Patagonia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited – in fact I am still longing to return one day! I travelled on the Tucan Travel Patagonia Highlights tour in November 2019 and spent the weeks running up to my holiday gazing at photos of mountains and trying to plan what I should pack. Patagonia has an unforgiving climate, and I read that the weather changes daily (I can confirm – it does!), not to mention the remote locations we would visit would require me to be prepared. I have compiled my top tips for packing for Patagonia and the essential items you should bring.
NB: On the Patagonia Highlights tour, Torres del Paine National Park where we spend three days is the most remote location on the trip, so many of the below items are more necessary for there than the other locations. The towns of El Calafate and El Chalten do have shops where you can pick up anything you might need, however supplies can run low in the high season and there is no guarantee the shops will be selling what you need.
Comfortable hiking boots
You’ll do a lot of hiking in Patagonia, especially in Torres del Paine National Park. Comfortable and waterproof boots are essential and you’ll want to have good ankle support in case you take a wrong move walking over uneven stones. I only took two pairs of actual hiking socks with me, one pair for each of the very long hikes we did. I found normal socks worked for me for the shorter hikes and walks. You’ll also want a lighter pair of trainers or shoes to wear around the campsite/towns and generally places where you won’t be hiking.
A rain jacket and waterproof trousers
I took both a Northface puffer jacket (for warmth) and then a lightweight rain jacket that I could throw on top. I also had a pair of waterproof trousers I could wear over my sports leggings for when it rained . Make sure your waterproofs are light enough that you can roll them into your backpack if you don’t need them.
Clothing that can be layered
Personally I took one pair of thermal leggings and one long- sleeved thermal top, along with cotton long-sleeve tops, a few t-shirts and a few pairs of sports leggings. I then had one hoody for the evenings and two fleece jumpers for hiking. The most important thing is that you can layer your clothing when the weather changes.
A small backpack
You’ll need this for hiking. It should be big enough to fit your packed lunch, a water bottle, spare layers/waterproofs and a few little things like tissues, hand gel and sunscreen. You also want it to be small enough to be comfortable and not weigh you down.
A plastic bag for inside your backpack
Rain covers for backpacks don’t work in Patagonia – the wind is likely to blow it right off. Instead we were advised to have a plastic or waterproof bag inside the backpack to put all your items in, saving them from getting wet.
This was not something I envisaged needing but they ended up coming in handy. They aren’t necessary for everyone but coming down is a lot harder on your joints that going up so they are definitely worth having. If you have your own, brilliant, but if not it is possible to rent them during the tour. Just speak to your tour leader on the first day.
A hot water bottle
This is not a necessity, but if you have the space I highly recommend bringing a hot water bottle for camping in Torres del Paine. The camp provides a huge pot of boiling water every evening for drinks anyway. So there is water available to fill up your bottles and put them inside your sleeping bag. This might not be essential in the height of summer but in the shoulder seasons (October/November/March/April) it can get very cold. This will be a lovely added bit of warmth you’ll be thankful to have.
A portable charger
I had a small battery pack that held enough charge for my phone for the full 3 days we spent camping. The Tucan Travel truck does have charging points, but I found it was a lot easier to have my own device so I didn’t have to wait for them to be free.
A reusable water bottle
I travelled with my beloved Chilly’s bottle which I found was perfect for Patagonia. If you want hot tea, it retains the heat for hours on end. I used it for every hike, and you can drink from the glacier streams in the mountains so I didn’t have an issue filling it up on the hikes. Torres del Paine is also very strict (and rightly so) on protecting the mountains. So the more reusable things you can bring the better.
A quick dry towel
This is essential for camping in Torres del Paine National Park if you want to take a shower. (P.s there is hot water!)
Gloves/winter hat and summer hat
I ended up needing all of the above. You’ll want a warm pair of gloves and a winter hat in case it gets very cold the higher you get. I travelled in the first week of November and it was snowing by the time we reached the Three Towers in Torres del Paine. I was bundled up like a snowman. By the time we reached Argentina a few days later, I was in a vest-top and sun-hat trying not to burn in Los Glaciares! If you don’t want to be caught off guard it’s best to bring it all.
A personal medical kit with paracetamol, insect repellent, plasters, tissues and anti-bac hand gel.
The middle of a national park is not a great place to find yourself needing paracetamol – so always pack some just in case. Anti-bacterial hand gel is also necessary. This is because not all the hikes have toilets and even the ones that do, don’t always have soap. With this in mind, always take a small pack of tissues and a zip-lock bag too. Some of the bathrooms don’t have toilet paper and if you end up using the great outdoors, you MUST take the toilet paper back with you to dispose of. (On this note, the hike to the Base of the Towers had two toilet stops on the route which was enough for everyone. Both were real toilets and provided paper. The Laguna de los Tres hike has one bathroom, which was a long-drop and did not provide toilet paper. These are the two longest hikes included on the Tucan Travel tour.)
Also remember your personal toiletries.
Sunscreen and sunglasses
A lot of the hikes are exposed. Sunscreen is essential to protect yourself from the harsh sun and sunglasses will make you a lot more comfortable.
A head torch or anything with a light
Bear in mind that there won’t be any light during the night when you’re camping in Torres del Paine, so don’t make those bathroom journeys more difficult than they need be. Personally I used the torch on my smartphone and it worked perfectly.
Long travel days call for some entertainment. I always travel with a book and earphones to listen to Spotify.
A good camera or phone
I used my Iphone which worked perfectly well. The beauty of Patagonia is something you’ll want to capture and remember for years to come. So make sure you have a decent camera or phone to bring with you!
Emma is on the Marketing Team at Tucan Travel and travelled to Patagonia in November 2019. You can see highlights from the trip on the Tucan Travel Instagram page – @tucantravel. Click on the highlight real called “Patagonia”. You can also view her personal Patagonia photos on @missemmaja
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