Patagonia

5 Ways to Train for a Backpacking Trip

So you want to go on a backpacking trip? Or you’re thinking about it. Or your friend/significant other is forcing you and you don’t know where to start. Well, it’s quite fun and rewarding if you keep a positive attitude and give it a shot!

I’m not an expert, but I have done it a couple times and I’ll keep it real. Here are five ways to make sure you’re prepared and comfortable on your trip:
Gear
I promise, this is the most important part. Ensure you have comfortable and well-fitted backpack, hiking shoes and hiking socks.

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For the backpack, go to a store like REI where a professional can measure you for size and help you try them on. I found it so valuable that the store associate showed me how to adjust the backpack to fit me perfectly – I would have had no idea what I was doing! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t settle because you’ll regret it. They can also help you determine how many liters your pack needs to hold based on the length of your trip. I’m really happy with my 55 liter Opsrey pack as it works for both shorter and longer trips.

For shoes, again, you need to try them on before committing. If you order online, make sure you can return them if they don’t fit. For backpacking, you’ll want a sturdy and waterproof boot with ankle support. I took the Lowa Renegades on my last backpacking trip and loved them! They are on the firmer and heavier side but very durable and supportive. I hiked seven days in Patagonia in crappy hiking shoes (not the Lowas I mentioned) and I paid for it with wet socks and blisters. So I was all about the sturdier more durable boot!

Believe it or not, socks are important, too. Go for merino wool and make sure they are long enough for your boots. Yup, even in the summer. It provides some cushion and wicks sweat to keep your feet dry and blister free. I only wear Darn Tough – great quality with a lifetime guarantee.

$$$ Tip: Gear can get expensive. Once you know what you like, keep an eye on outlet sites like REI Garage, Backcountry and Campsaver. They also do 20% coupons a few times a year.

Crossing one of the many bridges of our Patagonia trek!

Crossing one of the many bridges of our Patagonia trek!

Break it in
Ok, you got the gear. Now it’s time to break it in. This will ensure your socks, shoes and pack have molded to your shape a bit and will be at their most comfortable.

I do this by wearing my boots, socks and pack whenever and wherever I can: walking the dog (yes, you’ll get funny looks), around the house (less funny looks) and on local trails (zero to few funny looks).

Most boots are now made ready to wear out of the box. However, I truly think it prepares you and makes for more comfortable gear.

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We decided to explore further in the valley and the landscape changed from boulders to moss and streams

Real-life practice
Now, what you came for: the actual training. It’s pretty straight forward. Pack your pack like you would for your trip or load it up with generally heavy things, and get walking!

I like to get an idea of how many miles I’ll be hiking per day on my trip with how much weight. Then match that wherever you can close to home: parks, local trails, at the gym – stair stepper or treadmill. Stair stepper and treadmill give you an advantage because you can adjust for some uphill practice.

You may have to work up to your goal mileage, and that’s totally OK. That’s the benefit of training near home. Then, when you’re on your hike you’ll feel much more comfortable and confident.

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Hiking back to the refugio with a view of Lago Nordenskjöld

General cardio and strength training
Backpacking is a workout and much easier when you’re physically fit. Even if you don’t have a trip coming up, you’ll always be ready for one if you keep up with a consistent work out routine. I personally work out by lifting weights 4-5x a week (shoulders, back and biceps, chest and triceps and legs). I’m not a fan of cardio but get it in by hiking and walking the dog. Keep cardio interesting by mixing high intensity shorter workouts with longer low intesity walks to your goal mileage.

Mind over matter
Honestly, it’s a mental game too. If you keep a positive attitude and focus on enjoying the experience you’ll have a better time. Don’t get frustrated with how tired you feel or how hot it is, you’ll only make yourself more miserable. I know this is easier said than done when you’re feeling exhausted and hungry and sore. I have a hard time with this, so my trick is to stop to take a break and enjoy the scenery and remember why I’m doing this.

Hiking in Havasu Canyon

It’s not always about the destination. The 10 mile journey through the Grand Canyon was also magnificent.

What tips do you have for a first time backpacker? Would you want more detailed posts on my exact workouts? Let me know in the comments below!

Read about my recent backpacking trips:

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What to Pack: Patagonia W Circuit (Seven Days of Backpacking)

I completed the amazing W Circuit of Torres Del Paine in the Patagonia region of Chile recently and was very happy with what and how much I packed. Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure my pack was the lightest of the group of 12 I traveled with (18 lbs before food, water and camera). So, I wanted to share my complete packing list and brief product reviews with you!

Packing list for backpacking Patagonia

What: The W Circuit of Torres Del Paine
When: Late December – Early January (Summer)
How Long: Seven Days
Pack Weight: ~16-18 lbs
Other: We stayed in refugios (basically hostels) along the way, so you will not see any shelter or cooking supplies on this list
Budget: Most of the items I didn’t already have, so I purchased new for this trip. I had a year to collect this gear and never bought anything for full price. Yet, I only purchased quality, durable gear – think of it as an investment in your trekking future. Look for annual 20% off coupons or clearance sales at Backcountry and REI!

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The Basics

  • 40-50 liter backpack: I have an Osprey Ariel 55 liter pack that I found on clearance from REI. When choosing a pack, nothing beats trying on different brands loaded with 20-30 lbs and walking around the store. The staff at REI is really helpful in helping you find the right size and style. Osprey was easily the most comfortable pack for me, and I love that this one has a removable top compartment that transforms to a day pack. 55 liters was bigger than I needed for this trip, but the outer compression straps help with that!
  • Rain cover or trash bags: Yes, you’re going to get rain in Patagonia. If your pack doesn’t have a rain cover built in, try the REI duck back or line your pack with trash bags. I did both.
  • Trekking Poles
  • Mid-weight hiking boots: Make sure they are waterproof and comfortable. Again, go to the store and see what feels best for you.
  • Three pairs of wool socks: Darn Tough is all I wear!
  • Sleeping Bag: This was nice to have since not all the beds at the refugios had sheets. I like my Mountain Hardware Women’s Heratio 32F bag because it’s warm, lightweight and has two zippers so I can vent my feet if I need to!
  • Water bottle: I brought my 32 oz Hydroflask. You can fill up straight from the streams which is pretty amazing – so make sure your bottle has a wide mouth.
  • OPTIONAL – sleeping bag liner: I use one so I can keep my sleeping bag somewhat clean from sweat and dirt.
  • OPTIONAL – compression/dry sacks: I loved having these! I kept my sleeping bag in one to make it a bit smaller in my pack and to keep it dry. I used another to compress the clothes I wasn’t wearing that day (be sure they’re dry first). This saved me a lot of space and time packing!
  • OPTIONAL – small day pack: There were a few days of day hiking where I ditched my larger bag, so this nice to have! Some packs (like mine) have these built in. If not, there are plenty of options for pack-able day packs. Or, you can simply remove gear from you main pack and store in a trash bag.
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Filling our water bottles with fresh water and a view of the French Valley


Base Layer Clothing

  • 100% Merino wool shirts: I rotated between one long sleeve and two short sleeve shirts. Some people may prefer synthetic materials, but I like wool in both summer and winter because it helps wick sweat away from your body and doesn’t get smelly ever after wearing for several days. Again, looks for sales! I like Icebreaker and Ibex (which is sadly out of business now).
  • Hiking pants: You really only need one pair! I love these Dynama Pants from Mountain Hardware – light, comfortable and water resistant.
  • One pair of wool or synthetic long underwear: I have a synthetic pair that I brought but didn’t wear/need.
  • One sports bra: I tried this wool bra since I was going all in with the wool tops. Go for your preference as long as it’s comfortable.
  • Three pairs of underwear: Yeah, you don’t need a new pair for every day. I bought a few pairs of ExOffico underwear (they put certain colors on sale!) and would wash them in the shower every night. They are comfortable and dry so fast!
  • One pair of shorts: I don’t like hiking in shorts, but I brought a pair for hanging out in the refugios and to sleep in.
  • Flip flops: for hanging out in the refugios and as shower shoes. It feels so good after 8-10 hours with your hiking boots on!

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Jackets/Layers

  • Gortex rain jacket (hard shell): A must on any packing list. I love the Beta LT from Arc’teryx. It’s super lightweight and didn’t feel too hot/stuffy to wear while moving.
  • Soft shell jacket: A soft shell is a versatile layer that is breathable but wind and water resistant. Mine has a fleece lining, so if we were hiking, I was warm! Either I didn’t wear a jacket or I was wearing my hardshell to protect myself from rain/wind. While I didn’t wear this particular layer, but you may wish you had one just in case!
  • Down jacket: It can get chilly if you’re not moving, so this is nice to have for rest and lunch stops. Down doesn’t like water, so layer with your hardshell if it’s wet out! I love the Cerium Superlight Jacket from Arc’teryx. It is only 5.8 ounces but keeps me warm and packs down really small!
  • Fleece pullover: This was probably my bulkiest item! I kept this clean and wore it during evenings in the refugios. A clean T-shirt would have done, but oh well!
  • Rain pants: You’ll need these for hiking in the rain or even walking through the forest-y areas where the bushes and trees have dew on them. Look for pants with snaps or a zipper so you can get them on and off with your shoes on. I’m extremely happy with the Women’s Stretch Ozonic pant from Mountain Hardware. They are lighter and more comfortable than any other rain pant I’ve seen. You will get wet if you sit in a puddle, but for Patagonia they were perfect.
  • Fleece gloves: Nothing fancy here!
  • Warm hat: I wore mine every day!
  • Baseball cap: Nice to have, but I didn’t wear mine because I thought it would blow away!

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Other

  • Passport and immigration paper: Every refugio asks for these when you check in. The immigration paper is the receipt like document you get from immigration upon your arrival at the airport. Keep this safe!
  • Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-30,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-veCash/Credit card: Necessary for the post-hike beer at the refugio! I brought pesos with me, but I was surprised to see that all refugios accepted credit card.
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Sunscreen: My skin got dry, so bring face moisturizer that doubles as SPF (30+).
  • Lip balm
  • Quick-dry/light towel: The Packtowl in X-Large is my GO-TO travel item!
  • Power adapter: If traveling from the US, you’ll need a Type L for Chile.
  • Portable charger: More of a luxury item, but I used this to keep my phone charged (for pictures!).
  • Camera: You’re about to see some fantastic views! It’s worth it to lug up your camera (and possibly tripod). Make sure your battery is charged or bring an extra so you can save weight by ditching the charger.
  • Headlamp with extra batteries: Never used it, but a good thing to have on any trip.
  • Ear plugs: You don’t want to listen to your refugio roommates’ snore, do you?
  • Toiletries: Keep it light! I brought a travel container of Dr. Bonner’s soap to use for body, hair and clothes and it was more than enough.
  • Small first aid kit
  • Snacks! The lunches from the refugios were filling, but it was nice to bring our own chocolate and candy for the trail. Get these in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales.

Finals notes: I was really happy with this list and my pack weight! I had all the right layers I needed. I probably could have gone without the long underwear, fleece and softshell, but I have no regrets!

Daises and Torres del Paine at dusk in Patagonia, Chile

Daises and Torres del Paine at dusk in Patagonia, Chile

Have any questions about gear or this list? Is there an essential I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Click here to read details about the Torres Del Paine Patagonia trek!

Click here for a list of things you need to know before planning your trip!

Hiking The W in Torres Del Paine (Patagonia/Chile)

Over New Year’s, I trekked through Patagonia over seven days with my boyfriend and his family, and it was a dream-I-never-knew-I-had-come-true. I didn’t know much about Patagonia (honestly, I thought it was just the clothing brand) before I went on this trip, so every new sight was a breathtaking surprise. If you want that experience, stop reading. ūüôā Or, if you’re curious, here’s my take on the trek.

The W circuit is a trek through Torres del Paine National Park on the Chilean side of Patagonia. It actually traces a “W” on the map and is a popular trek for backpackers around the world. Now I know why.

CLICK HERE FOR MY FULL TORRES DEL PAINE PACKING LIST!

Day 1 (~13.3 miles): Puerto Natales > Refugio Chileno  > Mirador Torres del Paine

The very beginning of our seven day trek through Torres Del Paine Patagonia

We departed Puerto Natales, Chile and made it to the park after about a 5 hour van ride. From the parking lot, we put on our backpacks and kicked off our trek. We had gorgeous weather (look at that crazy cloud below!) hiking up (yes, up) to Refugio Chileno where we dropped off our stuff and continued on to the Mirador Torres del Paine with our day packs. As we were approaching the viewpoint, the weather changed and we got some snow and rain. Once we got to the towers all we could see was a big white cloud. Womp womp. It was chilly, so we turned around and headed back to the refugio for a hot meal and some much needed sleep in our tents!

The towers are THE iconic photograph I’ve seen of Patagonia, so I was disappointed at the time I couldn’t see them in person. Come to find out, we had such gorgeous views in the coming days, that looking back, it didn’t matter. It’s all part of the experience.

Day 2 – New Year’s Eve! – (~14.2 miles): Refugio¬†Chileno > Japones Camp > Refugio Torre Central

This was another rainy and cold hike through the Silence Valley up to Japones Camp (a shelter covered in tarps) where we ate lunch. Though the weather wasn’t perfect, this was a fun hike through forest, along a stream and scrambling over boulders. We also spotted a male and female¬†South Andean deer.

At the next Refugio we had a special holiday dinner and dessert buffet (it was delicious!) and lots of pisco sour to ring in the New Year. As our group waited to count down to 2018, the clouds started to blow away and we got a gorgeous glimpse of the towers from afar at dusk. This is my favorite picture of the entire trip and it was captured on my Google Pixel 2 XL smart phone!

Daises and Torres del Paine at dusk in Patagonia, Chile

Day 3 (~9.6 miles): Refugio Torre Central > Refugio Los Cuernos

After maybe one (or three) too many pisco sours, we were fortunate our shortest day fell on the first of 2018. The main goal was to get from one refugio to the next: Refugio Los Cuernos, at the base of one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.

This hike still had plenty of eye candy. This day was when the bright blue Lago Nordenskjöld and Los Cuernos mountains first came into view Рtwo of my favorite sites of the entire trip. We enjoyed a nice long lunch gazing at the lake!

When we arrived to the refugio, it was time for a beer (we loved the local Austral Calafate beer!) some hot food and plenty of rest as the two biggest days lay ahead of us!

Day 4 (~14.1 miles): Valle Bader

This hike was absolutely my favorite day of the trip and a reminder of the sweet rewards of exploring such beautiful and natural places. Did I mention we had perfect weather, too? We were staying at the same refugio this night so we packed our day packs and headed towards Valle Badar. Of course, we stopped for these picture perfect views of Los Cuernos and Lago Nordenskjöld again!

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You need a special permit to get into Valle Bader (Forgotten Valley) so our group didn’t see another single hiker there. We scrambled over boulders and mossy streams into what looked like another planet. While drinking water straight from the stream and enjoying our lunch, a condor swooped down to check us out.

Day 5 (~19.5 miles): Refugio Los Cuernos > Valle Frances > Refugio Paine Grande

First, I want you to know that it’s true that you’ll get four seasons in a day in Patagonia. Here was the very beginning of our hike – cold and rainy at the shore of Lago¬†Nordenskj√∂ld, then we were in T-shirts shortly after on the way to the French Valley.

At almost 20 miles, this was definitely a long and tiring day. We packed up our gear and headed to Camp Italiano where we were able to leave our big bags and switch to day packs. Then, it was a long but worthwhile hike into the French Valley. We had gorgeous views of mountains, glaciers and even saw a few avalanches in action. Definitely a few firsts for me!

Then, we picked up our bags and still had a long way to go to our next refugio, Paine Grande. It was towards the end of the day so we had the most beautiful light upon Paine Grande and Los Cuernos mountains. And on the other side, the mountain range looked purple. Though I was exhausted, it was a magical experience! Now, it’s dinner time!

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Day 6 (~10.6 miles): Refugio Paine Grande > Refugio Grey > Glaciar Grey Viewpoint

Nearing the end of our adventure, this was the most laid back day. Or maybe I was just worn out from the past two days! We ventured on from Refugio Paine Grande to Refugio Grey where we spotted our first views of Glaciar Grey.

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When we made to the refugio, we got settled and checked out a few view points nearby.

Day 7 (~14.4 miles): Bridges and Glaciar Grey 

We spent the morning taking a trail with two long bridges, one that was one kilometer long, and fabulous views of the glacier. And if it couldn’t be more perfect, there was a rainbow, too! This was a quick hike and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re at Refugio Grey!

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And if that wasn’t enough, we went on a hike on Glaciar Grey, too! We booked through a company called Big Foot Patagonia. We met at the office, signed some waivers and picked up our gear. Then it was a short boat ride to our destination where we started hiking over some interesting rock formations. Once we got to the ice, we put on our crampons, got a demo and then explored the glacier!

I wasn’t originally excited about this, but once we finished, I was SO happy I decided to go on the ice hike. It was an up close and personal experience with the glacier. Our guide showed us some awesome caverns and holes within the ice. Looking down was definitely enough to get your heart racing.

Day seven was our last day of adventure. The next day we hung around and waited for the boat to take us back to town.

This was a life changing experience that I am so glad I had. I would not change a single minute of it! Have you been to Torres del Paine before? Or are you thinking about it? Let me know in the comments!

More blog posts on Torres del Paine, Patagonia: