Torres del Paine W Trek and Circuit Trek – Quick and Easy Guide to Essential Trip Planning

These are two of the most spectacular treks in the world, but are neither strenuous nor difficult to access. This is the best guide to the Torres del Paine W Trek and Circuit Treks, in-print or online. This guide was inspired by Alison and I finding a scarcity of accurate and up-to-date information on how to plan for hiking Torres del Paine. In fact mainstream, supposedly reputable materials about the trek were missing essential information, out-of-date, or just plain wrong. Here is the information gathered from our recent Circuit Trek in Torres de Paine.

Table of Quick Links to Plan Your Torres del Paine Trek

Note: Until I manage to update all the TdP Guide Pages, this information supersedes what’s written in them. And please let me know of any changes, new information, or errors in the comments section at the end of this post. Your fellow travelers will appreciate it!

October 2017: It appears that the Circuit may not open until November 15! This is based on readers receiving emails form Fantastico Sur. Their site’s Opening and closing dates of Refugios Fantástico Sur 2017 – 2018, states “* Although the campsite will be working from Octobre 1, according to CONAF, the Paine Circuit will only be available from November,” which appears to corroborate this.

June 2017: It appears that C. Torres (área de acampar Torres) is likely closed for the 17-18 season!
This has significant implications for the W Trek, but there is a hack (see below)

C. Torres (área de acampar Torres) is clearly “greyed-out” not an option on the Park map on the reservations page. And they state “(Campamento Torres Closed Next Season).” My best guess is that they are renovating it.  It was in pretty bad shape when we were there last. That leaves C. Paso and C. Italiano as the only free/CONAF options. As a backup until this resolves, you could consider booking Campamento Chileno (Área de acampar Chileno) with Fantastico Sur. It’s about plus an hour or a bit longer hike up to the Torres de Paine (vs. C. Torres), but still doable.

April 2017: Most Refugios and Private Campamentos closed for the season. Backside of O/Circuit guided only.

As of April 15 Most, most Refugios/Private Campamentos (Fantastico Sur and Vertice) are closed for the season. You can still camp on the W but obviously there will be far fewer resources. The “Backside” of the O or Circuit Trek (Serón, Dickson, Los Perros, Paso John Garner, etc.) is closed unless with an official guide. These will re-open to general use/travel at the start of the 17-18 season.


January 2017: New requirements for reservations and route quotas for both the W Trek and Circuit Trek

1. Advance Reservations are Required for All Your Campsites (W and Circuit)

You need to have all your campsite reservations in place before you enter the park. “You need to show reservations at each campsite in order to stay. This is being enforced. There are limited campsites so making your reservation is essential. (Overcrowding last year caused camp latrines to collapse and many people got sick. Due to this, multiple campsites are now permanently closed.)”

2. There is an 80 Person Per Day Limit on the Circuit Trek (and it can only be done counterclockwise).

There is a 80 person per day limit for the “Backside” (non-W portion) of the Circuit Trek. This is passively regulated by the campsite reservation system (that is, if you have all your campsite reservations you are part of the 80 people per day allowed). This is being strictly enforced! There is a guard house (Gaurdería Coirón) on the backside operated by CONAF and and you’ll be asked to show proof of your reservations to proceed. Note: We have received reports of trekkers without reservations being sent back. [see Official 2017 Park Trekking Map]

3. Reservations for the free Park (CONAF) Campsites are Filling up Well in Advance

Per CONAF:If you are unable to book in all the camps you want to visit, you must adapt your itinerary according to the camps you could get. Consider that there are two other camping and shelter providers where you can book:Fantastico Sur* and Vertice*. We remind you that if you do not have the corresponding reservations you will not be able to access the mountain trails and you should plan other visit options, as there will be control points where you must show the voucher or confirmation email of your reservation.

*Note: Can’t get a site on Vertice/Fantastico? Switch to ‘book in chilean pesos‘ – yes it switches to Spanish, but google translate can help you out.

4. There are now cutoff/closing times for most trails

The back page of the Official 2017 Park Trekking Map now has cutoff times listed for many trails—that is you need to start hiking before that time to reach your destination. This is now strictly enforced.

5. The Park now accepts credit cards for the entry fee

Paying by cash is much faster, but unless you are in a car, you’ll need to wait for the rest of your bus to pay before it leaves. We have reports of trekkers waiting almost two hours at the park entry station for their bus of hikers to pay by credit card, get their pass and get back on the bus.

 

Overview of Torres de Paine W Trek and Circuit Trek

The Torres del Paine W Trek and Circuit Trek (or ‘O’ Trek) have a well deserved reputation as world class backpacking trips. The Torres del Paine Park has the goods, with stunning views at every turn. Massive glaciers, including the vast Heilo Sur (Southern Ice Shelf) the second largest non-polar ice field on the planet. There are immense towers of rock, rushing mountain streams and waterfalls, huge azure lakes, and sublime fields of wildflowers—Andean Condors with a wingspan of over 10 feet soar overhead. Finally, you’ll meet interesting people from all over the world. The Torres del Paine provides true global trekking.

The Torres del Paine W Trek the Circuit Trek are more accessible and more manageable than other world-renowned treks like the John Muir trail or Tour de Mont Blanc. The Torres del Paine treks are shorter and less strenuous. The classic W trek can be done in as little as 3 days. And we comfortably did the Circuit Trek in 4.5 hiking days with plenty of time to gawk and take photos. The treks do not have a lot of elevation gain or loss. All the hiking is near sea level so there’s no altitude to deal with. The park has excellent trails with good signage. It is almost impossible to get off route or lost. Water is plentiful and in the campsites can be drunk without treatment. You are never far from help. There are ranger stations and/or campgrounds about every four hiking hours. In fact, the Torres del Paine would be a trek in the park if it weren’t for periods of nasty Patagonian weather and strong winds—very strong winds. Even so, the Torres is an entry level trip for many backpackers and trekkers. It is also a great way to start trekking in South America which has almost endless opportunities for more fantastic treks!

Torres del Paine W Trek

Glacier Grey, a 7 km (4.5 mile) wide river of ice that flows down from the immense Heilo Sur (this Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the second largest non-polar ice shelf). Glacier Grey’s origin from the Heilo Sur is at the upper right of the photo between the snow covered mountains of the Southern Andes. If you only do the W you will miss this view. It was our favorite part of the trek. Alan’s HyperLite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack is carrying less than 12 pounds (6 kg) at this point in the trip.

Current and Accurate Information for Torres del Paine

This guide was inspired by Alison and I finding a scarcity of accurate and up-to-date information on how to plan for hiking Torres del Paine. In fact mainstream, supposedly reputable materials about the trek were plain wrong. We hope to correct this with current and accurate information from our recent completion of Torres del Paine Circuit Trek (which includes the full W Trek). Much of this information is especially needed in high season when some park facilities (especially on the W Trek) are full, or near capacity and camping reservations well advised.

  • The top ranked Amazon guide and map for Torres del Paine are seriously out of date. The Cicerone Guide (updated 2013) & Standard large map of TdP (Zaiger) both have out of date trail and campground info. e.g. recommending camping in closed campgrounds. Listing nonexistent campgrounds and suggesting hiking on trails that are now closed to travel.
    • We provide a current park map with correct campground & trail information (jump to Park map)
  • Hiking times in most guides and park maps are too conservative. If you are a moderately fit hiker you will likely do better than these times. This is one case where hiking too fast is as problematic as too slow (since you need to reserve your campsites ahead of time). The major complaint that we heard was of people hiking faster than expected and arriving at their reserved campground around noon (and it doesn’t get dark until after 10:00 pm in the summer!). That is they could have easily hiked to another stage that day to the next campsite. (Here is a listing of our less conservative hiking times and distances for Torres del Paine)
    • The W Trek can easily be done in 3-4 days vs. the usual 5 days—with plenty of time to take photos and gawk at all the wonders of the Torres del Paine. (See our suggested 3-4 day W Trek Itinerary here.)
    • Circuit Trek can easily be done in 6 days vs. the 8-13 days recommended guides. (See our suggested 5-6 day Circuit Trek Itinerary posted.)
    • Bus/Ferry logistics – we also optimize bus and ferry logistics so that these times are round trip from the door of your hotel/hostel in Puerto Natales!
  • Gear – Almost all guides will have you ridiculously over pack gear. Yes, the weather can be rough at times in Patagonia. Fear of this causes many (most) folks and even so-called “experts” and guide books to recommend massively over packing gear.  But there’s no need to stagger around with a heavy pack to deal with Patagonian weather. Rest assured, you can pack much lighter and still be warm and safe.
    • Alison’s pack with food was under 15 pounds (under 7 kilos) and Alan’s pack with food was under 17 pounds (under 8 kilos). Our gear easily handled the rain and strong Patagonian wind. (Here is a detailed list of gear we took.)
  • Reservations – There was very little information on how to deal with the campsite and meal reservation system in the park. How to make a campsite and/or meal reservation before your trip, how to change your reservation(s) mid-trip if you are ahead or behind of schedule, and the probability of successfully changing a reservation during your trip. (see our reservations section)

We loved the backside of the Circuit Trek. Less people. More varied terrain. Idyllic valleys. Superb vistas. Pictured are wildflowers in full bloom in Valle Encantado (enchanted valley). We walked though fields of them for miles. They started as we dropped into the valley on our way to Campamento Serón and continued to Refugio Dickson. Along they way you get great views of the Patagonian Andes and even peeks at Heilo Sur, the vast Southern Ice shelf. Alison’s ULA Ohm 2.0 Pack is probably carrying less than 11 lb (5 kg) at this point in the trip.

Planning Your Torres del Paine Trip

Torres del Paine W Trek

Fair warning, not all days are sunny in Patagonia, but that doesn’t mean the Torres del Paine is any less beautiful. Clouds and mists swirling around the high peaks are every bit as stunning as a sunny day. Glacier Frances (a hanging glacier) from near Mirador Frances. The summit of Paine Grande the highest mountain in the park at 3,050 m (10,000 ft) is is already obscured by clouds mid-afternoon. It’s typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in later in the day, even in good weather. Early starts are best if you want unobstructed views of the peaks.

Step 1 – Pick your trip: W Trek, Circuit Trek or ‘Q’

  • The W Trek is by far the most popular. Most people do it in a relaxed 5 days but it can be done in 3 days. It covers the standard highlights: Glacier Grey, Valle Frances and Glacier Frances, and of course the Torres de Paine, the gem of the Park. There are a lot of trekkers on the W Trek in high season. In addition to a many backpackers, the W Trek can be swarmed by day hikers going to the same key miradors (viewpoints) as the backpackers. W Trek campsites can be filled to capacity. On the bright side you’ll meet a lot of fun and interesting people from around the world.
  • The Circuit Trek or ‘O’ Trek does all of the W Trek, then continues around the back of the Torres del Paine to complete a full loop. We believe many backpackers could easily do it in 5 to 6 days. (We comfortably did it in 4.5 hiking days). We prefer the Circuit Trek. The “backside,” non-W part of the Circuit Trek, is every bit as beautiful as the W Trek but with fewer people. And you see a lot more of the park, which is more varied than just the W Trek. For instance, you walk for miles above Glacier Grey, a 7 km (4.5 mile) wide river of ice that flows down from the immense Heilo Sur (the vast Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the second largest non-polar ice shelf). This was our favorite part of the trek. And finally, the Circuit Trek gives you more time to enjoy this stunning park! [The tricky part of the Circuit is getting over Paso John Garner. This pass can sometimes be closed to travel by rangers due to high winds and/or low visibility.]
  • The ‘Q’ Trek is the ‘O’ plus the section between the Serano Visitors Center (see park map here for details) and Refugio Paine Grande. This section forms the tail of the ‘Q’ and adds a bit more hiking and sight seeing for those so inclined.

Torres de Paine W Trek

The two main Torres de Paine treks: The W Trek is in red. It covers the usual highlights: Glacier Grey, Valle Frances & Glacier Frances, and of course the Torres de Paine themselves. The Circuit Trek is the W Trek plus the ‘Backside’ which is in blue. It takes in Valle Encantado, Lago & Glacier Dickson, Paso John Garner, and walks along the incredible Glacier Grey. [click on image to enlarge]

 

Torres de Paine W Trek

Hiking along the shores of Lago Norgenskjold. (W Trek)

GPX File for Torres del Paine W and O Treks

Link to the .GPX File for the routes and waypoints for the Torres del Paine W Trek and Circuit Treks. It is arranged for the Circuit Trek but includes all tracks and waypoints the W Trek.

The Park’s official 2017 Map (note important changes!)

This is the standard map handed out (for free) when you get your permit at the Park Entrance. It is accurate and more than adequate to plan and safely navigate the route.

  • Trekking Map – Torres del Paine (main map)  will open in Google PDF viewer which will only display it in low resolution. But the full file can be dowloaded and viewed in full resolution with Acrobat or other PDF readers. IMPORTANT!  The ‘Circuit’ or ‘O’ Trek can now only be done counterclockwise from Hotel/Camping Las Torres to Campamento Paso. And as stated earlier, you’ll need proof of reservations for each night. (This is strictly enforced at Coirón Ranger Station and you will be sent back to Serón if you do not have reservations!).
  • (rear side of) Trekking Map – Torres del Paine (backside)  will open in Google PDF viewer same as above. IMPORTANT! Note that of the map now has cutoff times listed for many trails—that is you need to start hiking before that time to reach your destination. This is now strictly enforced.  

The Park’s official 2017 Map is all you need to safely hike Torres del Paine. Note: Most if not all other maps and guidebooks are out of date with incorrect listings of campgrounds no longer in use, and trails and miradors (viewpoints) that are now closed to travel. [click on map to enlarge a bit]

The Park’s official 2017 Map is all you need to safely hike Torres del Paine. Note: Most if not all other maps and guidebooks are out of date with incorrect listings of campgrounds no longer in use, and trails and miradors (viewpoints) that are now closed to travel. [click on map to enlarge in a PDF viewer]

2017_TdP_Map_back-ed

[Click on image to enlarge in a PDF viewer] Note that of the back of the map now has cutoff times listed for many trails—that is you need to start hiking before that time to reach your destination. This is now strictly enforced. Look at the table “Horarias de Cierre de Senderos” (Trail Closing times). E.g. “Refugio Paine Grande — Area acampar Italiano – 18:30,” means that if you are hiking from Refugio Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano, you must be hiking by 3:30 pm.

Step 2 – Plan your Day by Day Itinerary – how fast you’ll hike & where you’ll camp

Determining where you’ll camp each night is a critical first step to planning your trip since, during high season, you will need advance reservations. Note that the Park now has cutoff times listed for many trails—that is you need to start hiking before that time to reach your destination. This is now strictly enforced. See table above.

We give suggested itineraries for the W Trek and Circuit or ‘O’ Trek.  But we also give the table below which lists distances and hiking times for both the W Trek and Circuit Trek. With it you can modify those itineraries or make your own new itinerary.

There is no wild camping in the Torres del Paine (not in a designated campground). You must camp at one of the designated park locations. They are serious about this. They threw someone out the park for wild camping the week we were there. Thus you need to camp at a specific campsite each night. Reservations can be made ahead of time (see references below in Step 3).

Special Note about a contingency for a layover day(s):  You may want a contingency plan to spend at least one extra day on the your trek*. Weather conditions are notoriously difficult to predict in Patagonia. Localized, glacier and mountain influenced microclimates along with moisture flow from the Straits of Magellan, and generally strong circumpolar summer winds can interact to create strong weather of all sorts. Be prepared for high winds, rain and even snow, along with sunshine and calm. Many times in the same day. You may be forced to take layover a day by high winds*. Plan your route itinerary accordingly. Refer to Step 3, Reservations for how to include this in your itinerary. [*This is especially true for the Circuit Trek. The tricky part of the Circuit Trek is getting over Paso John Garner. This pass can sometimes be closed to travel by rangers due to high winds and/or low visibility.]

C= campamento (camp)   R= refugio (more facilities, meals and beds in addition to camping)

  • This table is a just starting point for planning. You will need to estimate your own hiking pace based on your abilities and pack weight.
  • Times in above table are for Alison and I on our recent trek which we averaged about 2 miles per hour (3.4 km/hr). We are reasonably fit and experienced hikers and carried packs under 18 pounds (under 8 kilos) . See our gear list for details. But we are both over 50 years old and by no means speed hikers. And during our trek, Alison was recovering from influenza.
  • Hours (hiking times between points) is just that—hiking/moving time only. Our hiking times include only short stopped tasks like tying a shoelace, snapping a quick photo, putting on a rain jacket, or filling a water bottle. They do not include stoppage or breaks longer than 2-3 minutes. We averaged 2 miles/hour the entire trek.
  • Hiking faster than expected can be just as problematic as slower. See below…
  • Hiking times on Park Maps and in most guide books are conservative (based on an “average” hiker traveling with a heavy pack and not intending on setting any speed records). If you are reasonably fit hiker you will likely do better than these times. We believe with an early start and decent to OK weather, most backpackers could probably do two stages in a day. You have 17 hours of daylight in January!
  • So chances are that you’ll take less time to get from place to place than their estimates. This is one case where hiking too fast is as problematic as too slow. The major complaint we heard was of people hiking faster than expected and arriving at their reserved campground around noon. e.g. they could have easily hiked another stage that day to the next campamento/refugio.
  • We suggest you get an early start and hike far when the weather is good. You may get bad weather later in the trip. There is a lot of daylight in the summer hiking season. The key to making miles is to keep a steady pace and minimize time lost on long stops.
end-valle-encantado

A peek at the Southern Andes and the Vast Southern Ice Field. Nearing the end of Valle Encantado on the backside of the Circuit Trek. The day from Campamento Seron to Campamento Los Perros was one of our favorite days.

Step 3 – Reserve Your Campsite, Tent, Bed, Meals, etc.

There are four types of “campsites”: Park camps (public), private run camps, Refugios (all private), and one Hotel.  Only the four park Campamentos (campgrounds) are free. All others have varying fees based on the facilities they provide.

  • Park Campamentos are the most basic campsites. There are four free ones run by the park: Campamentos Italiano, Torres, Paso & Los Carretas. In high season, you need to reserve the ones on the W early (C.Italiano & C.Torres) as the they are often full. They are reserved at CONAF (Park) offices in P Natales or at the Park entrances. These campamentos have designated dirt tent sites, an assumedly clean water supply, a common cooking area (which you are required to use when cooking with a stove), and a pit toilet quality bathroom. These are in the woods with no views–but advantageous for protecting your tent from being flattened by strong Patagonian winds.
  • Private Campamentos charge a small fee for use. They usually have a few more amenities. Often a small store, a cold or hot shower, tent rentals, and some even serve dinner (which you can reserve ahead or some times get seated day of). They do not have bed lodging. One of the best meals of our trip (in town restaurants included) was at Campamento Serón!
  • Refugios have beds (and, in at least one, cabins for rent) in addition to camping. They have nicer (sometimes substantially nicer) shower and toilet facilities than campamentos. Note: camping at a Refugio entitles you to use the nicer shower and toilet facilities, same as the folks sleeping in beds. This makes them an attractive alternate to camping at nearby Campamentos (e.g. camping at Refugio Frances vs. Campamento Italiano).
  • There is one Full-service Hotel (Las Torres) on the route, conveniently located on the W within day hiking distance to the actual Torres del Paine.

Four organizations handle reservations (with links to make reservations):

  • Park Campamentos  are be reserved in person at CONAF (Park) offices in Puerto Natales or at the Park entrances. If you can’t reserve in Puerto Natales, make sure you are first off the bus at the park entrance to get the best shot as W Campamentos Italiano, and Campamento Torres.
    Update November 2016 – you can reserve Park Campamentos online. But Book Well In Advance!
    Park Campamentos: The Park now offers a way to reserve their free campsites online. The website is here, Reservas De Campamentos (free campsite reservations) and as of this writing, appears to be only in Spanish. If you can’t reserve online, then try going in-person to CONAF (Park) offices in Puerto Natales or lastly, to the Park entrances. If you can’t reserve in Puerto Natales, make sure you are first off the bus at the park entrance to get the best shot as W Campamentos Italiano, and Campamento Torres. This may not be possible in Puerto Natales or the Park entrance. With the online reservation system, it appears that the CONAF campamentos may be booked full months in advance.
  • Fantastico Sur* handles reservations for: Refugio Las Torres, Camping Las Torres (not the same as the Park run Campamento Torres), Refugio Los Cuernos, Camping Los Cuernos, Domo Los Cuernos, Cabañas Los Cuernos, Refugio El Chileno, Camping El Chileno, Camping Serón, Domo Serón, Camping Francés, Domo Francés, and Refugio Torre Norte
  • Vertice Patagonia* handles reservations for: Refugio Paine Grande (camping, meals & beds), R. Grey (camping, meals & beds), R. Dickson (camping, meals & beds), and Camping Los Perros (camping only).
  • Hotel Las Torres (a full service hotel at one end of the ‘W’)
  • *Note: Can’t get a site on Vertice/Fantastico? Switch to ‘book in chilean pesos’ – yes it switches to Spanish, but google translate can help you out.
Logo Dickson from near Refugio Dickson (backside of the Circuit Trek).

Lago Dickson with Glacier Dickson pouring down from the Southern Ice Field. This is at Refugio Dickson, backside of the Circuit Trek.

Some notes:

  • Breakfast is 8’ish. You’ll get a late start if you choose to eat one from a Refugio. Lunch is around 12:30. Dinner is 7’ish.
  • Dinner and campsite reservations can be changed day-of, mid-trip as long as they have room. We did it twice–the key is to stick within the same reservation company e.g. you cannot switch a Fantastico Sur reservation for a Vertice Patagonia one. Tent rentals and bed reservations may be more difficult. (Lunch and Breakfast appear to need a day’s notice to reserve).
  • Most campamentos and refugios are in radio contact with each other. This is good for making contact with other camps to make and/or change a reservation if you are running ahead or behind schedule.
  • On the backside, as long you have your own tent, you should be able to camp without an advance reservation*, altho you will need to check in and pay. (*Given our experience, advice of guides, and even Refugio personnel we talked with). The W is more crowded and changing a reservation is correspondingly more difficult.
  • Fanstastico Sur was responsive and very easy to work with. We easily changed campsite reservations, and dinner reservations when our schedule varied from planned (hiked faster than anticipated).
  • Vertice Patagonia was harder to work with. Credit card payments online didn’t work. Their office in Puerto Natales had limited hours (closed on weekend). People report having the best results via email.
mirador-britanico-2

Mirador Britanico in Valley Frances. Not all days are sunny in Patagonia, especially later in the day when the mountains are likely to cloud in. A waterproof pack like this HMG 2400 Southwest is nice on days that are threatening rain.

Step 4 – Plan your Gear and Food

  • Alan’s pack was under 17 pounds (under 8 kilos) with food
  • Alison’s pack was under 15 pounds (under 7 kilos) with food
  • We carried about 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) of shared food for the trip. We supplemented this with purchased food along the way.

Gear

Note that we have reports of bugs from Serón to Grey. We use the following on areas not protected by clothing: DEET (or the newer  Picaridin which doesn’t degrade clothing or plastics).  We prefer airline friendly 0.5 pump sprays, which are small, pocketable and easily applied in the field.  Alternatively, for around $6 USD you can get spray at Cruz Verde Pharmacies in Puerto Natales.

You can also a wear long sleeved shirt and full-length pants factory-treated with insect repellent (permethrin). Pre treated clothing has near-permanent effectiveness (clothing  treated before purchase is labeled for efficacy through 70 launderings). You can also treat your own clothing with a Permethrin spray (Sawyer)  which lasts up to 6 weeks (or 6 washings).

Below is a comprehensive list of our Torres del Paine gear.You can scroll in the list below to see the entire list.

Our Gear List is best viewed here: (World-wide Trekking Gear List (link to original table). We took this gear on our Torres del Paine Trek except as noted:

feathered-friends-eos-mens-ultralight-down-jacket_1-1

 

 

 

x

Alison’s ULA Ohm 2.0 Pack

      • For hiking shoes we prefer light trainers/trail runners around 10-12 oz per shoe (280-340 g). For a variety of reasons we do not take Goretex/waterproof shoes.
      • Camp footwear: Trails can be wet and it’s just faster and easier to walk thru the mud and muck than waste time hopping and skirting around. We brought very light flipflops (2.5 oz, 80g) and Injinji socks for camp. The flipflops do double duty as shower shoes and camp footwear when worn with the Injinjis. Beware packing heavier camp footwear. A pair of Crocks is around 1 pound, and a pair of light running shoes can approach 2 lbs!
      • We did not take bear canisters. No bears in Patagonia.

 

 

I carried very light digital camera readily accessible on the shoulder strap of my pack

I carried a Very Light but high quality Digital Camera readily accessible on the shoulder strap of my pack.

  • Camera: for camera gear we take see Best Lightweight Backpacking Cameras. I took a very light 16 oz (450 g), but very high quality digital camera readily accessible on the shoulder strap of my pack. I could get it out for a shot in just a few seconds.

Note that trekking/camping gear can be rented in Puerto Natales at outfitters like the Base Camp of Erratic Rock. Another option to save both weight and time is to rent a tent at one of the campsites. To be assured of one you’d need to reserve one ahead of time, but we saw plenty of rental tents empty on our trek in high season.

Note that the table below is in scrollable window. Please scroll down to see the entire Gear List

Cooking, Stoves & Fires

Campamento Los Perros had the nicest cooking are of the trip.

Campamento Los Perros had the nicest cooking area of the trip. Some campgrounds only have a three sided cooking shelter with a roof or designated picnic tables.

Cooking stoves & Fires

See my information on Cooking and Lightweight Backpacking Stoves

  • The park is crazy strict about no fires whatsoever*. You can only cook with a stove in a designated area of the campground. Canister and Alcohol stoves are fine. *This is due to two devastating camper started fires in 2005 – 155 km2 (60 sq mi); and again in 2011 – 176 km2 (68 sq mi).
  • Fuel canisters are everywhere in Punta Arenas and P. Natales. Hardware stores, hiking stores, and many other locations. Even some of the small stores at Refugios along the route have canisters. There are many options in town (hostels, hiking stores) to leave your partially used canisters for others to use.
  • Alcohol fuel is available at Cruz Verde pharmacies in plastic bottles.
Burned trees at the start of the W Trek are a reminder of how devastating fires can be in windy Patagonia. It will take hundreds of year s for this area to fully recover.

Burned trees at the start of the W Trek are a reminder of how devastating fires can be in windy Patagonia. It will take hundreds of years for this area to fully recover.

Food

food

Pringles, Pro Bars, Snickers, Milky Way, Pasta, M&Ms, Powdered Milk, Batteries, Fuel Canisters. The Alimentacion (food store) at Refugio Dickson. Fuel canisters (lower right corner). Pasta is the red and white checkered bag above the canisters. (click on photo to enlarge a bit)

Food for Torres de Paine

  • We brought 5 lb (2.3 kg) of food per person to do the Circuit for an expected 6 days on the route. This consisted of:
    • Breakfast and coffee for every trail day (we like an early start)
    • The majority of our lunches and daily snack food
    • Two dinners to cook on trail
    • Our dinner strategy was to cook two of our own backpacking meals; buy pasta, cheese and sauce on the trail for two meals; and have two sit-down meals along the way as the spirit and circumstances moved us.
    • We supplemented this with a modest amount of food purchased along the route
  • You can bring as much or as little food as you want. You can carry almost no food if you are willing to pay top $ for it on the trail (about 1.5 to 2+ times town retail cost).

Here is a piece I wrote on Backpacking Food: Best Backpacking Food – simple and nutritious – veggie and omnivore friendly

  • Follow all regulations (click for link) regarding binging food into the country, including declaring what you bring in! My best understanding from reading the reg’s and from reports from other trekkers as of Jan 2017, is that fruit, vegetable, meat and milk products cannot come into the country—including dried and dehydrated versions. They will check at customs when you enter Chile. According to other trekkers, sealed backpacking meals are OK. As such, you will likely need to at least partially provision in Punta Arenas (best/more options) or Puerto Natales to complete your food for the trip. We bought our cheese, dried fruit, and dried meats once we were in Chile.
  • Alimentacions (small food stores) are at all refugios and most private campgrounds. They have limited non-perishable supplies. Usually Coke, beer and sometimes wine, cookies, candy bars, and a few have basic camping supplies like fuel canisters. And many have pasta, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese packets (which can be combined for simple but filling dinners).
  • There are sit-down style meals at the Refugios and at Campamento Serón. Most guides recommend that you reserve/pay for meals ahead of time in high season to ensure you get seated. We ate two on-the-fly, day-of dinners on the trip—just walked up and asked if they would seat us. We got lucky in both cases and they had room to seat us, not a sure thing in high season. One dinner was just OK, but the meal at Serón was fantastic. (Dinner seating is usually at 7:00 or 7:30 pm).
bus-fernadez

Bus Fernandez Terminal in Punta Arenas. Almost everybody is taking the bus to Puerto Natales to trek in the Park. In the foreground a large amount of the luggage is backpacks.

Transportation

Most folks will end up flying into the Punta Arenas Airport. But in high season there is another (very limited) option to fly into Puerto Natales.  A trekker this year found a few direct flights to Puerto Natales from Santiago on Sky Airlines – but ONLY on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. If you go to their site it doesn’t say this, and will just tell you ‘no flights’ if you enter the wrong days of the week. The routing starts on Christmas Eve and only lasts through end of February. It is the only flight to/from PN and is just 1x per day though, so if it’s cancelled, you could be in a bind! Sky no longer flies to PN.

  • From the Punta Arenas Airport: All the guidebooks (and the buses themselves) say that the buses from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales stop at the airport. However, we did not find that to be the case during the high season.
    • We had to take a white bus from the Airport to the Buses Fernández terminal in Punta Arenas, around 2,000 to 2,500 chilean Pesos per person. From there, we got on the next bus to P. Natales.
    • Or you can take a taxi from the Airport to town for around 6,000 chilean Pesos (approx. $9 USD in 2016)
  • Buses, during high season, in general run every hour (see schedules). While making reservations from a town was easy enough, we found making a reservation from the US difficult and, in the end, not needed.
  • Buses Fernández (the bus we took) Runs buses from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales (the usual town to stage from for Torres del Paine Treks). While they do get crowded, the bus companies worked together to make sure all customers were accommodated.
  • Buses Gomez (the bus we took) Runs buses from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine Park (start of W Trek and Circuit Trek). Again, the buses work together to accommodate all who are going. The other bus company we saw actively operating in the park was “Buses María José” although we didn’t use them.
  • Update Aug, 2016: Bus-Sur also runs Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine Park, and has a 7:00am bus. With a very early bus there is a possibility of catching the 9:30’ish ferry from Pudeto (see below).
  • Catamaran on Lago Pehoé (English Site that has catamaran info.) and the Actual Helios Patagonicos Site (in Spanish) – this is the ferry that gets you across Lago Pehoé from Pudeto (the bus drop-off) to Refugio Paine Grande, start of the W Trek going west to east. Note that in high season the ferry may operate more frequently than their schedule indicates—adding extra ferries as passenger demand increases. You pay on the ferry.

Bus service from Puerto Natales Chile to El Calafate Argentina (El Chalten)

The other high profile (fantastic!) destination in Patagonia is the Cerro Torre, Fitzroy area outside of El Chalten in Argentine Patagonia. Alison and I trekked in this area in 2005. To do that you’ll need to take a Bus (unless you have a rental car). We have not taken the bus between Puerto Natales and El Calafate but there is a fairly large bus terminal in Puerto Natales with a lot of bus traffic during the day. Bus-Sur and Turismo Zaahj seem to offer service between Puerto Natales and El Calafate (gateway to El Chalten). We cannot personally vouch for the buses, having not taken them across the border to Argentina.

I have been advised that during high season, Dec to Feb that busses can fill up so it may be best to book well in advance (possibly before you arrive). Some readers have used a third party to book the bus. They report “we used Patagonia Extrema/Southroad to book – we paid a 35-40% premium on tickets, but it was worth it, as our Calafate-PN, PN-Park roundtrip, and PN to PA buses were all sold-out.

Also from El Calafate you can easily see one of the great natural wonders of Argentina, the Perito Moreno Glacier (scroll a fair amount down to see the pictures).. It’s one of the few advancing glaciers in the world—it moves about 7cm each day. Because it is constantly moving, vast blocks of ice fall off the face of the glacier into the lake, calving icebergs with an explosive detonation that sounds like a bomb going off.

Chile’s Atacama Desert

The other incredible destination is to fly to the Atacama Desert. This is where Alison and I went last year post TdP. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world. Amazing salt lakes and wildlife! We saw 3 of the 6 world’s flamingo species while there. Amazing star watching, possibly the premier astronomical research location on the planet. There is El Tatio an immense caldera with its many geysers is in the Atacama Desert at over 14,000 feet (4320m). Its name comes from the Quechua word for oven. It is among the highest-elevation geyser fields in the world. El Tatio has over 80 active geysers, making it the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and the third largest in the world.

General Notes and FAQs

  • In high season, all portions of the W Trek are crowded with both backpackers and novice day hikers. You’ll have tons of company on the trail (we had some issues getting around groups of hikers). Many W campgrounds will be filled to capacity. But then solitude is not really the point of the W. We met a lot of fun people from all over the world on the trek.
  • You will see fewer people on the backside than the W Trek but don’t expect it all to yourself. In high season you’ll meet fellow trekkers on the Backside.  You’ll still share the camp with other trekkers but in calmer, not full-to-capacity conditions.
  • The backside of the Circuit Trek is every bit as beautiful as the W Trek and it has more varied terrain.
  • You have 17 hours of daylight in January! That’s a lot of hiking and/or exploring time. Most trekkers should be able to hike two “stages” in a day.
  • We suggest you get an early start and hike far when the weather is good. You may get bad weather later in the trip or even later in the day. The key to making miles is to keep a steady pace and minimize time lost on long stops.
  • Keep eyes out for birds and wildlife. We saw Andean Condors quite close when hiking between R Frances and R Chileno. And Magellenic Woodpeckers in the woods between Dickson and Perros.

Water

  • Water is everywhere. Usually you are 30 minutes or less from a stream or some other source. And according to local guides, and our guide book the water can be drunk without treatment. We filtered water on trail (a conservative option), but drank water untreated from our campground’s designated water sources.

Closed areas

  • Hiking is only allowed on designated trails. Off trail travel (even on marked routes that say guides only) is strictly forbidden.
  • The is no wild camping (camping anywhere in the park that is not a designated campground). They threw someone out the park for doing this the week we were there. (see Campsite Reservation Section)
  • Valle Frances area: Campamento Britanico is currently closed for camping. You can hike as far as Mirador Britanico but not further. The Mirador further up from M. Britanico (located at the base of Fortelezza) is closed.
  • Valle del Silencio area: Campamento Japones is closed to camping unless you are with a guide. And Valle Silencio and its mirador are closed to hiking (unless you are with a guide).
Park Tails are well signed. It is almost impossible to get off-route or lost.

Park Tails are well signed. It is almost impossible to get off-route or lost. I wish many US parks were as well signed as Torres del Paine.

Trail conditions 

  • Torres de Paine trails are well marked by an obvious and well trodden footpath and with orange blazes, and orange posts that mark the route. It’s almost impossible to get off route or lost
  • Torres del Paine trails are well maintained with good footing (with the exception of boggy areas). You can hike quite hike fast.
  • In boggy, muddy areas it’s just faster and easier to walk thru the mud and muck than waste time hopping and skirting around. And less risk of fall and injury.
  • Camp footwear: Trails can be wet and you shoes are likely to get wet too. We brought very light flipflops (2.5 oz, 80g) and Injinji socks for camp. The flipflops do double duty as shower shoes and camp footwear when worn with the Injinjis. Beware packing heavier camp footwear. A pair of Crocks is around 1 pound, and a pair of light running shoes can approach 2 lbs!
While

While beautiful, camping in the open is not a great idea due to very strong Patagonia winds. You are better off camping in the woods protected from the wind.

Weather and Tents

See my information on Recommended Tents, Tarps and other Shelters

  • Weather conditions are notoriously difficult to predict. Localized, glacier and mountain influenced microclimates along with moisture flow from the Straits of Magellan can interact to create strong weather of all sorts. Be prepared for high winds, rain and even snow, along with sunshine and calm. Many times in the same day. You may be forced to take layover a day by high winds. Plan your route itinerary accordingly.
  • Alison and I have had days in Patagonia where the wind was so strong we were unable to walk forward when not protected in the woods. Thankfully not on this trip.
xxx

The legendary Patagonia wind is rough on tents in the open. Alison and I watched this tent be crushed and its poles snapped by a strong gust–only 100 feet from our more protected campsite.

  • Always pitch your tent/shelter in the woods or with some other strong windbreak—not in the open! We saw a tent in the open a 100 feet from us crushed by strong wind gust, snapping its poles.
  • Tent rental is an option worth consideration. You save the weight of carrying a tent and the time and hassle of setting up and taking it down. They usually come with ground pads. Many times the rental tents are already pitched in the most desirable campsites. [Even tho we had our own shelter, we opted to rent a large, clean, and very nice tent at Campmento Los Perros to speed our pre-dawn preparation for going over Paso John Garner. It only cost around $12.]
  • On the backside, as long you have your own tent, you should be able to camp anywhere without a reservation. You will need to ask, check-in and pay a fee. (At least according to our experience, and the advice of guides, and even Refugio personnel we talked with).
x

While not as sexy as an open meadow, camping in the woods make a lot more sense in windy Patagonia. Pictured: a tent platform well protected in the woods at Refugio Frances. A minimal camping fee entitles you to the full Refugio facilities including the nicest hot showers and best bathrooms of our trip.

Glacier Frances from near Mirador Frances. It's typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in mid to late afternoon.

Glacier Frances from near Mirador Frances. It’s typical in Patagonia for peaks to cloud in mid to late afternoon.

By | 2017-10-19T19:06:31+00:00 September 1st, 2016|Backpacks, Gear List, Trip Guides|241 Comments

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241 Comments

  1. Edgar Rodriguez February 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Perhaps I missed something on here but what part of the year is best for doing this? I want to start planning now. Thanks in advance

    Edgar

    • Alan Dixon February 20, 2016 at 1:54 am - Reply

      Hi Edgar,
      Sorry for the late reply. Was in the Galapagos for the last 8 days without com. High Season is the austral summer–December through February. This is the equivalent of going to the Sierras or Rockies June through August. The route will have the best chance of good weather but will also have the most hikers.

    • Luis Mendez November 3, 2016 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Edgar, I did the W trek on first days of October (ending winter , starting Spring) It was awesome. Good weather conditions, Sunny days,not too windy,

  2. Brian February 18, 2016 at 2:05 am - Reply

    Alan, thanks for all the great (and current!!!) information! After reading your report I’m thinking I should just rent tents. I’m planning a trip for next season – February 2017 – how far out should I be trying to make reservations? October?

    • Alan Dixon February 20, 2016 at 1:49 am - Reply

      Sorry for the late reply. Just back from 8 days in the Galapagos without com. We started looking at Refugios on the backside in December for our January trip and a few were full (beds). I think Refugio camping (non-tent rental) on the backside can almost always be done without a reservation. I dont know about how much in advance you’d need reserve to make sure you are assured a rental tent. But Vertice and Fantasico Sur can be reached via email and responded within a day our two for us. Their contact info and who has what Refugios is on the guide. (When we dropped into Refugio Frances there were still day-of tents available. And there were tents available day-of at both Seron and Los Perros when we went in January.) My best guess is that the most difficult tent reservations will be at Refugio Chileno and Refugio Grey. Hope this helps, -Alan

  3. Austin February 21, 2016 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Alan, I recently left a comment re: the SoSHR and WRHR on backpackinglight. I was just talking with a friend today how I wished someone with your expertise would release suggestions for the Torres del Paine. Low and behold, here it is! I am so excited. I love your humble and ethical approach to the amazing work you do. Already fantasizing about Jan 2017.
    Best wishes,

    Austin

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2016 at 9:42 am - Reply

      Thanks for your kind comments Austin. You just made my day.

  4. Mark Kucinic May 25, 2016 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Just received confirmation from Rustyn Mesdag at Erratic Rock that beginning this coming season Conaf (the National Park people) are requiring a guide for those wanting to do the back side of the Circuit.

  5. Alan Dixon May 25, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    WOW! Thanks for the head’s up Mark. That’s gonna have a huge impact–cramp a lot of folks style. Do you have any idea of the rationale behind that one?

  6. robert bakewell June 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Alan-I checked with erratic rock. A guide is only required on the back side in winter only. Between campamento paso and grey, were the ladders in place for the small canyons or are the swinging bridges there now ? Great guide, Thank yoy, robert bakewell.

    • Alan Dixon June 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Good to know. And good news. Was kind of hoping that “no guide needed on the backside” was true. Kind of great hike your own hike on the backside–one of the nicer things about it.

      Thanks Robert!

    • Katya Van Guilder August 18, 2016 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Robert,

      I also contacted Erratic Rock and received the same response as Mark in the previous post that the backside is required to have a guide with you. We are going in early November so I can’t tell if he is only saying that for business purposes ($900 USD for backside guide for 4 days, nothing else included) or if it is legitimately required. Where can the information be verified? I’ve emailed CONAF but it says a minimum of 10 to 20 days for response time so hoping someone here may be able to help.

      • Alan Dixon August 18, 2016 at 5:10 pm - Reply

        Katya,
        In the comments for this post, Robert Bakewell says that this is a winter-only requirement: “Alan-I checked with erratic rock. A guide is only required on the back side in winter only.” Let me know if you find out otherwise. Best, -alan

  7. Kevin July 3, 2016 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    Alan I want to do the full Torres o trek solo. I only speak English. How much difficulties will this add? I’ve done solo backpacking so I’m really just concerned about communication problems. Thanks

    • Alan Dixon July 3, 2016 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      You should be OK. While not everybody speaks English many do. And there is a big international crowd on the trail. Many will be able to help you out with translation. And you’ll be surprised how much you can communicate without language if you give it a shot 🙂 Have a great trip. Patagonia and South America in general is a fantastic place. Best, -a

  8. Andy July 6, 2016 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, great write up! Did you work out your mileage per day before hand and reserve campsites accordingly? I’m a little concerned with committing to be at each reserved campsite when I say we will be. Might want to stop and hang out or be forced to due to weather. Was this something you had any issues with?

    • Alan Dixon July 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Andy, I think your questions are well covered in the post. Yes, we did plan and reserve ahead of time. And yes, we did need to change our reservations mid-trip. It all worked out for us, even in high season. See section on reserving campsites

      • Dinner and campsite reservations can be changed day-of, mid-trip as long as they have room. We did it twice–the key is to stick within the same reservation company e.g. you cannot switch a Fantastico Sur reservation for a Vertice Patagonia one. Tent rentals and bed reservations may be more difficult. (Lunch and Breakfast appear to need a day’s notice to reserve).
      • Most campamentos and refugios are in radio contact with each other. This is good for making contact with other camps to make and/or change a reservation if you are running ahead or behind schedule.
      • On the backside, as long you have your own tent, you should be able to camp without an advance reservation*, altho you will need to check in and pay. (*Given our experience, advice of guides, and even Refugio personnel we talked with). The W is more crowded and changing a reservation is correspondingly more difficult.
      • Fanstastico Sur was responsive and very easy to work with. We easily changed campsite reservations, and dinner reservations when our schedule varied from planned (hiked faster than anticipated).
      • Vertice Patagonia was harder to work with. Credit card payments online didn’t work. Their office in Puerto Natales had limited hours (closed on weekend).

      Hope this helps. All the best on your trip, -alan

      • Alan Dixon July 6, 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

        Oh, and the hardest reservation to get is Campamento Italiano. Fortunately it is Day 1 on both our Itineraries. And C. Frances is only 1/2 hour away if you can’t get in at Italiano. -a

        When you get to P. Natales go directly to CONAF (Park) office (Closed Sat & Sunday) and make campsite reservations for free campamentos (Italiano and Torres fill quickly).

  9. Susie August 7, 2016 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Hi, I am planning to hike the backside of the full-circuit O trek, starting at Camp Torres Central and ending at Camp Grey. I will not be going with a guide. I’ve reserved campsites along the way. This will be my first time in the park. Am I OK purchasing a hiking permit when I arrive at the park entrance? Or is there anything else permit or reservation related that I am forgetting? I plan on going in December/January. Thank you!

    • Alan Dixon August 7, 2016 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      Susie,
      Yes you should be fine. You get a permit when you hit the park entrance. All the buses to the park stop at the entrance long enough to allow everybody on the bus to get a permit. As long as you have all your campsite reservations made ahead of time you are good. The really problematic campsites reservations are the “public ones” like Campamento Italiano, which you should try and get in town, or first thing when you get off the bus. See my reservations section here. Have a great trip! -alan

      “Park Campamentos are be reserved in person at CONAF (Park) offices in Puerto Natales or at the Park entrances. If you can’t reserve in Puerto Natales, make sure you are first off the bus at the park entrance to get the best shot as W Campamentos Italiano, and Campamento Torres.”

  10. Adrienne August 18, 2016 at 4:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for this guide. It is super helpful! My friend and I will be going to Chile this December 2016. We are 2 women 26-yrs old and were interested in your O circuit itinerary. Will you be posting? Thanks again!

    • Alan Dixon August 18, 2016 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Adrienne,
      The ‘O’ or ‘Circuit’ Trek (same thing) has been up since February. It is covered in great detail here: Torres del Paine Circuit Trek Guide 5 to 6 days. Let me know if you have trouble finding it. And have a great Trek. It’s one of the best, -alan

  11. Lorien Martin August 22, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Alan,  thank you so much for writing this post. I have been searching for comprehensive, current information and you have it all here! Totally stoked.

    Some stuff i found that might be useful: bus sur have started a 7 am express service which looks to connect with the 9:30 am ferry from Pudeto. And you can pre book conaf camp sites online now. I emailed them and they sent me an online link to book them reserva.torresdelpaine@conaf.cl

    Cheers,   Lorien

    • Alan Dixon August 22, 2016 at 1:41 am - Reply

      Thanks for the new info Lotien. I will update the Guide. Best -Alan

      • Lorien Martin August 27, 2016 at 5:08 am - Reply

        Looks like they’ve put this page up since I messaged you, so you can book straight away without emailing them http://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/es/sistema-de-reserva-de-campamentos-1

      • Lorien Martin November 26, 2016 at 12:50 pm - Reply

        Hi Alan. We’ve just returned from walking the circuit (we basically followed your suggested 6 day itinerary and it was great, thanks! ). I thought i would let you know that the “express” 7 am Bus Sur bus i told you about got us to Pudeto at 930, and the first catamaran now leaves at 9 am (as we found out when we arrived at Pudeto). So we well and truly missed it and had to wait for the 11 am one. Scratch that now incorrect info i gave you! Cheers, Lorien

  12. Mark Kucinic August 31, 2016 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    The Story Continues. Noticed several of your respondents have also had some comments on the guide required for the back side. I HAD posted the $900 with Erratic Rock, but was notified yesterday by Rustyn that CONAF has rescinded their requirement for a guide and I’ll be getting a refund if I want to do it on my own, which I will.

    • Alan Dixon September 6, 2016 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      Wonderful Mark. Good to know. And wishing you a great Trek on the wonderful Backside. -a

  13. Jye September 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for putting in the time for this write up! You saved me from many more hours of trying to scrap together information about this hike! My crew is in your debt

    • Alan Dixon September 6, 2016 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      So glad. Have a great Trek! best, -a

  14. Natalie September 15, 2016 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, I am also having issues paying by credit card on the vertice website for a camp site with no board. How did you end up paying for it in advance to ensure you had a spot reserved? We are trying to book for camp grey and camp Paine grande. Great article!

    • Alan Dixon September 15, 2016 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Natalie, We also had difficulty paying with CC for Vertice Reservations. We spent a few days of trying to figure out what was going wrong, including trying to de-bug it with our bank. But we never managed to get our CC to work with their system. In the end we made and agreement with Vertice, they would hold our reservation and we would pay in-person when we arrived in Puerto Natales. This wasn’t so bad since we arrived PN in the middle of the day and our bus to TdP wasn’t going out until the next morning. And the Vertice Office is not that far from the big Supermarket in town where we were getting our food anyway. Have a great trip, -alan

      Oh, and when we went by R. Grey and R. P. Grande at high season there seemed to be plenty of available campsites. The only campsite that was full was the park Campamento Italiano (we were turned away and ended up staying at the very nice C. Frances), -alan

  15. Hangyel Kim September 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    I heard that the number of people permitted to O trek is limited to 80 people per day. Therefore I also heard that people who want to O trek should visit CONAF and get permission. Is there any method to be permitted in advance by internet? I am concerned it is fulled quickly. Thank you and Sorry for my poor English.

    • Alan Dixon September 30, 2016 at 11:59 pm - Reply

      Hangyel,
      Update August 2016 – you can reserve online:
      Park Campamentos: The Park now offers a way to reserve their free campsites online. The website is here, Reservas De Campamentos (free campsite reservations) and as of this writing, appears to be only in Spanish. If you can’t reserve online, then try going in-person to CONAF (Park) offices in Puerto Natales or lastly, to the Park entrances. If you can’t reserve in Puerto Natales, make sure you are first off the bus at the park entrance to get the best shot as W Campamentos Italiano, and Campamento Torres.

      Also, while I can’t say it’s wrong the daily quota of 80 people sounds suspicious. Especially as some of the individual camping areas on the ‘O’ hold far more than 80 people. I would definitely try and confirm this with CONAF in your communications with them. All the best on your Trek, -alan

  16. Archie October 2, 2016 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Couple of questions:

    1. Will the hiking platforms work with an MLD Supermid? I worry about it being to large.
    2. Did you buy all your food in Chile? I noticed you had Pro Bars. Did you bring them from the States?

    Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon October 2, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Archie, Supermid would be an excellent shelter and should fit on platforms. The platform we used has plenty of room for our Duomid XL. Yes, we brought a few ProBars from the US. But in the end we really didn’t need to. There were energy bars and candy bars for purchase on the Circuit. And the stores in Puerto Natales had an adequate selection to provision. The advantage of buying in PN is that you have superior selection and things like cookies, energy and candy bars are about 1/2 the price of what you’ll pay along the circuit. And FWIW it’s super EZ to purchase pasta, pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese along the route for a fast and simple dinner. Have a great trip, -alan

  17. Mimi October 3, 2016 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the article! Im planning on going in early January and was wondering if it is possible to leave our large packs somewhere for the day, do a day hike, and come back to pick up our packs later?

    • Alan Dixon October 3, 2016 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Mimi,
      Alison and I did this at Campamento Italiano and then hiked up Valley Frances to Mirador Britanico. May people just drop their big backs near the admin hut at the campground and then hike up to Mirador Frances or Britanico. It appears to be safe. There were about three dozen packs left for the day here by people day hiking up Valle Frances. The other place this commonly happens is at Campamento Torres and Refugio Chileno by people day-hiking up to Mirador Torres to see the Torres del Paine. Have a great trek, -alan

      Oh, and to be on the safe side, along with our day hiking kit (rain jacket, warm jacket, etc.) we packed wallets, passports, cash, cameras, and other expensive electronics into one of our backpacks compressed down to be a “day-pack.” No reason to take unnecessary risks. -a

      • Mimi October 5, 2016 at 5:59 pm - Reply

        Awesome, thanks!!

  18. Ben Gardent October 4, 2016 at 3:11 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Thanks for this great site. I understand that each trail segment closes at a certain time – does that mean you have to be FINISHED with that segment by the closing time or that you need to have STARTED it? For example, if Seron-Dickson closes at 15:00, do you need to be off the trail and at Dickson by 15:00 or just have started at Seron by 15:00? If it is the former, seems a bit ridiculous given the amount of daylight hours.

    Also, do you happen to know if supermarkets in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales are open on Sundays and whether it is possible to buy camping rations?

    • Alan Dixon October 5, 2016 at 12:55 am - Reply

      Ben,
      I only saw this in effect on the trail form Campamento Torres to Mirador Torres to see the Torres del Paine. In that case there was sign that had the trail closed to people going up (starting) after a a certain time. And then the rangers did a sweep to make nobody was on the trail after dark. [But you could start your “morning hike” hike up in the dark. Hours before sunrise if you wanted.]

      Alison and I were early starters (dawn) and moved quickly. We therefore never saw any signs for trail closings. My best guess is that if there are trail “closings,” they would be as you describe. That hikers would need to have started to allow a reasonable time to reach the next campamento comfortably before dark. I am not sure how well this is in effect, since in our 5 days hiking we never saw evidence of it except the trail to Mirador Torres.

      Seems like knowing your hiking pace and the distance to the next campamento, and then allowing adequate time to get there well before dark, should work well and keep you out of any difficulties.

      Hope this helps, -alan

  19. Lisa October 18, 2016 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This is amazing information and I hope to share my experience with you all.

    • Alan Dixon October 18, 2016 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Have a great trek!

  20. Emily October 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Excellent post! Definitely the best information I’ve come across! Thank you! We’re planning a trip for the end of January. Rafting the Futaleufu first then heading down to Torres del Paine, likely flying from Bariloche to El Calafate. Thinking we’ll rent a car in El Calafate and then drive to Torres del Paine to hike the W…. Do you (or anyone) know anything about where we can leave a car for a few days? Or should we just take a bus? Thinking about renting a car so we can leave extra gear in the rental car… Or any suggestions on where to store extra gear while hiking the W? I can pack light but not sure I can do a two week trip with only packing for a 3-4 backpacking trip with rafting gear too! Chacos are heavy, haha! Any information would be great! Thank you!

  21. Alan Dixon November 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Emily, Alison and I did not use a car for the almost 3 weeks we were in Chile. I think one option would be to leave your car in Puerto Natales and take the bus from there. If you feel like you want it watched a bit you might make an agreement with your hotel to keep an eye on it while you are in TdP.

    Also you might check on parking at either end of the W—-the Ferry lot in Pudeto or the Las Torres Hotel. There were gravel lots at both place and it might well be public parking for people trekking the TdP. I remeber the Hotel lot being quite large. Have a great hike. -alan

  22. John Klein November 8, 2016 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Hey Alan

    First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to provide all this information/ tips found on your website. You have done an amazing job.

    My wife and I have been “absorbing” all the information on TdP. We are currently training for our intended 3 week visit in TdP and El Chatten zones arriving early Dec. After some serious tweaking we have our base weights at 15lbs each. 🙂 We have some “new” gear coming so hopefully we can get that weight down even more… (planing on doing the TdP in 5 days).

    The hardest thing for me as traditional 35mm DSLR photographer is to “pair down” the camera gear. Now testing Panasonic Lumix GX8 with one lens (7-14mm) 4/3, 4 batteries, one charger, 3 memory cards, tripod?? (may not take it). I am not bring any backup (hard drives, lab top, card readers, Goal0 Sherpa battery pack). (I tend to shoot a lot of stills, TL videos so I am nervous about having enough “juice” to keep me shooting) Any suggestions?

    Question: did you just go with multiple memory cards as the lightest weight solution? Also, have to seen the GNAR Box (available soon) which looks like an excellent “go light” solution for backpacking photographers?

    Cheers,
    John

    • Alan Dixon November 23, 2016 at 1:52 am - Reply

      John here is close to what I usually take for off-trail travel electronics that I store in town while I am hiking. Picture of off-trail-travel electronics. On the Circuit I took just three batteries and two extra SD cards. I did not transfer images to anything until I got back home. Alternatively you could buy a cheap netbook, leave that in-town in a safe place and transfer images then. The advantage of the Netbook is that it is only $300 and you can have no personal data on it–so tons less at risk than a more expensive laptop with data on it.

      Key items are a $2 extension cord that when combined with a cheap 2-prog travel adapter gives you 3 US style outlets. I find that the Anker 2 port (2 amp each) charger is fast and dependable. And in truth, the QIBOX charger is not as good as a 2 amp US charger with the cheap 2 prong travel adapter.

      And finally, I just put my camera away when it was raining too hard. Wasn’t that great a %’tage of the time. I find the lowe case bulky, awkard to hike with, and difficult to get the camera out quickly enought for a photo. You may feel differently. Hope this helps, -alan

      • Ashton January 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm - Reply

        Hey Alan!

        Your guide has been SO key to planning our trip to TDP–thank you! We couldn’t have done it without you!

        We leave on Saturday and are finishing up our last little details/packing. Did you need any sort of converter for Chile?

        • Alan Dixon January 5, 2017 at 5:46 pm - Reply

          Yes you need one of these Ceptics USA to Europe Asia Plug Adapter, $6 for a six. They are the black ones in the picture. And get a cheap extension cord that will turn a single adapter into 3 US sockets with reach for hotel rooms and airports etc. Have a great trek! -alan

  23. John Klein November 8, 2016 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Allan,
    Also forgot to ask. You mentioned in to write up that it is difficult to book with Vertice Patagonia. I was unable to book with them on line (I sent them an email and I am still waiting for a response). Did you find another way to book Campamento Las Perros and Refugio Grey? Suggestions?

    Thanks

    John

    • Alan Dixon November 8, 2016 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      John,
      we made an arrangement to pay at their office in Puerto Natales (before our trek). Will answer your camera Qs in more detail in a bit. But you are definitely on the right track with the Panasonic Lumix u-4/4 with the single one 7-14mm lens. It’s an awesome lens. Alternatively you could go with an Oly EM-10 ii with the 9-18mm and save yourself a few bucks, but the video would not be the same spec (although it might be more than sufficient for your in-field work). -a

  24. John November 12, 2016 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Allan,
    Thanks for you suggestions on booking these camp sites (Campamento Las Perros & Refugio Grey). We will try to make similar arrangements that you made. Currently, not able to communicate by phone and no return communication of our e-mails from Vertice Patagonia?

    I will post camera question/ discussion on your “light weight camera gear” post and we can go from there. I don’t want to side track this post for others…

    Cheers, John

    • Alan Dixon November 13, 2016 at 12:06 am - Reply

      John, we made our reservations and “arrangements” with Vertice via email. But they weren’t the fastest responders to email….

      > I will post camera question/ discussion on your “light weight camera gear” post and we can go from there. I don’t want to side track this post for others…

      looking forward to it. -a

  25. Lexi November 12, 2016 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    This has been incredibly helpful! Recently, a college friend and I bought tickets to Patagonia spur of the moment because flights were so cheap, and we are leaving in less than a month. This makes our logistical planning a lot less stressful. I greatly appreciate the detail you put into this post as well as all of the links to other useful information and gear. I know what it is like to have to search on various sites, guide books, and maps to figure out all of the logistics of a multi-day trek.

    • Alan Dixon November 13, 2016 at 12:03 am - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Lexi. Have a great trip in TdP! Best -a

  26. Cindy November 15, 2016 at 2:56 am - Reply

    Thank you for this helpful information! A couple of more questions, and I apologize if you have already covered them. First, I have read a few things that state that Paso John Garner can be difficult. I was hoping you could elaborate. I would like to know that I could actually do it once I get there! Although we have hiked and camped, we have never truly “backpacked”. I am hesitant that I could make it through a difficult area carrying a pack. Do you think most fairly fit people can do this without too much difficulty? The other question is, for the night before we head to the park (flying into Punta Arenas) and then when we are done with the trail, would you recommend staying in a hotel at Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales? (Convenience/niceness, etc.) We have not yet purchased airline tickets. Trying to decide whether to go this March, or wait until November of 2017. Thank you again!

    • Alan Dixon November 15, 2016 at 11:39 pm - Reply

      Cindy, the most difficult thing about PJG is the potential for strong winds. Some days they can be strong enough that you can’t stand or walk forward. The rangers at the base of the pass are monitoring the Pass and weather and won’t let you go if the winds are too strong, or even if just forecast to be too strong. The other potential problem is white-out conditions (heavy mountain fog) the limits visibly to nearly zero. Again the rangers will monitor this and stop people from going over if it’s a problem. And the Rangers for safety reasons like to send people out in groups–safety in numbers. Otherwise, other than being steep it isn’t much harder than other sections of the Circuit. So the most likely thing if there are strong winds and/or white-out, is that you’ll spend a layover day (or 1/2 day) at the base of the pass.

      As to towns. You might want to stay in Punta Arenas on the way back. It would be another town to check out (it’s fun). Has some very neat cafes. And it’s way closer to the Airport. Best, -alan

  27. Maya November 16, 2016 at 5:25 am - Reply

    Hi, I loved reading through your post–thanks! I am really hoping to do this trip soon, but I am a student and money is tight. I am wondering if you could give me an idea of the total cost of the trip (not the airfare or food you brought, but campsite reservations, price differential between different kinds of accommodations, how much to expect to pay for a cooked meal on the trail, etc). Thanks in advance!!

  28. Max November 21, 2016 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    I’m going to do the Circuit in late January, we’ve booked all the campsites but I’ve heard that CONAF is restricting it to 80 trekkers a day. Have you heard anything about this or how I would book it?
    Thanks,
    Max

    • Alan Dixon November 23, 2016 at 1:35 am - Reply

      I have done some checking around and can find not basis for the 80 person limit. And noting on the CONAF site either in English or Spanish. As I wrote earlier to a similar Q, needing a campsite reservation and not allowing camping wild pretty much is a quota system. I checked with a few places in Puerto Natales this week and the only thing I could find was along these lines, “that staff might be checking on the trail to see if you have valid reservations.” This would support my earlier point. Hope you have a great trip. -alan

  29. Marie November 23, 2016 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Thank you for such a helpful website for this trek. Some quick questions:
    1) I am traveling solo–to keep my pack light, i am considering renting tents for the entire circuit hike and bringing my own sleeping bag. Is there any reason you would suggest not doing this and bringing my own tent? (ex: refugio tent quality?)

    2) Additionally, for buying food/snacks at the refugios along the way, do they take credit cards or did you have to allot for enough cash?

    3) For the lighter treks where you left some of your gear at a nearby refugio, did you reorganize your stuff to fit into one person’s pack as a “day pack” and leave the other there? Since I’m alone, I’m not sure I could just pull out a few things and leave them safely without them being in a separate, enclosed bag. Any suggestions on how I could organize a day pack separate from my regular hiking pack?

    Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon November 24, 2016 at 12:08 am - Reply

      Renting a tent is a great options just so long as you make the reservations so you are sure to get one. Most of the tents are just fine. Some are decidedly nice! You will need cash for food at the stores. You can pay for meals with a credit card if you pay ahead of time with your reservation. As to leaving stuff at a Refugios: you could bring a very light day pack to carry your valuables, cash, phone, camera, warm clothes, rain jacket etc. If this day pack were also used as a stuff sack the rest of the time it would not add that much weight. Have a great hike, -alan

      • Marie November 27, 2016 at 2:00 pm - Reply

        Yes those were my thoughts, thank you so much Alan!

      • Jodi August 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm - Reply

        Is there a place to exchange money prior to starting the trek? I read somewhere that the airport does not have money exchange. Is that something I should do before leaving the US?
        Thank you,
        Jodi

  30. Cindy November 24, 2016 at 8:19 am - Reply

    Hi Alan – thank you so much for your thorough guide to TdP. I’ve poured over dozens of blogs and forums and your guide is by far the most comprehensive! One recent and crucial change to entering the park that will be benefical to your readers – direct from CONAF – all camp reservations MUST be made prior to entry of the trek. In addition Vertice requires reservations at least 5 days in advance. I believe this was effective sometime in Sep/Oct. I had pre-booked all my paid camping sites back in July and was planning to book Camp Torres at CONAF on arrival. By the time I was aware of an online reservation system the date was already booked up. I had tried emailing and this was their response:

    If you are unable to book in all the camps you want to visit, you must adapt your itinerary according to the camps you could get. Consider that there are two other camping and shelter providers where you can book: http://www.fantasticosur.com and http://www.verticepatagonia.com.

    We remind you that if you do not have the corresponding reservations you will not be able to access the mountain trails and you should plan other visit options, as there will be control points where you must show the voucher or confirmation email of your reservation.

    I haven’t started my trek yet so not sure how strict they are with enforcement!

    • Alan Dixon November 29, 2016 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Sorry for the late reply Cindy. I had to do a some research. Here is what I found:

      November 2016. New requirements for reservations and route quotas for both the W Trek and Circuit Trek.

      Until I manage to update all the TdP Guide Pages, this information supersedes what’s written in them.

      1. Advance Reservations are Required for All Your Campsites (W and Circuit)

      You need to have all your campsite reservations in place before you enter the park. “You need to show reservations at each campsite in order to stay. This is being enforced. There are limited campsites so making your reservation is essential. (Overcrowding last year caused camp latrines to collapse and many people got sick. Due to this, multiple campsites are now permanently closed.)

      2. There is an 80 Person Per Day Limit on the Circuit Trek

      There is a 80 person per day limit for the “Backside” (non-W portion) of the Circuit Trek. This is passively regulated by the campsite reservation system (that is, if you have all your campsite reservations you are part of the 80 people per day allowed). This is being enforced. There is a guard house on the backside operated by CONAF and and you’ll be asked to show proof of your reservations to proceed.

      3. Reservations for the Fee Park (CONAF) Campsites are Filling up Well in Advance

      Now that the CONAF site accepts online registrations, Reservas De Campamentos (free campsite reservations) are filling up much faster — possibly months in advance. As such, it may not be possible to get the campsites you want online and/or in person in Puerto Natales or the Park Entrance. But you can complete the W or O trek without the CONAF sites. Just reserve the closest private camps managed by Fantastico Sur and Vertice

      Per CONAF:If you are unable to book in all the camps you want to visit, you must adapt your itinerary according to the camps you could get. Consider that there are two other camping and shelter providers where you can book:Fantastico Sur and Vertice. We remind you that if you do not have the corresponding reservations you will not be able to access the mountain trails and you should plan other visit options, as there will be control points where you must show the voucher or confirmation email of your reservation.

  31. Jeffrey November 26, 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Greeting!

    My name my friend and I will be attempting to do the W trek from April 1, 2017 to April 8, 2017. We will arrive in Punta Arenas 11:25 and will begin our day one of the trek. We will leave Punta Arenas on trek day 8 April 8 2017 at 16:20.

    We would like to book refugios for the entirety of the trek and 3 meals a day.

    April 1 Day 1 Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

    April 2 Day 2 Puerto Natales to Chileno (F)

    April 3 Day 3 Chileno to Los Cuernos (D)

    April 4 Day 4 Los Cuerons (D) to French Valley (E) Sleep at Paine Grande (B)

    April 5 Day 5 Paine Grande (B) to Glacier Grey (C) back to Paine Grande (B)

    April 6 Day 6 Paine Grande to Point (A) back to Puerto Natales

    April 7 Day 7 Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas

    April 8 Day 8 Punta Arenas flight out to Santiago

    Does this schedule make sense?

    Is this even possible? It seems like April 2017 has no availability on Fanstastico Sur website!

    Thank you very much for your help and any tips of how to book this successfully would be appreciated!

    • Alan Dixon November 26, 2016 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Jeffrey, I am not entirely sure if some of the Refugios are open in the off season (or exactly when the off season starts). And my guess is that Fanstastico Sur might only book 6 months in advance. As to Vertice, we and others have had problems paying by credit card. Their system seems wonky for US credit cards (Alison and I tried about 6 between us and none worked). If you CC doesn’t work you may need make alternative payment arrangements with Vertice. Dinner and breakfast can be purchased/reserved ahead of time but lunch is usually not reserved. And I think many places might not do a formal/reserved lunch at all. You’ll probably end up buying it ad hoc, or just getting food from whatever facility is along the way during the day. As to breakfast, I think it is fairly late at many places. If you want an early start, you might want to make your own.

      As to your schedule, not knowing your start/stop times, hiking pace, weight of packs, and how much you stop, and how efficient you are with your time, etc. it’s hard to comment on your schedule. I suggest you look at the hiking distance tables in this post and make your best guess as to whether you can comfortably make the daily distances. I will note that none of the hiking is particularly difficult and the trails in general are good. Hope you have a great trip. Best, -alan

  32. Alan Dixon November 29, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    November 2016. New requirements for reservations and route quotas for both the W Trek and Circuit Trek.

    Until I manage to update all the TdP Guide Pages, this information supersedes what’s written in them.

    1. Advance Reservations are Required for All Your Campsites (W and Circuit)

    You need to have all your campsite reservations in place before you enter the park. “You need to show reservations at each campsite in order to stay. This is being enforced. There are limited campsites so making your reservation is essential. (Overcrowding last year caused camp latrines to collapse and many people got sick. Due to this, multiple campsites are now permanently closed.)

    2. There is an 80 Person Per Day Limit on the Circuit Trek

    There is a 80 person per day limit for the “Backside” (non-W portion) of the Circuit Trek. This is passively regulated by the campsite reservation system (that is, if you have all your campsite reservations you are part of the 80 people per day allowed). This is being enforced. There is a guard house on the backside operated by CONAF and and you’ll be asked to show proof of your reservations to proceed.

    3. Reservations for the Fee Park (CONAF) Campsites are Filling up Well in Advance

    Now that the CONAF site accepts online registrations, Reservas De Campamentos (free campsite reservations) are filling up much faster — possibly months in advance. As such, it may not be possible to get the campsites you want online and/or in person in Puerto Natales or the Park Entrance. But you can complete the W or O trek without the CONAF sites. Just reserve the closest private camps managed by Fantastico Sur and Vertice

    Per CONAF:If you are unable to book in all the camps you want to visit, you must adapt your itinerary according to the camps you could get. Consider that there are two other camping and shelter providers where you can book:Fantastico Sur and Vertice. We remind you that if you do not have the corresponding reservations you will not be able to access the mountain trails and you should plan other visit options, as there will be control points where you must show the voucher or confirmation email of your reservation.

  33. Alan Dixon December 1, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Teresa, glad you found the Guide useful. As to your camping option, I am about 99% sure that $180 is for a cabin or room and not a campsite. We paid around $10-$20 for private campsites along the route. Which end of the W are you talking about? There are private Campamentos at Refugio Grey, Refugio Paine Grande, and Camping Las Torres near Hotel Las Torres (this is not the same as the Park run Campamento Torres).

    Fantastico Sur handles reservations for: Refugio Las Torres, Camping Las Torres (not the same as the Park run Campamento Torres), Refugio Los Cuernos, Camping Los Cuernos, Domo Los Cuernos, Cabañas Los Cuernos, Refugio El Chileno, Camping El Chileno, Camping Serón, Domo Serón, Camping Francés, Domo Francés, and Refugio Torre Norte

    Vertice Patagonia handles reservations for: Refugio Paine Grande (camping, meals & beds), R. Grey (camping, meals & beds), R. Dickson (camping, meals & beds), and Camping Los Perros (camping only).

    Hope this helps, -Alan

    • Nico May 15, 2017 at 11:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Alan, I’m hoping to go by the park in November 2017. So far I’ve booked CONAF Campamento Italiano without issue; but it seems that Campamento does Torres is not appear available for booking no matter what day I specify in the system. Did you have this issue as well? The website says it should be bookable via the reservation system, and emailing them only gave me a template reply about where to book. Thanks.

      • Nico May 15, 2017 at 11:47 pm - Reply

        *Campamento Torres, does not appear available for booking even when Campamento Paso and Italiano are available.

        • Alan Dixon May 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm - Reply

          Nico, sorry for the late reply. I am at a loss as to why Campamento Torres is not available for booking. Guessing that at this early date there should still be sites available. Wondering if they might be doing some sort of work on it and thus not have it open to booking. But I haven’t heard anything about it. As an alternate, it’s not a bad walk from R. Chileno. You could camp there if needed. Best, -alan

        • Mel May 18, 2017 at 11:59 pm - Reply

          I was having a similar issue, I believe you may be only to book x amount of months in advance… that was my take on it.

  34. Anna Chambers December 1, 2016 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Great post! Thanks for all the detailed and updated info. I’ve used your suggestions to book free camping which I didn’t know existed before and has made our trek much more affordable.
    I’m backpacking with my husband for a year and we have quite a lot of extra stuff we don’t want to take on the trek. We’re planning to hire all of our camping gear for the trip. Do you know whether we’ll be able to leave some of our extra gear in hostels in the area or if there is anywhere with a secure storage facility?

    • Alan Dixon December 2, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Anna,
      Our strategy has been to leave our plane luggage and town stuff (clothes, toiletries, guide books etc.) in the hotel storage area while we are on trail. That being said, we leave nothing of value at the hotel. We consider any storage area as not secure no mater what they say. As such, we do not leave laptops, phones, computers, notepads, cameras, sensitive papers, identification, or anything else of value in town. About the most valuable thing I’ll leave is a $30 bluetooth keyboard that I use to make my iPhone a passible device when traveling (and avoiding the need for bringing a laptop or tablet). Have a great trip, -alan

  35. Dan December 4, 2016 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    First of all I would very much like to thank you for posting all this information. As you have pointed out, planning a trip to TDP can be a little ambiguous at times. The information about route quotas and the new rules regarding advanced booking really saved our trip (leaving in a couple weeks).

    I’m curious if you could provide any information regarding the tent platforms at camp Frances and Chileno? Like you guys, we prefer to use a pyramid shelter (Golite Shangri La 5) for back country travel, but I’m a little concerned about setting it up on one of these platforms. It looks like you guys were able to get it done without problems. Would you recommend bringing some extra guy line? Any idea how big they are?

    Cheers,
    Dan

    • Alan Dixon December 5, 2016 at 12:38 am - Reply

      Dan,
      We had no difficulty pitching our Duomid XL at Frances. They even loaned us a hammer and nails to add a few anchors to the platform 🙂 But, yes some extra cordage would be most helpful. My only concern would be that that Golite Shangri La 5 might exceed the area of the platform. Since I didn’t measure the platforms at Frances, I have no idea of the exact dimensions. You could look at the pic of the Duomid in our post and make an estimate. The other option would be to rent two of their tents if the SGL 5 doesn’t fit. Not the end of the world. Best, -a

  36. Tobias December 4, 2016 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Hi!

    I have all my campside reservations for the O circuit in December. Am I now automatically part of the 80 persons per day that are allowed to it or do I have to reserve something seperately?

    Thank you for your response!
    Tobias

    • Alan Dixon December 5, 2016 at 12:33 am - Reply

      Tobias, this is a new regulation so we have not experienced it first hand. My best/reliable sources for the Park say that that if you have reservations you are part the 80 pers/day quota. Just make sure you have adequate documentation to prove you have reservations. Have a great trek. -alan

      “There is a 80 person per day limit for the “Backside” (non-W portion) of the Circuit Trek. This is passively regulated by the campsite reservation system (that is, if you have all your campsite reservations you are part of the 80 people per day allowed). This is being enforced. There is a guard house on the backside operated by CONAF and and you’ll be asked to show proof of your reservations to proceed.”

  37. Sandy Goldberg December 12, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Hi Alan. Thanks for great posts. I wonder if you think we would miss out a lot by omitting hike to Glacier Grey, if we have been to Perito Moreno Glacier and it would give us more time to spend at El Chalten (with some time for weather contingencies)? We would just do part of the W trek, maybe one night at Refugio France’s and one night at Refugio Chileno (not planning to camp). Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon December 12, 2016 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Hi Sandy, Alison and I just discussed this. We agree that Glacier Grey was probably our favorite part of the trek. The decent from Paso John Gardner along the glacier was easily the most scenic part. But you’ll need to go some distance above the terminus of Glacier Grey to get the full effect of how vast it is. Perrito Moreno is also spectacular, but there is little option to get so far above it like you can with Glacier Grey. You are mostly looking up from the tongue/terminus of the glacier. But everybody’s tastes are different. No way to go wrong in Patagonia tho. It’s all good.

  38. Kate December 12, 2016 at 3:56 am - Reply

    Alan – Thanks for writing such a helpful guide! We’re excited to be doing the O circuit in early January. A few questions in case you or other trekkers might have clarity…
    1. Did you hang food at night to avoid rodent entry into your packs? Some have reported waking to finding critters had chewed through their backpacking bags.
    2. We have read reports that bugs on the backside can be unbearable in the Patagonian summer, others don’t mention them. We’d rather avoid the weight of a net and bug spray, but also don’t want to be eaten alive while unprepared! Did you encounter mosquitoes?
    3. Did you all see meal/energy bars fairly readily available at grocery stores/shops in Puerto Natales? We’re busing in from El Calafate in Argentina, and won’t hit Punta Arenas until post-trip. I have severe nut/peanut allergies, so my husband and I are eager to ensure I bring in commercial/sealed meals/bars for 100% of what I’ll eat on the trek for safety, but since that’s a large quantity, we’ll likely need to split it between us to clear the border, and then buy the majority of his lunch/breakfast food in PN. Is that realistic?

  39. Alan Dixon December 12, 2016 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Kate, we hung our food from a cord. Not 100% protection for habituated rodents for sure. But it worked for us. We had no issues at all with bugs on the backside altho I hear they can be bad at Dickson. But then we only stopped there for lunch and were out of the woods with a breeze. Energy bars like we have in the US are a rarity in Chile (altho we saw a few at the small stores along the route, along with decent assortment of candy bars and cookies). We bought almost all of our pre-trip candy bars, chocolate and cookies (biscuits for Brits) at the large supermarket in PN. You could also do this in Punta Arenas. Food ingredient labeling is on par with the US. But not so sure about food allergy labeling like “processed in a facility that also processes tree nuts.” Hope this helps. Have a great trek, -alan

  40. patricia Johnson December 18, 2016 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Excellent blog! Thank you!
    We are booked for March.
    Do you have any knowledge about transportation between the East entrance at Laguna Armaga and the West entrance specifically Hotel Rio Serrano where we would like to take the all day boat back to Puerto Natales?
    Also, wondering about bus transportation to Puerto Natales from El Calafate.
    Thank you

    • Alan Dixon December 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Patricia,
      We have not taken the bus between PN and El Calafate. There is a fairly large bus terminal in PN with a lot of bus traffic during the day. Bus-Sur and
      Turismo Zaahj seem to offer service between PN and El Calafate.

      We did not go to Villa Serano on our trip so we don’t know about transportation from there to the Laguna Amarga Entrance. Would guess there a strong possibility that the transport exists. My first thought is to contact the Hotel in Villa Serano for transport options. And you could check schedules with the bus companies in the guide. They are clearly operating in the park. See the Transportation Section in the Main Guide.

  41. Katie January 8, 2017 at 4:08 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    You mentioned dried/dehydrated fruit, meat and dairy are not allowed into Chile, but according to the SAG’s website, they are if declared: http://english.sag.gob.cl/ambitos-de-accion/plant-or-vegetable-products

    Do you know if this is something that has changed recently?

    • Alan Dixon January 8, 2017 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      Katie, No nothing has changed. Good to know the exact wording of the law. But it is up to the discretion of the inspector as to whether it meets the following requirement (in quotes below). If you are like us and re-package our meals, gorp, etc. Those would not pass inspection as they are not in their original packaging. To us it just seemed easier to buy much of our food in Chile and do the prep there (since we couldn’t do it before entry).

      “Before entering Chile, these products MUST BE DECLARED by the passenger in the “Joint ADUANA-SAG sworn declaration.” The products will then be checked by the SAG inspector who may or may not authorize their entry. The following products may enter Chile as long as they have been manufactured and the SAG inspector has verified that they are in their original packaging, hermetically sealed and labeled in such a way as to allow identification of their content and required storage conditions.”

  42. Annette January 8, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    One quick question — When the plan mentions “Day 1 – Drop pack off at RPG and day-hike to see Glacier Grey”… can you drop your heavy pack off at RPG for the day without reserving a bed/camp there? I’m not sure I understand if it’s a locker situation, honor system, or if you need a bed. Thanks 🙂

    • Alan Dixon January 8, 2017 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Annette,
      Most people just drop their big backs near the administrative area of the campground (e.g. a place where campground personnel are likely to walk by) and day hike from there. You do not need reservation to do it. But there are no lockers or or other ways to “securely” store them. We dropped our packs at the admin hut at the Campamento Italiano (along with a three dozen other unattended packs) and then hiked up to Mirador Frances or Britanico. It appeared to be safe–but no guarantees. The other place this commonly happens is at Campamento Torres and Refugio Chileno by people day-hiking up to Mirador Torres to see the Torres del Paine. Have a great trek, -alan

      Oh, and to be on the safe side, along with our day hiking kit (rain jacket, warm jacket, etc.) we packed wallets, passports, cash, cameras, and other expensive electronics into one of our backpacks compressed down to be a “day-pack.” No reason to take unnecessary risks. -a

      • Annette January 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm - Reply

        Thank you! That is super helpful. I’m confirmed to go in mid-February. Let me know if there’s any information you’d like to have scouted out!

        • Alan Dixon January 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

          > Let me know if there’s any information you’d like to have scouted out.

          Any information that you glean would be most helpful. Again, our goal is to keep this the most useful, accurate and uptodate guide for TdP. Your feedback (and that of others) will certainly help. Have a great trek! Warmest, -a

  43. Jenna January 11, 2017 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Hi Alan!
    First of all, thank you for compiling all of this. SO helpful! My friend and I are planning a trip as we speak.
    I apologize if I misread anything above, but I don’t believe I read anywhere that you can fly directly from Santiago to Puerto Natales. However, I was just checking Sky Airlines and saw a flight from Santiago to Puerto Natales. http://skyairline.cl/en
    This seems like a no brainer — it would save us a flight to Punta Arenas and a bus ride to Puerto Natales. Is there any reason you wouldn’t recommend this? Am I misunderstanding something?
    Thanks for all your help!
    Jenna

    • Alan Dixon January 12, 2017 at 1:07 am - Reply

      Not missing anything Jenna. If you can get the flight it sounds like a super deal! We booked our flights about two years ago based on lowest price. Either the flight was not available then, or the price was prohibitive. Have a great trek. -alan

      • Jenna January 13, 2017 at 6:05 am - Reply

        Excellent, thanks a bunch for the quick response!

  44. Ali January 12, 2017 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Do you know of any way to reach out to Vertice? I had no luck calling them, and their website shows very few dates available (no availability for Camp los Perros, and Camp/Refugio Grey for the dates I need). Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon January 12, 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      Ali, we had best luck emailing them. Take care, -alan

    • Heather January 13, 2017 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Vertice didn’t answer my multiple emails until I put URGENTE in the subject line 🙂

      • Alan Dixon January 13, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

        Of the two Park Refugio operators, Fantastico Sur and Vertice — we found Vertice more challenging to work with. -a

  45. bob lewington January 17, 2017 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I was in TDP in December 2016 and found the whole camping reservation system to be a total mess. Booking a pitch using Paypal online was a complete joke. In the end I was only able to reserve one campsite in advance Seron at the start of the full Circuit. I had to blag my way around in the end (I do not suggest that you do this, as later a couple of chilean guys got kicked out of the Park – mainly because they fooled around though). Conaf and the Camping Companies do not know what each is doing . Probably by next year the System might be working better.
    My tops tips are . Travel as light as you can . Take plenty of food !. Enjoy the marvelous scenery !

    • Alan Dixon January 17, 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      Good tips Bob. And thanks for sharing your experience. Glad you completed the Circuit and had a good trip. Best, -a

  46. Wilf Noordermeer January 21, 2017 at 1:40 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Thanks for your TdP posts … just awesome. I’m heading out to do the Circuit soon, and I have 3 practical questions:
    1. Do I really need to bring my Sawyer water filter? Or – as they say – can I get fresh water pretty well everywhere?
    2. I don’t think you mentioned bringing a towel. How do you dry off after a shower?
    3. Where can I get those lightweight flip-flops you mentioned?

    P.S. If anyone is interested, I was able to book my desired Vertice campsites (yesterday) via their website. I paid online and received a confirmation. So maybe things are improving. Important note: You must specify that you’re paying in Chilean pesos, otherwise the date finder will tell you that nothing is available.

    • Alan Dixon January 21, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Wilf,
      Good info on Vertice and booking dates. Not all US credit cards allow payment in anything but $ USD, so it may also be bank/card dependent.

      1. As to the towel, yes we did bring a small one that we shared, PackTowl Personal Towel. They are light and fast drying. I suggest getting one less than 100g (3 oz) since they can be wrung out mid-use.
      2. Yes no need to filter water. We were able to get potable water frequently enough that we did not need to filter/treat water between sources.
      3. Lightweight flip flops (4 oz [120g] or less) are not that easy to find. Usually we find pairs in places like Target at the right time of year (spring/summer) and then get a few pairs. Some of the crocks are fairly light but some are not so you need to be selective about what you get. But most pairs of what appear to be light flipflops actually weight 1/2 lb (225 g) or more.

      Have a great trek, -alan

  47. Kate January 22, 2017 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Alan – Thanks again for your detailed trip report – we were *much* better prepared than pretty much everyone wet met on trail thanks to your detailed and wise advice offered here. We trekked this January 4 – 9, 2017 and have a few things to share/update on based on what we encountered:
    1. They are *incredibly* strict about having reservations from Seron to Paso, and the big 2016-17 Map Update states the trail can *ONLY BE HIKED ONE DIRECTION* between Seron and Paso – counter-clockwise, with a mandatory stop at Coiron to check in. A solid 25% of the folks camping at Seron took a beautiful but fruitless day hike to Coiron or Dickson before getting caught and turned back to Seron. Seron seemed to be very gracious in accepting more than the 80 allotted which made for long restroom lines, so I’d say that’s the only place on the back you’ll talk your way into a site. On the ‘W’ we were told all the sites accepted ’emergency’ campers who couldn’t make it out of the park or on to their scheduled reservation at 7.00pm. We saw at least 10 tents pitched away from formal sites at places like Frances leveraging this mercy. Wouldn’t bank on it though! We had to show our paper reservations as proof to pass, and fill out the rangers’ logbook at every ranger checkpoint (PG, Torres, Coiron, Dickson, Perros, Paso).
    2. Can’t get a site on Vertice/Fantastico? Switch to ‘book in chilean pesos’ – yes it switches to spanish, but google translate can help you out. We had no trouble getting backside sites this way. Do note that Fantastico Sur is professional and their facilities are cleaned regularly, well-maintained and had hot water! Vertice was like entering another world – filthy bathrooms/cooking areas, rental tents at Perros in terrible disrepair and full of debris/mud, rude and grossly unprofessional staff. Just brace for the Vertice downgrade in the second half.
    3. Please note that the trail to Mirador Britanico closes at 3.00pm/15.00!! Many other points have ‘no passing after X time” points on the new 2016-17 map that are clearly marked on the map/guide and strictly enforced. It is almost impossible to make it to Britanico off the 10.45am Catamaran (arrives at Paine Grande around 11.40am) unless you’re first off the boat, don’t stop to eat/adjust gear, drop your packs at Italiano like wildfire is coming, and dash up the trail. The Ranger trail running up to close access caught us just as we came up on Mirador Frances and we weren’t able to go on past that point.
    4. Park accepts credit for the entry fee now. It’s a nightmare for buses though – we spent 110 minutes waiting at the park entry station for our bus of hikers to pay, get their pass and get back on the bus. 90% chose to pay credit when they realized it was an option, despite the line out of the building to do so. Took us 5 minutes in/out with cash. Frankly I hope they go back to cash-only…. We were on the 7.00am bus – don’t want to know what showing up on the 9.00am would look like…
    5. Book buses in advance from the USA during the high of high season. Met 15+ travelers who were stuck for at least 24 hours because all buses were sold out from Calafate or PA to PN or from PN to the park. Really. We did go in high season the week after Christmas. We used Patagonia Extrema/Southroad to book – we paid a 35-40% premium on tickets, but it was worth it, as our Calafate-PN, PN-Park roundtrip, and PN to PA buses were all sold-out. Chalten-Calafate is still a fine route to do walk-up, and we did that with the wonderful Las Lengas service. (They do small van transfers door-to-door for same price as the bus!)
    6. Yes, you can bring food from the USA. Make sure it’s manufacturer sealed and dry/dehydrated/processed. And no fruits/veggies or milk powder under any circumstances. If you want to risk those items, bag them separately. Don’t try to sneak anything without checking ‘YES’ on the form – you try to sneak, they take it and slap you with $$$ fines. Watched it happen.
    7. Bug spray is a necessity from Seron > Grey; they’re ruthless. $6 for spray at Cruz Verde in PN. Ratsack was a waste of weight – never used it. Trash compactor with a carabiner to hang kept food dry and rodent-free, and we’re returning the ratsack to REI unused. Trash compactor bag in the pack was perfect in 3 torrential, sideways rainstorms and meant we didn’t have to stop to mess with a raincover when storms blew in.
    8. My husband wished me to convey – with admiration – that “Alan and Allison must be part mountain goat!” We’re in our early 30s, work out 5+ times per week, and do a fair amount of hiking and backpacking. We could pace with your times on the flats, and some uphills, but came nowhere close on the Paso or descents. The descent off John Gardner has essentially no switchbacking and is like sliding straight downhill in slick mud. It took us 2.3 hrs to the top, 2.2 down (painfully on our knees) and another 4 hours to stumble from Paso to Grey. Maybe our knees would have been better earlier in the trip, but that descent wrecked us. If your knees bug you at all, bring your brace – glad I did! (Our experience may have been impacted by very wet/muddy conditions both up and down the Paso.)
    9. There is a direct flight to PN from Santiago on Sky Airlines – but ONLY on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. If you go to their site it doesn’t say this, and will just tell you ‘no flights’ if you enter the wrong days of the week. The routing starts on Christmas Eve and only lasts through end of February. It is the only flight to/from PN and is just 1x per day though, so if it’s cancelled, you could be in a pinch!

  48. Agathi Iordanidou January 26, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Hi. We will be in the park in February. We have hotel reservations in Puerto natales.On a day trip to the park we want to take the boat from Hotel Grey to get to the Refugio Grey, disembarge there and hike up to the second suspension bridge to find a mirador of the Grey glacier and get back to the refugio grey to catch the boat for the navigation at the glacier and back to the hotel grey.
    I would like to know if the route we want to hike is legal according to new regulations and then if you know where we can find this good viewpoint of the grey glacier. We only have 6 hours of hiking from and to the refugio, in order to be back for the boat.
    Pls answer as soon as possible. Thank you.

    • Alan Dixon January 27, 2017 at 1:01 am - Reply

      Hi Agathi,
      As we said in our trip guide, we found the view of Glacier Grey the most impressive in the park.

      It should be doable if you keep a brisk hiking pace*. There appears to be no cutoff time I can see for hiking from R. Grey up towards R. Paso (see table on current park map). It is 7 km hiking downhill from R. Paso to R. Grey (so figure longer hiking uphill in the opposite direciton). The first good overlook is labled “Mirador-Grey-03 my terminology, on my map, between the two suspension bridges. And if you look at the map the Glacier overlooks (like Mirador-Grey-03) are around 1/2 way to R. Paso (see park map, and my map). As a very rough guess, it should take around* 2.5 to 3.0 hours one way to reach it and slightly faster back since it will be downhill. There is a bit of flat hiking from R. Grey towards the base of the Glacier and then it is uphill from there all the way to R. Paso.

      * But I have no idea what your hiking pace is, so you’ll need to be the judge of how far and fast you can hike in your alloted 6 hours.

      • Agathi Iordanidou January 27, 2017 at 10:12 pm - Reply

        How can I thank you for your help. In the meantime I tried to communicate the Conaf office at the park but the telephone line had problems so I called at Refugio Grey. What they told me is that even if we spend a night in the park it is no more permited to walk from the refugio grey towards the campamento paso. Only from east to West can someone do the trekking.
        What I now want to know is if we are able to do the shorter routes to Miradores Condor and Cuernos. I hope we can do these, But I have to ask to confirm.
        If you have any information pls tell me. Thanks again.

        • Alan Dixon January 27, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

          Agathi, you should be fine hiking for views in the other direction. The Mirador Frances is also wonderful and should be doable from R. Paine Grande. Cutoff time to hike up from C. Italiano is 15:00, and there are lots of ferries to R. PG. As to the Miradors to Glacier Grey: I have a hard time believing that is correct. I think there was a language/communication problem. If you look at offical the trekking map it is only one-way from Seron to C. Paso. And it makes no sense to stop people hiking up just a few hours from R. Grey to the first Mirador overlooking the foot of the glacier. No sense all. There have to be hundreds and hundreds of people at R. Grey wanting to do just that each day! Best, -alan

  49. Maria January 28, 2017 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    Hello,

    How far in advance can you book the campsites? Do they open for the season during a certain month? I’m looking towards the 2018 season. Thank you.

    • Alan Dixon January 29, 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Maria,
      A good question. I just tried to see online campsite availability on Vertice for January of 2018 and it reported all options as “sold out.” I interpret this as… at least their online reservations system is not capable of booking for 2018. And (as of today) the Fantastico Sur online system only allows you to select dates through April of 2017. Your best option would be to email both companies and see what their advance reservation policy is.

      Disfrute de su trek de 2018. Saludos, -a

  50. Hank February 3, 2017 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks a million Alan, you saved our 10 people group trip, otherwise we will definitely run into surprise. We came upon your site and noticed the new reservation requirements, and luckily had our campsites reserved last week for the circuit trek.

    Your guide is by far the most comprehensive and up-to-date, thanks another million for your time and great efforts, what an amazing work!

    Here are few updates I gathered.
    1. Online payment worked ok for Vertice and Fantasticosur
    2. The catamaran schedule changed, first one leaves at Pudeto at 9am, the 2nd one leaves at 11am.
    http://www.verticepatagonia.com/torres-del-paine/news/horarios-catamaran-lago-pehoe-schedule-catamaran-pehoe-lake
    3. There is a shuttle bus between the park entrance (Laguna Amarga) and Hotel Last Torres, the cost is $2.800 CLP
    4. You can take the buses between the entrance and Pudeto as long as there are seats, the cost is ~$4.000 CLP, this together with the above can solve the transportation within the park

    • Alan Dixon February 3, 2017 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the great feedback Hank. And so the guide helped and you had a great trip. Cheers, -alan

  51. Jenna February 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you for all the updates for 2017! My friends and I are planning our trip for next month and have almost everything settled. However, I am a bit confused by this:
    “IMPORTANT! The ‘Circuit’ or ‘O’ Trek can now only be done counterclockwise from Hotel/Camping Las Torres to Campamento Paso.”

    We are going counterclockwise, however we are not starting at Hotel Los Torres — we were planning to start at Refugio Paine Grande per your itinerary and head east. Is this still alright? Or is this new rule saying you need to enter by Las Torres and proceed counterclockwise?

    Thanks for your help!
    Jenna

    • Alan Dixon February 9, 2017 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      a picture (or map) is worth many words. see the map on the main guide page for W and O under the “The Park’s official 2017 Map” section. or copy of the map pdf enlarged a bit here. This should make it clear as to the direction of travel.

      have a great trek, -alan

      • Alan Dixon February 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm - Reply

        Oh, and I don’t think Starting at RPG or Hotel Las Torres makes any difference, just so long as you to the backside of the O in the direction of the arrows. -a

  52. Erik February 9, 2017 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan – thanks for the excellent guide. We’re headed to Southern Patagonia next week and this site has been by far the most helpful and up-to-date resource. Not mention, I found the guide reading your great summary of travel cameras. I am curious how you travel with a full size backpack on flights – are you able to bring your pack as carry-on or did you have to check it?

    • Alan Dixon February 9, 2017 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      > I am curious how you travel with a full size backpack on flights – are you able to bring your pack as carry-on or did you have to check it?

      Erick, you could do either so long as your backpack meets the carry on size requirements. but usually alison and i put both our backpacks and trekking poles (and food etc) into a shared rollaway duffel bag nicknamed “Bertha.” It is our only checked bag.

      for our recent columbia trip [Guide to Colombia’s La Ciudad Perdida Trek (Lost City)] we managed to do the trip with a rollaway carryon and day pack each. no checked bags. we even fit in city clothes and snorkeling gear.

      but that was because our frameless backpacks easily fit on our rollaway carryon bags. (it’s difficult to get a framed backpack to fit in one, altho it can be done! the problem is that with food, trekking poles, sleeping bags etc, you start hitting a volume limit). hope this helps and enjoy your TdP Trek! best, -a

  53. Rishi Maharaj February 14, 2017 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    I just wanted to leave a note thanking you for your detailed post. It’s always nice to find an experienced hiker perspective and not the generic travel blogger / guidebook info to reference when planning food, gear and average speed. I just returned from a great trip to Torres del Paine (no rain for 7 days!) making this the second year in a row I’ve benefited from your info after doing a very similar Wind River High Route to you last summer.

    Cheers,
    Rishi

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      Rishi,
      Sorry for the late posting of your comment. I am just back in the US after two weeks in remote areas of country and with absolutely no internet whatsoever. So glad you found the guide useful and had a great trek. All the best, -alan

  54. Joey February 15, 2017 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Is the W Circuit open all year round? Or is it closed during some months?

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2017 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      Joey,
      Sorry for the late posting of your comment. I am just back in the US after two weeks in remote areas of country and with absolutely no internet whatsoever. I will reply to your question soon. All the best, -alan

    • Alan Dixon March 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Joey, from what I understand the W is beautiful in the off season, and you’ll likely have it to yourself! The W has a longer season than the O which close to unguided travel in April. (You can still do the O after that but you’ll need a permitted guide.) From what I hear, the W is open to hiking year round although it is cold, and potentially snowy in full Southern Winter. And many of the Refugios may be unheated and/or closed. Probably best to email Vertice, Patagonia Sur and CONAF to see what’s open in the off season. But have a great trek! -alan

  55. Jyoti February 17, 2017 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Hey there Alan,

    Thank you so much for your great blog and info! My sister and I will be doing the O circuit following your 5 day guide, but will be starting at Laguna Amarga. (Seron, Perros, PG, Frances, Torres)

    We will be camping, but have reserved tents at the campsites we will be staying at. We will be bringing pre-made camping dinners, snacks, etc.. I see that you used a cord to hang up your food over night? Would keeping our trash/food in our backpacks in our tent not be advisable?

    Thank you again for posting all this information!
    j

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Jyoti,
      Sorry for the late posting of your comment. I am just back in the US after two weeks in remote areas of country and with absolutely no internet whatsoever. So glad yo found the article useful. The main concern with keeping food in your pack at any highly used campsite is rodents (mice, rats, squirrels, et.) habituated to getting food from packs. So if you leave food in your pack they may well chew their way in to get it leaving large holes in your expensive pack. If you hang a stuffsack, it makes it a bit harder for them to get the food. And if they do chew through, you are only out a $10 stuff sack vs. a $200+ pack. Have a great trek in TdP! All the best, -alan

  56. Dan Smart March 1, 2017 at 2:12 am - Reply

    Hi Alan. Great info. I booked campsites for March 14th, and Torres was already booked in early January. Few questions:
    1. Will platforms hold a CopperSpur 3?
    2. Do we need to get Chilean Pesos, or will US Dollars work?
    3. I see nothing on dining times at Refugios. I was forced to full board at El Chileno. Possible to get a box lunch on the way out? Seron to Las Perros is about 20mi. Do we need to hump it to get there before dark?
    4. So it sounds like it is impossible to make the 9:00 catamaran. Would you still take the 7am bus?
    5. Bring pocket rocket or alcohol to cook for 2? Can you get 100g fuel cans in Chile?

    • Alan Dixon March 1, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      Hi dan, Platforms should accommodate the CS3, since they had room for our Duomid XL. We used Chilean Pesos, so have no idea whether USD would work. Guessing Pesos would be the surer thing. From our guide “Some notes: Breakfast is 8’ish. You’ll get a late start if you choose to eat one from a Refugio. Lunch is around 12:30. Dinner is 7’ish.” Lunch as I understand it is not always a scheduled meal, you might need to make prior arrangements to be sure they’ll serve you. Guessing that unless you were to drive your own car, that the 9:00 Catamaran is not possible via bus. And again from our guide “Fuel canisters are everywhere in Punta Arenas and P. Natales. Hardware stores, hiking stores, and many other locations. Even some of the small stores at Refugios along the route have canisters. There are many options in town (hostels, hiking stores) to leave your partially used canisters for others to use. Alcohol fuel is available at Cruz Verde pharmacies in plastic bottles.” We even have a picture of the store at Refugio Dickson with a fuel canister in it (look in the lower right). Best, -alan

  57. Tam March 25, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Wonderful post and so informative. I hope you don’t mind but I used your blog as a link on mine (which is about alternative ways to experience Torres del Paine). I wish I would’ve has the time and energy to do the W or O trek, but oh well. Thanks again!

    Tam @ http://freshcoffeestains.com/torres-del-paine/

    • Alan Dixon March 25, 2017 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      No worries. Thanks for the mention. Best on your adventures. -alan

  58. OW March 31, 2017 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Alan, thanks a ton for your guide! Just completed your 5 day O itinerary with beautiful weather this past week. It was an unbelievable solo trekking experience and I have to thank you for writing such a detailed guide that allowed me to do this – I must have referred to your pages hundreds of times before and during the hike.

    The only things I’ll add for any others considering this who are relatively inexperienced like me:

    1) Renting the tents were absolutely worth it for the amount of weight and time you save setting up and taking it down. Especially on such a short itinerary, it is not very expensive at all.

    2) I’m in my 20s and work out regularly, but didn’t follow your effectively hiking training before the trip. With that said, my pack was even lighter than yours outlined above. My hiking times were generally in between those in this guide and the map estimates, and I was quite exhausted at the end of each day.

    3) I would strongly advise following your 6 day itinerary. The last day was terribly exhausting for me (I could barely walk to my hostel after getting off the bus at Natales). I started at 5:30 in the dark and had to rush through the last two segments in order to get to the 6:30pm catamaran. And it was NOT rainy or windy at all on John Gardner, so I would imagine that I could not have made it to the boat on time if weather was not as great as it was. Refugio Grey is very nice and I wish I would have stayed there one night.

    I would be happy to answer any questions, but info in your guide was very complete! Thank you so much once again.

    • Alan Dixon April 1, 2017 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      Nice job Oscar. Yes that last day is a long one. I might need to put a cautionary note in there that Refugio Grey might be a better destination from C. Los Perros. Have a great year trekking. Warmest, -alan

    • Gavin M April 8, 2017 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Alan and Oscar,

      Is there a way to make sure there will be a tent available to rent at the campsites I have reserved (C. Italiano, C. Torres)? I’m afraid if I don’t bring my tent I will be tentless, but I would certainly prefer to not take the weight. I’m headed down there soon (April 17-21).

      Additionally, does anyone have any advice on booking tickets through sky airlines? I keep getting an error on their website. Trying to fly from Santiago to PA in short notice.

      Your blog has been amazing! So very helplful. Thank you so much.

      GM

      • Alan Dixon April 8, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

        Gavin, I am fairly sure that there are no tent rentals a the free CONAF sites like C. Italiano, C. Torres. I do know they are available at the private camps like Frances, Serón, and Los Perros. At those camps you should be able to go online and reserve them (if not you could try emailing to get a reservation). BUT as far as I know, most of the private campamentos may be closed in the off season (likely After April 15). As such, it looks like you’ll need to bring a tent. Have a great trek! -alan

  59. Walter April 20, 2017 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Allen! I am hoping to get to Puerto Natales from Calafate in June to check out the TDP; however, I have contacted Bus Sur, Zaahj and Cootra, and each of them informed me that they will be closed in June of this year. Any ideas on how else I can make this trip?

    • Alan Dixon April 20, 2017 at 11:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Walter, sorry but that’s full winter and very off season. Not surprising that the busses are not running. A quick check shows no flights between El C. and Punta A that time of year either. My guess is that a car rental might be your only option. Best of luck. And let me know if you manage to work something out. I am curious. Warmest, -a

  60. Stephanie May 30, 2017 at 4:38 am - Reply

    When I use the vertice sight, it shows everything as sold out for December and January 2017 when the other sites haven’t released theirs yet. Why is this? Are they actually sold out? It even says sold out all the way thru April 2018!

    • Alan Dixon May 30, 2017 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Stephanie, check the comments on this post for more info. But Vertice and Pat. Sur should start opening up their sites soon for reservations for ’18-’18 season soon. They just aren’t sophisticated enough to have a message saying that. So it appears as if they are sold out. Best, -alan

  61. Ashley June 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    I’ve been attempting for weeks to book a site at C Torres (since the reservation system for the ’18 season opened) and it is not showing up in the booking system. Only Italiano and Paso are showing up at Conaf. I emailed them to no avail-do you know if C Torres is an option this year?

    Thanks,
    Ashley

    • Alan Dixon June 16, 2017 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Ashley, sorry for the delayed response. Your comment came in while I was in the midst of site upgrades. Yes, there seems to be a problem booking C. Torres right now. I have checked with some of my local sources but nobody knows why. And like you, others have reported no response when emailing CONAF reservations about the problem.

      As a backup until this resolves, you could consider booking Campamento Chileno with Fantastico Sur. It’s about an hour longer hike up to the Torres, but still doable. That’s about all I have right now. Best, -alan

  62. Maria June 16, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Is anyone seeing round trip tickets for Sky Airlines from Santiago to PN? I am not longer seeing it as a destination on their website. LATAM Arilines has non-stop flights on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays but they’re incredibly pricey!

    Is there something I am missing here?

    Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon June 21, 2017 at 2:44 pm - Reply

      Maria, it does appear (at least at this time) that Sky non longer flies to PN. I don’t even see the Puerto Natales on their list of destinations, let alone an actual flight there from Santiago. Back to a bus from Punta Areans… Best, -alan

    • Alan Dixon June 22, 2017 at 12:55 am - Reply

      I just got a confirmation email from Sky that they are not going to resume flights to Puerto Natales. -a

  63. Kevin June 21, 2017 at 5:00 am - Reply

    According to this page: http://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/es/sistema-de-reserva-de-campamentos-1, CONAF is indicating Camp Torres is closed next season. Is this referring to the 2017-2018 season? Anyone know the possible reason?

    • Alan Dixon June 21, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Yes Kevin, it does appear that Campamento Torres is not an option and that it is intentional. C. Torres is clearly “greyed-out” not an option on the Park map on the reservations page. My best guess is that they are renovating it. Área de acampar Torres was in pretty bad shape when we were there last. That leaves C. Paso and C. Italiano as the only free/CONAF options.

      As a backup until this resolves, you could consider booking Campamento Chileno (Área de acampar Chileno) with Fantastico Sur. It’s about plus an hour or a bit longer hike up to the Torres (vs. C. Torres), but still doable. Best, -alan

  64. Ed June 23, 2017 at 3:16 am - Reply

    Great site Alan … extremely helpful. Just got a great flight deal to Punta Arenas late Nov early Dec 2017. The last few comments suggest TDP may already booked, or some sites can’t be booked yet. Would like to do the O loop and five days in El Chalten … Carroll Torre! Still possible ? Many thanks. Ed

    • Alan Dixon June 23, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Ed. The O circuit should still be doable in the main 17-18 season, especially if you are willing to camp out. I suggest that you read both this Main TdP Guide Post and the Circuit Trek Gide Post. There is sufficient information there to plan your trip and make the appropriate bookings/reservations.

      As you can see tho, it appears that C. Torres (área de acampar Torres) is likely closed for the 17-18 season As an alternate, you could consider booking Campamento Chileno (Área de acampar Chileno) with Fantastico Sur. It’s about plus an hour or a bit longer hike up to the Torres de Paine (vs. C. Torres), but still doable. My guess is that you would want to this very soon, as it will likely fill up with the adjacetn campground closed. Wishing you a great hike. Warmest, -alan

  65. Cara June 24, 2017 at 4:24 am - Reply

    Hi there! I am loving diving into your site and learning all about the Circuit as I am trying to plan a hike in December 2017. I’ve traveled extensively but never done such a long trek alone, without a guide. Additionally, as I do not have any friends interested in joining, I plan to complete the hike alone. As a single female, would you have cautions against doing this hike alone? I have a Sat phone and plan to get insurance. My goal is to camp with my own gear from the US. Last question- I am a bit overwhelmed with the CONAF website. Any tips for booking the reservation to access the route? Thank you in advance for your time and all of this valuable information!

    • Alan Dixon June 25, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Cara, as to personal safety I don’t think you will have any problems on the trek—not with the trek itself or from other hikers. TdP is good that way.

      As to CONAF website, there really isn’t that much to book any more. If you go to this link (also on my site) you should be able to reserve up to 6 months in advance. I just checked and Italiano and Paso were both available on Nov 25. And if you can’t get Italiano, camping at Frances (handled by Fantastico Sur) is a good alternative.

      Note: Campamento Torres (Área de acampar Torres) is closed for this season at least. As a backup until this resolves, you could consider booking Campamento Chileno (Área de acampar Chileno) with Fantastico Sur. It’s about plus an hour or a bit longer hike up to the Torres (vs. C. Torres), but still doable.

      Finally all the information to book reservations is clearly laid out in this guide. If you read carefully you should be able to figure it out.

      Best, -alan

  66. Guerrilla Camper June 24, 2017 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    Tremendous site Alan. Thank you for taking the time to share so much useful info, address people’s questions/comments, and keep the information updated. Kudos to you.

    Fingers crossed the Campamento Torres closure is temporary, as booking the nearest camping alternative at Fantastico Sur’s El Chileno appears (http://www.fantasticosur.com/en/rates/) to force one to pay for full board (dinner, breakfast, lunch) at a price (last season’s rate) of 55,000 CLP (about US$85) per person. And they might well raise their rates for the coming season in anticipation of higher demand due to the closure of Campamento Torres…

    • Alan Dixon June 25, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

      Yup GC, there is a serious possibility of a massive overload at El Chileno. I think the concern is less with the pricing, and more with people who want to reservations not getting them. El Chileno was already close to fully booked every day when C. Torres was open. Now there will be 2x or more people wanting to book the same number of campsites. The two next camping options, around Hotel Torres or Los Curenos are a very long walk from Los Torres.

  67. Jade Johnston June 25, 2017 at 2:55 am - Reply

    Great guide! I am scratching together an itinerary that will allow my husband to do the whole route, and allow me to do a good portion… I will be going with a 4 month old baby and a 5 year old.

    Im thinking the following….

    Day 1: Ferry to Refugio Grey, hike 11km to Refugio Paine Grande (11km – 3.5 hours)
    Day 2: Refugio Paine Grande – Refugio Los Cuernos (12.5 km – 5 hours) – On this section I would continue straight from refugio to refugio with the children while my husband would do the additional side trip without me.
    Day 3: Refugio Los Cuernos – Refugio Las Torres (11.6 km – 4.5 hours)
    Day 4: This would be the day of departure for me and the children as I dont think I could make the hike up to mirador base de las torres, but my husband would like to continue this section, so his trip will likely be a day or so longer.

    Does that seem terribly impossible in your opinion?

    • Alan Dixon June 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Jade, I’m looking at your comment now. Hiking with your kids is a wonderful thing. And it sets them out early on a path of enjoying and appreciating the outdoors. And ditto for hiking with your partner and as a family. My hat is off to you.

      Give me a bit of time to ponder and respond further. But for for now one thing that is always a challenge to even begin to answer Q’s like these is your actual (known/verified) hiking pace and abilities. This is especially true, when carrying one child and the other 5-year-old hiking on his own. Knowing the answer to this would certainly help me give you a better and more accurate response. All the best, -alan

  68. Melissa June 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Hi there. Can anyone tell me if the Christmas Dinner that you can participate in at Dickson and other camps is on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve? Thank you so much

    • Alan Dixon June 28, 2017 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      I have no idea but will leave it to others to reply if they know more. Have a great holiday in TdP! Warmest, -alan

      • Melissa July 3, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

        Quick update, I heard back and Christmas Dinner on the trail is on Christmas Eve for anyone else wondering. 🙂

  69. Melissa June 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Also, any updates on when we can start making reservations for late December? Fantastico told me the last week of June and I have been trying Vertice and Fantastico every day for 2 months, just because, still nothing, laughs. 🙂 Guess I’m just getting antsy.

    • Alan Dixon June 28, 2017 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      I don’t know about FS and Vertice but CONAF will only let you reserve 6 months in advance. Dunno what the advance time is for FS and V. As of now FS was off-line for updates. And V is reporting “sold out” on everything from Nov to Dec likely meaning that they are not taking reservations yet. Best bets are emailing or phoning at this point. Let me know how you make out. Best, -alan

  70. Mel July 1, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Hi there, I was a bit confused at the Italiano to Chileno breakdown time and mileage wise on your table with the cut off section? How rough of a day would it be from Italiano to Chileno mileage and time wise on average?

    • Alan Dixon July 1, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Mel I just looked through and added up the times and distances (all sequential in the table). It’s 14.4 mile and 5.5 hours actual hiking time (feet moving). We did not find it a long or difficult day. That being said, the times on the table on the back of the park map will be longer. Not knowing your hiking speed or how efficiently you hike (stopped time vs. walking time), I can’t comment intelligently on how hard it Will be for you or how long it will take. If you don’t know your hiking speed, you’ll likely fall between our times and the parks times. Have a great trek in TdP! Warmest, -alan

  71. Edward July 9, 2017 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan Attempting to book sites for the Torres Loop ike for this coming December. I received an email last week from Fantastico Sur stating that they would begin taking individual bookings in a few weeks. I was able to reserve Campamentos Italiano and Paso without problem. However, I could not book anything on the Vertice website for their camps or refugios, even after switching the pay to chilean pesos. has anyone been able to book on Vertice for December 2017 ? Any help would be appreciated. Many thanks Edward

    • Alan Dixon July 10, 2017 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the info on FS Edward. Nope, no info on Vertice on when they will open their site for reservations for hte 17/18 season. Best to keep checking back from time to time to see what opens up. Warmest, -alan

    • Mel July 11, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

      You’re not the only one. I booked Italiano and Paso (Paso as a backup). When I contacted Fantastico Sur a couple months ago, they send mid-June, then end of June, then the last week of June they told me first week of July, well as we all see that has come and gone, laughs. I did notice that Fantastico Sur’s website has started to work on their reservation site, the dates go through November, and half the campsites are listed and then not listed, I’m gathering it will be soon. I sure hope it is, I need to book airfare and request my time off of work, but both seem silly if I can’t be sure we get the dates we want in the park. I can’t get vertice to respond back to anything regarding reservations, they responded about my inquiry into Christmas Dinner and completely ignored my question about reservations. Hoping they spring up at the same time!!

      • Alan Dixon July 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm - Reply

        Yup, definitely in a wait and see mode right now. Best, -a

    • Mel July 13, 2017 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      Thought I’d provide you all an update, Fantastico Sur, sent me the new rates and pre-booking sheet for payment. The rates definitely went up. For instance one night at Chileno is 77.000clp pp for a tent site + required full board and Seron is 13.000clp pp for a tent site this upcoming season. It looks like Vertice is updating their rates, so I’m gathering their information will be out pretty soon too.

      • Mel July 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm - Reply

        Should have specified, those are high season rates.

      • Alan Dixon July 13, 2017 at 6:01 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the additional info. Mel. Quite useful. Let me know if you hear anything more conclusive back from Vertice. Warmest, -a

      • Ed July 15, 2017 at 6:01 am - Reply

        Mel Can you post the new Fantastico rates for Dec 2017 ? Were you able to book your dates ?

  72. Max July 12, 2017 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, this is a great guide. I wanted to see if our schedule below made sense to you? Specifically we had a question about the John Gardner Pass

    Day 0 – Stay overnight at Hotel Las Torres to save time for Day 1
    Day 1 – Hike to Refugio Dickson (start early)
    Day 2 – Hike straight to Camp Paso – this is our biggest question mark. It looks like a 10hr hike (hopefully less) from Dickson to Camp Paso and we are willing to wake up early in the morning etc. but the closing time seems like it’s 2pm at Camp Paso which doesn’t make a ton of sense? Is it possible to go from Refugio Dickson to Camp Paso in the same day?
    Day 3 – Hike to Refugio Paine Grande
    Day 4 – Hike to Refugio Los Cuernos
    Day 5 – Hike to Camp Chileno
    Day 6 – Back to Hotel Last Torres

    • Alan Dixon July 13, 2017 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      Max The difficulty is as you surmise getting over Paso John Gardiner. It’s at a key position for an early/safe start over the pass. As such, starting from Dickson has some downsides on your ability to get to Los Perros (base of PJG) in time. This is especially true since the rangers control starts over the pass from there (earlier is far better as they can shut it down for wind and or fog as the day progresses). And many trekkers will need adequate hiking time so they can get to make it to Campamento Paso–depending on their pack weight, hiking conditioning/speed and dealing with the frequently strong winds and slippery trail conditions.

      That being said, it is a doable to hike from Dickson to C. Paso in good weather. But if you get off to a slow start or the weather turns bad early, you might not get to the pass in time to safely cross over–i.e. the rangers would shut the pass down. In summary, if you did plan on going from Dickson to C. Paso, you’d have little or no margin or a backup plan for bad weather, high winds, (the rangers shutting down the pass) and/or you just didn’t end up moving quickly enough. And any of those are quite possible in TdP.

      Whatever you chose, wishing you a great trek in TdP. Best, -alan

  73. Janny morag July 13, 2017 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Most folks will end up flying into the Punta Arenas Airport. But in high season there is another (very limited) option to fly into Puerto Natales. A trekker this year found a few direct flights to Puerto Natales from Santiago on Sky Airlines – but ONLY on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday.

    • Alan Dixon July 13, 2017 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      Janny, a few weeks ago I got am confirmation email from Sky that they are not going to resume flights to Puerto Natales. In confirmation that Sky non longer flies to PN, I don’t even see the Puerto Natales on their list of destinations, let alone an actual flight there from Santiago. Back to a bus from Punta Areans… Best, -alan

  74. Mel July 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Would you think it is possible to hike from Gray to Paine Grande, get on the catamaran, see Salto Grande and return to Paine Grande in one day? Our itinerary is set to be:

    Day 1- Laguna Amarga to Seron
    Day 2- Seron to Dickson
    Day 3- Dickson to Perros
    Day 4- Perros to Gray (We have booked Paso pending weather and general state of us, laughs)
    Day 5- Gray (rest day, possibly kayak or ice hike)
    Day 6- Paine Grande (catamaran to Pudeto, to see Salto Grande, return on catamaran to Paine Grande)
    Day 7- Italiano (French Valley hike)
    Day 8- Chileno
    Day 9- Sunrise at the Mirador and then back to Puerto Natales

    • Alan Dixon July 16, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Mel, that sounds like a lovely and relaxed schedule. Should give you plenty time to enjoy the scenery, take photos, etc. As to “hike from Gray to Paine Grande, get on the catamaran, see Salto Grande and return to Paine Grande in one day?,” you’ll need to check the catamaran schedule. But guessing it will work if you get up early enough to hike from R. Gray. in time to meet the first catamaran of the day at R. P Grande. BTW there is a decent cafe at Pudeto where you could grab sandwich and coffee while you wait for your return catamaran. [Sometimes in high season they have more catamarans than are listed on the schedule.] Have a great trek, -alan.

  75. Ed July 21, 2017 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan
    Finally got booked for camps on the O circuit for late November / early December. Seron, Dickson, Perros, Grey, Italiano etc All reservations were made via email and one needs to be rather persistent. Many thanks as your website has been very helpful.
    After Torres Del Paine, we’re hoping to spend a week in Los Glaciers Nat Park. Wondering if you have experience with car rentals in Patagonia ? Cheers Ed

    • Alan Dixon July 23, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Sorry for the late reply Ed. We’ve always used public transport in both Chile and Argentina. But renting a car and exploring in it sounds wonderful. One thought tho, from friends who have rented cars, is that distances are vast in in Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. And a number of the roads are dirt slowing progress. As such, it may take some time to get from place to place. Have a great time exploring. Warmest, -a

    • Jodi August 9, 2017 at 1:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Ed,
      How long did it take you to hear back from Vertice? That’s all I’m waiting on to book a flight and I’m beginning to get a little anxious.
      Thanks!!

      • Ed August 11, 2017 at 6:47 am - Reply

        Hi Jodi. I first emailed Vertice in early July. On 7/13 I got my first reply stating that the website wasn’t up yet but that they could book via email. After 6 or 7 email exchanges I was booked by July 24th. My dates are for late Nov Early Dec. Have you already booked with Fantastico and the free sites ? Good luck. Cheers. Ed

  76. Justin July 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Hi everyone, so I’ve read through all of the blog post as well as the majority of the comments here:

    Quick question: Has anyone received any update or information on booking Refugio Frances and Refugio El Chileno for this coming November 2017?

    Cheers!

    • Alan Dixon July 24, 2017 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      Justin, Just like Ed a few comments above

      “Finally got booked for camps on the O circuit for late November / early December. Seron, Dickson, Perros, Grey, Italiano etc All reservations were made via email and one needs to be rather persistent.”

      people have been able to make reservations via email (not via the websites). That being said, it took a lot of time and persistence to make it happen. I note that Seron is a Fantastico Sur refugio (same as Refugio Frances and Refugio El Chileno). Wishing you luck on making your reservations. And have a great trek. Warmest, -Alan

      • Justin July 24, 2017 at 6:46 pm - Reply

        Ah ok perfect, thanks Alan! I figured Ed’s comment was referring only to email reservations were only possible for the same accomodations visibly listed on the fantastico website, not for the ones I was looking for not yet available on the website.

        I will try emailing them again,
        Thanks!

  77. Chris July 24, 2017 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Alan, an update for you and your readers, Fantastico Sur did send over a booking (after much prodding), and Vertice emailed to say that their online booking system should be operational in a week or so.

    A question on the booking form that you may or may not have the answer to – to book a “camping platform” with Fantastico Sur, there is a USD RACK (left blank), and then a Chilean Pesos Rack, and a Foreign Pesos Rack. Any idea why there’s not a USD Rack (I assume Rack = Rate)? And presumably the Foreign Pesos Rack is the rate for non-Chileans…?

    -Chris

    • Maria July 25, 2017 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Chris,

      I booked Frances, Chileno and Seron with Fantastico Sur for 2 people (camp sites only). Keep in mind that at Chileno your only option to stay there is purchase full room and board (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Frances and Seron was 26000 CLP total per site and Chileno was 140000 CLP total. Anyways, it just showed up on my credit card for a total of $294 USD total. I hope this helps with an idea of cost for you.

      -Maria

      • Alan Dixon July 25, 2017 at 8:17 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the super useful info. Maria. Best, -alan

      • Liz August 1, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

        Hi Maria,
        Thanks for sharing. Did you book online or through e-mail? I want campsites only but that option isn’t available online.

  78. Jamie July 30, 2017 at 8:00 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Some information and a question for you.
    My girlfriend and I are travelling to TDP in late Sept 2017 for the W trek and have already had success booking through fantastico sur via email for Los Cuernos and Torre Central refugios. Our plan for the W (west to east from 27/09 to 01/10) was dependent upon Vertice refugio Grey also being open but unfortunately like several others this only opens on 1st October. As such we’re looking at either Refugio Paine Grande or Camping Italiano for Day 1s accommodation. Through the CONAF website the Campsite either looks fully booked or not open in late September. Are these open all year round or restricted just like the privately run refugios and campsites.
    Cheers – your website has helped us so much so far
    Jamie

    • Alan Dixon July 31, 2017 at 1:34 am - Reply

      Jamie, good to hear that you are all booked with Fantastico Sur. As to Campamento Italiano, 1) it is the most demanded campsite at it’s critical location on the W, so it books up the soonest. or 2) the CONAF campamentos are not yet open for the season (not sure of the exact dates for this). As I understand it you can still camp in the CONAF campamentos on the W out of season (I would definitely double check on this one!), but the campground will be unattended by park personnel. I just checked CONAF reservations for Italiano and could not get a camp on Sept 27 but could get one Oct 1. That might indicate that the official season (where reservations are required) opens on or around Oct 1.

      Your other option is to book a tent platform and R. Frances (Fantastico Sur). Alison and I did this and the campground was fine. Also best showers of the entire trip! Hope this helps. And have a great trek. Warmest, -a

  79. Chris August 2, 2017 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    A quick question on platforms and tent set up. I have a Zpacks tent (non-freestanding) that I was planning on using, but looks like Chileno and Frances are both platforms for tents. Any advice on whether there are sufficient hooks on the side, or some other clever way of setting up? Tahnks!

    -Chris

    • Mel August 10, 2017 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      I was getting the impression for Chileno in particular that the platforms were for rental tents only? But I could be wrong.

      • Dan Smart September 25, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

        My experience in Feb was half were rentals.

  80. Nate Jones August 16, 2017 at 1:46 am - Reply

    Alan,

    Awesome site! Thanks for all the info.

    My wife and I are doing the Circuit in late Oct-early Nov. We would like to rent tents in Cuernos and Chileno (since Camp Torres is apparently closed) but the Fantastico Sur website will only let us register for wooden palettes (at quite a rate, too). Is it possible just to pay rent tents and a site or is Refugio/plataforma the only option there? It looks like you all were able to at Cuernos…? And if we were going to balk at the Chileno plataformas, is there now nowhere to pitch a tent between Central and the Torres themselves? Central wouldn’t be horrible, but trying to get to the Torres for sunrise would probably mean heading out at 1 AM or something, right?

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

  81. Colleen August 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    My fiance and I have booked all of the sites we plan to camp at through Fantastico Sur and CONAF (for December), but Vertice Patagonia has not responded to our several emails. Do you know if there is any other way to contact them to get a reply? I know the comments say that they are usually responsive to emails, but this has not been our experience. My contact at the hotel there even gave me a special email address, but we haven’t heard back from them either.

    Any advice you can provide would be great.

    • Alan Dixon September 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm - Reply

      Colleen, Sorry for the late reply. Alison and are just back from 132 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains over this holiday weekend. Yes, things can be quite slow and frustrating when attempting to book campsites. Patience with email, and even calling will eventually yield results but in a South American timeframe (e.g. not timeframe that one would expect booking in the US). Wishing you all the best on final success. Warmest, -alan & alison

  82. Catherine Weaver September 4, 2017 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Impressed by all the info’ and feed back here.
    Reserved 13 nights camping in the park for November.
    Was here in 1999 when wild camping was ok and I used a heavy Macpac Microlite single pole tent…it survived but I always chose a sheltered spot.
    Would love to use my Cuben Solomid this time to save weight but common sense says use a free standing tent…I have the MSR Hubba……I know how those winds blow there…….no guarantee I would always have a sheltered pitch for the Solomid…..SO, Hubba at 1.1Kg or Solomid plus Inner at 700gms?????
    Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon September 7, 2017 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      Catherine, Sorry for the late reply. Alison and are just back from 132 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains over this holiday weekend. Alison and I took a Duomid XL without an inner nest and it did great. In fact, it stood up one night that crushed a couple of free standing tents. But please read this full guide near the end where Alison and I address the very issue of using an MLD ‘Mid on the TdP. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

  83. Louise September 5, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Firstly, I want to echo the previous comments on the high quality and extensiveness of the information you have provided – thanks!!

    Secondly, I was wondering if you or any readers can offer a suggestion for accommodation on the night before sunrise hike to the Torres. The campsites and refuges at El Chileno appear to be booked out online. My trip really hinges on this, so any advice is appreciated! I’m hoping to spend the night of 22nd Nov there.

    • Alan Dixon September 7, 2017 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Louise, Sorry for the late reply. Alison and are just back from 132 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains over this holiday weekend. This is a tough Q. As you note R. Chileno is the only game in town to be near the Torres. As such, it’s going to fully book quickly. So you have two options: 1) Some people have had success booking R. Chileno through a third party. E.g. some guiding Co. have booked rooms in advance and then may re-sell them. I don’t know which Co’s people have the contacted but you can scan the comments here and see who did this. Option 2) Camp at one of the place near Hotel Last Torres and just hump the long hike up to the Torres via headlamp. It’s about 10 Km uphill and the Park has it at 4.5 hrs hiking time See back of Park Map for times and distances. My guess is that with a light daypack and a brisk pace you might bring this into the range of 3 hours. People do something like this all the time to climb big peaks in the US. Just make sure that you have a super bright and long lasting headlamp for this one with fresh batteries. I am thinking of something like a Black Diamond Spot. See my 13 Essentials for more info on Headlamps. Oh, and option 3) is just to seem them in regular daylight. They are great that way too. But the earlier you get there, the less chance of them clouding in. Hoping this helps. And wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan

  84. Hayley Chappell September 7, 2017 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Alan, this post is incredibly useful. I’m hoping to travel to Patagonia and hike the W Trail at the beginning of 2019 and it’s been a struggle to find good information. What is particularly useful is your information about the hiking times and difficulty of the trail. I’m in my mid 40s and most travel blogs about hiking the W Trail seem to be written by kids in their 20s and their experiences aren’t much of an indication of hiking conditions for someone 20 years older. I’m reasonably fit, but I can’t keep up with my 22 year old niece and 19 year old nephew when we go hiking in Yorkshire or Wales. What training would you suggest for hiking the W trail? I have plenty of time to improve my fitness. And do you think hiking poles are a good idea? Many thanks.

    • Alan Dixon September 7, 2017 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Hailey, Sorry for the late reply. Alison and I did 132 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains over this holiday weekend. A few quick answers here. 1) as to a great training regimen look no further than my highy regarded (and highly ranked) Quick and Efficient Training for Backpacking and Hiking. It will get you in great shape for the TdP. 2) As to the can I do the trek in x amount of time? Q: scan through the comments on this guide. I’ve answered this Q more extensively many times–you’ll likely to find one of the detailed As’ for sure. But in summary, you’ll need to determine that for yourself on long day hikes carrying the amount of weight you intend to carry on the Trek. And you’ll need to know how efficient you are. I.e. how much time you spend walking vs. how much time stopped. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

  85. Ian Lipchak September 14, 2017 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Alan, your website is very helpful. Thanks for putting this resource together! I made bookings for our O circuit trek in December and it seems that at Camping Los Cuernos and Camping Chileno it is mandatory to book full board meals (there are no options on the Fantastico Sur website to book the platforms without full board and the booking site notes that they are mandatory and that cooking is not permitted at those areas). Is this something new? We plan to wake very early at Chileno, for instance, and hike to the Torres, so I’m not sure when we’d have an opportunity to have breakfast (on the way down?). Have you heard of this policy before?

    • Alan Dixon September 14, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Ian. I know that Camping Chileno only comes with board. And while I haven’t checked recently I would not be surprised if Los Cuernos is the same. Camping Frances still has the option of a tent platform only.

      As to Chileno: if you want to see the Torres at dawn you might need to forgo breakfast, even if you paid for it. On other treks around the world they will sometimes prepare you a very basic breakfast on a tray the night before. Usually coffee/tea in a thermos and some bread butter and jam. Don’t know if that is an option for Chileno. [Alison and I usually bring some Muesli with powdered milk to eat for breakfast, and can make our own coffee the night before if allowed. Otherwise there are always caffiene pills.] Hope this helps and wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

  86. Asher September 14, 2017 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Hey Alan,

    Thanks for such a great and informative post. You’ve made a complicated planning process much easier. If I’m on the back part of the trek and I get hit with bad weather or some other thing that costs me a night, it sounds like the rangers/campsites are good about communicating and being flexible. If they are booked up at the next campsite however, if you’re bringing your own tent and pad, would they still just try to find a place for you to set up your tent? I’m just wondering what else you could do. I hope they wouldn’t make you turn around the way you came because you’re now a night behind schedule and the sites are booked? i get that this is why you recommend having a back up plan, but what kind of back up plan could there be really except booking an extra night somewhere along the journey.

    Thanks

    • Alan Dixon September 14, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      From what I hear Asher, and from our experience (needing to reschedule because we were ahead of schedule) the rangers and refugios are fairly flexible so long as you have a credible original plan AND are camping out. Obviously needing a bed (or possilby a rental tent) and dinner makes things a bit more complicated if you end up off-schedule. Hope this helps and have a great trek. Warmest, -alan

  87. Ian Lipchak September 14, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    Some info about the booking process:
    – Fantástico Sur campsites and refugios can be reserved on the website, which will tell you availability and let you pay through PayPal. In my experience, the confirmation came immediately thereafter. I then had an enquiry to make and I emailed them and they responded within a couple business hours. Excellent experience, although the arrangement of the booking website is a tad confusing.
    – CONAF campsites can also be reserved on their website, which also tells you availability, with immediate confirmation as well.
    – Vértice is a bit different. The booking can be requested online (and the web page for this is far less confusing than the FS one), but this only requests the booking and then you must wait for a sales representative to get back to you to let you know if the requested accommodations are available and provide the confirmation and take payment. I phoned them today and they told me to allow them 7 business days to confirm a booking or respond to emails. They also added, “do not worry.”

    • Alan Dixon September 14, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the up-to-date info. Ian! Best, -a

  88. Mel September 15, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    Seemingly silly question… We have booked full board for a couple nights to avoid carrying as much food… My concern, If I am staying at say Chileno on December 30th, but I won’t get to Chileno until after lunch and will be gone from chileno before dinner on the 31st. How does full board work? Dinner the 30th, Breakfast and Lunch the 31st? This is what I’m hoping happens, otherwise, full board makes no sense from a trekking standpoint. laughs.

    • Dan Smart September 25, 2017 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Our experience in Feb. Dinner was about 8pm if I remember. We rented a tent to avoid setting up on a platform and to be able to hike out before dawn. They packed a bag breakfast for us that night. We got back from the Mirador around 10:30a missing most of the traffic. You must hump it to avoid traffic. I think you could pick up a bag lunch then. There were so many groups getting ready to hike up we skipped lunch. Dinner was awesome, though.

  89. Catherine Weaver September 17, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Thanks for reply Alan, re using the Cuben Solomid.
    Bearing in mind it only has a rear panel tie out…unlike the Duomid with the 2 extra side panel tie outs….might be a bit dodgy.
    Ok if I can get in to camp early and get a sheltered spot, I guess….but….

    I booked all my camp- sites as soon as Fantastico and Vertices got going.
    I didn’t take no for an answer and kept hassling them very politely…it worked.
    Both were good for instant E mail replies and one lass even sent me hugs at the end of the message….how sweet.
    Took photos of every booking and essential print outs or they won’t even allow you to enter the Park, so I read..

    • Dan Smart September 25, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

      Ranger stations will want to look at your printed reservations before letting your through. Handy at camps and refugios too, but they have computers.

  90. Nikolay September 18, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, thanks for such a great post! Official map does not show the closing times for Las Torres – Seron part, maybe you know who can advise it? I’m planning to start very early from Refugio Chileno, see mirador Las Torres and then go to Seron. It looks doable in 12-13 hours, but trail closing may be a problem I guess.

    • Alison Simon September 27, 2017 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Nikolay-
      Alison here, Alan is in the backcountry. I’m would guess that there isn’t a time restriction for that section since you are walking thru private land but I think starting super early sounds like a very good plan. I think 12-13 hours is a reasonable assumption for that section. Not sure if you booked dinner at Seron, but that may be difficult to make given your schedule. It sounds like a lovely trip. Enjoy! -Alison

      • Nikolay October 1, 2017 at 10:20 am - Reply

        Thanks for the info, Alison! 🙂

  91. John Breeden September 22, 2017 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan.

    Great website. Thanks for the tremendous amount of useful info. I am planning on doing the Circuit trek in 2019. I am also planning on visiting other areas, including Antarctica. Is there a place that one can store luggage while doing the trek?

    • alison simon September 29, 2017 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      Hi John- Alison here. Alan in the backcountry. I sent a note to Erratic Rock and they said they will happily store luggage as long as you want. My guess is some of the other hotels in Puerto Natales may assist you as well. But I’m going to guess that you may be launching from Punta Arenas for Antarctica so you may want to check in with hotels there. In general, we found the hotels very helpful with luggage storage. Have a great trip! – Alison

  92. Jeff Schwarz September 23, 2017 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan – Great website! Hope you will have some good advice for us. Family of 4 looking to do the O circuit – we have reservations at R. Frances, Seron (through Fantastico website/PayPal) and a e-mail confirmation of booking from Vertice for Perros and Grey (but have not heard from them since e-mail confirmation, so I am going to call to follow-up), but lacking Torres/Chileno, with Cheleno being booked and Torres not even showing as an option (based on 2017-18 closure, it seems). This is a problem. Any workarounds? Just keep an eye on the website for openings via cancellation? This is tough since we have flights to Santiago and out of Buenos Ares and completing in-country transportation depends on securing reservations for the O. . . . O dates would be 12//26 (Frances) to 12/30 (Grey). Your thoughts would be appreciated. Jeff – Denver, CO

    • Alison Simon September 27, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Hi Jeff-

      Alison here, Alan still in the backcountry. This is a tough Q. As you note R. Chileno is the only game in town to be near the Torres. As such, it’s going to fully book quickly. So you have two options: 1) Some people have had success booking R. Chileno through a third party. E.g. some guiding Co. have booked rooms in advance and then may re-sell them. I don’t know which Co’s people have contacted but you can scan the comments here and see who did this. Option 2) Camp at one of the place near Hotel Last Torres and just hump the long hike up to the Torres via headlamp. It’s about 10 Km uphill and the Park has it at 4.5 hrs hiking time See back of Park Map for times and distances. My guess is that with a light daypack and a brisk pace you might bring this into the range of 3 hours. People do something like this all the time to climb big peaks in the US. Just make sure that you have a super bright and long lasting headlamp for this one with fresh batteries. I am thinking of something like a Black Diamond Spot. See my 13 Essentials for more info on Headlamps. Oh, and option 3) is just to seem them in regular daylight. They are great that way too. But the earlier you get there, the less chance of them clouding in. Hoping this helps. And wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -Alison

  93. Ian Lipchak September 25, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Has anybody else been having difficulty with booking through Vértice? I made a booking request through the website form nearly two weeks ago and nobody has yet responded to confirm or finalise. I’ve also sent a few emails (periodically) since then with no response. I’ve not had any luck with the telephone, either. When I phoned the day after making the booking request, I did get someone who told me that they would respond to the request within 7 days. However, whenever I’ve tried phoning during business hours since, I either get a busy signal or no answer. This is frustrating as I want to make sure my booking is confirmed (and I still need to pay for it). By the way, Fantástico Sur responded to all of my enquiries within hours. Not sure why Vértice is taking so long.

    • Colleen Nickel September 26, 2017 at 2:47 am - Reply

      I have the same problem. I’ve been trying to book for over a month with several emails and no response. I can’t get through by phone either.

    • Alison Simon September 27, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Ian-
      Alison here. Alan is in the back country. Yes, Vertice is mucher more difficult to work with than Fantastico Sur. But stick with it and be persistent. Check thru the more recent comments in these threads and you’ll see some of the success stories that will inspire you. Best of luck! -Alison

    • Ian Lipchak September 27, 2017 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Good news! I phoned them yesterday morning, before their lunch break, and I got through to someone immediately. She apologized for the overall delay and noted that they have a high volume of emails to respond to. She looked up my booking request to confirm that they had it in their system and she told me she would have someone deal with it that day or the next. Sure enough, this morning I received the confirmation and the payment link and I was able to pay online with no issue. So, yes, I agree that persistence pays off! By the way, before I had gotten hold of them on the phone, I had messaged them on Facebook and they were also fairly quick to respond to that (again apologizing for the backlog of emails they are apparently dealing with). So, Colleen, there are a couple of options for you to try: a) phone them during their morning (and keep trying); b) message them on Facebook.

      • Colleen September 27, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply

        Thanks Ian. I actually messaged them on Facebook and they replied the next day. They also said there was high demand and they’d get back to me “within 7 business days”. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt until next week since I sent a reservation request in August and about 2 weeks ago. Then I’ll try to call during their morning if I don’t hear back.

        • Colleen September 28, 2017 at 3:52 pm - Reply

          As an update, I’ve called both numbers on the website 15 times this morning with no answer. Cheers to persistence. I’ll be making 15 more this afternoon!

    • bdgrover13 October 2, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

      That is how Vertice is. They are slow, they eventually respond but it took them quite some time. You will get an email with a link that you can then pay.

  94. Vanina October 16, 2017 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Hi and thank you for the PRICELESS guide. You have done an amazing job explaining the whole process. I am reaching out to you with my question because I don’t know who else to ask – I am planning the Q trek in January and I’m freaking out because I made my reservations early but I have been chasing vertice for a confirmation (they need to contact me so I can pay) for OVER TWO MONTHS. They haven’t replied to a single email of mine. Now everything is sold out and I really really rely on them confirming my reservation. Have you encountered similar issues? Any advise helps!

    • Alan Dixon October 17, 2017 at 1:59 am - Reply

      Hi Vanina. Sorry about your difficulties with V. You might make sure that you have emailed all possible addresses for V (companies usually have more than one). And your other option is to try calling them. [We did both when we were booking.] And yes, others have had to wait some time to finally sort things out with V. but I haven’t heard of it taking two months. You can scan though this comments section and find more about their experiences. Best of luck with finalizing your booking. Have a great trek. Warmest, -alan

    • Alan Dixon October 17, 2017 at 2:01 am - Reply

      You can also try them on Facebook. I see both email and message options. -a

  95. Dan October 16, 2017 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    Alan and Alison – Many thanks for this amazingly detailed and comprehensive information; we are incredibly grateful for the effort you’ve put into this site. It sounds like the usual lightweight gear that we use to backpack in Colorado will work just fine for us on this trip, and perhaps we can even leave a few items at home. For example, when we were in Argentina near Bariloche a couple of years ago, I found that the water was always very clear, so I never needed a filter, and used AquaMira for safety (even though everyone said the water was safe to drink). Based on your experience, it seems that the same is true in TdP. And since we will be on-trail the whole time, we can probably go a bit lighter on navigation and emergency gear (e.g. no satellite GPS). Very happy to hear that it is easy to find fuel canisters.

    • Alan Dixon October 17, 2017 at 2:06 am - Reply

      Hi Dam. We heard from everybody (including Guides) that the water was OK to drink in TdP. As such, we drank it without treatment and were fine. AquaMira would work too. As to the GPS, we took our iPhone with GAIA loaded (see more on this). While we used it rarely, but it was helpful a few times. (And no extra weight or bother since we were bringing it anyway.) But yes, the park trails are super well signed and you really are not supposed to be off trail anyway. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

  96. Nate Jones October 19, 2017 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Alan,

    According to a recent email from Fantastico Sur, the circuit will be closed until November 15 due to weather conditions. Now we have a week to do the W and… something else? We are active hikers and can do the W in the usual 3-4 days, so would you recommend staying in the park and doing a leisurely W/other nearby hikes or is 3-4 days a bit of a saturation point, in which case it may be worth trying to visit El Calafate? Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon October 19, 2017 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Nate,
      So sorry to hear that the backside of the circuit is closed. From their site Opening and closing dates of Refugios Fantástico Sur 2017 – 2018, I see “* Although the campsite will be working from Octobre 1, according to CONAF, the Paine Circuit will only be available from November,” which corroborates this.

      Yup, with it closed you’ll likely run out of things to do after the W. 1) you could alway go over to Terra de Feugo and see the King Penguin colony. A long day trip but the furthest north you see them and way faster and cheaper than a boat ride to South Georgia islands or Antarctica. Alison and I though it was worthwhile. You might even stay overnight in the small town of Porvenir.

      Or you could definitely go to El Chalten and do the Cerro Torre/Fitzroy thing. Lot’s of options there for multi-day backpacking treks and some really nice day hiking as well. And El Chalten is a fun town (or at least it was when we honeymooned there in in the mid aughts). Wishing you a great trek whatever you decide. Warmest, -alan

  97. Nate Jones October 19, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Alan. Very helpful!

  98. Polly November 5, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all of this awesome info! I’m starting to plan a trip for 2019 : ) What’s the location of the stunning picture at the top of this page?

    • Alan Dixon November 6, 2017 at 2:17 am - Reply

      Hi Polly, photo is of the Torres themselves. Torres is the Spanish word for tower. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

  99. Philip Papworth November 6, 2017 at 2:13 am - Reply

    HI Alan and Alison, just stumbled onto your website and I wanted to thank you for all the usefully info. Me and my girlfriend have been backpacking the continent and will end our trip with a way to short trip to Patagonia but we will end up having 2 nights in TdP. If it’s not to much of a hassle could you recommend us how we could make the most of our time, we are strong hikers and have all our camping gear all ready, I’ll have to reserve 2 diferentes camps but now that I found this info I would like to take into account your experience.

    Thanks a lot.

    Ps:Also in your last comment that you talked about a king penguin colony, could you share a bit more info about that! Our main goal of going to Patagonia is that my girlfriend can see penguins in their natural habitst6.

    • Alan Dixon November 6, 2017 at 3:42 am - Reply

      Philip, the quick answer is that if you are fit and fast you can hammer out the “W” in 3 days (2 nights). Your likely greatest challenge will be to book campsites. I would recommend R. Frances and and R. Chileno. But the latter may be difficult as the nearby free campamento (C. Torres) is closed for the season. If you read this post and the comments you learn all you need to know about the challenges of booking and how to do your best to deal with them. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan

      Oh and the King Penguin Colony info is Parque Pinguino Rey, Tierra del Fuego, Chile. You can book tours from Punta Arenas and (possibly from Puerto Natales?). We did a LONG one day trip that was by car to Ferry, then car to the Parque. The car to Ferry back to Punta Arenas. A long day but worth it!

      • Alan Dixon November 6, 2017 at 3:46 am - Reply

        Oh, and you will want a good pair of binoculars and a good zoom lens (tripod?) if you want to get good views and good photos. -a

  100. Chris November 14, 2017 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Is the cell service or wifi in the park or at the refugios? Heading down for the “O” circuit in a few weeks and wondering how long I’ll be without a connection. It could be a good thing to get away for a bit, but I also need to manage my Fantasy Football Team!

    • Alan Dixon November 16, 2017 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Chris, apologies for the delayed reply. My understanding (and research) was that there was no mobile phone coverage in the park. As such, I never tried. And especially as I didn’t get a Chilean SIM or purchase an international plan for my phone for the 3 weeks I was in Chile. This may have changed in the last few years, possibly around the hotel (and Grey?) but I am guessing that the vast majority of the park sill has no coverage. And I would be stunned if there was any coverage on the backside of the Circuit. Wishing you a wonderful trek. Warmest, -alan

      • Chris November 16, 2017 at 5:20 pm - Reply

        Thank you!

        Also – one other question – for the campsites that have tent platforms. Are they spacious?

        We are planning to bring a 4-person tent (Big Agnes HV UL4) that is 8′ x 7′ – do you think it will fit? We only booked for 2 people (but this is the tent I have and its not too much heavier).

  101. Chris November 16, 2017 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Thank you!

    Also – one other question – for the campsites that have tent platforms. Are they spacious?

    We are planning to bring a 4-person tent (Big Agnes HV UL4) that is 8′ x 7′ – do you think it will fit? We only booked for 2 people (but this is the tent I have and its not too much heavier).

  102. Jess November 16, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan!
    This is seriously the best up to date info. I’ve found. Thank you! My husband and I are in a pickle. We booked our flights months ago and have been trying to call and email to get answers about booking a campsite. We haven’t been in luck. We are one week out now and we have no bookings.:-( Do you think we should scrap it or head on up to Fitz Roy? I had my heart set on Torres Del Paine. We didn’t know it would be so difficult to plan.
    I’d be grateful for any advice.
    Thank you!
    Jess

    • Alan Dixon November 17, 2017 at 3:21 am - Reply

      Jess, you have a some options. 1) Bailing and going to Fitz Roy El Chalten is certainly one. The other would be to see what you can do on in person the ground in Puerto Natales about booking or maybe even get a semi-guided trip. And then if that doesn’t work out, a) do some day hiking and/or other trips in Chile. The Atacama Desert is amazing! Or you could then decide to got to El Chalten (or another location if that doesn’t work out). If you scan through the comments you’ll see some other things to do. Hope it works out for you. Warmest, -alan

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