- Prioritise clothing that you can layer up so that you can easily respond to different weather. Saving some layers for the evening will also be much appreciated when the temperatures drop. Base layer clothing made from pure merino wool is great, it will keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.
- In addition to your main backpack, a small daypack is recommended for your extra layer of clothes, water bottle, sun cream and camera.
- When packing, we advise you to allow for a minimum of two to three changes of clothes per week. You should have access to laundry facilities and we recommend packing fast-drying fabrics that can be washed and dried quickly.
Swoop's ultimate W Trek packing list
Basic kit list
Glacier Huemul hike - El Chalten, Argentina
After some heavy rain, we’re still smiling! Striking a pose in front of Lake Nordenskjold on the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park
Hikers shelter from the infamous Patagonian wind with views of Las Torres
Still smiles after snow flurries and lots of wind on the second day of the W Trek
When travelling to somewhere where the weather is as changeable as Patagonia, it is important to be prepared and having the right kit makes all the difference. Whatever kind of trip you are doing, it is important to pack the following items:
- Waterproof hiking boots that are broken in
- Trainers for a more lightweight option
- Flip flops/sandals - they're useful when camping (communal showers) or if your hiking boots get wet during the day
- Breathable, lightweight vests and t-shirts for your base layers
- Heavier tops for insulation, long-sleeved to protect against the UV rays
- Thermal trousers or leggings for your base layers and sleeping
- Hiking trousers which are water-resistant
- Shorts for summer months
- Jumpers and fleeces for extra layers and evenings
- Wind and rainproof jacket
- Underwear (including high-quality hiking socks, sold by all outdoor clothing stores)
- Swimwear for lakes/rivers/pools
Other important items
- A small first aid kit
- Toiletries (including bug spray and sun cream)
- Camera with a large memory card - read our guide to Photography in Patagonia
- Plug adaptor - to find out more about the adaptors you'll need in Chile and Argentina, please see our guide on Life in Patagonia
- Towel (microfibre/quick-drying recommended)
- Sunglasses and a sun hat (if you're ice hiking the bright snow can damage your eyes if they aren't properly protected - look for glasses that filter high levels of the sun's rays and protect the front and sides of your eyes)
- A weather-resistant torch or headlamp
- Notebook to record your sightings
- Passport & correct entry forms
- Driving licence (if hiring a car)
- Air tickets
- Swoop itinerary
- Cash & card
- Copy of insurance documents & passport
- Phrasebook & guidebook
- Cash tips for your guides and/or porters
If you would like to find out more information about the travel documentation you will be required to bring, please read our guides on Getting to Chilean Patagonia and Getting to Argentinian Patagonia. For more information about the type of insurance you will need, read our guide to Insurance.
I never leave home without my packable day sack - they are incredibly useful to whip out in a flash when you arrive at a hotel and you need an instant day bag for your water, map and camera. They are also really handy as an overnight bag if you are storing your main luggage elsewhere.
Harriet Pike Trekking, Mountaineering & Cycling Specialist
What to pack for hiking and trekking in Patagonia
Trekking by Lago Grey
Hike to the Base of the Towers, Torres del Paine
If you are doing a trek in Patagonia, such as the W Trek or the Full Circuit, you will need to make sure you are extra prepared so you can keep warm and dry in the changeable Patagonian weather! As well as all of the Basic Kit, you should make sure you also pack:
The right type of luggage
Bring a backpack over a suitcase. Choosing the right backpack will be invaluable to your comfort on hikes. Ensure your backpack fits properly, is lightweight, has compartments for easy access to water bottles, and is waterproof or has a cover.
Regarding size, shorter treks where you don't need to carry a tent or food will generally necessitate a 35-40L backpack. If you will be hiking for multiple days and carrying everything with you, you should upgrade to a bigger bag - please see below.
We would also advise taking a dry bag to fit the size of your backpack to ensure key items remain dry in the case of very wet conditions.
Before you travel, you will need to have a good pair of waterproof hiking boots that bode well with mud and rocky terrain. As you will be hiking for quite a few days, you want to make sure these will keep your feet dry and won't give you any blisters. Here's how to buy boots that fit.
We would also recommend a good pair of wool blend hiking socks to keep your feet extra comfortable and warm.
If you are staying in refugios, bring a pair of sandals or flip flops for wearing inside so your feet can take a break from your hiking boots!
A pair of hiking trousers that are breathable and light is a must, as these will dry out quickly after rain and will keep you from getting too warm when hiking long distances. A few wicking tops and fleeces are important to stop you from getting too sweaty while hiking. Cotton does not dry as quickly, or keep you warm during active days outdoors.
You will need to make sure you have a waterproof jacket and trousers, preferably gore-tex, to keep you dry in any downpours.
You will definitely appreciate packing a change of clothes for post-hike around the hut or camp, so you're not stuck in your dirty hiking gear!
As Patagonia can be known to experience all 4 seasons in 1 day, even if you are visiting in summer it is worth packing a winter hat, gloves and a scarf or buff. Equally, you should make sure you have a sun hat and sunglasses packed for when the sun comes out!
Other important items
A refillable water bottle or hydration system is extremely important. Water is refilled from the streams and taps in Torres del Paine National Park. These are clean sources and will not need to be filtered. However, if you would prefer, you can bring your own filter or purification tablets, or purchase bottled water at refugios.
When hiking for several days, trekking poles can be a good idea as these provide extra stability for anyone who has issues with their knees, and they can also be useful for providing an extra bit of balance. They are typically quite light and don't take up much space in your luggage.
Another useful item to have with you is a weather-resistant headlamp, especially if you are camping. These can normally be picked up for around £15/$20 USD online - bring some spare batteries.
If you will be staying at Refugio Torre Central, there are lockers available to store your valuables in, so make sure you bring a small lock if you wish to use these.
Pack some clothes in your hand luggage in case your luggage gets lost, then you can still enjoy your trip. Pop them into a vacuum pack style bag, squeeze the air out and place it in your carry-on.
Only bring food you will actually eat. You don't want to be carrying any extra weight, or having to find somewhere to dispose of leftovers away from wildlife.
Bear in mind Chile has quite strict regulations on what food products you can bring, check with your airline before you travel or the official Chilean guide. This declaration that you make upon entering Chile with the ministry of agriculture and livestock (SAG) is completely separate from any immigratory/Covid-19 declaration that you might also make.
“ In Torres Del Paine, I wished I just had a Nalgene or similar water bottle - there was no need to carry lots of water, and it would have been easier to fill in streams. ”
“ I wish I had brought a microfiber quick dry towel for the trip - the other 2 guys said Swoop recommended a towel in their list but I missed that! ”
What to pack for camping in Patagonia
For treks staying at campsites instead of lodges, you will need a few extra things packed. Add the following to the trekking kit list:
A 40-60L mountain backpack
If you are camping you will need enough room in your rucksack for a sleeping bag and sleeping mat, unless they are provided by the partner supporting your trek. We recommend a 40-60L mountain backpack, although this will depend on how much you pack and whether you are hiring porters. In any case, the lighter you can aim for, the better.
A camping mattress and sleeping bag
If you do need to bring your own camping mattress, we recommend a Thermarest or similar. You should make sure that it is lightweight and compact so it is easy to carry. A 3-4 season sleeping bag is recommended with a comfort limit of -5 to -10 degrees celsius. It's important they have a compression stuff sack to save space within your bag.
What to pack for winter in Patagonia
Winter trekking in Torres del Paine
If you are hiking in Patagonian winter, there are a few extras you should make sure you have with you. Add the following to basic trekking kit list:
You will need to make sure that you have extra thick socks to deal with the cold - we recommend a few pairs of mid to heavyweight synthetic moisture-wicking hiking socks. These will keep your feet warm and dry in the snow.
A pair of gaiters is also important if you will be hiking in the snow, as these will keep your socks from getting wet.
A good set of thermal underwear to wear underneath your hiking clothes is necessary to keep you warm in the winter months. It's also important to have a down or synthetic jacket that you can pop on whenever you stop for a break to stop you from cooling down too much.
In addition to the basic trekking kit, it is worth investing in a pair of warm mountain gloves. These will normally be waterproof and have an insulating layer to keep you extra warm.
Other important items
For a winter hike, a bigger rucksack will be needed for your extra winter gear. Typically we would recommend a 40-60 litre mountain backpack, although this will depend on how much you pack and whether you are hiring porters.
If you need to bring your own camping gear, you will need to make sure you have a 3-4 season down sleeping bag. The down will be important in keeping you warm in the cold, winter temperatures - these typically have a limit of -10 to -20 degrees celsius.
“ Pack light and make sure you have a good backpack! Follow the list as it's everything you need. There is wifi at the lodges but for a fee, and no good access to charging electronic devices to perhaps a solar charger or something of the sort would be handy. ”
“ Be very critical of how much and what you take on the track in your backpack. We took too much. ”
Refugio Los Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Consuming less and minimising our footprint is increasingly on our agenda. Exploring this staggeringly beautiful and pristine region, you'll be acutely aware of the value of the natural environment and the impact we can have on it. Here are a few useful packing items that can assist an eco-conscious approach to your trip:
- In terms of kit and clothing, look into options for borrowing or buying second-hand first; if buying new invest in durable things that will last many an adventure.
- Using travel guides and planning evenings of reading at your refugio? Opt for digital guides and e-books to save paper.
- Bring a solar battery pack or charger, which you'll also be grateful for when the cold/altitude drains your battery.
- Source or make toiletries that are free from chemicals and microplastics. These could range from solid shampoo bars or shampoo leaves to DIY toothpaste in reusable containers and biodegradable sun cream.
- Bring a ziplock bag for your used tissue and toilet paper - it's very important to practice Leave No Trace principles.
What our customers think of What to wear in Patagonia
Weather really is unpredictable and ever-changing. Definitely follow Swoop's guidance regarding layers. We were well prepared thanks to this invaluable guidance. Read the full review
Travelled: December 2021
Beverly Reyes Picache - USA
Bring warm clothes & gloves and great hiking boots The winds can be wild and crazy during the summer. Read the full review
Travelled: December 2021
Ken Knara - USA
Use your worn-in hiking shoes (not new ones)! Expect all types of weather. Read the full review
Travelled: December 2021
Hans Van Tartwijk - USA
Be prepared for long hikes. Bring layers of clothing which you may have to change into and out of a number of times in a single day. Not all creature comforts may be available including fast internet but we found that to be a good thing. Don't forget the sunglasses and the SPF 50, even on cold days. Read the full review
Travelled: November 2021
Sean Johnston - USA
You don't need to overpack, but be sure to bring layers. In December we had beautiful weather most of the time, but it did rain. Good rain/wind protective gear is the number one most important thing to bring. In El Chalten and El Calafate they had laundry service so we got all caught up on clean clothes after finishing the W and making it up to Argentina. And be sure to bring a camelback--you will needs lots of water every day. Don't worry about getting water though, there is no bacteria anywhere, so you can fill up with water out of any stream. Read the full review
Travelled: December 2019
Dane Heptner - United States Of America
Don't forget to keep domestic baggage allowances in mind when packing - these are 23kg for most airlines, and 15kg for Aerolineas flights.
There are a few other items you might consider bringing, depending on your interests and preferences. If you are interested in birding and wildlife, you could pack a pair of binoculars. This will give you a better chance of seeing some Patagonian wildlife close up.
If you are a photographer, you should make sure you bring spare batteries and SD cards for your camera. There are charging sockets in all of the communal areas of refugios, so bring a camera charger too. For more gear recommendations and top tips, read our guide on Photography in Patagonia.
For those who are camping, pack a pair of earplugs if you are a light sleeper, but also remember an alarm clock so you can wake up early to catch the sunrise on your treks!
Please note that the use of drones is strictly prohibited in some areas of Argentina and Chile, including national parks. We strongly recommend that you thoroughly research the drone laws in both countries if you are considering taking one with you to Patagonia.