When I first visited Patagonia in March 2016, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I’d read Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia” and heard tales of this almost mythical land of guanacos and giants. But when it came to actually deciding what needed to go into my backpack, I didn’t have a clue; despite the excess of cat videos on the internet, a useful Patagonia packing list was nowhere to be found.
To be fair, on that visit to Patagonia, the contents of my rucksack were dictated by the fact I’d already been travelling a year and a half in South America. I had clothing for all weather eventualities plus a lightweight tent and a four season down sleeping bag that I’d been using for wild camping and other hiking adventures when I was living in Bolivia and Peru.
My suggested Patagonia packing list
But March 2017 sees me returning to the south of Chile and Argentina for a hiking and camping adventure. I know how invaluable others’ experiences of planning and travelling somewhere can be, which is why I’ve put together this Patagonia packing list.
It’s aimed at adventurous travellers who are planning on hiking (such as the W trek in Torres del Paine), camping and even hitchhiking in Patagonia and should cover you whether you’re travelling one month or three. I’ve also split this Patagonia packing guide into essentials and luxuries; everyone has a budget for travelling.
A lot of backpackers are keen to keep costs down and I’m of this persuasion on most occasions; however I’m always keen to travel as lightweight as possible, even if technical gear for camping and trekking can have a steep price tag. I know from painful experience that it’s a lot more comfortable to hike long-distance trails such as the Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park with slightly more expensive equipment. You get what you pay for and you don’t break your break my back along the way.
For this reason, I would strongly recommend you check out some of my camping gear suggestions. Believe me, carrying a 1.5kg rather than 3kg tent for eight days really does make a difference.
A final point: this Patagonia packing list is written by a girl. I know I travel more heavily than guys, particularly as I’m not a fan of wearing the same underwear four days straight. However, all of these suggestions can be easily adapted to both sexes.
And don’t forget to check out my other articles to help you plan a trip to Patagonia: get inspiration for where to go, read suggested itineraries for short trips to Patagonia, learn how to embark upon Chile’s ultimate road trip, the Carretera Austral and read my ten top tips for travelling in Patagonia.
Get this packing list as a PDF download by scrolling to the bottom of this article!
- Footwear and Packing Accessories
- Toiletries and Reading Material
- Equipment for Camping and Hiking in Patagonia
Your most important purchase before you travel in Patagonia is your rucksack. Before I started my first trip backpacking around South America in October 2014, I bought my Berghaus Torridon Women’s 60l and my Lowe Alpine Eclipse 22l, both of which have served me excellently during my travels.
Berghaus Torridon Women’s 60l
What I particularly like about the Berghaus is that it’s a women’s fit and has an adjustable back system. When I was initially searching for rucksacks, it became clear that only a few were fully adjustable and as someone with a small back, I knew that unless I had a bag that fitted properly, backpacking and hiking would be extremely uncomfortable.
It also has a rain cover and various pockets (including large side pockets that fit two-litre water bottles when you’re hiking). Although it’s perhaps slightly bigger than I’ve needed for backpacking, bear in mind that if you’re planning on hiking with full camping gear in Patagonia, a 60l rucksack really is the perfect size.
Lowe Alpine 22l
The Lowe Alpine 22l has also been ideal for day hiking or wandering around town and also fits my camera and laptop so can be used as hand luggage when travelling overnight on buses in Patagonia. What I also find so comfortable about this rucksack is the adjustable waist strap, a feature that is invaluable when you’re hiking. It also comes with a waterproof rain cover and smaller pockets for keys or lip balm.
- Berghaus Torridon Women’s 60l (unfortunately, my rucksack is no longer sold by Berghaus, but a newer model with the same fully adjustable back system is the Berghaus Trailhead 60 Women’s Rucksack, 60 L – Evening Blue/Dark Cerise)
- Lowe Alpine Eclipse ND 22 Backpack
Tops, jumpers and coats
The key to surviving Patagonia’s notoriously unpredictable weather is layering. When I travelled there in March 2016, I found that a range of long and short-sleeved tops and a couple of light fleeces were the key. With this combination, you can take on or off layers quickly and easily to respond to changes in temperature or weather conditions.
I also packed a long-sleeved shirt, which can be used both for hiking and as a slightly nicer top to wear when going for dinner or wandering around town.
Be aware that it does rain in Patagonia and often without warning. A Gore-Tex waterproof jacket is an essential item of clothing, as not only does it keep you dry, but the material is very breathable so that you don’t get too hot or sweaty, even when hiking.
I’ve found my Sprayway Gore-Tex jacket to be excellent for trekking in Patagonia, particularly as it has a peaked hood which helps to keep the rain off my face. Also, it wasn’t horribly expensive to buy, unlike a lot of waterproof jackets; seriously, you can pay hundreds of dollars for some brands!
- Basic short-sleeved or strappy top (x2)
- Long-sleeved top (x2)
- Fleece (x2)
- Gore-Tex waterproof jacket (the exact model of my Sprayway Gore-Tex jacket is no longer available to purchase, but the Sprayway Gore-Tex Women’s Outdoor Jacketshould do the trick).
I also have a lightweight down jacket (not pictured) that I bought in Chile and which I’m not convinced is as warm as it says but has served as a useful additional layer and packs very small. I’m no expert on down jackets, so check out this handy guide to buying a down jacket if you want to learn more.
- Insulated down jacket
Trousers, shorts and leggings
Ok, I’ll admit it: I really love zip-off trousers (sorry fashion police!). They’re comfortable and allow you to strip off quickly if the sun comes out. It’s for this reason I’ve included two pairs in my Patagonia packing list.
I also never travel anywhere without leggings and have three in my rucksack: two pairs are for hiking (one which can go beneath shorts as an extra layer, one pair which can be worn alone and one for sleeping) and I’ve also found them indispensable for travelling in Patagonia, particularly on long bus journeys as they’re both warm and comfortable.
- Hiking trousers (x2)
- Leggings (1 x thin, 1 x thick and 1 x sleeping)
Although I won’t be hiking with a scarf, I’ve included one in this Patagonia packing list. Throughout my travels in South America, it’s been really useful as an extra layer, whether on a bus ride or when it’s really windy and I just want something to cover my face. I’ve also recently purchased a versatile Buff headband; made of lightweight fabric, they can be worn in several different ways and will be excellent for protecting my head from the sun or just keeping my neck a bit warmer when it’s windy.
I love my microfibre travel towel and I couldn’t recommend it enough as a lightweight alternative to a bulky bath towel, as it that dries quickly and can be stuffed back into your rucksack. I also pack a warm hat, leather gloves (not pictured) and four pairs of under socks and three thicker second socks for hiking (I always wear two pairs to avoid extra friction and blisters when trekking). Finally, my backpack contains underwear, bras and a bikini for any hot spring bathing opportunities that arise!
- Microfibre Raqpak travel towel
- Buff headband
- Warm hat
- Gloves (not pictured)
- Underwear (x7)
- Bra (x2)
- Bikini/swimming suit
- Under hiking socks (x5 pairs)
- Outer hiking sock (x2 pairs)
Although these are certainly not essentials, if you feel the cold or plan to camp in shoulder season (September-November or March-May), thermals are useful. I got very cold when I was camping in Queulat National Park along the Carretera Austral and I’ll be taking thermal underwear for my adventure in Tierra del Fuego this March. (*when I hiked the Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park it was very very cold at the Paso campsite and at night so I was thankful for my thermals!*)
- Thermal underwear (top and bottoms)
Footwear and Packing Accessories
One of the most controversial features of any Patagonia packing list will always be your hiking footwear. At the beginning of my two-year backpacking trip to South America, I made the decision to invest in full hiking boots. However, not everyone does; as they have ankle support and thicker soles, they’re a far heavier option than a hiking shoe. I’ve met plenty of backpackers who’ve instead opted for the latter.
Salomon Quest Women’s Hiking Boots
Despite this, I’ll always be an advocate for hiking boots. For me, the extra ankle support that they provide is essential. In fact, when I was in Ushuaia last year and I twisted my ankle while wearing my Salomon Quest hiking boots, I shudder to think what more damage I would have done if I hadn’t been wearing them.
I’ve also found that these hiking boots don’t give me blisters (this has always been a problem that I’ve faced before), possibly because they have a narrow fit which is far more comfortable for me. They’re also made of a fabric outer shell, which means they’re waterproof (don’t jump into puddles or rivers and they should be fine) and a lot lighter and with better breathability than those made from leather.
Ultimately, if you’re on the fence about whether you need hiking boots or hiking shoes, it’s important to consider how much hiking you actually plan on doing when you’re visiting Patagonia. If you’re only expecting to wander around the towns or take short day hikes, you’ll probably be ok, however, for longer hike, I would really recommend making an investment in a decent pair of hiking shoes. Remember, if you take care of them, they will far outlast your backpacking trip.
It’s also important to consider the types of terrain you’ll be trekking. Hiking hot spots such as Torres del Paine National Park and the trek to Laguna de Los Tres near El Chalten have sections of uneven ground where you do need additional ankle support.
In addition to my hiking boots, I always carry a pair of flip flops. They’re great getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet when you’re camping, as well as for wearing in showers or just generally around a hostel.
- Salomon Women’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boots
- Flip flops
I’ve also packed leather boots which I’ve found to be invaluable for wandering around the city as they’re comfortable and waterproof. Others might want to substitute these for trainers or just use your hiking boots. I personally like something else to wear after a few days out on the trail!
- Leather boots or trainers
One essential part of this Patagonia packing list that few backpackers consider before their trip is how to keep their belongings dry when they’re hiking or even just travelling between cities.
During my travels in South America, I’ve found dry bags to be an invaluable way of keeping my electrical items protected; they were so good that I even used one for my passport, phone and camera when I was rafting down an Amazon tributary in the Bolivian jungle!
I pack three dry bags: the largest is to protect my down sleeping bag from water, the second largest is big enough to fit my laptop and the smallest is for my other electrical items.
I also love my Lifeventure 10l compression sacks as they allow me to pack my clothing down really small. I also have a survival bag, something that is great for sitting on when lunching outdoors, can be used as an inner liner for your rucksack and is ideal for any emergency situation that might arise when hiking. You can find these very easily in most outdoor shops.
- Dry bags x3(Karrimor Drybag 40l is the largest one that I have)
- Survival bag
- Compression Sack – 15 Litre (x2)
I’m a big fan of having the best – and not necessarily the most expensive – technology for travel (check out my guide to free apps you must download for adventure travel in South America if you want to know more).
I’ll admit, I get most of my recommendations from my dad as he knows SO MUCH MORE than I do. However, I’m the one who’s had the time to test out what really works when backpacking in Patagonia.
Firstly, a battery pack and a high-speed charging cable are absolute essentials and have saved my bacon on a few occasions when I’ve needed my phone for navigation purposes.
It’s also essential to have an adapter plug (which has both two rounded and two flat pin settings as some places in Argentina have the latter, while Chile has the former).
I love my Victorinox Swiss Army climber penknife as it has scissors, a bottle opener and a selection of different blades and I always carry a padlock for hostel lockers, a headtorch and the least technological item on this Patagonia packing list, a pack of cards.
In terms of cameras, I’ve recently upgraded from the Canon Powershot to my Nikon D3200. However, unless you’re really keen on photography or are a professional photographer (in which case you probably know far more than I do about cameras), I would stick to a classic point and shoot camera. Not only do they weigh considerably less, but you save a lot of time messing around with lenses.
My recommendation would be the Canon Powershot as not only is the image quality incredible but it’s compact and very easy to use. They are also often very good deals on buying this camera, particularly when Canon have just brought out a new version.
- Portapow Slim USB Battery Pack (this is the newer version of the battery pack I’ve been using)
- Adapter plug
- Phone charger
- Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Penknife
- Pack of cards
- Canon Powershot SX720 HS
I’ve tried various different water filters during my time adventuring in South America and hands down, the Steripen Adventurer is the best. Ok, it’s certainly not cheap, but having used water filters where you have to manually squeeze the water through a filter into a special bag (and which are very breakable, believe me!), it really is the quickest and easiest method and is cheap after the initial outlay of buying the pen.
It treats water by simply inserting the Steripen lamp into a 0.5 or 1 litre container of water; you have to follow the instructions for how long you need to zap it. What is great is that the batteries last up to 50 litres. However, they are a slightly unusual type of battery, so I would recommend that you purchase a spare set before you leave. You also need a water bottle with an opening of at least 38mm so I would recommend getting hold of one of these too.
In Patagonia, most of the water is potable anyway, however, if you’re combining your trip to Patagonia with visiting other countries in South America, the Steripen Adventurer is definitely a worthwhile and environmentally-sound investment, not least because it’ll completely cut your dependence on bottled water and save you money in the long-run.
- Steripen Adventurer and extra batteries
- Water bottle with 38mm opening
Like I said previously, a DSLR camera is not an essential for your Patagonia packing list. However, if you’re interested in knowing what I use, I’ve recently invested in lightweight equipment as lugging kilos of camera gear around was just not practical.
I have the Nikon D3200, an entry-level (and very affordable) DSLR, with a travel lens, the 18-300mm Sigma. I’ve found from my previous travels in South America that several lenses are an unnecessary additional weight and an irritation when you’ve got to fiddle around with them for different shots.
I recently purchased a K&f Concept 50″ aluminium alloy tripod because it was the lightest that I could find that would withstand the weight of my camera. It extends to 128cm (50.39″) and packs down to 33cm (10.24″), small enough to fit into the side pocket of my Berghaus rucksack.
- Nikon D3200 with 18-300mm Sigma lens
- K&f Concept 50″ aluminium alloy tripod
Toiletries and Reading Material
My Kindle Paperwhite has been one of my favourite items to pack in my rucksack. I’m an avid reader, and although it has taken some time to get used to reading on a screen, my Kindle has saved me so much room as I no longer have to carry bulky books. The only issue is you need to remember to charge your Kindle regularly; I’ve found that the Paperwhite and other versions with a touch screen have a far shorter battery life than the original.
The Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t have backlighting, but combine it with your headtorch and hey presto, you can read your book in any dorm room!
Before you go, pick up a copy of “In Patagonia” on Kindle, Bruce Chatwin’s classic travelogue where he explores Patagonia, starting out to find the rest of the brontosaurus that he discovered in his grandmother’s cabinet and instead stumbling upon the fascinating richness of Patagonian society.
The Rough Guide to South America has also been invaluable on my travels, particularly when I was backpacking through Patagonia as it has plenty of detail about visiting both the Chilean and Argentine highlights.
Sunglasses and sun cream are additional essentials as you never quite know when there will be sun, and with fierce winds prevailing in Patagonia, it’s very easy to burn.
My medical kit includes ibuprofen, paracetamol, plasters, a bandage for sprains, arnica cream, blister plasters, cream for insect bites and stings, rehydration sachets, hydrocortisone cream and allergy tablets.
- Kindle Paperwhite
- The Rough Guide to South America
- “In Patagonia”
- Polarising Sunglasses
- Sun cream
- Medical kit
I’ve also recently bought hard shampoo and conditioner from Lush. Although it’s more expensive than a bottle of shampoo, I’m keen to see if this will reduce the weight of my rucksack.
- Hard shampoo and conditioner
Equipment For Camping and Hiking in Patagonia
If you’re planning on doing some serious trekking on your trip, your Patagonia packing list should include a lightweight tent that is able to withstand high winds.
Wild Country by Terra Nova, Zephyros 2
I’ve had the Wild Country by Terra Nova, Zephyros 2 for over a year and a half and I’ve been really impressed with how light it is (1.81Kg (3.9lbs)), how quick it is to pitch and how it is able to withstand more extreme weather conditions. The only issue is that it’s a very tight squeeze for two people, particularly if you have large rucksacks. I’ve overcome this by putting my rucksack in the section between the inner and outer fabric of the tent in a survival bag, as there’s plenty of room in this section for your hiking boots and other items.
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
On my recent trip hiking the Circuit in Torres del Paine, we actually took the Big Agnes HV UL2 instead of my trusty Zephryos 2. It is a more expensive tent, but I was thoroughly impressed with how light it is (only 1.4 kg (3 lbs. 1 oz)!) and how it managed to withstand the notoriously extreme Patagonian climate. If you’re looking to invest in a tent that’ll be ideal for backpacking in Patagonia (and outlast the trip), I would recommend reading my review of the Big Agnes HV UL2 to see exactly why I think it’s an excellent buy.
Rab Ascent 700 Women’s Sleeping Bag
My sleeping bag, the Rab Ascent 700 Women’s is filled with down and appropriate for all four seasons making it a good choice for travelling in Patagonia in the shoulder seasons (September through November and March through May) when the night time temperatures start to fall. It also only weighs 1.24kg (2.7bs) and packs down small enough to fit in the bottom section of my Berghaus rucksack.
Small, comfortable and durable sleeping mats are really hard to find, but my dad introduced me to the Alpkit Cloud Base. Not only is it 186 cm/ft. 1n. long (more than another for most people), but it packs down tiny and is really comfortable to sleep on. It can be a bit squeaky when you roll over but I’ll take that over sleeping on other mats where you can feel every since rock on the ground again…
I’ve also got a sleeping mat that I picked up in a shop in Buenos Aires which isn’t pictured. For a trip to Patagonia, don’t forget to pack pots, pans and cutlery.
Pots, pans and cutlery
During my walk around the O Circuit in Torres del Paine, I tested out some really excellent cooking equipment that helped to keep the weight of our rucsksacks down. I was really impressed with the Quechua Camping Pots with Heat Diffuser; the heat diffuser underneath the pans heats the contents far quicker than a standard, lightweight cooking pan, saving you both time and fuel (an important consideration if you’re hiking in a place where you can’t buy anymore). This set includes a large pot suitable for boiling water or cooking a meal and a frying pan that doubles as a lid. We also had a smaller pan for cooking pasta and rice.
I was also really impressed with the Lifeventure Collapsible Bowl that my brother brought. It has flexible silicone walls and a thicker nylon base, allowing it to pack down flat and save space in your rucksack. Don’t forget a cheap, plastic and durable camping mug (like this one) and a spork or Lhfoon – the latter of which my dad fell in love with. It’s basically a titanium spork with a long handle, that’s both sturdier than a plastic spork (we actually broke one towards the end of the hike), but you can also use it to stir your food as it cooks.
MSR Dragonfly Stove
Another recommendation from my dad is the MSR Dragonfly stove, which we used on our trip backpacking around Peru and, more recently, on our hike around Torres del Paine. Not only is it really tiny and lightweight, but it uses unleaded petrol – a fuel that can be purchased very easily and cheaply all over South America and which saves you the hassle of trying to find the gas canisters that a normally needed for camping stoves.
Thanks to a metal wind shield that comes with the stove, it’s possible to cook even in some of the most adverse weather conditions, particularly as the stove has a lot of power.
- Wild Country by Tierra Nova, Zephyros 2 Tent
- Rab Ascent 700 Women’s Sleeping Bag
- Alpkit Cloud Base sleeping mat
- Pots, pans, cutlery
- MSR Dragonfly Stove
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