Congratulations! You’ve decided to go to Patagonia. You’re in for one of the best experiences of your life, and I can tell you that from first-hand experience. But what do you need to take? As you’ve probably heard, the weather can be extreme and unpredictable. This Patagonia packing list covers all the essentials, clothes and accessories you need to take for the trekking season.
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In this article:
Patagonia seasons: preparing for all weather
The high trekking season in Patagonia runs from mid-October to mid-March, with cooler ‘shoulder seasons’ around September-October and March–April. During the winter months (June–August), many national parks and hiking trails in the region are closed due to the extreme conditions.
Our guide to the best times to visit Patagonia gives a deeper insight into the various seasons and what you can expect. But whatever time of year you visit Patagonia, you need to come prepared for any kind of weather. Rain and strong winds are not uncommon even at the peak of summer.
Consider this your all-weather guide to what to wear in Patagonia and what to pack for trekking.
Patagonia packing list: hiking essentials
We begin with the three biggies that you need to protect yourself from the elements in Patagonia and organise your belongings: hiking boots, backpack and jacket.
1. Hiking boots
A strong and durable pair of hiking boots should be the first thing on your packing list for Patagonia. When you encounter difficult weather conditions it’s essential to keep your feet warm and dry, especially on multi-day treks. Good hiking boots should also be comfortable and allow your feet to breathe. You can’t go wrong with a pair of Salomon – Quest 4D 3 GTX for men and X Ultra 3 Mid GTX for women.
2. Backpack / daypack
Your backpack in Patagonia is your home, whether you’re on the trail or moving from place to place. For long trips you should bring a large backpack to carry your gear, while a daypack is convenient for short trails and general sightseeing. We swear by Osprey backpacks – the Aether 70 for men, the Ariel 65 for women and the Daylite Plus as a daypack for short hikes.
3. Hiking jacket
To combat the weather extremes in Patagonia you should bring a jacket that is both waterproof and windproof. It’s your first point of protection against the wind and rain. We always use a 3-in-1 jacket, which combines an outer shell with an inner fleece to give flexibility for varying conditions. North Face’s Evolve II is a great option and has both a men’s jacket and a women’s jacket.
What to wear in Patagonia
The first rule of packing clothing for Patagonia is layers. They will be your friend when the temperature creeps below zero.
4. Plenty of t-shirts
You should pack at least five t-shirts for a trip to Patagonia. Lightweight, breathable sport t-shirts are the best type to get for trekking. Mountain Warehouse’s Endurance t-shirts are now our go-to, having used them for trekking all over the world. They’ve lasted us longer than any other brands and are some of the cheapest on the market.
5. Thermal base layer
When hiking in the coldest weather conditions, a thermal base layer will give you a vital inner layer of warmth. If you’re camping overnight a set of thermals can easily make the difference between a comfortable sleep and a terrible one.
6. A few pairs of hiking socks
Hiking boots alone won’t protect your feet on the trail – you also need to cushion them with some good hiking socks. We usually take a mixture of thick and thin socks so we’re equipped for a range of conditions. Merino wool socks are great for keeping the temperature regulated inside your boots, and they dry quickly too, which can save you a lot of discomfort. Our go-to brand for hiking socks is Bridgedale.
7. Waterproof convertible pants
The weather can change quickly in Patagonia and without warning. When the sun comes out and it warms up, it can be annoying to faff about changing into a pair of shorts (and vice versa into trousers when it starts raining). That’s why we always pack convertible pants, as you can just zip the legs off to turn them into shorts. You’ll be glad you brought them! We use Bienzoe’s quick-dry convertible cargo pants, which are excellent value.
Your hands are probably where you will feel the cold most. Make sure you arrive in Patagonia equipped with some gloves, and preferably a decent pair of hiking gloves.
Last but not least on the keeping-yourself-warm front, you need to look after your head. You lose a lot of body heat from your head, so covering it up with a beanie can help to keep your whole body warm. A merino wool beanie is a great shout as the material is breathable and quick to dry.
10. Leisure wear (for when you’re not trekking)
Hopefully you’ll have plenty of opportunities in Patagonia to unwind. Trust me, after a four-day hike you will welcome a good meal and a few drinks at a homely Patagonian restaurant (if you’re trekking in Torres Del Paine, I highly recommend El Asador Patagónico in Puerto Natales). Anyway, however you want to spend your downtime, you will need some leisurely wear. Bring along:
- A pair or two of jeans / comfy trousers
- Some casual t-shirts and shirts
- Evening shoes / sneakers
- A hoodie or regular jacket
- A few pairs of normal socks
Accessories: what to pack for trekking
11. Trekking poles
You can expect to find challenging, uneven terrain on many of Patagonia’s hiking trails, even the most popular ones. Those uphills and downhills on loose stony paths are so much easier to tackle with a pair of trekking poles.
12. Water dispenser / camel pack
Once you’ve used a ‘camel pack’ water dispenser, you’ll never go trekking without one again. Not only is this the most convenient way to keep yourself hydrated without having to stop and get a bottle out, it’s also the easiest way to carry the weight of water. We use 3-litre dispensers, and that extra 3kg makes a big difference when you’re on a long hike.
13. Sun protection
I’ve talked a lot about the cold in Patagonia, but the sun is just as important to consider. Its glare can be relentless on long, clear days, and even when the temperature’s cool your skin can burn. Make sure your equipped with a hat, some sunglasses and sunscreen.
14. Head torch / flashlamp
This is always useful to have in your bag, and an absolute necessity if you’re camping overnight on the trail. Not just for seeing clearly inside your tent, but also for any early-morning hikes you are planning. For example, to see that famous sunrise view at Mount Fitz Roy, you need to scramble up a hill in the dark. Not fun without a head torch!
15. Mini first aid kit
You never know what’s going to happen on a hike. If you get injured or fall ill in the remoteness of Patagonia’s national parks, it can take a long time for help to arrive. That’s why keeping a mini first aid kit stashed away in your bag is an absolute must.
16. Packing cubes
Our number one travel hack for any trip is to invest in some packing cubes. Whether you’re trekking or just backpacking in general, these are a ridiculously useful (and cheap) accessory to have. They make it so much easier to pack effectively and optimise space, and on a hiking trip that’s invaluable.
17. Dry bag for valuables
The threat of rain in Patagonia means you need to be extra careful with your electronic valuables. If you get stuck in a downpour it can be tricky to keep phones and cameras protected, even if your backpack has a waterproof cover. Bringing a dry bag will give you some extra protection, and it can also double up as a flexible small day bag.
18. Camera (and spare SD cards)
Few places in the world are as visually stunning as Patagonia. If you’re making the effort to travel to the southernmost tip of civilisation, then why not invest in a good camera to record the memories?
We use a Nikon D5600 with a Nikkor 70-300mm zoom lens. Nikons always give you high-quality images, and this model works really well for both beginners and more advanced photographers. Remember to bring a couple of back-up SD cards to make sure you don’t run out of space for photos on a long multi-day trek.
If you’re planning to do some stargazing in Patagonia and you want to take some night sky pictures, you’ll also need a tripod. We have the Manfrotto Compact Light Tripod, which is versatile, compact and light. We wouldn’t recommend bringing it on a trek unless you’re sure you will be comfortable carrying the extra weight.
Patagonia packing list: camping
If you’re thirsty for adventure, you should consider camping in Patagonia. It’s worth it for the amazing night skies alone. It’s also a great way to keep costs down – hostels and hotels are more expensive in the region than anywhere else in South America.
Of course, the first and foremost item of camping equipment you need is a tent. This is something you really can’t scrimp on in Patagonia (unless you like being blown or washed away in the middle of the night).
We searched long and hard to find a tent that would stand up against the wind and rain, while being compatible with our medium budget. We came across an up-and-coming Scandinavian adventure brand called Urberg that produces quality gear for affordable prices. Our Urberg 3-person tunnel tent is one of our best ever travel purchases, and is still going strong having seen us through trips in four continents.
Whatever brand you choose, the number one requirement for a tent in Patagonia is that it can stand up to fierce wind. Good waterproofing is also essential.
20. Sleeping bag and liner
Once you’ve got your shelter sorted, you’ll need to make sure you’re snug and warm at night. This means getting a good sleeping bag. We use the Vango Ultralite, which is light, warm and packs down really easily. For an extra layer of warmth we also carry silk sleeping bag liners. These also proved versatile when travelling in warmer places, as we could use them for light cover when a blanket was too warm.
21. Sleeping mat
The cold hard ground is not the most welcome sleeping surface after a hard day’s trekking. A sleeping mat can be a pain to carry and takes up valuable space, but you’ll be glad you brought it when it comes to bedtime! Our Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus Mattresses have often made the difference between getting a good night’s sleep or not.
22. Travel pillow
The final ingredient for a comfortable night of sleep is a travel pillow. A good one will pack down small and not add too much weight to your load. Once again we recommend Therm-a-Rest’s compressible travel pillows for comfort and reliability.
23. Cooking equipment for camping
If there’s one thing we wish we’d taken on the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, it’s a camping stove. We decided not to because we worried about the extra weight of carrying a gas canister around. But the downside was that we only got hot meals when we stayed in full-board refugios. On the campsites, we had to make do with a cold mix of tuna and beans.
24. Portable phone charger
Who needs a phone when you’re in the beautiful wilderness of Patagonia? It’s not like there’s any signal anyway… but, if you simply can’t do without it (or you want to use your phone as a camera) then it’s worth bringing a portable charger. These are handy travel gadgets to have anyway, as you never know when you’ll be without power.
And don’t forget…
25. Travel insurance
It’s not a thing to ‘pack’ per se, but one of the most important things you need to buy for Patagonia is travel insurance. In particular, if you’re planning to do a lot of hiking or other outdoor activities, it’s vital that you are covered in case of any accidents. You wouldn’t want to be lumped with a medical bill running into tens of thousands of pounds if you need to be airlifted to receive medical care, or even repatriated.
We recommend World Nomads for insuring your Patagonia trip, as their packages are reliable, flexible and specially designed for adventurous travellers. You can get started using the quote tool below.
Further reading on Patagonia
For everything you need to know about travel in the region, read our Patagonia itinerary and travel guide, ultimate Patagonia trekking guide, breakdown of Patagonia trip costs and how to get around Patagonia by bus.
Are you quite new to hiking and planning on tackling the Torres Del Paine W Trek? Check out our complete guide for first-timers. If you’re heading further north to El Chaltén, you might find our guide to trekking in the area helpful.
Last of all, if you’re looking for something to read to whet your appetite for the trip, get yourself a copy of Bruce Chatwin’s legendary book In Patagonia. I read it a couple of weeks before we travelled down, and it was a great taster of things to come!
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