Patagonia | Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling

Discover Patagonia! Experience breathtaking views – you’ll remember forever the 360-degree vistas and a remote high-altitude land as you backpack and paddle.

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


At The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we know adventure. Immerse yourself in outdoor adventure, while learning technical outdoor skills in Chile’s remote Patagonia backcountry!

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14 days

Course Information

Adventure First

During this 14-day Patagonia backpacking & whitewater paddling course, you’ll find yourself exploring Chile's remote wilderness.

The snow-capped volcanoes of Patagonia and powerful heights of the Andes serve as our classroom. Within this landscape, you’ll develop solid outdoor skills within the framework of the NCOAE wilderness curriculum.

Patagonia is a land of extremes. Working with our local contacts, we’ll explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world. The NCOAE Patagonia Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course is exceptional with its unique combination of adventure and skill development, including: trekking and whitewater paddling.   You could be in a raft, you could be on a SUP or even some packrafting.  You’ll develop technical skills with whitewater paddling, backpacking, wilderness camping, and international travel. And, you’ll develop the additional skills and understanding of environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communications styles, as well as decision-making and teamwork.

At the end of this course you’ll be able use these newly developed skills to guide groups in the backcountry or pursue a summer job in the whitewater industry.


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  • Duration: 14 days
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Tuition: $3,290.00
Available Dates

Education Always


  • River navigation and hydrology
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness Risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Navigating international logistics and Spanish-language variables



  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • NCOAE core curriculum
  • LNT Awareness training
  • Gain experience in expedition planning, wilderness risk management, environmental studies, backcountry navigation, leadership in the wilderness, outdoor technology skills, and more
  • Remote Patagonia trekking

Why Take This Course

  • Explore Patagonia’s mountain ranges
  • Advance your knowledge of environmental science and outdoor leadership curriculum — while living and learning in Chile’s wild, beautiful places
  • Discover which areas of outdoor and wilderness education are best suited to your strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to travel in remote, pristine destinations around the world!

Where You’ll Be

  • Chile and Argentina
  • Pucón Base
  • Volcan Villarrica and Volcan Lanín
  • Villarrica National Park
What is the 14-day Patagonia Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course?

The Patagonia Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course is a 14-day wilderness adventure takes you to the southern hemisphere where you’ll learn the skills you need to plan and prepare for backcountry outdoor adventures. You will develop a wide-range of wilderness and leadership skills, including kayaking, raft guiding, backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, international travel planning, environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communication styles, decision-making, and teamwork.


Where in Patagonia will our course visit?

Your group will board a plane bound for Santiago, Chile, where you will be introduced to our local contacts. Soon after your arrival, you will explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world, from the snow-capped volcanoes of Patagonia and powerful heights of the Andes. Chile is a land of extremes, and you’ll see it all — from the driest desert on the planet to the extensive southern glacial fields and everything in between.

Your course may include mountaineering on 19,213′ Volcan San José on the Chile-Argentina border, paddling Río Maipo and Cascada de las Ánimas, the Río San Pedro in Valdivia Province of southern Chile, Río Toltén in La Araucanía Region, and visits to the hot springs of Baños Colina, Santiago, and Pucón.

Do I need to have any previous experience in outdoor adventure sports?

No. Previous experience is not required. NCOAE will teach you all the basics you need to know to thrive in the wilderness, and then let you apply them among your group of peers. We will train you in the skills necessary to become a competent in the backcountry

What activities will I engage in?

You will engage in a wide range of experiential wilderness learning activities, including map and compass wilderness navigation, international expedition planning, paddling, backpacking, campcraft, backcountry cooking, kayaking, and wilderness risk management, with specific time included for communing with nature, journaling, engaging in rich cultural exchange, and reflecting in solitude.

How far will we backpack in Patagonia?

While there are no predetermined distances, you may travel several miles one day and none the next. You will learn to embrace and appreciate the unknown and unexpected.

How different is the 14-day course, compared to the Outdoor Educator or Semester courses?

If you’re looking for a longer course with more time for additional exploration and adventure, we suggest you consider joining us for an Outdoor Educator or Semester / Gap Year course. You’ll go even more in-depth, combining the highlights of local topography, geography, and culture with our exceptional Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course.

These courses allow for a wide variety of activities against the backdrop of lush greenery, winding rivers, and some of the oldest mountains in the world. Explore the mountains to the sea, while earning the top certifications required in the outdoor industry, such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, Leave No Trace (LNT) certification, and the American Canoe Association (ACA) Swift Water Rescue certification.

Do I need to buy any special equipment or clothes for the course?

Yes. NCOAE provides all necessary group gear and food, but you will want, or be required, to bring certain items for yourself. We encourage you to contact NCOAE with all of your gear questions as early as possible. Start planning now by viewing the NCOAE 14-day Patagonia Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling pack list.

Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for in Patagonia?

Your tuition with NCOAE covers all major costs related to your room, board, and lodging, except when specified in the itinerary. You may request an optional meal out when we are in an urban area, which you would need to pay for separately. Additionally, you’ll need to budget a small stipend for your personal items, including souvenirs, extra snacks, and gifts.

How do I prepare physically for the 14-day Patagonia Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course?

Physical preparation depends on your fitness level. You don’t need to be a triathlete to participate, but you will be responsible for carrying your own equipment and some of the group gear while maintaining a positive attitude. The backpacking section will require you to carry 40 pounds or more over rough and rugged terrain, through various environments. The paddling sections will require sitting and paddling for long periods of time and walking on rugged, slippery shorelines or through the water while carrying or pulling your boat.

How many people will be in my group?

Each group has one to three instructors and eight to 15 students. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every five students.

What is the average age of participants?

The average age is about 21 years, with a range between 18 and 60. The minimum age to enroll in the course is 18.

Will we have any free time to ourselves?

Part of every NCOAE course is the solo experience. You will have the opportunity to spend a set number of days alone in the backcountry to meet your personal needs and desired outcomes.

Academic Credit

This course is NOT currently eligible to receive college credit through the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. If you wish to attend a course and receive academic credit. If you are interested in earning credit for a course, learn more about our Outdoor Educator and Semester / Gap Year courses which may be eligible for up to six college-level credits.  The following courses are currently eligible for up to six college-level credits through The University of North Carolina – Wilmington:

All courses are found in SeaNet under the following Course IDs:

  • EVS 485 — Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits
  • EVS 592 — Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits

Course Outcomes

This course is for you if you want to explore remote areas of Chile, while gaining technical outdoor skills.

Where do you want to go (physically, mentally, socially, academic, etc.)?

NCOAE’s international programming objectives revolve around the concepts of self, community, action and impact; focus on authentic international learning and hands-on education; and involve locals and communities to create meaningful academic and personal connections.

A fundamental part of this course includes map and compass reading, wilderness navigation, water safety techniques, the fine art of setting up a campsite, “reading” rapids, paddle strokes and maneuvers, and more.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

This 14-day Patagonia Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in the remote Chilean wilderness.

Available Dates
November 30 — December 13, 2020
February 05 — February 19, 2021
December 01 — December 14, 2021

You’ll develop your personal leadership style, gain wilderness skills, and learn effective tools for communication. Finally, you will acquire skills with self and group assessment and develop the ability to teach and share your appreciation of the natural environment with others.