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Patagonia Trekking: 15 Tricks for Lighter Travel

Packing light for your Patagonia hike is a must on all fronts. Firstly, you’ll avoid hold-ups and hidden excess-baggage charges at the airport. Secondly, less weight on your journey means that less fuel is needed to get it from A to B, which makes it more eco-friendly. And thirdly - and perhaps most convincingly -  it’s very good news for your back (or your porter’s back!) when you get underway with your Patagonia hike. Follow our top tips for lighter travel to Patagonia!


list1. Make a list, then shorten it.
Throwing things willy-nilly into your suitcase at the last minute is the best way to guarantee you’ll take a whole load of items you don’t need (and maybe forget some things that you do!). Plan ahead, listing everything you can think of that you might need, and then go through with a marker and cross out everything that isn't absolutely essential.

2. Buy things once you arrive.
This tip will help you reduce the weight of your suitcase for the plane ride down to Chile or Argentina. Believe it or not, toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel and many other daily necessities are easily bought once you’ve arrived! Bringing fruit and animal products into Chile and Argentina is prohibited in any case, so you’ll have to wait to buy many of your hiking snacks once you’re here!

toiletries3. Go without or go minimal.
When packing for the hike itself, take just the right amount toiletries to get you through the nights you’ll spend away from basecamp, and store them in small travel bottles. Or collect sample-sized toiletries from magazines throughout the year to take away with you. Of course, you could always consider going without completely, it’s only for a few days!

4. Use packing cubes.
Whilst they won’t reduce the weight of your case, packing cubes can help save space in your suitcase when you head down to Patagonia. It also keeps everything well organised for when you re-pack your kit for the hike.

5. Roll large bulky items.
For the hike itself, leave the packing cubes behind and roll your bulky clothes instead. Again, whilst this won’t reduce the weight you have to carry on your back, it will free-up valuable space in your pack.

6. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t bring it?
Unless the answer to this question is that you’ll come to some physical harm or experience severe discomfort, the chances are you can probably leave it behind. Remember that the main cities in Patagonia are often well-set up for hikers so if the worst does happen, you can often buy or rent any missing or broken kit.

hiking boots7. Wear your boots on the plane.
Your hiking boots can be surprisingly heavy, and if you’ve worn them in properly they might also be a bit muddy. Reduce your baggage weight by wearing your boots, and any other heavy kit, for the journey.

8. Pack multi-use items.
When packing for the hike, kit or clothing that has more than one purpose is like gold dust. For example, pack a fetching pair of zip-off trousers rather than a separate pair of trousers and shorts. Bandanas are also great for serving as a hat, a scarf, a flannel or even an emergency sling!

9. Don’t carry water.
Water is one of the biggest weights you’ll have to think about when setting off on your Patagonia trek. But can you really carry all the water you need for five days of consecutive hiking? Luckily you don’t need to! Due to the temperature and remote location, there are very few bugs or other sources of contamination in Patagonia’s rivers, giving you an endless supply of clean drinking water. Check with someone in the know to find out which rivers are safe to drink from, and use water purifying tablets if in doubt.

10. Choose a lightweight sleeping bag.
Patagonia is cold at night even at the height of the southern summer, so you won’t be able to get away with just a sleeping bag liner. Choose the lightest sleeping bag you can find with the right temperature rating. Down sleeping bags are the lightest but are less effective when wet.

duct tape11. Re-pack ready-packed items.
Some things, like duct tape, are really useful to have on a Patagonia hike, but you don’t need to take the whole roll. Instead, wrap lengths around a pencil or even a hiking pole for a space-saving solution. Hiking foods like peanut butter that usually comes in heavy pots, can be transferred into lightweight squeezable tubes that also make it easier to apply to your crackers!

12. Share the load.
If you’re hiking with a friend, prepare to get cosy and share everything you can. Do you need two copies of the map, two compasses, two combs? Sharing the weight between you means you can still take all the kit you want but only carry half the weight. Although unless you’re really good friends, you might want to take your own toothbrush!

13. Eat your heaviest food first.
If you’re carrying food for the whole hike, or even just for snacks, you’ll find that some foods weigh more than others. Fresh fruit, jerky and dry-cured sausage will weigh much more than crackers or cereal bars, so if you’re feeling weighed down you know where to start!

14. Check how much your bags weigh empty.
Before choosing a hiking pack with lots of bells and whistles, consider how much all these extra features weigh. It might be that a lighter pack with fewer added extras is a better choice for you if weight is your main concern.

15. Bring a headlamp instead of a flashlight.
Flashlights are useful around camp or when staying in refugios (hiking lodges) in the wilds of Patagonia. Choose a lightweight headlight instead of a heavy flashlight, and opt for one with small lithium batteries rather than heavier alkaline batteries if possible.

We’ve told you our tricks for lighter hiking travel, now share your personal tips with other hikers below!