W TREK PACKING LIST FOR HIKING IN PATAGONIA
The W Trek is the most popular multi-day trekking route in Patagonia, and for a good reason. This trail in Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park offers some of the most spectacular and diverse scenery I’ve ever encountered. Typically hiked in 4-5 days, you’ll encounter glaciers, waterfalls, turquoise lakes, grand vistas, and more. (I wrote about my experience with tips for planning a W Trek hike here).
When packing for the W Trek, you need to be prepared for all types of weather. In Patagonia, you can have snow, incredibly strong wind, AND rain all in one day, followed by intense sun the next….and I learned quickly, you can never put all of your faith in what the forecast predicts.
In this W Trek packing list, I share the gear I brought with me to Torres Del Paine and tips for packing for your own W Trek.
Things to Know Before You Go to Patagonia
Hiking the W Trek requires a lot of advanced planning. Within Torres Del Paine, you are only allowed to camp within established campsites that exist at refugios (lodges) and campgrounds in the Park, and many of these get booked up more than a year in advance. While you shouldn’t expect to come here and have a remote wilderness camping experience, the plus side is that many of the refugios offer gear rentals, saving you a lot of weight in your pack. I was on a guided tour when I hiked the W Trek with G Adventures, and they arranged for tent and sleeping pad rentals at all of the campsites. If it’s in your budget, renting gear from the refugios is a great way to cut weight from your pack and have a more enjoyable experience on the W Trek.
Another reason to consider the tent rentals is that the winds in Patagonia can reach speeds up to 100 km/hour. If you plan on bringing your ultralight backpacking tent, know that it might not be able to withstand conditions if you end up in crazy wind. On the other hand, the rental tents that the refugios provide are pretty burly with serious guy lines that you’re less likely to have issues with.
Additionally, meals are also available at all of the Refugios, including packed lunches. On most backpacking trips, food ends up weighing more than anything else. By buying your meals at the Refugios, you can save a ton more weight on food, fuel and cooking gear.
If you want to hike with just a day pack, there is also the option to hire porters or horses to transport your overnight gear from one campsite to the next. On our trip, G Adventures arranged for our sleeping bags and overnight gear to be transported for us to the next day’s campsite.
For more details on my experience with G Adventures, check out this blog post.
Can I Rent Camping Gear in Puerto Natales?
Yes! If you want to save some dollars you can rent gear in Puerto Natales & backpack the W Trek. You can rent everything you’d need from outfitters in town….insulating layers, a tent, trekking poles, a camp stove, you name it! Prices vary slightly between vendors so you’ll need to check with them for current rates.
Here are a few vendors to look into:
- Erratic Rock – They do a daily information talk at 3pm. Check out their rates online.
- Camaleon – They offer a 20% discount for online rentals.
- Rent Natales – Another reasonable option for renting gear with online rentals available.
W Trek Packing List: Camping Essentials
- Backpack – The size of your backpack depends if you will be carrying ALL of your gear or if you plan to rent or have your gear transported. On our trip, we were only required to carry daypacks. I hiked with the Deuter Rise 32 SL Pack. It’s actually a skiing pack, but it has a rear access panel, which allowed me quick access to my camera gear. The pack hugged my body perfectly and wasn’t too bulky despite how much it could hold. If you are not renting gear and need to carry all of your own stuff, this is the backpack I normally backpack with.
- Rain cover – Bring a rain cover for your backpack. I suggest sizing up if you are between sizes so it can stretch over your pack if you have stuff hanging off the outside. REI’s Duck’s Back Rain Covers are universal for most bags and reasonably priced.
- Garbage bag liner – Our guides told us that sometimes in really windy rain, pack rain covers often blow right off your backpack. They suggested lining the inside of our backpacks with a garbage bag and putting all of our stuff inside that. That way if the outside of our packs got wet, the stuff would still be protected.
- Tent – If you don’t want to rent a tent, you’ll want a shelter made to withstand the elements. A couple of good tent options for the W Trek are the Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2 or the ALPS Mountaineering Highlands Tent.
- Sleeping Pad – Patagonia can be cold, so you’ll want a lightweight sleeping pad with adequate insulation, like the Thermrest Pro-Lite. You can learn about how to choose the best sleeping pad based on your sleep style here.
- Sleeping Bag – For the W Trek, you’ll want a sleeping bag that is rated to at least 15 degrees. My go-to ultralight sleeping bag is the Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 degree bag that weighs only 2 pounds. Here are a few more of our favorite sleeping bags & our guide to understanding degree ratings.
- Trekking Poles – I’ve used my Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles for so many great hikes. They are great for travel since they collapse easily into three parts.
W Trek Packing List: Clothing Essentials
Our late-November Patagonia trip started with a day of crazy cold and stormy weather when we were in El Chalten. So that’s what we expected and packed for when we made it further south to the W Trek. We, fortunately, ended up getting near perfect weather, with some days that were actually hot and summery. Either way, you’ll want to prepare for all conditions with your clothing.
Pants and Shirts
- Hiking pants (1) – Bring one pair of durable hiking pants that can stand up to the wind. I brought a pair of softshell Marmot pants, but they were a little hot. Instead, I would have brought a pair of zip-off convertible pants that I could wear a baselayer underneath, or on hot days I could have worn them as shorts.
- Shorts (1): I didn’t bring any shorts and I wish I would have.
- Baselayer/Leggings (1): I brought these SmartWool water resistant leggings that have a fleece lining (not really a baselayer since they are warm enough to wear on their own). In addition to being very warm, they have a water-resistant layer on the front of the leg so they don’t soak through as easily as normal leggings. However, on our time on the W Trek, it didn’t rain and the fleece ended up being way too warm. These were nice for dinner and for sleeping in, and I did wear them a lot up in El Chalten where it rained for several days.
- Short sleeve shirts (2-3) – You’ll want 2 or 3 quick dry short sleeve shirts (NO COTTON!). One shirt for dinner in the refugios and sleeping and the other one or two for hiking in. It’s good to have an extra in case it gets wet or extra smelly. My favorites hiking t-shirts are the Patagonia Capilene Daily shirt and Nike’s Legend scoop t-shirt.
- Mid-layer (1-2) – I brought two long-sleeve base layers to wear over my short sleeved shirts. One, I hiked it (and sweat in) and the other was a clean one that I could wear to dinner inside the refugios. I recommend the SmartWool ¼ Zip Top and the Mammut Crashiano Long Sleeve Shirt
- Insulating jacket – It can get very cold on the W Trek. You’ll want to bring a (ideally hooded) puffy of some sort. I brought the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody
- Rain jacket – This is the layer that is going to protect you from the elements and you should carry it in your daypack at times since weather can change quickly. I have the Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket, which I found on sale and have found to be worth every penny. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s Gortex-quality and will perform well in the unfortunate event of non-stop rain. Click here to learn more about choosing a rain jacket for hiking.
- Rain pants – Your rain pants should also be in your daypack at all times. If you’re shopping for new rain pants, look for ones that have a zipper on the lower leg. That way you can quickly get them on and off without taking your hiking boots off. Patagonia’s Torrentshell Rain Pants worked well for me on the W Trek.
Read more about cold weather hiking tips & how to layer for warmth
- Waterproof gloves – I should also note I have poor circulation in my hands and they get very cold when wet, so I always like to bring a waterproof glove that I can hike in if it’s raining. I brought these, and they sucked. We tried hiking to Laguna De Los Tres in El Chalten in the pouring rain earlier in our trip, and I was wringing these gloves out at the end of the day. Next time, I might try these waterproof gloves by Patagonia.
- Beanie – I was surprised by how much I wore my beanie while hiking in Patagonia. A beanie really kept my ears and head warm on windy days on the W Trek.
- Buff – The problem with the wind, is your hat is always blowing off your head. Our W Trek Guides taught us a trick to keep our hats secure using a buff. I recommend the half buff, which won’t be too bulky or hot. A buff is also good for wearing over your neck and face if it’s cold.
- Hat – The sun, when it’s out, is very intense in Patagonia. Bring a hat to protect your face and skin.
- Socks – Bring 2-3 pairs. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know my go-to hiking socks are Darn Tough
- Underwear – Bring 2-3 pairs. I like these seamless hipster briefs by Ex Officio. There are no panty lines and you can quickly wash them i the sink if necessary. I do think they run a little small though.
- Oboz Bridger BDry Boots– I have had a lot of foot issues in the past, and I absolutely love Oboz women’s hiking boots. The Oboz Bridger BDry Boots are my go-to for any adventure. They are what I took to Alaska on my 10-day backpacking trip last summer where we were hiking in very wet conditions. My feet stayed warm, surprisingly dry, and blister-free. They have a sturdy sole and are moderately stiff, but were pretty easy to break in.
- Teva Sandal Camp Shoes – Teva’s have been my staple camp shoe since the JMT. They are waterproof and lighter than other camp sandals I’ve owned, and I can wear socks with them in colder environments. Just make sure to pack a comfortable pair of camp shoes so you don’t have to wear your boots all night.
W Trek Packing List: Personal Essential Must-Haves
- Sunscreen – I brought a travel sized bottle of sunscreen, and it was enough. Reapply often…especially if you visit any glaciers in Patagonia.
- Hand sanitizer – Many of the bathrooms at the refugios didn’t have soap. Bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay.
- Quick dry hand towel – Instead of using toilet paper for #1 when I’m hiking (which you are required to and should always pack out), I use a small quick dry towel for wiping. It’s so much better than drip drying. Then at night at the refugios, I rinse the towel off in the sink or showers (more on those in a minute) so it can be used again the next day.
- Personal medications/first aid – There is nowhere along the trail to purchase Advil, band-aids, or anything else you might need for your personal well being. I recommend taking probiotics, electrolytes, basic meds, etc with you. For adventure vacations, a blister prevention kit can be helpful.
- Earplugs & Eyemask – Camping at the refugios can be noisy as there are many tents, and they can be placed pretty close together. If you are a sensitive sleeper, make sure to bring a pair of earplugs. On our group trip, we shared tents so having an eye mask was a good idea. It is also nice if you have a late morning and want to catch some zzz’s post-sunrise or to catch a quick afternoon nap.
- Water bottle with filter – When traveling internationally it’s important to have a water filter. Our W Trek guides always let us know when we needed to filter water. It’s convenient to get a water bottle with a built-in filter so you can fill and go.
- Toilet paper – If you weren’t a fan of using a quick dry towel for wiping don’t forget to pack toilet paper for your trek. Most important though, don’t forget to pack it out!
- Personal toiletries – Pack small toiletries of your favorite items in an organized pouch.
- Snacks from home – It’s always smart to pack a few of your favorite snacks when traveling, especially international. They can be great for the airplane ride, perfect if your travels are delayed or critical if you’re out longer than planned.
There is nowhere along the trek to charge anything, so make sure you fully charge your phone, camera, and other electronics before you leave Puerta Natales.
- Camera with USB charger – You can find my complete guide to my favorite travel photography gear here.
- Battery pack – I stayed charged in Patagonia with a Mophie Powerstation XL Plus. It’s pocket-sized, lightweight and, well, cute, thanks to its Rose Gold exterior and sleek design. I found it to be extremely fast, and it also has a built-in iPhone cord, so can leave your normal cord plugged into its wall charger.
Have you done the W Trek in Torres Del Paine? What did you pack for your Patagonia trip? Leave us a comment below!
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