This post is sponsored by Sporting Life but I hope you’ll keep reading as it’s packed with useful information.
I’m heading to Patagonia this week to hike both the “O” Circuit in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park and to do a few day hikes in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. I have spent in excess of 30 hours researching, planning and preparing for this trek in Patagonia. Four of us are doing it on our own and good information seems to be really hard to come by. Some of the advice might change after our on-the-ground experience but most will not. This post will be updated in February after we’re home from the trek.
Here’s how to prepare for trekking in Patagonia.
Weather in Patagonia in the summer months
By all reports we need to be prepared for anything Mother Nature wants to throw our way. That includes sun, showers, heavy rain and knock-you-to-the-ground wind, especially on the day you cross the John Gardner Pass on the O Circuit. Looking at the AccuWeather forecast for the coming weeks in January, it looks like most days have a high in the range of 15 – 17 °C and lows are almost always around 7°C, hypothermia type of weather, especially when you factor in the rain.
What clothing do you need for an 8 day trek?
A lot of consideration has to go into what to pack on a trip like this. With heat zapping wind and rain, layering is going to be key. We’re always going to want a set of dry clothes to be able to change into at the end of the day. Here’s what I’m bringing with most of it available for purchase at Sporting Life.
- 4 pairs of quick-dry underwear (with the hope we can wash a pair every few days)
- 4 pairs of Merino-wool socks
- 1 pair of hiking boots (Read: How to Break in New Hiking Boots – and make sure that’s done beforehand)
- 1 pair super lightweight camp sandals (I’m taking water-proof Birkenstocks) which will work well on the plane too with a warm pair of socks though they may not be very fashionable.
- One pair lightweight running shoes for in camp or running around town
- 2 long sleeved shirts – including the Icebreaker Oasis Long-Sleeve Half Zip Top, the other a Karri Traa merino wool top.
- 2 short – sleeved shirts like the one quick-dry one from Asics.
- One pair Arcteryx Parapet pants that transition well between travel and hiking.
- One pair convertible pants that zips off into shorts like this one.
- One pair tights in soft fleece for cold nights
- One pair breathable rain pants with full leg zip.
- One waterproof, breathable shell jacket.
- One beanie that packs into nothing.
- One quick-dry ball cap that can be worn in a rain storm to keep water off my face.
- One buff.
- Warm mitts and one pair windproof gloves.
Don’t forget to pack these things
Our packs are ready to go. We’ve been taking things out – trying to get the weight down. We want to go as lightly as possible but we have had to add in a few clothes for the three to four days of hot weather we’re expecting at the end of the trip in the Buenos Aires area.
Here are my suggestions.
- A 70 litre pack (I have an Osprey) with a waterproof cover + a stretchy clothesline that can be tied around the pack on windy days
- One sleeping bag rated to at least 0°C
- One sleeping mat (we bought the lightweight (1 lb. 7 oz.), less bulky Thermarest Prolite™Plus R) with an R value of 3.4
- One silk sleeping bag liner (may not come depending on room)
- One three season tent plus extra rope to tie it down in strong wind
- One pair hiking poles.
- One – 1L water bottle as I’ve read you can literally drink from the streams
- Water purification tablets – to be on the safe side
- One kit containing a mug, bowl and knife/fork and spoon
- One stove, fuel and one pot for the four of us; lighter will be bought in Chile
- Sunscreen, lip balm, toiletries
- Small quick-dry towel and wash cloth
- Books or e-reader, camera, batteries, recharger, fully waterproof dry bag for camera
- Energy bars; the rest of food (1 dinner, 2 breakfasts and 5 lunches) will be picked up in Puerto Natales
- Toilet paper (has to be packed out), ziploc bags, green garbage bags for packing clothes, sleeping bag
- Compression sacks, packing cubes for organization
- Plug adaptors, USB charger, phone
- Sunglasses plus at least one spare pair between the four of us
How do you book campsites on the O Circuit?
There are three companies that look after campsites on the O Circuit – CONAF, Vertice and Fantástico Sur. I’ll provide a full round-up with photos when I’m back. I’d suggest sticking with Vertice and Fantastico Sur because at least someone answers emails in a prompt fashion. The CONAF campsites are free but good luck booking. You can choose between campsites and refugios. We have elected to have more privacy with camping on a platform but we still get access most days to hot showers and cooked meals. Prices for four of us with 6 dinners, 3 lunches and 5 or 6 breakfasts is $US1872 or $US468 each.
We’ll take the bus at 7 AM from Puerto Natales into Torres del Paine National Park – a two hour drive away for a cost of $US 8 per person one way, $US 15 round-trip. In the park we’ll get a proper map and pay for our camping permit and entrance fee.
Here’s a breakdown of our route avoiding the CONAF campsites. There are loads of hiking options but we didn’t want to risk not having a campsite after the pass and hence the long day to Grey. We have also opted for either half-board (B, D) or full board (B,L, D) where indicated. Note that some food can be purchased at campsites (more on that in a later blog) as well as alcoholic drinks (yeah!).
Day 1: Laguna Amarga park office – Serón (booked with Fantastico Sur) – 4 – 6 hours of hiking. Full board. WiFi available for a fee – and supposedly available in a few other spots. Will update in February.
Day 2: Serón – Dickson (booked with Vertice Patagonia) – about 6 hours of hiking. Half board.
Day 3: Dickson – Los Perros (booked with Vertice Patagonia)No meals here hence the stove; 4-5 hours of hiking time
Day 4: Los Perros over the John Gardner Pass to Grey (booked with Vertice Patagonia) – long, hard day – 10 hours of hiking; pass notorious for terrible wind – half board
Day 5: Grey – Frances (Fantastico Sur) X 2 nights – full board – 5 – 6 hours of hiking
Day 6: Hike up the Vallee del Frances leaving main pack behind – back to Frances for the night – full board – 7 – 8 hours of hiking
Day 7: Frances – to Chileno (book with Fantastico Sur) – 7 – 8 hours of hiking – full board
Day 8: Early start to catch sunrise at the Mirador base de las Torres and then hike all the way out to catch a shuttle with Patagonia Extrema at 4:30 PM to El Calafate in Argentina (5 hour drive) – probably 10 hours of hiking. Shuttle is $US 300 for four of us.
Stay tuned for several more blogs in February on trekking in Patagonia.
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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