Many times I´ve been asked… I am going to Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, what do you recommend, staying at the Refugios or camping? And well. I never have one answer for this. Both have positive and negative sides.
Going from Refugio to Refugio has many benefits and these are:
1. You don´t have feel like a loaded donkey
Staying at the Refugios allows you to not carry your tent on your back, and it´s not only your tent that you need to carry for camping, you also have to take a sleeping bag and a mat. That implies you have to take at least a 60 liter backpack. If you stay in The Refugios, you can carry only a day backpack with your personal stuff and some layers of clothes you need for walking in Torres del Paine.
2. You can take more advantage of your time.
When you finish a walk, generally you are very tired and you are dreaming of taking off your trekking boats, lying or seating down to read a book or simply to enjoy the view of the amazing Torres del Paine landscape which is just in front of you. But if you are camping, you have to set up your tent, and if you aren´t the fastest in this skill, it will take you at least 20 or 30 minutes to set it up. Not counting if this is your first time camping, in which case you will have to read the manual and learn how to do it. If you are staying at the Refugios, once you arrive you have to forget about doing any thing and just enjoy your time off.
3. You don´t have to wake up very early
If you want to start your walk early, and you are camping, you have to consider dismantling your tent before leaving and, what if it rained during the night? which is not something unlikely to happen here in Torres del Paine. Dismantling a wet tent it´s not a joke.
If you are staying at a Refugio, you just have to pack your stuff and start walking to your next destiny.
4. You don´t need to get wet for preparing your home
If it is raining and you have to set up your tent, you have to do it as fast as you can. If you are staying at the Refugios, you just have to get inside, get to a warm place, hang your wet clothes near the heaters, and enjoy the warmth.
But not all is so bad with camping. There are also some benefits like these:
1. You don´t have to hear a snoring roommate.
The Refugios have share rooms and you never know who will be sleeping next to you. It could be a snoring person who doesn´t allow you to sleep all night. If you are on your own tent, you don´t need luck to assign you a roommate.
2. Wilderness can be romantic
Sleeping in a tent has it´s romantic side, since you are more connected to nature in such a special place as Torres del Paine. In the morning you wake up with the sounds of the wind, birds and maybe a river flowing far away. All of that can´t be heard in a crowded Refugio.
3. Taking your home with you is a fun experience
Not many times can you feel you are walking with your home with you; All that you need to survive in the wilderness of Torres del Paine. if you haven´t done it Torres del Paine is one of the best places to do it.
4. If you have a low Budget
Staying at the Refugios is always much more expensive than staying in a tent, especially in a remote place such as Torres del Paine, which in general has very expensive accommodation.
If you still don´t know what to do, because you like the benefits of both alternatives, there is a third one, which joins the good things off both the others:
You can hire a tent, sleeping bag and mat at the Refugios, and if you book in advance, the tent can be set up before you arrive at each places and you don´t need to dissemble it.
So what are you waiting for? Torres del Paine is waiting for you, and if you do the W circuit you will not regret it. It is a lifetime experience!!!!!