Backpacking is an experience like no other. Nothing satisfies the itch for adventure like travelling through the wilderness, witnessing sweeping vistas of natural beauty along the way. Patagonia is a prime example; the region is characterized by towering snow-capped mountains, and spans of clear blue water. Of course, backpacking comes with its fair share of complications. But don’t let that discourage you from undertaking a trek. All you have to do is bear these six tips in mind when you’re planning your trip.
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Know the Climate
Before embarking on a trip, you should familiarize yourself with the climate of your destination. Nothing spells disaster faster than conditions you didn’t account for, such as harsh weather or extreme temperatures. If you’re headed to Torres del Paine National Park, for instance, bear in mind that it’s buffeted by high winds year-round. Seasons are another key factor; they dictate not only the weather, but the popularity of a given area. Patagonia is most attractive between November and February, when the O Circuit is open and rainfall is less common.
Dress for the Occasion
Don’t let comfort alone dictate your wardrobe; the clothes you bring backpacking have to protect you from the elements, and keep you warm when night falls. To boot, they’ll inevitably get dirty. For these reasons, layering up is key. Layers can be removed if things get sweaty, then added back when the temperature starts to drop. Plus, packing multiple layers means you’ll have a change of clothes if things get messy. As for material, wool and polyester are ideal, due to being durable and fast-drying.
Assembling gear can be tedious, not to mention expensive. If you’re a beginner or a casual hiker, consider renting equipment rather than purchasing it. If you’re sure those purchases will see plenty of use, though, go for it. Your selection of gear will depend on the parameters of your trip. Of course, there’s plenty of resources online, outlining what equipment you’ll want as a baseline – tools, shelter, storage, etc. With a little research, gearing up won’t be nearly as daunting a prospect.
Packing food for the trip can feel like a balancing act. Bring too little, and you’ll go hungry; bring too much, and you’ll tire yourself out lugging it around. Generally speaking, you should aim to consume roughly 2,250 to 2,750 calories—or 18-22 ounces of food—a day. Fatty foods can help you pack lighter, as they offer more calories for their weight. Try to bring a variety of flavors and textures, too. If you pack nothing but granola bars, you’ll hate the taste of them by the end.
Prepare and Practice
It’s no secret that backpacking takes a toll on the body. Luckily, there’s a host of ways to ensure you’re up to the task. A quick Google search pulls up dozens of tutorials on backpacking skills, as well as exercise regimens designed to ready you for hiking. Alternatively, you can undertake a test hike in a safe environment, such as nearby foothills or a local park. This is the perfect opportunity to acclimate to the weight of your pack, and practice procedures like layering up or setting up shelter.
Even when you’re travelling an established route like the W Trek or O Circuit, it’s important to stay safe. With a map in hand, you’ll be able to identify local landmarks, and keep from straying too far into the wilderness. Should you find yourself turned around, consulting a compass will straighten things out. And in case of emergency, make sure that someone—whether they be a family member, a friend, or even a co-worker—knows where you’ve gone, and how long you planned to be there. You’re sure to rest easier knowing you’ve got some safety nets.