Big money, small backpacks

18 February 2008
1:16 AM


When I was backpacking in Torres del Paine last year I noticed that hikers were divided into a few tiered groups. Some people stayed at the high-end hotels at the edges of the park, others stayed in $40-a-night refuges along the trail. Others still paid to use campsites, while people like me camped at free sites. I made another observation that I mentioned in my coverage of the park:

… there appeared to be an inverse relationship on the trail between wealth and backpack size. Big rollers in the park traveled with tiny packs and rented what they needed at waypoints, everything from tents to stoves. Unsurprisingly, our packs were large.

I believe I have found another supporting data point for my inverse relationship hypothesis. The other day I was flipping idly through an REI Adventures catalogue filled with exotic travel packages when I found a trip to Torres del Paine. The sales pitch fits the high-roller profile:

Go light, carrying only daypacks. Cost: $3,299 for REI members.

So you have me, traveling Torres del Paine with a third of my body weight on my back (about 48 pounds) for about $300 including airfare, and other people carrying “only daypacks” for $3,650. Sounds about right.


But I wonder, if you were going from the U.S. what’s the cheapest you could do it for? I have to imagine already being in Chile represents a significant savings over flying in from abroad.

Lance—You raise a good point. Airfare to Santiago from most major U.S. cities costs between $800 to $1400 roundtrip, plus there is a $100 entrance tax to visit Chile. I double-checked the REI package to confirm the details; neither the package nor my total cost include airfare, so the comparison is fair.

That’s how much the people with small backpacks paid in Torres Del Paine!!!

I saw some guys sleeping under a plastic tarp, eating nothing but babyfood and tuna..probably could do it like that for US 200…but if you had 500 you could carry less food (buy things like cheese or other perishibles, not to mention beer or wine as you go)

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