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Seeking Refuge: Lodging in Torres del Paine, Chile

Sometimes backpacking means carrying a tent, digging a pit toilet, and struggling through days of dehydrated food-like substances. In Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, the refugio system bringds a bit of class to the camping routine. While you’ll welcome the local wines, warm stoves, and beds, sharing a mountain shelter with others can have its own challenges.

A few tips to make your stay hassle-free:

1) That old golden rule.
Sharing a roof and a restroom with your fellow travllers means a bit of compromise. Accommodations are bunk-style shared rooms and communal bathrooms. A 20-minute hot shower sounds nice, but resources are finite and nobody wants to go without. Conserve energy, respect others’ space and belongings, and prepare yourself for the occasional cultural differences that make traveling fun.

2) Plan ahead.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to sleep; know what you can–and can’t–snooze through. Light sleepers should consider earplugs a packing list necessity when sharing a room with other hikers. Snoring happens and chucking a hiking boot at the offender is generally considered inappropriate in most countries.

Bringing a small arsenal of cameras and personal electronics? Don’t forget your adapter!

3) Wine tastes better at the end of a hike.
One of the best parts of trekking in Chile is the availability of excellent wine or a cold beer with each night’s dinner. While many refugios accept payment by credit card, these systems rely on power and connectivity that often fail. Be sure to bring a bit of extra cash ($20-30 per day) for extra drinks, snacks, etc. available at nearly all refugios. Salud!

4) Enjoy the view.
Refugios, while usually well-managed and surprisingly comfortable, are still mountain shelters where everything must be carried in and space is a shared resource. This means that dinner-time substitutions and special requests can be hard to accommodate last minute. It also means that you’ll encounter the occasional hiker doing laundry in the bathroom sink or airing out their less-than-fresh socks in the community dining area. Frustrating? Yes, but you’re in beautiful Patagonia! Take a deep breath and focus on the reason you’ve come to Chile: beautiful mountains and our lovely guiding team.