Top 5 Tips for Hiking Chile’s “W Trek”

Top 5 Tips for Hiking Chile’s “W Trek”

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Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park is a requisite stop on the gringo trail through South America.  How you “do” the park, however, is a constant topic of heated debate among backpackers.  Should you take a day trip? What about attempting the full circuit?  Will you see enough on the “W” trek?  These are questions only you can answer, but I will share what you will see and how to prepare in my top five tips below:

TIP #1: Pack Light

Remember you are carrying everything you bring on your back- you don’t want anything extra. Food is a great place to cut weight, but make sure you have enough to keep yourself fueled.  cut down on packaging and bring food that is light, but goes a long way such as pasta and oatmeal. The same goes for clothes, only bring what you need.

TIP #2: Plan for Cold and Rain

The biggest surprise for many people on the W is how cold and wet it can be.  Be realistic about the weather and pack for the worst case scenario.  I highly recommend one set of clothes for hiking and one set for camp- that’s it.  But make sure you bring plenty of layers as nights are very cold, I slept in my down jacket most nights.

TIP #3: Allow Extra Days

Take your time hiking, the days are pretty short, so there is no need to hurry.  Along those same lines plan for extra days to take a rest if you need or to wait for better weather.  If seeing the Torres at sunrise are a huge priority for you think about planning another day or two to make sure you will have a clear day.

TIP #4: Know your Gear

Make sure you know how to use your gear and if you are renting that you have tried out your gear before the hike.  You don’t want to set up your tent on the first night and realize you are missing a tent pole or pull out your brand new sleeping bag only to realize it isn’t warm enough.

TIP #5: Plan Ahead

This may be an obvious tip after reviewing the other four, but it is the most important.  Venturing out on your own to hike the W requires planning, make sure to spend at least two days in Puerto Natales before you leave in order to rent gear if needed, buy food, talk to hikers fresh off the trail and get your transport figured out.  The best planning tip I can give you is to attend the 3 pm talk at Erratic Rock hostel, it’s held every day and chock full of details and information from someone who has hiked the park extensively.

Torres del Paine is on many travelers bucket lists and a must-see for many backpackers for a reason, but don’t hit the trail unprepared.  I shared my top tips for a great hike, but I would recommend further reading from the resources below to make sure you can enjoy all the great views of Torres instead of dealing with a crisis on the trail that planning could have prevented.

RESOURCES:

Steph and Ben over at Steph and Ben’s travels make a good case for an alternative route to the typical hike and also have outlined the times and distances between camps here.

Cassie and Kevin over at Ever in Transit have a great post about what the W Trek is and how to plan a trip from home, they also offer great his and hers packing lists.

Claiming to be the definitive guide on hiking the W, this is a great resource for how much the trip costs, exactly what to bring and even details about how to get to and from the park.

The Erratic Rock website is great if you want to book a trip with a guide, which is an excellent option if you’re not sure about going it on your own.

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Comments

» Cassie :
Nov 3, 2013

Thanks for including our post and these are some great tips! And great photos — the one at sunrise is amazing! My biggest regret is not being able to see the torres at sunrise, but it was too hard to do as we were staying in refugios.
Read Cassie’s awesome post Day of the Dead in Ecuador

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LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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