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Torres del Paine: Planning + Packing

23 Mar 15
Heidi Kumm
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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!

Chile Travel: Lessons Learned || The O Circuit Part 1 || The O Circuit Part 2

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!

My first view of Torres del Paine, from the bus…cloudy rain!

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!

Up first, Campamento Seron. We didn’t stay there, but we did stop to snack on lunch when the sun finally came out!

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!

Lunch breaks on the trails gave us an excuse to just sit, stare and soak it all up…!

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]

Yes, it ALL fit in there…comfortably! Even I’m impressed!

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]

The night before I left I unpacked EVERYTHING and repacked, again, with a checklist nearby…nothing was forgotten!

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 runaroundaroo@gmail.com! I’m happy to offer up whatever advice or experiences I have to share!

Chile Travel: Lessons Learned || The O Circuit Part 1 || The O Circuit Part 2


Chile Travel: Lessons Learned

20 Mar 15
Heidi Kumm
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And just like that…two weeks have flown by and I’ve flown back to the United States! Some days seemed to drag on forever while others just disappeared. Needless to say I am not all that excited to be back in a cubical during the week. It’s a good thing I have a yurt trip planned for this weekend [and a disgusting head cold as an excuse to be lazy and anti-social].

Planning + Packing || The O Circuit Part 1 || The O Circuit Part 2

I have hundreds of photos to dig through [see “sick + lazy” as my excuse for not doing this yet] so there will be full-blown recaps and stories popping up soonly. My game plan is to post about our trek around Torres del Paine, exploring the cities of Chile and nitty gritty details on the packing + planning process. For now, I want to recap a few lessons I learned, sometimes the hard way, while wandering around southern Chile.

Rain = Mud

Astonishing, right?! Somehow I managed to plan for days of hiking in the rain but completely forgot that rain usually results in mud. LOTS of mud! When we arrived at Torres del Paine it was raining. Not a torrential downpour, just a steady rain with low hanging clouds hiding the mountains. We left the dry buildings covered head to ankle [not toe, I’ll get to that later] in rain gear and started trekking up, up, up and away into the wilderness.

For the first mile or so we tiptoed around the puddles, hopped from rock to rock and probably looked ridiculous slipping around the mud to avoid getting our feet wet while rain plummeted from the sky around us! This all changed when we came upon a “trickling stream” that was trying to redefine itself as a “raging river”…we had to get wet. And as soon as we plunged into the cold river we found a new mindset – embrace the puddles! The rest of the day [and trek!] we gave in and had fun in the mud! Totally worth having wet feet for 6 days!

The Signs LIE!

We didn’t confirm this until a few days into our trek but the signs/maps along the trails lie! As in, do NOT depend upon them for a morale boost or base your lunch breaks around the accuracy of these signs…you WILL be disappointed! On our first day we had a 1km stretch of trail that took us over an hour to cover, according to the lying signs. On our third day we adjusted our camping plans because of another lying sign that said we HOURS to our next site when it was really 45 minutes away. Even the elevation profiles are deceiving!


It didn’t take us long to realize that Chile [or at least Torres del Paine trail management] does not believe in the concept of switchbacks! Why bother zigzagging up a mountain when you can just plow straight up?! Sometimes this is nice – you get to the top of a hill or pass so much quicker by just powering up, up, up. But when you’re headed downhill? In mud? Switchbacks would have been nice…

The trickiest part of the entire trek was the muddy descent off of John Gardner pass. As soon as we hit the trees it was a slick, muddy mess without any switchbacks….we just slide down the mountainside, grabbing at trees and roots for support. In theory the climb UP the pass would have been harder but slipping downhill was frustrating! Switchbacks are daunting but boy was I wishing for a few on this stretch!

Chilean Spanish =/= Spanish Taught in WI High Schools

Good grief – Chilean Spanish is HARD to understand! I’m not good with Spanish in general, with only a few years of Spanish classes and limited practical use I was relying on the English-based tourist setting to keep me in the loop. I know, very “pretentious American” of me, sorry! But even words/phrases I know were hard to pick up in Chile. They talk crazy fast and apparently love their slang! I was so thankful when I met a few Chileans on the TDP trail who quickly explained “yes, Chilean Spanish is crazy hard to learn!”…it wasn’t just me! They use a fair bit of “Spanglish” and drop the “s” in a lot of words simply because it’s faster. Crazy Chileans!

Slow Down, Take a Minute

At the end of the day…we were covering a LOT of miles a day on rather mountainous terrain with 30-45lbs of weight on our backs. We had to move with purpose to stay on track with our limited days in the park. However, the best parts of the trip were the moments when we stepped away from the mileage goals and let ourselves relax and have fun.

Whether it was having fun with other people [like when we discovered the store at Camp Grey took credit cards and we polished off a few boxes of wine with a fun group of trekkers] or just taking a minute to stare at the world around us [like watching the glaciers in the mountains around the French Valley calve into waterfalls] or even an afternoon nap because my mind/body needed it [like the day I avoided people for a 4 hour nap – worth it!] take a minute and stare at the world around you! Remember to look behind you, be friendly with fellow trekkers and don’t let pressure to cover distance be the reason you miss the mountains!

And was it all worth it?! Of course! It wasn’t exactly what I had expected and I did return home with some inner turmoil about the rest of my life but it got me out of my comfort zone, into a new country + culture and gave me a reason to think, really think, about my life. So yes, it was 110% worth it! Now I’m off to nurse this silly cold…

Planning + Packing || The O Circuit Part 1 || The O Circuit Part 2