When deciding what to pack for Chile, your choice of clothing will depend on the specific climate and weather patterns in your destination.
The Pacific coastline extends over 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers) while the eastern interior is bounded by the Andes. Northern Chile is the location of the driest desert on Earth, the Atacama, while the southernmost tip of the country is a glacial wonderland.
This geographical diversity has a huge impact on the climate, weather, and – as a result – what to wear in Chile.
What’s the Weather Like in Chile?
As a general rule of thumb, Chile experiences hot summers (December-February), mild springs (September-November) and falls (March-May), and mild to moderate winters (June-August).
The weather does swing drastically on which part of the country you visit so you’ll want to do tailored research around your Chile travel itinerary.
Another aspect that affects what to pack for Chile: mornings, evenings, and nights in Chile are significantly cooler. This is more noticeable near the sea and further north or south.
- Central Chile – including Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, and the Central Valley wine region – is similar to the Mediterranean. Rain is quite rare in this part of the country and non-existent during summer when temperatures fly into the late 80s/early 90s (30°C upwards). Winters are mild but particularly harsh in Santiago and the coast is prone to thick fog overnight and in the morning.
- North Chile – including the Atacama Desert and the Elqui Valley – experiences an arid climate with hot summers. Summer sees highs of 65°F (18.5°C) and winter highs of 48°F (9°C). As a desert climate, nights are always significantly colder.
- South Chile – including Chiloé Island, the Lake District, Punta Arenas, and Patagonian Chile – is much cooler and more prone to rain. Expect highs of 60°F (15.5°C) in summer and 55°F (13°C) in winter. Temperatures can often drop below 30°F (0°C). Patagonia is not recommended for travel during winter and many hotels in this region close for the season.
The best time to visit Chile is during the spring, summer, and early fall months of September through April. Many of the national parks are closed from late fall until early/mid-spring.
What Type of Bag to Pack for Chile
Due to the geography of Chile, if you’re planning a wider trip you might end up having to fly a couple of times. If you can, it’s best to travel carry-on only to save on luggage fees and time.
It’s really up to you whether you prefer a spinner or a backpack, but just make sure your choice is approved for carry-on. The Travelers Club expandable spinner or the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L are worthy contenders. An obvious one but packing cubes will save your life when working out what to pack for Chile.
What to Wear in Chile for Women
In regards to what to wear in Chile for women, you can dress as you would usually do at home.
On the whole, Chilean women sport a daily look that’s casual yet thoughtfully put together and responds to the local weather and lifestyle. There’s no issue dressing up in smarter clothing if that’s more your vibe.
The dress sense in Santiago is quite polished overall while studenty Valparaíso is more alternative. Beachy areas lean boho-chic during summer while athleisure and alpaca knits set the tone when temperatures cool. There’s no problem with throwing on shorter dresses, shorts, and crop tops when the weather calls for it.
What to Pack for Chile: What to Wear in all Seasons
Choosing what to wear in Chile in summer, early fall, and late spring will revolve around lightweight clothing by day and cozy layers for the evening. Whereas, what to wear in Chile in winter will mean strategic layers and possibly a thermal base.
As the daily temperatures change so much, packing for Chile is challenging – especially if your itinerary is going to cover a mix of locations.
Although your specific Chile packing list will change to reflect your plans, there are a couple of staples you’ll want to take regardless. This packing guide is geared more toward what to wear in Chile in summer, supplemented with some winter tips.
When deciding what to wear in Chile in all seasons, jeans are a staple.
You can wear them for city sightseeing by day (outside of the height of summer when it’s too hot for jeans!) and for going out at night. Opt for your go-to brand or pick up a pair of versatile travel-friendly jeans that are comfortable but can be dressed up for the evening with your assortment of tops and accessories.
2. Casual Tops in Natural Materials
As the temperatures fluctuate a lot during the day, supplementing your Chile packing list with tops made from cotton, linen, and breathable blends is best. It’s typical to see women in Chile wearing crop tops and loose-fitting jeans or t-shirts and vests with shorts when the sun’s working its magic. Without overpacking, pick a mix of tanks, racerbacks, capped t-shirts, and long-sleeved tops to cover all bases.
In the winter months, you’ll likely need to layer up and take at least one big, cozy knitted jumper. But, most days it’ll be warm enough to ditch the sweater for a couple of hours while you’re out and about.
You’ll appreciate having one thermal base for winter anywhere in Chile or for shoulder season travel in the south.
3. Hiking Apparel
Presumably, hiking will feature on your Chile itinerary at some point. A simple pair of cotton leggings and standard exercise tops will cover you for seaside adventures or urban hiking up Santiago’s San Cristóbal Hill.
However, you’ll want proper hiking gear for the national parks. When choosing what to wear in Chile in summer for hiking, you might prefer to take shorts.
In terms of what to wear in Chile in winter for hiking, you’ll find that wilder outdoor areas and national parks are at least partially closed. Even La Campana in Central Chile closes in winter due to snow. Where hiking is permitted, you’ll need to dress properly with insulated layers, socks, and outer layers.
4. Hiking Boots
If you’re heading to national parks such as Torres del Paine, Huerquehue, and La Campana you’ll need a proper pair of hiking boots.
Over-the-ankle boots are best for what to pack for Chile if you’re planning on tackling vigorous hikes such as the multi-day W Trek. Choose ones that offer waterproofing as well as breathability to cover the ebbing and flowing of the temperatures.
5. Light Summer Jacket or Winter Coat
You’ll always need a jacket of some kind, even during summer in Chile. A denim jacket or bomber jacket that you can wear over another layer if necessary is a great shout for summer, fall, and spring evenings.
Over to what to wear in Chile in winter: you’ll need a proper coat between June and September. If you’re heading to the Lake District area, opt for a waterproof coat or pack an umbrella to cover you for the rain.
Uniqlo’s ultra down parka is a good starting point as you can wear it with a thermal base and under a larger coat. Plus, it packs down nice and small.
However, winter in Chile calls for a proper winter coat. If you live somewhere where you don’t need to have a coat this warm, check second-hand shops like Thred-up for a gently used parka at a cheaper price.
When thinking about what to wear in Chile in summer, swimwear should be at the top of the pile.
Unfortunately, the Humboldt Current means it is not possible to swim at many Chilean beaches although sunbathing and paddling are definitely on the agenda.
As swimwear dries fast in the Chilean sun, take 2-3 swimsuits at a maximum. Chilean beaches are exclusively sandy so you won’t need to pack aqua shoes or worry about pebbles or rocky beaches.
7. Comfortable Day to Night Sneakers (or Boots)
Comfy footwear is a must when picking what to wear in Chile.
Pack a pair of reliable sneakers that you can wear for sightseeing and out for dinner and drinks. A versatile pair of Vans or Converse pumps will work perfectly. If you’re traveling during winter, you could switch to a pair of ankle boots.
8. Fun Evening Apparel
When planning what to wear in Chile for women at night, it’s your call whether you go dressy or casual.
Unless you’re headed somewhere especially fancy, it’s fine to wear jeans and sneakers to restaurants and bars. On the other hand, if you fancy bringing a nice dress or equivalent for nights in Chile – there’s no reason not to.
Pick out loose-fitting rompers and floral frocks for summer and consider a jumper dress for your winter nights out in Chile. Chilean restaurants and bars aren’t always well-heated so having warm clothes will pay off.
9. Leggings or Tights
Because the temperatures in Chile shift after dark, it’s easy to get caught out at night in summer. It’s handy to have a pair of leggings or tights in your daypack that you can slip on under skirts, dresses, and shorts once things get chilly.
This isn’t necessary in Santiago during summer when the temperatures never seem to ease off.
Shopping for Chile Traditional Clothing
While traveling in Chile, you might want to pick up a couple of traditionally Chilean garments.
If you visit Chile in September around Independence Day (18th) you’ll notice people wearing Chile traditional clothing while attending fiestas patrias. Men will don chupalla straw hats worn while horseback riding. Meanwhile, women wear vestido de huasa – beautiful dresses with nipped-in waists and full skirts for cueca dancing.
As an aside, September is one of the best times to visit Chile for great weather, a spirited atmosphere, and gorging on traditional Chilean food.
Ponchos are sold throughout Chile at markets and in clothing stores.
These are fashioned from thick wool and lighter materials for summer, with a huge variety of styles and colors. Although they’re not typically worn in day-to-day life, you’ll still see a few people wearing ponchos and they’re a good alternative to an evening coat during shoulder season.
11. Alpaca Jumpers
One of the best types of traditional Chilean clothing to get on board with if you travel during winter! Alpaca jumpers are handmade using the supersoft and lightweight wool of alpacas.
They’re sold as jumpers, hoodies, and cardigans in all sizes for men, women, and children. They often feature alpaca designs or geometric patterns: some are made with vivid colors while others are more earthy.
Also crafted in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, you can see a preview of these sweaters on Etsy. However, it’s more fun to shop for them at artisanal markets. There’s really no better choice for what to wear in Chile in winter. Plus, you’ll also find a good use for them in summer in the extreme north and south of the country.
What to Pack for Chile
Supplement your Chile packing list with these travel necessities.
12. Small Purse or Belt Bag
A crossbody purse or belt bag is essential when deciding what to pack for Chile. Although Chile is a safe travel destination, pickpocketing and petty theft are a concern in cities.
When in transit, you’ll want to keep your valuables out of sight in a belt bag that goes under your clothes. This also applies while sightseeing in cities such as Santiago, Valparaíso, and Arica. At night, you can wear clothes with pockets or keep your essentials in a cell phone cross-body purse.
If you plan on hitting the beach in Chile or getting around by bus, you’ll need entertainment. An e-reader is your new best friend while traveling in Chile.
A Kindle Paperwhite is best as this protects you from sun glare while reading al fresco. If you’re new to the world of e-reading, remember to sign up for Kindle Daily Deal emails. New releases and bestsellers sell for as little as $1.99 (£0.99 in the UK).
On the other hand, you can buy a Kindle Unlimited subscription and read tons of different books for free.
As sunscreen may be more expensive in Chile, it’s wise to bring a bottle if you have space in your bag. The Chilean sun is ludicrously hot in summer and you can find yourself burnt to a crisp in minutes. For that reason – Factor 50 is what to pack for Chile.
A hat is essential for your summer in Chile packing list. For a hiking and outdoors-heavy vacation, prioritize a baseball cap. On the other hand, you might prefer to peep out from beneath on a floppy sun hat when sipping a post-beach Pisco Sour.
16. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Solid shampoo and conditioner bars are far more practical when traveling in Chile. If you have a large itinerary in mind then you’ll likely end up traveling on domestic planes and these take up less space in your bag.
Furthermore, they help reduce your plastic waste and cover you in case you stay at any accommodation where bathing products aren’t provided. These plant-based bars each give you 50-75 washes.
17. Spanish Phrasebook
English is not widely spoken in Chile so it’s useful to come prepared. Brush up on the basics with the aid of a Spanish phrasebook and note the differences in Chilean Spanish. If your Chile packing list is fit to bursting, you can always download a free language app such as Duolingo before you travel.