L: Packing for Peru and Traveling Light

July 8th, 2011 § 33 comments

Hello all – I’ve just returned from 10 days in Peru (hence the recent hiatus from posting), and I wanted to share a little glimpse of the amazing time I had traveling around with my friend from college, LJ. Since we’re doing our great Tom Bihn giveaway today, I thought I’d do a post more about travel and less about style. Our itinerary for the trip was varied. We planned on hiking part of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for four days and then flying to the Peruvian Amazon, where our lodge was about three hours upstream from Puerto Maldonado on the Tambopata River.

Sacred Valley, Peru Inca Trail, Peru
Tambopata River, Peru crazy frond

We would need to pack hiking clothes that would keep us warm in the highlands, which get down to 32 degrees fahrenheit at night this time of year, and then for the jungle climate of the Amazon, which gets up to 95 degrees fahrenheit. Moreover, there were weight restrictions for our luggage for both parts of our trip and we wanted to do carry-on for our long flight down to Peru. Backpacks it was, and we each managed to pack a sleepingbag as well as 10 days worth of clothes, both cold weather and warm weather, into each bag. Granted, we wore all our clothes more than once and did some hand-washing along the way. We also knew that we’d be taking infrequent and usually cold showers while traveling, so we were ready to be pretty dirty by the end.

Top Layers Bottom Layers

Our packing lists ended up something like this:

    Clothing (not all pictured):
    long sleeve “safari” shirt
    long sleeve quick dry shirt
    light-weight fleece pullover
    rain jacket
    fleece jacket
    cotton dress
    convertible hiking pants
    long underwear
    base layer short spandex
    pair of shorts
    rain pants
    pair of boxer shorts
    hiking boots
    pair of flats
    2 quick dry t-shirts
    2 cotton t-shirts
    2 cotton tanks
    3 sports bra tops/sports bras
    6 pairs of underwear
    6 pairs Smartwool socks
    Gear & Accessories:
    backpack and daypack
    sleeping bag and liner
    trekking poles
    headlamp and extra batteries
    water purification tablets
    Platypus 2L water system and 1L Nalgene
    baseball hat and wide-brim hat
    travel waistpouch
    camp towel
    travel documents/passport
    credit card/cash
    medications/first aid kit
    camera and extra batteries
    castile soap/hand sanitizer
    toilet paper

And our bags ended up looking something like this:

The Packs Setting Off

LJ and I had a fantastic time despite the cold winds and rain that blew in from Argentina and Brazil which dropped the temperature around 15 – 20 degrees lower than normal for most of the trip. On the way from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo we had the opportunity to go to a remote mountain village where local women put on a display of their gorgeous handwoven goods. Along with two guides, 18 porters, and 11 other travelers, we successfully hiked the Inca Trail from kilometer 82 to the end at Machu Picchu and saw some amazing vistas of the craggy peaks in the Sacred Valley.

Inca Trail, Peru Near Pisac, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
During our stay in the jungle we went on day and night hikes to see monkeys, parrots, macaws, alligators, snakes, tarantulas and many other birds and bugs. We also climbed up the 10-story canopy tower to catch a sunset.
huge tree Canopy Sunset, Peru
Canopy Tower
LJ and I had joked at the beginning that this trip was really going to be a test of our friendship, and we definitely passed with flying colors. It was a fabulous trip overall and thanks to LJ for being a truly excellent traveling partner!

If you’d like more specific info about the trip please email us and I’ll get back to you. Please don’t forget to register for the Tom Bihn giveaway before midnight on Sunday!


Tagged ,

§ 33 Responses to L: Packing for Peru and Traveling Light"

  1. Rebecca says:

    I love love love the Tri Star and the Aeronaut. I am currently doing dissertation research trips around the country and would be thrilled beyond belief to win this. Bonus: the forest and purple combo is my FAVORITE

  2. Rebecca says:

    Geez. In my excitement to be eligible for the giveaway, I accidentally put my giveaway comment on your lovely post about your trip. Sorry! Your trip sounded like an amazing and exciting adventure – good for you! Teaching all year, especially your first year, means you’ve earned a very well-deserved break and ‘education’ of your own.

    If I may, what kind/brand of shoes and hiking boots did you use? And were you pleased?

    • admin says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      No worries about your previous comment. I’m glad you realized it and have put your comment in the giveaway! As for hiking boots/shoes – my “hardcore” boots are all-leather Vasque Sundowners that I’ve had since the end of high school. They are excellent and with a fresh coat of wax before each trip they are still pretty water proof after 12 years of use. For this trip I wore my North Face Hedgehog hiking shoes. These are water proof and are low cut like a running shoe. I had a previous version of the Hedgehogs for a few years and loved them, so I just bought this pair for my trip. They were very comfy, had a good grip, and were still totally waterproof after 3 days of rain on the trail!


  3. Em says:

    What a dream trip–literally looks heavenly. Enjoyed the practical aspects of this post as well.

  4. Evie says:

    Going to Peru in two months, this is awesome! I’ve been trying to put together a packing list – thanks so much, this really helps.

  5. Elena Porter says:

    A trip to MP is one of my dream trips. What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Cathy says:

    This is an excellent packing list and strategy. I’m keeping a copy! This looks like a spectacular trip.

  7. Sophia says:

    Yay! I’m glad you had a great time in Peru! I hiked the Inca trail this May (with side trips to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa) and would have loved to have had your packing list when I was preparing for the trip a few months ago. Just curious – how heavy did your backpack end up being?

    • admin says:

      Hi Sophia – for the first part of the trip we carried day packs and then a small duffel, which had to be less than 6kg including sleeping bags that the porters carried. My day pack was around 6kg as well. On the second part of the trip we had the opportunity to leave things at the lodge, but we ended up taking our packs since they weren’t all that heavy. I never weighed it, but maybe around 30lbs?

  8. Kelly says:

    Wow, that trip looks amazing (& a little cold & wet, but I’m sure worth it). Must get over to Peru sometime. I know alot of other archaeologists who have travelled to Chile or Jordan for field work & also ended up at Machu Picchu as a little side holiday – pft, jealous. Must, must renew my passport.

    Kelly @
    Elegantly Academic

  9. mara says:

    those photos look amazing, I’d love to do that sometimes! May I ask a somewhat icky question: On my last hike my fleece jacket smelled aweful after the first day (aweful!), and I had 2 days to go, poor friend who went with me, can you recommend any brands that don’t stink that much? Or, did you do anything special with them? Thanks a lot!!!!

    • admin says:

      Hi Mara – Yes, smelliness is definitely an issue with camping gear (and running stuff too!). I have a Patagonia fleece and it didn’t absorb too much scent during the trip, but that is also because I always had on at least 2 layers underneath it. Polyester can really hold on to smell, even when it’s been cleaned, so my lighter layers and running stuff usually vaguely smell. I’ve used special detergent before – some sports formula from Tide I think? – and that knocked the smell out of most things. I can’t recommend a brand in particular for fleeces though, sorry!

      • mara says:

        thanks so much for the reply! I’ll try and come over my shyness and talk to a specialist sports seller :)

  10. Mary Q Contrarie says:

    Here is a kit for hand washing clothes that I recently purchased for my camping trips. May not be the best for hiking but boy it is great for the dirty clothes that my husband brings home from his spelunking adventures.

  11. Amber says:

    Hi! Great post. I was wondering what daypacks you and LJ used, if you’ve used them before this trip, the size of them, and if you’d recommend them. Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hi Amber – Both LJ and I bought our daypacks several years ago, but there are newer models on the market. I had a North Face “Wasatch” bag, but looking at what they have now I’d say that the Angstrom 30 Pack is a good bet. LJ had a daypack that had a built in hydration system and has a panel built in to expand the holding capacity of the bag. Her 2 litre “Blowfish” Camelbak is also no longer sold, but the newer 3 litre version is still for sale. My bag was a little too big for what I was carrying (most one or two layers, rain gear, snacks, 2 litre Platypus water system, camera, binoculars, etc.), and LJ’s was just a little small for all those things. Something to think about as well is how waterproof your bag is and if you need a cover for it. I spent the rainy days with my pack inside my raincoat (a tight squeeze!). Also, having a built-in water system like the Camelbak or Platypus ones is great if you’re someone who needs to hydrate on the go. I found I drank more water than when I was just using a Nalgene. Hope that helps!


  12. Wow fantastic post! I have been talking to my best friend about going to Peru – its basically both our dreams – and often wondered about how I would pack. Thanks for breaking it down like this! I spent two summers in Hungary working on excavations and packing for that reminds me of what you packed here. I’m so glad I found your blog!

  13. Combat Pack says:

    Very nice pics, wish I could afford to go on tips like you.

  14. I am hoping to take a trip like this soon! I am so jealous. I am glad you had a great time. Thanks for the packing tips!

  15. Mrs.M in MI says:

    Did the TSA really let you carry on your trekking poles? I was under the impression that they had to be checked.

    I suppose I’ve never tried to carry mine on. When I need to fly with them I always begrudgingly check them.

    Also, may I just comment that I wish I had porters on my upcoming trip to the Swiss Alps!

  16. Natalie says:

    Wow, looks amazing! Glad you had a great time. I just returned from 2 months of field work in Peru, and was probably in Puerto Maldonado about the same time you were – we experienced the friaje you mentioned. Crazy when the jungle is 65F all of a sudden!

    Out of curiosity, which lodge were you at? My boyfriend was a guide at Explorer’s Inn for a while, and we’re familiar with many of the ecotourist places in the area.

    • admin says:

      Hi Natalie – Two months, wow! We were at the Caiman Lodge and then the Refugio Amazonas. We were supposed to get in all the way to the Tambopata Research Center, but because of our weather delay in Cusco they couldn’t take us all the way up the river when we finally goto to Puerto Maldonado. Welcome home to you!

  17. Debra says:

    So glad that I came upon your blog, we are traveling to the Peruvian Rainforest the first of October for 10 days, we will be staying at an Eco Lodge…How were the mosquitos? Do you have any other words of advice for a family of 4 traveling with 2 teens. Thank you!
    Love your blog…

  18. Jude Boehlar says:

    Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking have been confirmed in studies..:.;


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