze pads / small haemorrhage control kit
  • Crepe bandage and triangular bandage
  • Zinc oxide tape
  • Blister kit including Compeed and moleskin (a couple of packs – the ski boots may rub & give you blisters)
  • Safety pins (not in hand luggage)
  • Sticky plasters and steristrips

Feedback from previous courses

What went well on your Polar Medicine course?

“Really interesting lectures & great avalanche rescue sims.”

“Liv and Elsa, our Norwegian guides, completely exceeded all my expectations. The best bit was our team though, we became a big family over the week, learned from each other and didn’t only survive the cold but managed to have the best time together.”

“Faculty were exceptional. Kasper included. Came away inspired and empowered.”

What was the single most valuable thing you learnt from your Polar Medicine course?

“That ultimately we all have medical knowledge/skills that are adequate to be expedition medics & the main thing that we need to work on is being comfortable in the environment themselves.”

“Learning about the people that were part of the course, with some of the faculty in particular. Some of their stories were immensely inspiring.”

“Exposure and mistakes kill. Flawless personal admin will save lives in both preventing and responding to emergencies.”

About us

World Extreme Medicine trains, supports and informs medics looking to expand their skills and tackle new challenges.

A chance conversation about the impossibility of finding good expedition medics resulted in our Founding Director, Mark Hannaford creating the very first, bespoke Expedition Medicine course in the UK – over 20 years ago. Since then, we’ve spent the last two decades providing on-demand education, on-location training, international conferences, and expedition support for people outside normal medical environments.

Our network of around a quarter of a million experts, practitioners and instructors is here for you – inspiring, informing and connecting you with like-minded people and new opportunities.

Whether you’re a doctor, nurse, dentist, vet, paramedic, medical student or allied health professional, you can join us and discover new frontiers of your practice both at home or in the field.

Sign up to WEM

Sign up to our newsletter