Packing for Peru

Before you go backpacking in Peru, you need to know what you’ll be packing for Peru. Photo by Rick McCharles, flickr.com.

You’ve set the date, you’ve bought your ticket, and now you’re ready to get packing for Peru. But what do you actually need to bring to Peru, and what can you safely leave at home?

To help you decide, here’s a packing list for Peru broken up into various sections. It’s aimed at people traveling fairly light on a low to average budget. Quantities, where suggested, are just a rough guide and naturally depend on how much time you have in Peru.

If you don’t already know how you’re going to carry all your clothes, gadgets and gear, then read more about backpacks for Peru first, as well as the benefits of carrying a daypack.

Also remember that you can buy almost everything you need in Peru, so if you forget something it doesn’t really matter (if anything in this Peru packing list is hard to find in Peru, I’ll let you know).

Packing for Peru: The Basics

Clothing:

When you’re thinking about what clothes to pack for Peru, keep in mind the distinct geographic regions of Peru and the huge differences in altitude. One day you can be in the heat of the jungle, the next in the chilly heights of the Andes, so you need to be adaptable. Think in layers and be flexible, but don’t pack too much.

  • 1 pair of shoes/trainers/sneakers for day-to-day use
  • 1 pair of flip-flops/sandals
  • 1 lightweight waterproof jacket (or poncho)
  • 1 warm jacket or lightweight fleece for cold weather
  • 1 pair of trousers/pants/jeans for day-to-day use
  • (1 pair of convertible trousers/pants that turn into shorts; not essential, but handy and good for trekking)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 swimsuit/swimming shorts (men could use their swimming shorts day-to-day as well, maybe replacing standard shorts to save space)
  • 2 or 3 t-shirts
  • 3 or 4 pieces of underwear (boxers, briefs, Y-fronts, frilly knickers… whatever makes you feel good)
  • 3 or 4 pairs of lightweight socks (depending on how much hand-washing you want to do)
  • 1 or 2 lightweight shirts or dressy outfits to wear on a night out, formal occasion, trying to get laid etc.
  • 1 hat or cap
  • 1 pair of sunglasses (even if you don’t normally wear them, sunglasses are recommended to protect your eyes from sun especially at high altitudes, when trekking on snow, or when on a boat/kayak/canoe when light reflects up off the water)

Toiletries and medicine:

  • 1 wash bag with all the basics like toothbrush, toothpaste, small bar of soap, shampoo, razor etc.
  • 1 insect repellent spray (DEET is nasty stuff, but you’ll learn to love it when the mosquitoes attack)
  • 1 bottle of sunscreen, high factor for high altitudes locations in Peru
  • Any prescription medicines you might need
  • (Anti-malarial medicine, if your doctor recommends it)
  • Throw in some painkillers and plasters just in case
  • Birth control
  • Small travel towel (most hostels and hotels supply a towel, even if you have to ask, so this isn’t essential)

Electronics and gadgets:

  • Plug adapter (read more about electricity in Peru before you travel)
  • Camera and accessories
  • Smartphone, not essential, but handy
  • Laptop (or tablet), if you really need to bring a laptop to Peru
  • E-reader (I use a Kindle Paperwhite)
  • Small flashlight
  • Chargers for all your gadgets
  • A lock to secure your locker if you’ll be staying in hostels (some hostels provide these, others have them to buy, but it’s handy – but not essential — to have your own)

Documents and paperwork:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months after return date of travel)
  • Flight tickets
  • Wallet with bank cards, some cash (dollars or soles) and driving license (if you think you might drive in Peru)

What to Pack for Peru for Specific Tours and Activities

Here are a few more things to consider packing for Peru if you’ll be focusing on certain activities…

Trekking and outdoor activities:

  • Trekking shoes
  • Thermal underwear for high-altitude or cold-climate trekking
  • Trekking socks, which will help prevent blisters
  • Walking sticks, if you use them (you can buy these in trekking hotspots in Peru, and many tour agencies can provide them)
  • Pocket knife
  • Waterproof bags for cameras and other electronics
  • Duct tape (always useful)
  • Camping gear, but only if you know you’ll need it (this is normally provided by trekking agencies)
  • Sunglasses

Jungle trips:

  • Long-sleeve shirt and long trousers to protect against mosquitoes and other biting insects
  • Strong insect repellent (increase the DEET)
  • Waterproof bags for electronics
  • Mosquito net (most jungle treks and jungle lodges provide mosquito nets, so only take one if you know you’ll need it)
  • (A hipflask to fill with whisky, rum or vodka for long boat trips. Obviously non-essential, but highly recommended. By me, at least)

What You (Probably) Don’t Need to Pack for Peru

  • Tent – Only if you know for sure that you’ll be camping independently in Peru. Campsites are rare and most backpackers never use a tent in Peru unless they’re on a guided trek, in which case the tent is provided.
  • Sleeping bag – Unless you’ll be camping independently, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever use a sleeping bag in Peru.
  • Mosquito net – As mentioned above, jungle lodges and jungle tour operators almost always provide mosquito nets. You’ll probably only need your own mosquito net if you’ll be staying independently in rural areas in jungle regions. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to ever use it.
  • Voltage converter – Many modern electrical devices (laptops, smartphones etc.) are designed to take both 110 and 220 volts. So before you go buying a heavy voltage converter for Peru, find out if any of your devices actually need it. They probably don’t.
  • Printed guidebooks – The days of carrying a copy of Lonely Planet Peru have pretty much gone thanks to the internet. It’s nice to have a copy, sure, but if you want to reduce weight then ditch the guidebook.
  • Unnecessary valuables – You don’t need to bring expensive jewelry to Peru. Leave it all at home and buy some cool local stuff made from beads or whatever.

Any Questions About Packing for Peru?

If you have any questions or tips for packing for Peru, let me know in the comments section below. Thanks!