Solo traveling in Patagonia

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 23-29, 1997
Hiking the trails in Kauai
Road tripping through Mexico
Exploring Alaska's Glacier Bay
Solo traveling in Patagonia
Justifying frequent, fun vacations

Solo traveling in Patagonia
Question: I am interested in visiting Patagonia and can't decide if I should just fly to Argentina or Chile or go on an organized tour. I have traveled on my own extensively and hooked up with tours along the way. Last year, I went on my first organized tour: a trek on the Inca Trail. I was pretty happy with that.

Any thoughts on which to choose? I have the Lonely Planet guide to trekking in Patagonia. I also have looked into a five-week NOLS mountaineering course (I've never pitched a tent in my life and figured that could teach me).

Ellen Brodbine
San Francisco, CA

Adventure Adviser: If you've never pitched a tent in your life, I'd seriously consider going to Patagonia with an outfitter. You may have loads of independent travel experience, but have you had loads of independent camping experiences?

Patagonia is as wild and fierce as any mountainous region in the United States or Canada, and I would not count on a Lonely Planet guide to tell you how to pitch a tent or start a campfire.

To decide whether you're up to the task of a solo event, you need to ask yourself some obvious questions. The first being, "Can I really do this by myself?" The second, "Do I have the gear, the knowledge, and the ability to travel to a wild, unknown, remote spot in a foreign country?" Often even the most experienced outdoorspeople sign up with a guide for a first-time experience in a foreign country.

That said, you also need to ask yourself if you'd mind going with a group. Sometimes group travel can be very fun and rewarding, but sometimes it can turn into one neverending nightmare.

If the thought of traveling with 10 complete strangers for an extended period of time turns your stomach, maybe your trusty Lonely Planet will come in handy. It probably lists some local outfitters and guides to hook up with only when you feel it is absolutely necessary.

A NOLS course would be a great way to learn to pitch a tent as well as to become a buff outdoorsperson, but if you don't have five weeks to burn, there are plenty of other outfitting companies that have shorter Patagonia itineraries.

A few companies you may want to consider are Outer Edge Expeditions (800-322-5235), Whitney & Smith Legendary Expeditions Inc. (403-678-3052), and Wilderness Travel (800-368-2794).

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