I went with my husband and friends to trek in Patagonia – with the goal 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. From experience now here’s what to pack and how to prepare for a trek in Patagonia.
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Weather in Patagonia in their summer months
You need to be prepared for anything Mother Nature wants to throw your 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 on my January trip, 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 should you pack for clothing for a trek in Patagonia?
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.
- 4 pairs of quick-dry underwear (with the hope we can wash a pair every few days)
- 4 pairs of Merino-wool socks like these ones
- 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 light-weight 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 – whatever feels comfortable for you – but they should wick moisture away like these ones
- 2 short – sleeved shirts like these ones from Patagonia
- 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 long underwear for cold nights
- One pair breathable rain pants with full leg zip.
- One waterproof,breathable shell jacket.
- One quick-dry ball cap that can be worn in a rain storm to keep water off my face.
- One buff
- One warm hat like this one
- 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
- 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’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 somewhere betwwen $US 8 -11 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.
Our route on the O Circuit in Torres del Paine
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. Pisco sours available at Grey.
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.
Further reading on our trek in Patagonia and more
- The Fitz Roy Trek – One of the Best Hikes in Patagonia
- Things to do in Punta Arenas, Chile if You Have a Day
- What You Need to Know to do the Torres del Paine Trek
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