Big adventure, small suitcase: what to bring to Peru

The diversity of climates, terrain, and adventure opportunities you’ll experience during your trip to Peru will be impressive, to say the least.  But, in today’s world of  (literally)  ‘no free lunch’ flights, this creates a dilemma: what should you bring to Peru to be prepared for such a wide spectrum of weather changes, recreational activities, and of course, a night or two out on the town – without having to jump through the extra baggage hoops at the airport?

The first thing to check is the “provided” list your tour operator will (hopefully) include in your itinerary or pre-departure information.  Regardless of what the trip is, the necessary gear should all be included; personal gear most often is NOT included.  Let’s say you’re flying into Cusco, doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and then spending few days hiking and rafting through the mind boggling diversity of wildlife and vegetation in the jungle, here is a breakdown of what I would recommend packing in order to save yourself some money and time by avoiding purchasing or renting these items in Lima or Cusco.

For the trek:

-sturdy, broken-in, waterproof hiking boots

-at least 2 pairs of wool or synthetic socks (avoid cotton in general)

-nylon hiking pants that can zip off into shorts, preferably water resistant

-a long-sleeve polypro or wool shirt

-an insulated rain jacket

-a fleece jacket that can be layered under your rain jacket

-a head lamp/flashlight, camera, and more extra batteries than you would think:  cold weather drains batteries more quickly, and you are going to want to capture these amazing views.  Stock up on the high-quality camera specific kind, they’re harder to get here.

-a day pack for your personal gear (porters are likely carrying your big pack, lucky)

-sweat-resistant sunblock with an SPF of at least 30, sunglasses, and a sun hat

-insect repellent for lower elevations and Machu Picchu

-gloves and a warm hat

-comfy clothes for hanging out at camp (pink bunny one-piece pajama suits highly recommended)

-a bathing suit for hot springs, or the lakes/rivers/waterfalls you’ll come across on a hot day

You’ve already got a lot of what you’ll need for your jungle trip above, but here’s a few extras:

-sturdy river sandals (i.e. Tevas, Chacos)

– a long sleeve, lightweight cotton button-up shirt

-lightweight synthetic socks

-t-shirt/tank top

For your night on the town you don’t really need to get too fancy, unless you want to have dinner at the 5 star Hotel Monasterio.  Your button-up cotton shirt and a pair of khakis, or your easy to pack sundress and a wrap or light sweater should do the trick – and you’ll have endless chances to accessorize with the handcrafted silver and beaded jewelery that’s available at almost every corner.

While there are countless snack options to take along on your adventures available here, if you are a die hard fan of energy or meal replacement bars you’ll want to stash some away in your bag.  They are not easy to find here; and when you do find them you’ll pay a premium price.

If you do forget something, don’t worry.  You are not the first, and some entrepreneur is selling whatever it is you need in his shop or street market stall.