This post is part two of a FOUR part series entitled THE Definitive Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine. Check out part one, Which Route to Take.
What to Pack
TIP #5: Go to the meeting at the Erratic Rock while in Puerto Natales. While I will regurgitate a lot of the information they gave, it’s just a great meeting to go to, and you will get tons of great information and tips, particularly for packing.
TIP #6: Rent or bring hiking poles. They save your knees. I don’t care how young or in shape you are, hiking poles are fantastic and a necessity for any long trek.
What to pack when preparing for a trek like this is always difficult. Everyone wants to be prepared, but no one wants to bring too much stuff. Remember, whatever you bring you’ll be carrying on your back. For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to assume that you’re hiking the “W” or Circuit in summer, or high season (December-February).
Weather in Patagonia is fickle and ridiculous, so you do have to be prepared, even in the summer. While it most likely won’t get too cold (i.e., not below freezing), you will probably need some warm clothing. Remember that wind in Patagonia is crazy, like nothing you’ve ever seen. Layers are the key when packing for a trek in Patagonia. Luckily summertime sees lots of sunlight (provided it isn’t raining, which it most likely will at some point of your trek). Depending on the month, you can have anywhere from 14-18 hours of daylight.
What we brought- We both brought two complete outfits, and that’s it. One was our daytime outfit that we wore when hiking, and one was for camp and sleeping. After finishing hiking for the day, take off your hiking clothes, put them in a big, plastic trash bag and in your pack. The hiking outfit will be disgusting and nasty by the end, probably wet and mildewy, and it will suck putting it back on in the morning, but that’s OK. Once you’re on the trail for a few and get the blood pumping, you’ll be fine. This is THE most efficient way of packing for a trek, and it will be my method for any multi-day trek I take from here on out.
- One pair of zip-off, convertible hiking pants; one pair of lightweight hiking pants
- Two lightweight, moisture wicking t-shirts
- One long sleeve, lightweight, warm (made of wool), moisture wicking shirt
- One microfleece
- One lightweight, waterproof rain jacket (leave the poncho at home; the Patagonian wind will make a poncho its bitch)
- 2 pairs of underwear
- 3 pairs of socks (Smartwool or anything made of merino wool work best for hiking, in my opinion)
- One warm stocking hat and one pair of gloves
- One pair hiking shoes; one pair small, lightweight, comfy shoes for camp
- With the exception of underwear (she brought 5 pairs of underwear because hers are very small and lightweight), we brought pretty much the exact same things, only hers were female clothes.
As with anything having to do with Torres del Paine, you have options. The refugios all offer meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So you could opt to eat some of your meals at the refugios. This will obviously save lots of weight in your pack, but it will be a huge hit on the wallet. We only ate one dinner at a refugio, and I have to say it was really, really nice and really good. If we had more money, we would have eaten more meals there.
TIP #7: Don’t bring too much of one thing. We brought tons of trail mix figuring we’d eat that as one or two meals a day. Nearly two years later, I have a tough time eating trail mix.
Refugio Meals: If on a tight budget and trying to decide, keep in mind you can also buy beer and/or wine at the refugios, which is really nice after a 10 hour hiking day. Here are the refugio meal prices:
- Breakfast- $11US/person
- Lunch- $14US/person (box lunch)
- Dinner- $18US/person
Camping Meals: If you can’t afford meals at the refugios, then you’re simply going to have to bring a stove, mess kit, and a lot of your own food. It’s sounds daunting, especially if you’ve never done this before, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Thankfully Puerto Natales has several great grocery stores and sections for trekking food. You can also rent a little stove and mess kit that will have everything you need. Erratic Rock rents any equipment that you may need. Here are their rates:
- Stove- $3.25
- Mess kit- $8.50 (will accommodate 3 people-bowls, plates, silverware, pot, pan)
The food we brought: Counting the day we left and the day we returned, we were gone for 5 days. We needed eleven meals for the trail as we had breakfast at our hostel before leaving, lunch at the refugio before actually getting on the trail, and lunch the final day after finishing. I actually came across the menu we wrote out before we left (yes, we did write out a menu, and I suggest you do the same-you don’t want to bring too little or too much). Here is a sampling of things we ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks:
- Breakfast: We had a combination of granola bars, instant soup, and oatmeal
- Lunch: We ate a sandwich the first day before we got on the trail. Then it was a combo of trail mix (made from lots of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate) and granola bars. Quick and easy.
- Dinner: We ate a combination of instant soup and trail mix for dinner. We did eat one meal at a refugio, which was very, very good.
- Snacks: Trail mix, granola bars, and lots of chocolate and candy. This is one time you’re actually encouraged to eat sugar and lots of it