Destinations

What to Pack for Peru

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Peru is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, offering mountains, jungles, desert, and coastline in one breathtaking package. How are you supposed to pack for all that in one carryon bag?

Most visitors to Peru spend the majority of their time in the mountains, around Cusco and Machu Picchu, and possibly Lake Titicaca, so this page will focus on the gear you need for that region. If you’re visiting jungle areas like Manu, add more lightweight clothing to protect you from mosquitos and perhaps throw some sport sandals into your bag.

A note about shopping

I’m listing the ideal items in each category to give you an idea what to aim for — but that doesn’t mean you need to buy all new gear for your trip to Peru! In most cases, you’ll have something suitable in your closet. If you travel a lot, you might want to acquire a few new things for each trip until you’ve built a nice capsule wardrobe of travel gear.

Hiking Boots & Alternate Footwear

The mountainous areas of Peru are made of mud and rocks. The only footwear that makes sense there is hiking boots and/or sturdy walking shoes.

I’ve been delighted with my Merrel Moab 2 hiking boots on this terrain.

Although I mostly wear my hiking boots everywhere in Peru, I like to have other footwear available. It’s easy to carry a second par of shoes if you choose lightweight running shoes.

Lightweight runners are made of mesh and foam, and are super easy to carry along. Mine are discontinued, but very similar to this model from New Balance.

I wouldn’t wear such soft-soled shoes on the kind of rocky roads and trails you’ll find in Peru, but with the addition of a stable insole they work really well. Most experts recommend that you buy a separate insole for your hikers, anyway, to customize them for your feet, so this isn’t adding any bulk to your bags.

Choose the right insoles for your feet. I love Powerstep Pinnacle insoles for my plantar fasciitis, and they add a lot of stability to lightweight shoes as well.

If you’re staying in hostels or just don’t like being barefoot indoors, you might want to carry a pair of shower shoes, water shoes, or slippers with you as well.

4 pair Smartwool hiking socks

You’ll want good socks as well, to prevent blisters and keep your feet warm and comfy. I like Smartwool socks because they’re lightweight and fast-drying, plus they resist odors, regulate temperature well even when damp, and hold up through a zillion washings. I travel with four pair, which feels like a generous number since they’re so easy to wash out in the sink.

I recently switched to low-rider socks — who needs all that extra fabric taking up space in their pack? These work great! If you’re visiting the jungle, you may want one or two pairs that cover your ankle to protect against mosquitos.

3-4 Pair Lightweight Hiking Pants

In the Sacred Valley area (Cusco & Machu Picchu) it’s too cold for shorts, skirts, or even capris, so all you’ll need is some long pants. I like lightweight pants with good pockets that can be worn 2-3 times and washed out in a sink, and the good ones will dry in an hour. By far my favorite brand so far has been Columbia, along with the REI Co-Op store brand. 3-4 pair is plenty; look for lightweight ones that won’t take up much room.

Keep it simple, durable, and comfortable!

A note about yoga pants & leggings for women: Although Peru is a conservative country in general, leggings are very common all over the country, so feel free to wear them here! I don’t include them in my recommendation because they tend to lack pockets and aren’t as durable or fast-drying as hiking pants, but they are very comfy and can double as sleepwear or a base layer in cold weather.

5-7 Shirts

  • 2 short-sleeved base layer shirts (synthetic or smartwool, not cotton)
  • 3-4 long-sleeved shirts
  • Lightweight overshirt for sun/bug protection

The valley is generally chilly year-round, but there are always a few moments in mid-afternoon, under the sun, when you will be sweltering. Layers are the answer, but even your short-sleeved base layer should cover your shoulders to protect them from the sun because the altitude and thin air make the sun superstrong here.

A lightweight, long-sleeved, button-front shirt offers UV and insect protection without the need for chemicals, and takes up almost no space in your luggage.

Water Bottle

Avoiding single-use plastics is especially important in a fragile environment like Peru. Normally, I’m a huge fan of double-walled aluminum water bottles because they keep the water nice and cool, but that’s not an issue in the cool mountain air. For Peru, I recommend a Nalgene bottle, especially if you’re staying in Airbnbs, hostels, or lower-end that might not offer heat at night. A Nalgene bottle can be filled with hot water from a kettle and used to warm your bed at night!

Jacket: Fleece or Waterproof Down

Thin down jackets (like this one for women) are very popular in Peru, and as long as they’re waterproof, they make a good choice for the mountain chill. Personally, I prefer a sleek fleece jacket for its versatility — so easy to layer a rainshell over top.

Fleece jackets like thesehttps://amzn.to/2IaAsOw are lightweight and versatile, but packable waterproof down is a popular alternative. Good brands include Columbia, Marmot, and the REI Co-Op store brand.

Rain Jacket or Poncho (rainy season)

During the rainy season (November- April), you’ll want to carry an ultralight rain jacket or poncho. During the dry season (May-October) it’s not as necessary.

Sun Hat

Sun protection is non-negotiable at this altitude. Luckily, packable sun hats are becoming more common and more appealing these days!

Incidentals

  • Swimsuit (there are hot springs near Machu Picchu!)
  • Chapstick (the air is DRY)
  • Power bank
  • Sunblock
  • Daypack (for carrying your water bottle & layers of clothing every day
  • Toiletries (keep it simple – shampoo, conditioner, soap, comb, maybe a high-SPF face cream or BB cream and mascara. Most people don’t wear a lot of makeup or fancy hair in Peru and heated appliances for your hair may not work in many locations

What Not to Bring

  • Unless you’ll be in hotter locations like Lima or the jungle during the summer, you won’t need sandals, shorts, or other warm-weather gear.
  • Dressy clothes aren’t very useful in the Valley or the jungle; only bring what you might want for restaurants in Lima
  • Sweaters, scarves, warm hat: You’ll want them for sure, but you won’t be able to resist buying them in Peru!
  • Power adapter: most Peruvian outlets will accept both US and European plugs.

Be sure to leave plenty of space in your pack for all the handcrafted items you’re going to want to bring home!

Don’t miss my other articles on Peru!

Lauren Haas is a nomadic freelance writer. She has been traveling the world, living out of a backpack, since May of 2013. She loves to travel on a budget, learning about different cultures and cuisines.

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