This is a Torres del Paine packing list, specifically for hiking the W Circuit in Chilean Patagonia. I have hiked the W four times (I lead trips to Patagonia), and on these trips I have also spent time in El Calafate and hiking in El Chaltén. These are my best packing tips for a trip like this.
This list assumes you are not camping or in need of any camping gear. Even at the refugios along the W, sheets and blankets or sleeping bags are provided. You only need to bring your own camping gear if you plan to sleep in a tent.
Click here for a detailed summary of hiking the W Circuit in Torres del Paine and more information about reservations.
Click here for a guide to El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier
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How to Pack for Hiking the W Circuit in Torres del Paine
Best Backpack for the W Circuit
- 30-40L backpack (I used an REI Traverse on my first W trek and loved it)
- 15-20L daypack (try this stuffable daypack from REI – I used this in perfect combo with my Traverse)
- Because I am nomadic and must have everything I need for months with me as I travel, I now use the Osprey Farpoint 55, whose main compartment is 40L and there is a 15L detachable daypack. I’ve completed two W treks with this pack, it is quite comfortable and the detachable daypack is brilliant.
- Bonus if your pack comes with a rainproof cover; if not, be sure to get one
Update 2019: The Osprey Farpoint is now specifically for men, while the Osprey Fairview is for women. On top of that, they’ve come out with the Farpoint Trek and Fairview Trek, and this one doesn’t have the detachable daypack but is altogether better (IMO) for this type of trip than the original Farpoint. Instead of the detachable daypack, use a stuffable daypack.
Whatever you do, make sure your daypack can attach to or stuff inside your regular backpack and that water is easily accessible. You only want to carry one pack at a time. Leave the rest of your luggage at a hotel in Puerto Natales, most should be happy to do this for you, some will even provide large trash bags for you to put extra stuff in.
The W Circuit is a through hike, which means you don’t go back to where you started; you’ll be carrying your own pack on the trails between refugios.
A 30-40L pack is plenty big enough, as you will only carry what is absolutely necessary for the 4-5 days that you will be on the trail.
A daypack is recommended for the out and back trips you will do while on the W.
Why You Need a Daypack
Depending on your lodging plans, there are three potential out and back hikes for which you’ll need a daypack:
- Hike to the base of the towers (“Base Torres”) – out and back from Hotel las Torres, Refugio Torre Central, or Eco Camp, all of which are down in the valley. Even if you stay at Refugio Chileno, you still do an out and back up to the Torres and back.
- French Valley – you can leave your big pack at Italian Camp and do an out and back into French Valley (the middle of the W).
- Grey Glacier or Mirador Grey – if you aren’t staying at Refugio Grey, you’ll do an out and back from Refugio Paine Grande.
Travel Planning Tip: Order a prepaid SIM card before you travel!
Complete Torres del Paine Packing List
Links go to products I use and personally recommend. If you take nothing else away from this list, take these two words: LAYERS and WATERPROOF.
- Sturdy, waterproof hiking shoes. Use boots, or if you’re a rugged trail runner like me, trail running shoes work fine. Wear what you already know and are comfortable with, because you’ll be in them for days. I use Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes – they are comfortable yet rugged, and they make a waterproof trail running shoe called the Cascadia GTX (with a Gore-Tex liner). I have also used North Face lightweight hiking boots – they are very low profile, like trail running shoes with ankle support.
- Flip flops
- 2-3 pairs of merino wool hiking socks that won’t slide down into your shoes and cause blisters (yes, you can re-wear them, no one cares)
- Recovery compression socks: for speedy recovery every day; on my last W trek, I wore these each night after hiking, and my legs were very happy
- Underwear: be sure to bring underwear that you are comfortable hiking in, test it beforehand, nobody needs chafing on a trek like this!
- Sports bras: I recommend two, one to wear hiking and one to change into after a hot shower.
- Waterproof hiking pants (real Gore-Tex, real brands, for REAL weather – I use Arcteryx): I hike in Brooks running tights and keep my waterproof pants close by to wear over the tights when weather moves in.
- Regular running tights (capris are fine for summer months)
- Shorts or running skirt for hot days (don’t even bring these in colder months)
- Base layer bottoms for colder months
- Base layer long-sleeve top: wore this everyday in October (spring) – I did NOT need this for round two in March (summer). Merino wool is best.
- Quick-drying t-shirt: Bring a couple of these if you’re going in summer. T-shirts are better than tank tops for avoiding backpack strap chafing.
- Cotton leggings to wear at night (Guys – bring lightweight pants to change into for the evenings)
- Packable down vest (I’ve used both Marmot and REI down vests, the REI one packs smaller and is a little easier to layer, the Marmot one is warmer)
- Zip hoodie that can be taken on and off easily
- Light jacket for a layer of warmth
- Rain jacket: Seriously, make sure it’s waterproof.
- Packable down jacket: You’ll use this on the trail during colder months and in the evenings no matter the season.
- Waterproof shell gloves: This is a must. Use regular lightweight gloves for cold and bring waterproof shells for extra weather.
- Buff: a brilliant layer to wear over the ears or around the neck for extra warmth
- Hat(s): beanie with visor and baseball cap with front brim
- Sunglasses: Be careful, Patagonia loves to eat sunglasses (bring croakies).
- Sunscreen: Sunscreen is ALWAYS cheaper in the USA. Also, hole in the ozone layer down south. BRING sunscreen!
- Camera (I use a GoPro Hero 6 with a telescopic pole)
- Portable USB charger: I used this everyday, especially when I didn’t have access to electricity and needed to recharge my phone, which I use for everything. If that specific item is out of stock, get the smaller version.
- Water bottle or bladder: this is a personal preference, and you can refill in streams no problem. You do not need to bring water purifiers to Patagonia.
- Travel towel (if you don’t bring one, you can rent one at each refugio)
- Toiletries: only the essentials for what you need for a few days, you will be able to shower at all refugios. I like to recommend this dry shampoo (non-aerosol so you can carry it on).
- Ear plugs (that link takes you to the BEST ones), eye mask, melatonin: whatever you need to ensure that you sleep well in shared accommodations
- Clothes to sleep in: Ideally something that will stay clean and dry.
- Passport: You’ll need this to check in at all accommodations.
- Cash & Credit Card: No ATMs in the park. Refugios and hotels accept credit cards. Yes there is beer, wine, and pisco sours available throughout the W!
- Nuun electrolyte tabs: Take these electrolyte tabs every night after your hike, they will immensely help with your recovery and keep you going.
- Rainproof backpack cover: you don’t want to be caught in Patagonia’s wet weather without one
- EmergenC or Airborne chewable tablets: Good idea to take them every morning on the trail, as you are constantly around other people and in refugios where germs spread.
- Packing cubes always help
- DO NOT BRING JEANS ON THE W – they are too heavy and bulky, stick to lightweight materials.
Weather in Torres del Paine
No matter what time of year it is, you need to be prepared for four seasons in one day. That could mean a snow storm in the middle of summer. It happens. This is Patagonia. Never have I been anywhere that stands up to “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” more so than Patagonia. It literally changes that fast, and you need to be prepared for anything. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. LAYERS are the key to being comfortable in Patagonian weather.
My experiences with weather on the W Circuit the three times I have been on this trek:
- October/November: Cold, wet, snowy, cloudy, bright, sunny, warm, windy
- March: Dry, cool, warm, hot, sunny, windy
One thing you can absolutely count on in Patagonia at any time of year is the gale force wind.
Other Notes About the W Circuit
- Recovery Tips: Bring Nuun tabs (mentioned above) or other electrolyte supplements, wear recovery compression socks (mentioned above) every evening, and stretch! Your body will thank you!
- Trekking Poles: My personal take is that you don’t need them if you, like me, are an experienced hiker or trail runner used to rugged terrain. My theory behind this is that I am more comfortable trusting my own balance and footing like I’ve always done on the trails than putting trust into poles that I feel clumsy with. If you are not an experienced hiker, or if you are experienced with trekking poles, or if you need them for bad knees or an injury, bring them. A friend recommends these trekking poles, which are super lightweight and packable, yet sturdy.
- Food/Snacks: With our full tour, all of our meals, including box lunches, are taken care of. You can opt for full board at the refugios as well, and this makes it very easy so you don’t have to worry about food. You get plated breakfasts and dinners and bag lunches every day. I eat a lot, and this was enough for me. If you are allergic to peanuts, bring your own trail mix. If you have other restrictions (i.e. gluten or dairy), best bet is to bring protein snacks. If you have favorite bars from home, bring them. I recommend and love Epic Bars, they are meaty and delicious.
- Electricity: There will be nights when you can’t plug in, or are limited to plug in time by a generator, or that your room doesn’t have plugs at all. Keep this in mind — get a portable charger for your phone, bring backup batteries for your cameras.
- Trail Safety: Rescues are extremely difficult in Patagonia. Take your time, with steady steps, and take care of each other out there.
- WiFi/Cell Service: WiFi is available for a fee (expensive) at some of the refugios. Cell service ends at Puerto Natales. Be ready to be off grid during your trek. In case of emergency, the refugios have radios.
What Else to Bring to Patagonia
The luggage that you leave behind while you’re on the W should be everything else that you might need for your travels in Patagonia. This could include:
- Jeans or other pants for non-hiking days
- Nice shirts so you don’t feel like a total slob the entire time
- Boots, flats, or other sandals for being in town
- Your laptop or other electronics that you travel with (of course it’s a risk leaving these behind, but I’ve done it four times and it’s always been completely safe).
Do you still have questions? Ask me in the comments, I will answer them. Let’s make this as comprehensive as possible!