OutsideGo-Awasi Patagonia-Antarctica 21

This is our blog about our recent trip to Awasi Patagonia, Chile and Western Peninsula of Antarctica through Antarctica 21.  The trip was arranged through OutsideGo who put the whole thing together for us. This is the third time we have used OutsideGo (previously Unchartered Outposts) to arrange a trip for us.  We keep using OutsideGo for many reasons, but the main reason is we have absolute confidence that our experience will be world class in terms of accommodations, food and things seen and experienced.  We generally find reviews “It was absolutely perfect or horrible” to be worthless, so we have developed a more thoughtful approach to review our experiences to include thoughts on the following categories as they apply to different aspects of the trip:

   1. Generation Considerations
   2. Pre-tour communications and arrangements
   3. What was seen or experienced
   4. Communications during the tour
   5. Accommodations
   6. Food
   7. Other stuff like clothing and camera gear

OutsideGo (5 stars)

As mentioned above, this is the third time we have used OutsideGo (previously Unchartered Outposts) to arrange our travels, primarily because they arrange a world class trip with fantastic accommodations, great food and present a great collection of experiences.  One of our trips was to South Africa and the other to Peru.  Equally important is the pre-tour and during tour experience that has always been excellent. 

 Pre-tour communication and arrangements: (5 stars)

Laura Gerwin at OutsideGo did a tremendous job offering different trip options and costs in the initial phases of the process. To help understand, the original menu included three locations: Patagonia, Acatama and Antarctica with two options each for a total of six choices in various combinations.  We chose Awasi Patagonia and the Ocean Nova with Antarctica 21.  Once the trip design was settled based mostly on duration of the trip and cost, the more detailed planning began.  Laura must have answered 100-200 emails concerning issues from camera gear, insurance, clothing and everything else.  She was prompt and clear in her answers.  She supplied several ways to view our itinerary that could be shared with family and friends.  She arranged travel insurance through Berkshire Hathaway and helped with our air travel though AirTrek.  All we had to do was pack.

What was seen and experienced: (5 stars)

As has been our experience with OutsideGo in the past, they really know how to arrange for an extraordinary trip.   We will go into more detail below for Awasi Patagonia and Antarctica 21 separately, as the experiences were vastly different.  Once you see the details, we believe you can understand the 5-star rating.

Airtrek (5 star)

At OutsideGo’s recommendation we used AirTrek to arrange for our flights to and from Chile.  They used American for our Chicago-Miami connections and Latam for our Miami-Punta Arenas flights.  AirTrek’s service was excellent in arranging our flights, getting us assigned seats nearly 10 months prior to our departure and affordable tickets.  They provided us with email updates as flight schedules changed. 

As travel goes, it is not uncommon for problems to arise.  Our first problem was our Miami to Santiago flight; delayed for ‘mechanical issues’ for 4 hours.  We were able to reach out to AirTrek during the delay to investigate alternatives very quickly, although our best bet was to hope the delayed flight would eventually fly (AirTrek’s recommendation).  It did leave 4 hours late, but as a result we missed our flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas.  We reached out to AirTrek, OutsideGO and the in-country representative of OutsideGo, but they were not really able to help as they could not see/change our tickets as our ticketswere under control of the airlines.  After a 2-hour high anxiety period, we finally got to the rebooking counter in Santiago where they told we were already booked on the 4:30 PM flight by ‘someone in Miami’.  Knowing this tidbit of information would have saved us a lot of stress.  We are not sure where the failure in communication occurred, but our educated guess is Latam.

On our return, our flight from Miami to Chicago was cancelled by American.  Complicating factors was our connection time was only 2 ½ hours for arriving internationally.  American rebooked our flight again with a short connection, but downgraded our seating; and I had pulled my hamstring (freak accident) in Antarctica that restricted my mobility considerably.  Trying to make adjustments to what was happening was complicated by the fact that our American Miami-Chicago segment was booked through Latam.   AirTrek is trying to get us a refund for the downgraded seats, but thus far Latam is giving them the run around.  And Laura from OutsideGo arranged for a wheel chair in Miami and Chicago that was a life-saver.


1. AirTrek did an excellent job arranging our flights with the possible exception of the short connection on our return through Miami customs.  We should have also noticed the short connection before finalization.  They did everything they could during the delayed and cancelled flights to assist us, but once the airlines assume control of your ticket, it is difficult to get travel arrangements adjusted by anyone but the airlines.

2. The concept of partnered airlines seems nice, but the sure fact there is not complete transparency between the partners creates opportunities to cause travelers problems.  In future travels, we will be looking for single carrier, no partner solutions whenever possible.

3. We enjoyed our flights on Latam.  The cabin was clean and well maintained (Miami to Santiago was better than Santiago to Miami, the food was quite good and the staff was pleasant.  We flew first/business class with laydown seats.  While expensive, you do not waste your first day or two recovering from your travels that is also an expensive waste of time.

Communications during the tour:

We were able to connect quickly with Laura at OutsideGo either by phone or Whatsapp as well as AirTrek at any time during the trip.  The only real need was related to airline issues or connections between the different aspects of the trip as everything else was very smooth.

 If one thinks about the trip, it can be divided into different segments or pieces with junctions between the segments.  Everything was quite clear in the arrangements with a couple of exceptions: Connecting to our ride from Punta Arenas Hotel Cabo de Hornos to Awasi Patagonia, and our ride from Awasi Patagonia back to the Hotel Cabo de Hornos, as planned, would have made us late to our boot fitting for Antarctica 21.  The Awasi group quickly made adjustments to get us back in time, once we told them when the boot fitting activity was scheduled.  Antarctica 21 had signs at the hotel about the schedule when we arrived to go the Awasi Patagonia.  I had taken a picture of those signs to help us remember the Antarctica 21 schedule.

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas served as an intermediate location on our way to Awasi Patagonia and Antarctica.  It is a small community of about 130,000 people on the Straits of Magellan.  We stayed the Hotel Cabo de Hornos, a hotel in the center of town on the city square.  This was an ideal location as there are many restaurants, coffee and gift shops and the Straits of Magellan in close proximity.  Be warned that it can be very windy and a wind advisory was on one of the days we were there.  It was difficult to even walk!

Punta Arenas-Staits of Magellan

City sign on the Straits of Magellan (5 minute walk from our hotel)

We had dinner at dinner at two places: Sotito’s and Damiana Elena.  We also enjoy breakfast at Wake Up and lunch at Tapiz Cafe.  Damiana Elena, Wake Up and Tapiz Cafe were all 5 star places: great food, service and atmosphere.

Awasi Patagonia (5 Stars)

I have created a separate subsection for our Awasi Patagonia experience.  Click here to go to the Awasi Patagonia subsection.  Click here if you only want to see our pictures from Awasi.

Torres del Paine

View of Torres Del Paine at Awasi Lodge on our arrival

Antarctica 21 (5 Stars)

I have created a separate subsection for our Antarctic 21 experience.  Click here to go to the Antarctica 21 subsection.  Click here if you only want to see our Antarctica pictures.

Iceberg in Gerlache Strait

Iceberg against mountain background in Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

Photography Gear

This was a trip of a lifetime and we wanted to make sure we captured as much of it as possible.

Photography Related Gear:

1. Two Sony a7RII
 Sony 16-35mm, Sony 24-105, and Sony 70-200mm all f4 lenses
3. Sony RX100M6
4. GoPro Hero 5 Black
5. 12 cards- Sandisk 64 GB 300MB/sec
6. Pelican 12 card case
7. Lots of batteries (cold weather really kills battery life) 5 NP-BX1 for Sony RX100M6 and 8 NP-FW50 or equivalent (RavPower RP-PB056 Savior Series) for the a7RII.
8. Battery chargers: GoPro charger (Mibote-GP-BCG-503), Sony RX100M6 (Newmowa CHG-NPBX1-NMW, Sony a7RII (RAVPower RP-PC056 Savior Series).  All of these chargers were micro USB based and would charge 2-3 batteries at a time.
9. A 6 and 10 stop neutral density filter, and a 72 to 77 step up ring from Breakthrough Photography.
10. Two SDXC USB 3.1 USB C card readers from Cable Matters (Model 201058)
11. USB C to B adapter from Aukey
12. iPhone shutter release from Camkix.com
13. Vello ShutterBoss II RC-S2II from www.vellogear.com
14. VisibleDust Zeeion blower for sensor cleaning from www.visibledust.com
15. Western Digital 2 TB My Passport SSD (USB C)
16. Various cables
17. A BUBM case to carry items 4-16 above from www.bubmcase.com
18. 15 inch 2018 MacBook Pro with 2 TB internal SSD drive
19. GoPro Triple Selfie stick
20. Water proof bags from REI
21. Ceptic Ultra Compact Dual USB Power Plug-for European Type C
22. MindShift UltraLight 36L Dual Backpack

Workflow: At the end of each day, the images from the day were transferred from the SDXC cards to the MacBook Pro internal drive.  They were index by a 10 digit number YYMMDDxxxx, where YY is the two digit year, MM is the two digit month and DD is the two digit day and xxxx is a sequential number from 1 to 9999, as they were imported into LR CC.  Following import, the MacBook Pro was backed up to the WD 2 TB My Passport SSD using Carbon Copy Cloner and if the SDXC cards were full or nearly so, they were locked and stored in the Pelican case.  With this approach I had three copies of each picture at the end of the day.

Metrics for cameras:

Approximately 6770 digital assets were taken during the trip.  794 (12%) were video and the remainder were still pictures.  Of the still pictures, 33% were taken with the Sony RX100M6, 75% were taken with the Sony a7RII and 2% taken with an iPhone X.  The full set of images were reviewed and rated using criteria, such as story telling, image quality and interest, without knowledge of camera source. 

Only 709 (~12%) remained after the rating process and were considered ‘good’.  67% of the good pictures came from the a7RII body, 31% came from the RX100M6 and 2% from the iPhone X; however, when examined relative to how many pictures were taken by each camera type, 15% of the RX100M6 pictures, 11% of the a7RII pictures and 12.4% of the iPhone survived.

Based on this type of analysis the RX100M6 did a great job at creating high quality images, although some of the a7RII discount was related to high frame shooting (looking for 1 in 10-30 shots) or HDR shooting.

For the a7RII bodies, I left the 16-35mm f4 lens on one body the whole time.  In Chile, the second body had the 24-105mm f4 lens and I elected to have the RX100M6 provide for the up to 200mm range. In Antarctica, I put the 70-200 lens f4 lens on the second body.  For the a7RII bodies, the ‘keeper’ pictures were equally distributed across the three lens.  

The large majority of the video clips came from the RX100M6 and GoPro cameras.   


Think layers.  The weather in Chile is warmer than Antarctica so we had to have clothing for a wide range of conditions.  Antarctica 21, through their website, encouraged the use of Musto products for that part of the trip, but we chose Columbia for our mid and outer gear mostly because of cost considerations.  We were extremely happy with our choices and would add the inner fleece glove was an excellent solution for taking pictures and the walking sticks were critical.

1.     For socks we had regular REI hiking socks for Chile and Smartwool socks for Antarctica.  These were perfect.
     Base layer: We used silk base layers (don’t remember the brand) both for the legs and upper body
     Mid layer: our regular clothes (pants and shirts)
     Mid layer 2: Columbia fleece
     Mid layer 3: A zip-in puffer liner interchange jacket with Omni heat
     Mid layer 4 option: Arc’Teryx Jacket with hood and built in balaclava
     Outer layer: Columbia waterproof ski pants
     Outer Layer: Interchange (Columbia Men’s and woman’s Bugaboo Waterproof Interchange Jacket with hood)
     Gloves: Columbia waterproof ski gloves with Omni heat liner with an inner fleece glove
  Hat: Columbia Titanium Omni Heat Hat
  Walking sticks from REI that disassembled into three pieces with snow baskets

Miscellaneous comments:

1. Mindshift UltraLight 36L backpack: When traveling, I carried my two a7RII and all three lenses in the bottom compartment, two of which were attached.  The top compartment carried all my medicines, the full BUBM case, small case with electrical outlet adaptors and USB charging cables, GoPro 3-way grip, glasses case and the Sony RX100M6.  When out and about, I would empty the top compartment and put extra layers of clothes and other items or just take the lower compartment with the camera gear.  This made the backpack very versatile.  However, the rotation concept of the backpack to get a camera was awkward at best and really did not work very well.  But the removable camera case in the bottom of the bag worked as a perfect solution.  I have noticed a new 180° rotational backpack from MindShift and that concept seems like it would work better.

2. Our gloves had an inner fleece glove with an outer water proof glove.  This was an ideal combination for taking pictures and staying warm, particularly on the Antarctica portion of the trip.

3. The BUBM case is a great little organizer of the many widgets.

4. The Breakthrough neutral density filters and step up ring are fantastic.

5. I had no widget failures (listed in camera gear) with the one exception when the camera card prematurely ‘ejected’ from the Cable Matters card reader once.  Continued use of the specific card reader resulted in no additional failures.  

6. Finally, if you really want a great adventure nearly anywhere in the world, contact OutsideGo.  We are in our 60-70’s, but this would have been great, no even better, if we had been in our 30's.  Stay at Awasi Patagonia if you want luxury while experiencing the splendor and adventure of Torres del Paine.  And last, Antarctica 21 is a world class way to experience the rugged Antarctica.


A© 2011-2018 by Steven Seelig, Chicago Photographer                          630-561-6581                                      e2photo@e2photo.net