Travel tips

Patagonia packing list: what to take for the hiking season

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Congratulations! You’ve decided to go to Patagonia. You’re in for one of the best experiences of your life; I can tell you that from first-hand experience. But what do you need to take? After all, the weather can be extreme and unpredictable. Don’t worry – we’ve put together this Patagonia packing list just for you.

We spent a month in Patagonia in spring (October–November), when the temperature was still hovering just above zero, and wind and rain threatened constantly. Even in summer the conditions can be harsh, so whatever time you choose to visit Patagonia you need to be prepared.

We’d class ourselves somewhere between novice and intermediate hikers. We don’t buy  elite, top-of-the-range expensive gear, but we do invest in quality products to see us through challenging, multi-day hikes.

Our 3-in-1 jackets are versatile and interchangeable for when the weather is a bit warmer
Our 3-in-1 jackets are versatile and interchangeable for when the weather is a bit warmer

Patagonia packing list: the basics

Backpacks

The most important item of travel gear you will ever buy is your backpack. You will pretty much carry your life in it while you’re on the road.

When trekking in Patagonia it is more crucial than ever to have a great packback. For multi-day trails you need optimal packing space, and even for day treks it’s vital that weight is well distributed and kept to a minimum.

We use the Osprey Aether 70 and Lowe Alpine Atlas for our main large backpacks. Each has its own advantages, but both are light, spacious, neatly fitted to our backs, and distribute weight brilliantly.

For day treks it’s better to take a much smaller bag, in the 20–25 litre ballpark. We use the Berghaus TwentyFourSeven.

A good backpack is a must for your Patagonia packing list: my Osprey Aether 70 backpack is spacious and strong
A good backpack is a must for your Patagonia packing list: my Osprey Aether 70 is spacious and strong

Lightweight t-shirts

When talking essential basics for Patagonia, it’s easy to overlook t-shirts. Investing in some comfortable, light hiking t-shirts is a great way to minimise your packing weight.

We found that you don’t need to spend big to get the best. We bought lots of different t-shirts for our travels, but our Mountain Warehouse Endurances have outlasted all the others. After a year of hiking all over the world, they’re the only t-shirts that haven’t ended up in the bin. Not bad seeing as they’re the cheapest item of clothing in our bags.

Three of my favourite items of hiking clothing: my North Face Tri-Climate jacket, Mountain Warehouse t-shirt and woollen beanie hat
Three of my favourites: my North Face Tri-Climate jacket, Mountain Warehouse t-shirt and woollen beanie hat

Patagonia packing list: essential hiking gear

Did I mention extreme weather? Patagonia may be beautiful, but it is prone to ferocious winds and heavy rainfall so you need to come prepared.

Wind and waterproof jackets

To combat the weather extremes you will need a jacket that is both waterproof and windproof. If you intend to do any hiking at all this is paramount, and even if you’re not it’s advisable anyway.

We both use 3-in-1 jackets, which combine an outer shell with an inner fleece to give you flexibility for varying conditions. This versatility served us well when travelling in other parts of the world too.

My jacket is the North Face Tri-Climate, while Lisa (my wife, travel partner and fellow career gapper) wears Jack Wolfskin.

Lisa traversing Glacier Martial in her favourite Jack Wolfskin 3-in-1 jacket
Lisa traversing Glacier Martial, Ushuaia, in her favourite Jack Wolfskin 3-in-1 jacket

Hiking boots

Another mandatory requirement for Patagonia hiking trips is a solid pair of hiking boots. You will need some that will be able to stand up to the elements and won’t fall apart when you find yourself knee-deep in mud.

I’ve had a foot condition since a very young age, and so I am always very careful in my choice of footwear. After shopping around extensively for hiking boots, I opted for Berghaus Men’s Explorers. In Patagonia, they kept my feet dry and warm through the challenging terrains of Torres Del Paine and the rocky slopes of Los Glaciares National Park. They’re still going great after this and much more over two years of wear.

Lisa’s boots have also served very well: she uses Salomon Women’s Ellipse 2. We bought our boots at the same time, and these have proved just as durable as mine.

Good hiking boots are a necessity if you're raking on trails like the W Trek in Torres Del Paine
Good hiking boots are a necessity if you’re raking on trails like the W Trek in Torres Del Paine

Other hiking gear

While looking after your feet, it’s easy to forget about your poor hands. With temperatures liable to dip below freezing, you’ll need a good pair of gloves. We would also recommend bringing a neck scarf and a woollen beanie hat.

To complete your hiking outfit, and to make sure you’re fully protected from the elements, get yourself a good set of waterproof hiking trousers. We both went for convertible ‘zip-off’ trousers that repurposed really well as shorts in warmer weather. Bienzoe’s Cargo Hiking Pants were great value and did the job perfectly.

Finally, for the trickier trekking circuits you will be very glad for having some hiking poles. TheFitLife collapsible poles are a bargain for the novice hiker.

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.

Tent

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 want to be blown or washed away in the middle of the night.

We looked long and hard to find a tent that would stand up against the wind and rain, and be compatible with our budget. We came across an up-and-coming Scandinavian adventure brand called Urberg. Their tents looked to be of similar quality to premium labels, but at much more affordable prices.

We decided to go for it and bought an Urberg 3-person tunnel tent. This was possibly the best purchase we’ve ever made for our travels. Not only did our Urberg last us through several Patagonian camping trips, but we’ve used it again and again in New Zealand, Brazil, northern Argentina and the UK. We absolutely love it.

Our Urberg 3-person tunnel tent protected us in the harsh weather of Torres Del Paine National Park
Our Urberg 3-person tunnel tent protected us in the harsh weather of Torres Del Paine National Park

Staying warm and comfortable at night

Once you’ve got your shelter, you’ll need to make sure you’re snug and warm at night. This means you’ll need good sleeping bags. We use the Vango Ultralite, which has always kept us warm, it’s light and it 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.

Last but not least, if you want to sleep in comfort, you may consider bringing a roll-up mat. Our Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus Mattresses have often made the difference between getting a good night’s sleep or not. The only downside is that they do take up valuable extra space in your bag, but we thought it was worth it.

We invested in good sleeping bags, mats and silk liners to keep us warm on those cold camping nights
We invested in good sleeping bags, mats and silk liners to keep us warm on those cold camping nights

Accessories for hiking and camping

Now that you’re sorted for your clothing and outdoor gear, there are a few simple accessories that will be a great help for your time in Patagonia.

I couldn’t imagine going on a trekking adventure without a ‘camel pack’ water dispenser. We both use 3-litre dispensers. An extra 3kg makes a big difference when you’re taking a long hike, and these contraptions are the best way to carry the weight. It’s also super convenient to have access to water at any time without having to stop and open your bag.

In many of Patagonia’s national parks, the natural water from streams and rivers is perfectly ok to drink. When that’s the case, you can take less and just keep your dispenser topped up from natural sources.

Our packing cubes have proved to be our most effective and useful travelling accessory
Our packing cubes have proved to be our most effective and useful travelling accessory

If you’re planning to do any camping, it’s imperative to bring a head torch. It’s likely you will need to get up in the night, and it’s pretty dark out there in the wilderness.

On hiking trips we often take our Vango folding stove so we can cook our own food. We didn’t actually bring it to Patagonia as we couldn’t really carry it throughout our travels (and we didn’t want to throw it away). But if we were taking a single trip to the region, we would take it for sure.

To use the stove you need to take gas cartridges too, and for multi-day hikes that adds extra weight. It may be worth it, though, to get that extra kick from some hot food on those chilly mornings and nights.

Without doubt our most useful accessory is our packing cubes. These make it so much easier to pack effectively and optimise space, and on hiking trips that’s invaluable.

Finally: what about a camera?

I do not exaggerate when I say that Patagonia is the most beautiful place I have ever seen on Earth. It would almost be a crime to visit and not take some great photos. Capturing the moment is one of our favourite parts of travelling, and so our cameras are very important to us.

These days we share a Nikon D5600 with a Nikkor 70-300 mm zoom lens. Nikons always give you high-quality images, and this model works really well for both beginners and more advanced photographers. It has a really neat touchscreen interface that makes it easy to find and apply the right settings.

The zoom lens adds some extra spice and is a brilliant trinket to have when you’re somewhere as visually stunning as Patagonia. Use it to get yourself some impressive close-ups of those giant glaciers and mirrored lakes.

Lisa with her Nikon D3300 before we upgraded to the D5600
Lisa with her Nikon D3300 before we upgraded to the D5600

Before we had the D5600, Lisa used a D3300, (an earlier version of the D3400). These are excellent-value DLSR cameras that are very well suited to novice photographers.

I previously used a  Sony DSCHX60 Digital Compact High Zoom Travel Camera with 30x optimal zoom. This was a fantastic budget alternative travel camera, and I would still be using it today if we hadn’t lost it in a robbery.

If you’re planning to do some stargazing in Patagonia and you want to take some night sky pictures, you’ll 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 though, unless you are sure you will be comfortable carrying the extra weight.

Further reading on Patagonia

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.

Maybe you’re visiting some of Patagonia’s beautiful cities? Check out our recommendations on things to do in Ushuaia and Bariloche, including nearby hiking trails.

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The weather in Patagonia can be extreme and unpredictable. Don’t worry – we’ve put together this Patagonia packing list to help you combat the elements.A comprehensive Patagonia packing list that will help you plan any length trip to this part of the world. With its extreme weather and excellent hiking opportunities you'll want to make sure you're fully prepared. Check out the article to see exactly what we packed.

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