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Gear choices for Patagonia/Torres Del Paine
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Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Gear choices for Patagonia/Torres Del Paine on 03/28/2013 05:29:37 MDT Print View

My girlfriend and I found out last night that we both suddenly have an open 2.5 week window in our schedules this upcoming April. Needless to say, we demand an epic trip. Tentative departure date is April 8th. With less than 2 weeks left to plan, we're gunning for the full Torres Del Paine Circuit. It wouldn't be an adventure if it didn't have frenzied planning beforehand :)

I'm hoping to pose some questions throughout my planning process on this thread, and to solicit some opinions. I've read through various posts from Scott Troung, Ryan Teale, Danny Milk's Article and Alan Dixon's website--all have been tremendously helpful!

My understanding is that I should expect lows around freezing and highs in the 50's. Although wind will be calmer in April, it's still crazy windy.

My first questions:

Shelter: Normally we use the tarptent DR, but I recently acquired a used Tarptent Squall 2. This shelter is new to me and I have very little experience with it. I enjoy the fact that it's lighter than the DR, but my main question is which one is more stable in high winds? The tunnel-tent like shape of the Squall 2? or the the tried and true DR dome?

Stoves: I'm definitely going canister due to ease of locating fuel. My question would be which setup? 1) Titanium Gnat+Titanium pot+ foil windscreen for ultimate weight savings? or 2) Jetboil Ti Sol for more efficiency (trip is going to be around 9 days total) and maybe a bit more built-in wind resistance?

Shoes: I'm pretty sure we are doing mesh trail runners like we always do...although I've read that the mud will be bad. Probably will pair them with light weight gaiters, a la dirty girl gaiters. We will likely bring breadbags/produce bags for use on the really wet/slushy sections if existent. Any compelling reason not to do this?

Hiking poles: I believe the TSA ban on carry-on poles will have been lifted by the time we travel. Hooray! Any problems carrying these aboard on international flights from other countries? or is this generally a paranoid American type restriction?
EDIT: Damnit! Poles are still banned by TSA until late April. I really really don't want to check these in for international travel...maybe I'll rent there, or pickup some beater poles from wal-mart

Thanks gang!

Edited by Konrad1013 on 03/28/2013 05:37:52 MDT.

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: Gear choices for Patagonia/Torres Del Paine on 03/28/2013 06:42:40 MDT Print View

What a great adventure!

Having owned the Gnat and Jetboil Sol Ti, I'll comment on those. Personally I would take the Sol Ti, because I found the Gnat didn't do well in anything above light wind (even with a windscreen), and was pretty inefficient compared to the Jetboil. The final weight calculation may be different for you depending on your cooking style, but for me the fuel-sipping performance of the Jetboil would win on a 9-day trek.

-David

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
TDP on 03/28/2013 06:49:31 MDT Print View

We did it a bit later than you so it was all frozen, the circuit was closed because of the snow in the pass.
The result was we encountered no one but mices when doing the circuit except a few people on the W.
We had mud only half a day, but maybe there is more earlier in the season.

You are supposed to camp on designed campsites and all are quite sheltered from the wind.
We had a kifaru paratipi, it was lucky there was no one else or our huge covered area would have been a problem in some camps.
Have something to hang your food, we did it every night except the first one and we had mices holes in our backpacks.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Wind not an issue for cooking on 03/28/2013 07:12:58 MDT Print View

All the campsites have some sort of sheltered spot for cooking, so no worries there.

Even in February there was only one muddy spot, easily dealt with if you used the gaiters and plastic bags.

There is PLENTY of gear to rent or buy in puerto Natales for cheap. Canisters are easy, really anything is easy. It's not the best stuff, but for hiking poles you'll be fine.

Check out the Singing Lamb hostel in Puerto Natales. They were awesome!! Only a few blocks from downtown (meaning nice quiet sleep!), and from erratic rock (where the famous 3 o'clock talk happens, but not sure it will still be going in April)

I've got a trip report of the circuit posted on my crappy blog backpackerPT.com

Have a blast!!!!

Ralph B Alcorn
(backpack45scb) - M
Gear choices for Patagonia/Torres Del Paine on 03/28/2013 12:10:40 MDT Print View

We were there a couple of times. The first time I wore my Lowa GTX boots, but after that my ASICS Gel Nimbus (mesh, not Gortex) that I used for the entire PCT. The ASICS were fine. However, I also carried a pair of sealskinz socks, which were very nice for the muddy sections, mostly because my feet stayed warm, though damp from sweat.

We used a Stephenson's Warmlite 2R 4 season tent, and the last day of the last trip, the wind snapped the main pole, mainly because I was too stubborn to move the tent to a more protected area when the wind picked up, thinking the tent could handle it. All the campsites have protected areas. It's just a little nicer out in the open. The wind direction can rotate 360 degrees in five minutes, so keep that in mind. I think our Tarptent Cloudburst could have worked if we were careful in site selection. Saw one person with a tarp, and she cancelled her circuit trip. There were a lot of very sturdy dome tents.

For stove, used our Gigapower canister stove. Always found a sheltered place for it.

Everything in our gearlist got used. You can find it near the bottom of our torres del paine page: http://www.backpack45.com/torresdelpaine.html

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Thanks on 03/28/2013 20:35:28 MDT Print View

Thanks guy for the additional info...that's good to know about all the sheltered sites for camping/cooking. I'll beware of mice and food storage. Love the trip report Jennifer, I too appreciate a nice shower every 4 days or so, but that sounded horrible!

Got a few more q's for you all.

General baggage question: So it looks like we are flying into Punta Arenas, but have a layover in Santiago prior to that. Have you guys had good luck with checked bags through these airports? I imagine they are pretty developed airports and have their stuff in line? When I flew to kathmandu, it was a sh*tshow and they lost my pack for a week...so I'm a bit hesitant about checking in gear for overseas trekking. But there's no real way around it if I want to bring my own knife and poles as opposed to renting/buying. But then again, it might be more expensive to check these items in than to pick them up while in Chile...need to research this.

Visa question: So if you enter in through Santiago, you are subject to a $150 Visa fee. I have a layover at Santiago but a connecting flight to Punta Arenas...any idea of I'm still subject to the visa fee?

Trip planning question: I'm contemplating picking up a guidebook beforehand (this one specifically: http://www.amazon.com/Torres-del-Paine-Trekking-National/dp/1852845937/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364524370&sr=1-1&keywords=torres+del+paine)
But I'm wondering if that's even necessary. I'm thinking I can wing it by online researching,showing up at the 3pm erraticrock info session and the free map you pick up at the park. Thoughts?

Edited by Konrad1013 on 03/28/2013 20:37:16 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Thanks on 03/28/2013 20:55:24 MDT Print View

Our bags were just fine, even with the same layover you are talking about. Baggage was actually quite easy compared to here at ohare.

Checking international is free, so no fee there. It is also uber easy to buy and rent stuff in puerto Natales, so feel free to leave some stuff that isn't all that personal. Heck, people were buying boots in PN.

Yes, you have to pay for the visa in Santiago, no way around it unless you can get a flight that avoids the capital. All flights into Santiago are subjected to the fee. Blech.

And don't waste money on a guidebook. The erratic rock talk will tell you all that you need to know, and it's remarkably easy. The only real complication I see on your part is the weather...and whether or not you'll be snowed on over the pass.

Whatever you do, make sure you do the Torres for sunrise. It truly is awesome, and bring your sleeping bag and maybe your stove for hot coffee to wait. It was SO worth it, and we were the only toasty ones!

Depending on the weather, I would also recommend doing the Torres last. Just start walking counter clockwise towards Seron...the hill up to the Torres from the road is just ugly and nasty, no need to do it twice (which you would have to do if you do the Torres valley on day one). Of course, weather may force your hand.

Have a great time!!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Wonderful water on 03/28/2013 21:00:15 MDT Print View

By the way, no need for any water purification. You can drink right out of the streams without any difficulty. Obviously stay upstream from a campsite, but you can literally see the waterfalls falling from the top of a cliff and the water is as pure and sweet as you can imagine. It was wonderful...

Herman E
(hre814) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Tarp tent DR on 03/28/2013 21:17:17 MDT Print View

Used mine in the Brooks range in decent winds. Since you're used to it and not the squall, I'd take the DR.

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Torres del Paine camping on 04/15/2013 15:24:23 MDT Print View

Sorry I may be late to this conversation, hopefully not too late to chime in.

The DR worked well for us and we spent nearly three months in Patagonia. However, there were a few times we would have wanted something more storm worthy and you may have found it with your new TarpTent. If you take the DR, at least make sure you have plenty of guyline to tie out the apex (with Trekking Pole supports) and the pole at the half-way point. Also make sure it is seam sealed.

We used non-gore tex trail runners and had no problem beyond the expected mud and some snow at the highest pass.

You'll have to pay the $140 for the Chilean Visa. At least it last tens years, unlike others (like Boliva, which lasts the length of your Passport). Considering flights to Buenos Aires and all trips to Bolivia require the same visa fee, the only way around it is to fly into Lima and the bus down. Or walk... :)

International flights should have free baggage, even if you're going from SF to Miami to Santiago, the domestic portion should still be considered part of your international flight. To echo the above comments, you can rent or buy poles there.

I absolutely disagree with the advice not to bring water purification. Yes, if you head up to the top of the valleys and have fresh snow melt or springs, you will be fine without it. However, the majority of miles will be between the valleys (the bottom of the "W" for example) where you are long heavily trafficited areas with TONS of inexperienced backpackers and pack animals. The lower camps are crowded and may have one toilet for 30-50 campers. We saw this over and over. ANd often that one toilet will get full and you have no choice but to go in the woods. Tell me what happens when you have 50 newbie campers in a confine campsite and no toilet and one small creek running nearby. Are you going to drink that unfiltered? And don't be surprised when you find out the pack animals are allowed on all the trails and used by the workers. We found many of the workers smoking while riding to camp, even though this is explicitly illegal.

I second the recommendation to check out Erratic Rock for their daily 3pm Hike Discussion. Take their advice with a grain of salt, as they are tailoring it towards the novice backpacker. You may stay afterwards and ask questions, or hit up their knowledgeable staff. You can indeed rent or buy nearly anything you need down there. At the end of your trip, you can return your spent gas canisters for Erratic Rock for recycling (they're the only place in town that does this).

My one beef with Erratic Rock was that they told everybody to go to the local market to buy food. I did a price comparison of all the markets in town and the supermarket chain, UniMart, was the cheapest on 13 of 15 items. I'm not advocating shopping there, I just think that Erratic Rock was disingenuous about their motivations. I too like to support local. I wish they would have just told it like it is though, that it might be slightly more expensive but you're actually helping the owners and it's better for the community. But that is not so relevant to this convo. Sorry.

Hope this helps. At least it'll be on the record for the next person traveling to Patagonia.