Soaring craggy peaks, jaw-dropping glaciers, and pristine forests await you in Patagonia. I spent two weeks trekking the classic “W” route in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, and hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy in El Chalten, Argentina, sleeping in tiny refugios and campsites along the way. Here’s what made it onto my Patagonia packing list … and what I wish did.
What to Pack for Patagonia: The Backpack
I’m a chronic overpacker, so I forced myself to stick to the 50-liter limit of my trusty Osprey Aura AG backpack. The lightweight frame makes it easy to carry for hours, and plenty of pockets, zippers, and compartments keep me organized.
What to Pack for Patagonia: The Day Pack
A day pack gives you flexibility in your itinerary. Drop your backpack at camp, make a quick switcheroo, and move on up to the summit for the day. This water-repellent backpack from Sea to Summit gets the job done.
What to Pack for Patagonia: The Sleeping Bag
Refugios and campsites offer linens and sleeping bags at an additional cost, so you can probably get away with not bringing one. I’m a cold sleeper though, so I don’t regret bringing my lightweight sleeping bag, especially when temperatures dipped below 30 degrees one night at camp.
What to Pack for Patagonia: Flight and Bus Ride Essentials
- Headphones: There’s not much space for traditional over-the-ear headphones, so I brought my tiny Bose SoundSport Wireless ones and an adapter for the charger.
- Scarf: The Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf doubles as a blanket or a pillow in a pinch, which is why I never leave home without it.
- Motion sickness medication: It takes more than 10 hours of travel to get from Torres del Paine to El Chalten on winding mountain roads, so you’ll want your motion sickness remedy of choice.
What to Pack for Patagonia: Shoes
- Sturdy hiking boots or shoes: Make sure you’ve broken them in before you leave. Even a small blister or slightly ill-fitting shoe can mean misery for multi-day hikes, no matter how beautiful the trails are.
- Waterproof camp shoes: These can do double duty as shower shoes and for relaxing at night.
What to Pack for Patagonia: The Jacket(s)
Since you can experience bright sunshine, torrential downpours, snowfall, and high winds all in the span of 15 minutes in Patagonia, layers are essential.
- Insulated vest: The Patagonia Nano-Puff Vest is my go-to for any kind of hiking or running. It keeps me super warm but is so light I barely notice wearing it. (It’s also available for men.)
- Mid-weight windbreaker: Layer the vest with a midweight windbreaker (like this one for women or this one for men) when you’re hiking or the sun is out.
- Warm coat: Keep a really warm puffy coat close by for the summits, around camp, and when the weather turns particularly nasty. Bonus: My L.L.Bean one is packable. (See a similar option for men here.)
What to Pack for Patagonia: Rain Gear
It will rain for some or all of your trip, so be prepared. The trails are well maintained, and with the proper gear, you can still have a great day.
- Raincoat: The Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket fit perfectly over my puffy coat and kept me warm and dry. (Check out a similar option for men here.)
- Backpack cover: If your pack doesn’t have one, you’ll want to make sure you bring a cover. It’s best to find one that fits perfectly so it stays secure in the wind and rain—this Osprey Ultralight Raincover matches mine.
What to Pack for Patagonia: Clothing
- Convertible hiking pants: They may be nerdy, but they’re also necessary in a region with so many weather changes.
- Long-sleeve shirts: You won’t need short-sleeve shirts unless you’re warm in 40-degree weather. Stick with technical long-sleeve shirts—I brought one base layer and two lighter hiking shirts.
- Tights or leggings: I brought two pairs of tights since that’s what I prefer to hike in—one at mid-calf and one long pair.
- Cozy lounge wear: I saved one pair of joggers and one fleece pullover for relaxing around camp.
- Socks: Get yourself several pairs of wool socks for hiking, and at least one for relaxing.
What to Pack for Patagonia: Toiletries
- Sunscreen: It’s a must since you can burn even when it’s cloudy.
- Multi-purpose soap: One of the best perks of hiking the “W” is that you can shower at almost every campsite and refugio. I love Bronner’s since it’s multi-purpose—shampoo, body wash, and clothing wash all in one (plus, it’s environmentally friendly).
- Face wipes: On days without showers, these will get the grime and dirt off your skin.
- Moisturizer: With so much wind, don’t leave it behind.
- Over-the-counter medications: No matter where you travel, always bring some over-the-counter medication with you, especially remedies for upset stomach and pain, as well as an antihistamine in case of an allergic reaction.
- Bandages: Taking care of blisters can make a big difference in your comfort level when you’re walking in hiking boots all day.
What to Pack for Patagonia: Gadgets
- Headlamp: These are handy to help you get around camp and the refugios once the electricity goes out at night.
- High-quality camera: Photos won’t do Patagonia justice, but it’s worth a shot (pun intended).
- Universal adapter: Chile and Argentina use different plug setups and voltages.
- Portable phone charger: Because you won’t always have electricity.
What to Pack for Patagonia: Accessories
- Hat: I mostly used my baseball cap, though mornings at camp definitely warranted a warm hat.
- Multi-purpose buff: I love hiking with one of these because they’re suitable for just about every type of weather.
- Micro-towel: I follow the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy philosophy and always travel with a towel.
- Large water bottle: You can drink the water right out of the streams and rivers on the trails in Patagonia. Pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Sunglasses: Glaciers throw off glare, so when the sun does come out, you’ll want some shades.
What to Pack for Patagonia (That I Didn’t)
- Collapsible trekking poles: These would have been handy on some hikes. Note that airlines require you to bring them in a checked bag, or you can rent a pair in either Puerto Natales or El Chalten.
- Rain pants, rain pants, rain pants: They will make your life less miserable than mine was, and significantly drier, too.
- Poncho: I’m glad I stuffed an extra trash bag into my pack at the last minute, but next time I’d bring a poncho. Did I mention it rains a lot in Patagonia?
What Not to Pack for Patagonia
Unless you’re going off the beaten path, you won’t need traditional backpacking gear like a tent, sleeping pad, pots and pans, mess kit, or a stove on your Patagonia packing list. You can rent these items from almost any refugio or gear store in town if you feel like you need them once you’re there.
Chileans and Argentineans are very casual, so you won’t need anything dressy (even jeans) unless you’re planning on going to one of the major cities before the hiking portion of your trip. Otherwise, save that space for an extra layer or two.
Overall, when packing for Patagonia, keep in mind that less is more when you’re carrying everything on your back. While it may be tempting to bring lots of clothes or accessories, just remember that every ounce counts—and you wouldn’t want anything to distract you from the incredible scenery.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Patagonia Travel: Your Trip Planning Guide
- Patagonia: Hiking at the Edge of the World
- 11 Warm, Lightweight Jackets for Travelers
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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.