Packing for Patagonia
Small pack… Big adventures! Packing ideas for a solo female trip in the very south of South America.
In late September 2016 I set out for a 3 month solo trip to Patagonian Chile and Argentina. I knew I would be mostly hiking and camping at places like Torres del Paine, El Chalten and the Carreterra Austral but with some city trips to Santiago and Buenos Aires thrown in for good measure. Travelling alone as a female meant I wanted the smallest most inconspicuous rucksack possible whilst also being prepared for Patagonia’s unpredictable climate. This post is a list of what I ended up with in my pack …
I tried to take super flexible clothes that would work well in most environments, from city streets to hiking volcanoes. Things that roll up small, are easy to wash and quick to dry are perfect for this kind of trip.
2 x long sleeved tops
2 x tshirts – 1 x walking tshirt, 1 x niceish casual tshirt.
2 x strappy (cami) tops – for hot weather, as an under-vest and as pyjamas. You may choose to replace some of the tops with casual dresses if that’s more your style.
2 x bootleg leggings – Domyo, Decathlon ladies shape fitness bottoms – these are the best flexible trousers I have ever come across, they are great for hiking, sports or lounging around the hostel and don’t look too scruffy so you can get away with wearing them out and about in a city.
1 x jeans – everyone has different opinions on taking jeans travelling, some blogs will tell you not to – too bulky, too hot etc but I found that they were really useful for fitting in in cities and on the whole looking less like a backpacker while moving from place to place. They are comfy and hardwearing and can easily smarten up an outfit.
1 x shorts – I was mostly in fairly cold climates or areas with very high UV levels and so rarely wore shorts but they were great for sleeping in and throwing on at the hostel.
1 x jumper – I chose a fairly simple but nice H&M jumper that was of a medium weight and that I could wear with any of my clothes.
1 x fleece
Underwear and socks – these can be easily washed and dried yet I still usually take at least 2 week’s worth of pants just in case.
Swimsuit – My bikini nearly became my one unused item of my trip until a spontaneous trip to Santiago’s outdoor swimming pool occurred in the last week of my trip!
Lightweight scarf – multi-purpose to dress up outfits, use as a pillow on buses, wet and keep you cool in the heat or warm you up when its cold.
Hat, gloves, buff
Baseball cap – I actually bought one of these for less thatn £1 on a market stall – great for hiking and according to my friend Xing of Koala Travels the World it is much easier to get a ride hitch hiking with a cap vs sunglasses.
Waterproof shell jacket
Waterproof trousers – I found a great fairly fitted pair from Decathlon that fit well over leggings but are breathable and not too baggy and plasticky.
Walking boots – due to their bulkiness I did have to wear my boots whilst travelling from place to place but for a lot of the hikes I did I was really glad I had them. If you are not doing as much big hiking then you can probably get away with more compact walking shoes.
Second pair of shoes – I chose Converse as my non-hiking shoes just for comfort, durability and packability. They are great to chuck on in a city and to give your feet a break from your walking boots. Toms are another fab one for this. Some girls also like to take a pair of ballet pumps or similar for dressing up a little in the cities but I was spending so little time in cities that I decided not to bother.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Shampoo leaves – would not recommend for long haired girls but these Lifeventure
ones are very small and handy for those with short hair. Otherwise I would just take a good 2 in 1 shampoo conditioner and just pick up more as you go – it is not hard to buy shampoo in Patagonia.
Moisturiser – This is my one product that I take everywhere to keep my skin in good nick- also great in case of sunburn!
Deodorant – I found that 1 roll on lasted me 3 months
Sun cream – the very south of Chile and Argentina is right below the hole in the ozone layer and so UV levels are really high. Sun cream and covering up whilst outside is a must even when it doesn’t seem that sunny.
Face wipes – great for freshening up and keeping clean when you are away from civilisation
First aid kit including plasters, bandages and sling, painkillers, diarrhoea tablets, water purification tablets and cold and flu sachets – its best to be prepared so illness doesn’t ruin your trip.
Micro-fibre travel towel
Birth control and condoms if necessary
Tampons/ Pads/ Moon cup
Washing line – I found that this Travel Clothes Line was perfect for drying stuff at the end of your bunk.
If you are only camping for small parts of your trip eg. Torres del Paine National Park or El Chalten then you may decide not to bring camping gear with you. It is possible to hire gear in El Chalten and Puerto Natales. However, the quality will not be as high as stuff from home and costs may outweigh the cons of carrying the gear.
Tent – Vango Tempest 200 – a little heavier than newer and much more expensive backpacking tents but it is a trusted friend of mine and has dealt with some hardcore weather conditions in its life from the beating sun of Southern Europe to the snow of Iceland and now the mighty winds of Patagonia. Although I was tempted by a little tiny 1 man tent I enjoyed having a little more space and not having to actually sleep inside my rucksack.
Stove and pan set – I took a different stove with me but after trying a testing a few friends’ stoves whilst on the road I came home and immediately bought this one. The THZY Ultralight Stove packs up really small, screws onto almost any gas canister type and was really reliable. As for pans, I had a little 2 person set from Decathlon that were cheap and cheerful and did a great job. As a solo traveller you very rarely end up actually travelling alone and so we actually almost always used my 2 man cookset so we could cook together and share food costs.
Sleeping bag – you need one that packs up small but that is still at least a 3 season bag as the weather in Patagonia is unpredictable and can get really cold at night.
Roll mat – this was one of my best new investments for this trip and came on advice from a Belgian backpacker I met in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Mat packs up to the smallest I have ever seen of a roll mat yet still expands to accommodate a fully grown adult for a pretty comfy night’s sleep. It also comes with a bag that is used to inflate it and is also a fully functional dry bag.
Bungee cords/ Rip cord for attaching items to your bag
Water bottles – 2 x 1 litre bottles
Camera and memory cards – Usually I use a Canon SLR but for this trip I treated myself to
a mirrorless Olympus OMD EM-5 which is much lighter, less s conspicuous and more compact for travelling. I took 2 lenses and a ‘micro-usb to usb’ cable and memory card reader so I could upload photos as I went using my tablet.
Phone – some people I knew bought Chilean or Argentinian sim cards for travelling but I found that wifi was so abundant in the towns that I did not really need this. Also, my phone company EE do offer some travel packages that I might have considered if I felt I needed to use my phone more.
Solar panel – I actually barely used this as I stayed at hostels much more often than camping but it is a great bit of kit if you are doing longer expeditions.
Journal, pens, pencils and glue stick – Since family holidays when I was little I have always written some kind of journal on my travels so I don’t forget the people I meet and the places that I go to.
Guidebook and map – Despite our ever increasing love of technology I still am yet to replace the good old guidebook when I travel. I love having the option of browsing for ideas and information and they still definitely contain more information than you can find online. As for the map, I barely touched this except to mark on places I went as a sort of memento. The Google maps app on my phone was invaluable and with the ability to download sections of map for use without wifi I just used this to navigate when I headed to somewhere new.
Chargers and adapters – make sure you have all the relevant chargers for your electricals and adapters for all countries. Although Chile has the same sockets as most of Europe, Argentina’s are different and need a completely different adapter.
You may find that this section sounds like I work for Osprey packs (I wish!) but I don’t, I just really love their stuff and have constantly been pleased with their products – especially those designed for women.
I ended up going with my favourite old reliable rucksack but this was small (33 litres) and I did end up with some things strapped to the outside. It also doesn’t have much padding in
the straps if you are carrying it a lot. If you want a little more space and better straps then a great next size up ladies rucksack is the Osprey Aura 50. I don’t recommend being one of those girls struggling on and off buses with a huge 60-80 litre pack full of unnecessary stuff. The bigger your bag, the more stuff you will take that you really don’t need.
Daypack – I found the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack was a perfect day pack that folds down into a tiny little packet but is tough and big enough for every day wandering when you want to leave your main pack behind. It even has a super handy side pocket for your water bottle and a small easily accessible top pocket for smaller items.
Packing lists are obviously really personal but I hope this gives you a little help with your trip preparation. Feel free to comment below and let me know anything else you have found useful on your travels … Happy exploring!