I pinky promise I’ll have full-blown recaps of my time in Torres del Paine and exploring the cities of Chile but I’m holding out for Logan to get home so I can snag some of her photos! Turns out I’m that person that stops taking photos after a few days…oops. For now, these are all the details on the planning + packing that got me there and back. This may be extremely boring for someone not planning a similar trip so feel free to scan through the photos, judge me for rambling and then coming back later this week when the real stories show up! I won’t hate you for it!
While I was planning this trip [heck, who am I kidding – Logan planned 99.9% of this trip, I just did a little Googling the week before we left!] it wasn’t exactly easy to get a lot of information on how the heck to pack! On top of normal “what to wear” questions we had the issue of airport security to contend with as we were not checking our backpacks. So, this is my attempt provide some helpful information about planning a trip to Torres del Paine and what to pack for a 14 day trip with 6 days of backpacking…all in a 30L backpack.
Like I said, Logan planned about 99.9% of this trip so I’ll let her share those details – she’s talked about putting up a post and I’ll link accordingly when she does. It started out as a running adventure and evolved into fastpacking and finally regular ol’ backpacking. We were a little hesitant to depend upon a foreign country to have the same accommodation as we are used to here in the United States so we didn’t want to be majorly under-prepared. Most [all?] concerns were invalid but it still felt good to know we were prepared to survive much harsher conditions if needed.
Flights: Logan and I both used airline miles to book our international flights – that’s the only way this trip was remotely affordable for me. The domestic Chilean flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas was painfully expensive [$500USD from Santiago to Punta Arenas, $200USD from Punta Arenas to Santiago] – we had found mixed information on waiting until you got to the airport vs buying tickets in advance. My advice is to buy in advance, at least 4-6 weeks. We would have saved about $300+ if we had booked in advance and we were on full flights at purchasing tickets in the airport wouldn’t have worked. For the record SKY Airlines has legitimate meals, for free, even on 2 hour flights!
Buses: When we weren’t on airplanes hurtling through the sky we depended upon buses to get us from one city to another. We didn’t book tickets in advance because we weren’t 110% sure what dates we’d need to be on a bus and online booking wasn’t available. To get from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine you need to take two buses with a stop over in Puerto Natales. If you schedule the buses correctly you can do all of this busing in just one day…unfortunately for us the bus we needed to do this with was sold out. We traveled with Bus Sur to/from the park and have no complaints, just book ahead of time! It cost us about $45USD per person for the bus from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine.
Public Transportation: While I was in Santiago for 36 hours I depended upon buses and the metro to get around. Even in Spanish it’s pretty straight forward and cheap. From the airport to my hostel [San Cristobal Hill] it cost less than 2,000CLP and I never got lost or felt out of place. Even the ticket sellers at the metro were quick to point me in the right direction as soon as they heard me speaking English!
Hostels: Throughout this trip I stayed in either hostels or my tent. None of my hostel experiences were bad, some were just better than others. My best experience was definitely at Erratic Rock in Puerto Natales, which wasn’t even on our original agenda! They were extremely accommodating and helpful, recognizing us immediately when we stopped by on our return trip from Torres del Paine. I paid roughly 12,000-15,000CLP per hostel night, which put me at right around $20-25USD/night…not bad, IMHO.
Honestly, I’d recommend staying at hostels marketed toward backpackers with an English host. It sounds very anti-culture because you’re not staying with locals but since we were in a country that spoke another language we were faced with a very real language barrier! While all the hostel hosts were very accommodating it was hard to really ask questions and get advice from the hosts that spoke very little English. And if you’re looking to do a lot of exploring in the area and want to feel confident about how your spending your time, what you’re doing and how safe you’ll be it’s nice to know the person giving you the advice truly understands what’s being asked!
Campsites: While we were in Torres del Paine we camped for a total of five nights in my Nemo 2-person tent. It worked out well and I had exactly what I needed to survive the wet, cold nights that dipped down into the low 30F’s. I do regret not having a footprint but beyond the tent was a great set up with room for Logan + I, our packs and a little wiggle room. I’d considered taking a Eno hammock and/or bivy bag and Logan had a tarp tent but in the end…the tent turned out to be the best option! A hammock would have worked, as would have a bivy, but it was nice to have a place to get ourselves + our gear out of the rain without be closed off from each other + the world around us.
Different campsites on the O Circuit of Torres del Paine have different fees, most require cash and prefer smaller denominations, so plan accordingly! I spent about 15,000CLP in the park for camping fees [plus the entrance fee of 18,000CLP]. Bring cash!
In Cities: I failed miserably at eating locally until my final day in Santiago with two Chileans I met while in Torres del Paine. Chile has good food, they just don’t have a lot of styles of food they are known for so I was happy to get a little local guidance. While in Santiago we went to a fish market and ate about 13 different varieties of seafood – mussels, clams, shrimp, loco, etc. It was delicious! Our next stop was at La Piojera, a very local Chilean bar. I had no idea what was being said 97% of the time but it was awesome to watch! There was a random sing-off and we had drinks with ice cream in them…exactly the kind of “local” I wanted to experience!
While Backpacking: The food I packed for backpacking wasn’t specific to Chile in any way – it’s just what I’ve learned I really like having with me on the trail that’s also light enough to pack around easily. My dinners consisted of instant mashed potatoes + salami + Laughing Cow cheese and Ramen + chicken. My lunches were simple salami + cheese combos and my breakfasts were all oatmeal, some days with an individual packet of Justin’s Nut Butter mixed in. I also packed along snacks to munch on throughout the day. We ended up packing EXACTLY what we needed for food [with the exception of a few Twix plus a “second dinner” we bought at a Refugio] and arrived back at Camp Las Torres without even a snack leftover! It worked out perfected and we grabbed lunch from the Kiosko while we waited for our bus.
This was hands down the trickiest part of the planning [for me, Logan probably has other thoughts since she actually planned the trip] and I’m happy to say I did a pretty stellar job, if I may say so myself! I ended up using nearly everything I packed – food, clothing and gear – without really missing anything I didn’t pack. [none of the links below are affiliate, I’m just using them to better describe the gear I packed]
Gear: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30, Nemo 2 Person Tent, Thermarest ZLite Sleeping Pad, Montbell 30F Down Hugger Sleeping Bag, Kovea Eagle Camp Stove, GSI Outdoors Glacier Cookset, GSI Outdoors Infinity Mug [the mug, cookset and camp stove all fit together], Mini Sawyer Water Filter, 32oz Nalgene, Ultimate Direction 14oz Soft Flask, Butane Fuel Tank, Matches, Multitool, Spork, Sea to Summit 30-50L Pack Rain Cover, Headlamp + Lithium Ion Batteries, Flashlight, Global Compass, Torres del Paine Map
**We bought fuel tanks, lighters and a multitool in Puerto Natales because they are not allowed on airplanes, especially in carry-on bags! The fuel canisters and lighters are easy to find and many are left behind in hostels. The multitool cost us about 8,000CLP and was useful to have.**
Clothing: Saucony Xodus Trail Shoes, Zensah Compression Socks, Columbia Hiking Socks, Columbia Baselayer Leggings, Brooks Spandex Shorts, Montane Minimus Puff Pants, Columbia Storm Surge Rain Pants, Columbia Baselayer Long Sleeve [x2], Sports Bra [x2], Tank Top [x2], Columbia OmniFreeze T-shirt, Columbia Turbodown Jacket, Columbia Watertight Rain Jacket, Beanie, Neck Gaiter, Sunglasses, Liner Gloves
Food: Instant Mashed Potatoes [x2], Ramen Noodles [x4], Packaged Chicken [x2], Packaged Tuna [x2], Oatmeal [x10pkg, 2/day], Justin’s Nut Butter [x2], Candy [Swedish Fish, Sour Gummies, Fruit Snacks], Mixed Nuts, Granola/Protein Bars [x3], Hot Chocolate [x6pkg], Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans, Salami [x2pkg], Laughing Cow Cheese [x2pkg]
Miscellaneous: GoPro + Extra Batteries + Charger, Sony Point+Shoot Camera, First Aid Kit, Basic Hygiene Necessities [toothbrush, toothpaste, glasses + contacts, Action Wipes, sunscreen, tampons, concealer, mascara, Carmex, Kleenex], SPOT Tracker + Batteries, Bia GPS + Charger, Portable Chargers [x2], Passports + Credit Cards/Cash with copies/phone numbers, Notebook + Pens
We did leave bag behind at the hostel we stayed at in Puerto Natales [Erratic Rock] which worked out nicely. I left the a t-shirt, sports bra, tank top and pair of socks, along with the book I was reading at the airports. Had I known this was an easy option I would have packed a bit differently [an extra pair of leggings for “laundry day”] but it all worked out just fine.
What I Did Right + What I Would Have Done Differently
As usually with any adventure there are a few things that I did surprisingly well and a few things I’d do completely differently. First, I’m happy with the trip overall and I didn’t make any detrimental mistakes. No one came close to dying, no essentials were left behind and for the most part…everyone was comfortable!
Gear: I think I was spot on with my gear! I had what I needed and didn’t truly need anything extra. The day I left I decided to leave my 15F degree sleeping bag behind, trading it for a lighter, smaller packing 30F degree bag. The temperatures dropped into the low 30F’s so this could have gone poorly for me but combined with my puff pants + TurboDown jacket + Nalgene with boiling water I was warm enough every night. I did leave the extra vestibule for my tent at home…and if I could do it over again it would have gotten packed! Having the extra 2 feet of “dry” space near the tent would have been nice.
Of everything I packed I used everything, with the exception of my First Aid Kit [which is a good thing!] and compass [super easy trail to follow, but map + compass is an essential for a reason!]. I did pack along a pair of booty shorts + extra long sleeve on my trek in Torres del Paine [rather than leaving it at a hostel with my book + extra socks] and while I never used them in the park I’m glad I had them, just in case I ripped something or needed an extra layer. I also accidentally packed ALL my chargers for my trek in Torres del Paine, had I been thinking I would have left all but a battery pack behind!
Clothing: Going into this trip I was a little worried about how few clothes I packed. Sure, I packed layers and had some mix-and-match options but in reality I had one pair of wear-in-public pants, one t-shirt, two long sleeve shirts, compression socks and…outerwear. That’s it. For two weeks. The day back in Puerto Natales that was deemed “laundry day” had me wearing TurboDown + puff pants but it was a cold day so it all worked out. Looking back I would have added one more item to my bag – a colorful sundress or top [to pair with black leggings] and sandals for my days in Santiago.
If I could have added anything to my pack while in Torres del Paine it would have been Columbia Drainmaker Shoes and a pair of sandals [for in camp]. My feet were wet for days and I was constantly plowing through puddles and streams with my trail running shoes. I was happy to have running shoes, not hiking boots, because they drained + dried faster but there were many times when I wished I had the Drainmaker shoes which were made for hiking like this! I wasn’t prepared for hot comfortable I’d be with wet feet even when it was cold – but my feet still got cold in camp so it would have been nice to have better draining shoes!
Food: While we did finish the trek with NO food it wasn’t because we didn’t plan ahead…it’s because we did plan for an extra day in the park and we ended up needing that extra day and all of the food set aside for it. Had I thought through my meals I would have put tuna on a tortilla roll earlier in the trek…not in my Ramen on the last night [eh, not terrible but…eh]. Otherwise, yay food! Even our accidental “omg, they take credit cards!” splurge at Refugio Grey wasn’t a necessity for calories so much as it was a great excuse to be social!
I’m going to say it again…I’m impressed [and quite proud] of the fact I did such a great job of packing and happily surviving with what I had. I was nervous about packing days before my actual backpacking trip without knowing much about the local feel/weather/whatever but it all worked out quite well!
So, there you have…possibly the wordiest, most boring post you’ll ever read about travel in Chile, my apologies! However, this is exactly the information I was looking for [and not necessarily finding] while planning + packing for my trip so I figured I’d throw all the information out there! If you’re planning a similar trip and have questions…email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I’m happy to offer up whatever advice or experiences I have to share!