I recently went on a 12-day trek to Peru, hiking from Cusco to Choquequirao, and ultimately to Machu Picchu. Here’s the itinerary if you’re interested. I had the best time due largely to the gear I had with me. I had never done anything like this until now – in fact, I’ve only been camping twice in my life and I hated it. Through a lot of advice from friends, both experienced hikers and novices on what to bring and how best to prepare for the trek, I was smart to listen and bought everything they told me to. I want to thank everyone who gave me advice and recommendations. Particularly, my friend, Nate, who put together this detailed packing list (complete with weight) to share with other enthusiastic hikers.
The gear and I had been through a lot of different environmental conditions in a week and a half, and everything worked as they were designed. This had made all the difference to my experience. So, I’m sharing my list of gear in hopes that you may find them useful too. Here’s the essential list in order of importance:
- Shoes – Vivobarefoot Tracker FG (12oz) – These shoes are f’king amazing. They held up all the way through – I hiked on rocks, riverbeds, mud, donkey shit, slippery surfaces, and running streams everyday. It’s waterproof, and kept my feet warm & dry during cold days. There was no need to break-in the shoes beforehand because the leather is soft and malleable. Due to their flexible nature, I was able to find balance easily and prevented some potentially awful falls. I did not get any blisters, sores, or injuries with my feet. My only caution is that because these shoes are designed for barefoot, your leg muscles will need time to adjust to them especially if you’re not used to being barefoot. You’ll use the strength of your legs and your core much more to control balance.
- Smartwool socks – Lightweight Hiking Socks – These are the best because they are seamless, lightweight, moisture wicking and absorbent. Seamless is important because any amount of seams will rub your feet against the inside of your shoes which will result in blisters or sores. So make sure to turn them inside out and look at the seams. Thanks, Liz for the tip! And thanks, Diana for all the Smartwool socks Xmas presents over the years!
- Jacket – Arc’teryx Cerium LT Down Hoodie (7.1oz) – This midlayer jacket is everything I needed: lightweight, warm, windproof, water repellent, packs down really small, and has its own stuff sack. The weather in Peru ranged from light rain to monsoon-ish, to sleet, and temperatures ranging from the high 30s to mid 60s F. This is my only trekking experience where wearing layers really matters. Oftentimes, we’d experience rain, sun and 30 degrees difference in a matter of hours. This was a perfect all-in-one weather jacket. The compact size in its own stuff sack was great for my daypack.
- Daypack – Osprey Talon 22 Pack (S/M 1 lb. 5.4 oz) – This pack feels compact and I liked it because the adjustable straps allow you to transfer the weight between your shoulders and your hips depending on whether you’re hiking up or down. I also like it because it has “Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment” for my walking poles. You can pack a lot in this small pack but I opted to only carry as little as possible. At its heaviest, my pack was 8 lbs of stuff which included first aid kit, 1.5 liters of water, jacket, scarf, hat, extra socks, toilet paper, snacks, extra shirt, poncho, rain jacket, iPhone, camera, and waterproof backpack cover.
- Trekking Poles – Black Diamond Distance FLZ Women’s Trekking Poles (15.5 oz) – First of all, THANK YOU to all who recommended trekking poles. They were really helpful on uneven terrain and made walking so much more pleasurable. When my legs were really tired, these poles help carry some of the weight off my knees especially going downhill. These poles have a 3-section foldable design that makes it easy to adjust the length for walking uphill or downhill. They also collapse into a Z-shape so packing them was a breeze. Thanks to my friend Kim for recommending these poles.
- Sleeping Bag – Z-Packs 900 Fill Power Down Sleeping Bag – (30F / 12.9 oz) – This super lightweight sleeping bag is warm and comfy for most of the trip. It feels like sleeping on soft clouds. The two nights where we spent at the highest altitude (11,000 – 12,000 ft), I think the temperature dipped below 30 because I just couldn’t get warm. I slept in every layer of dried clothes I had (3 layers) including my down jacket with hoodie. The chef boiled hot water for our water bottle to be used as a heating source inside of our sleeping bag and that helped for a little while. If I’m going somewhere really cold, I would trade up for the 10F one. However, it squishes down into a small stuff bag, so packing and unpacking were super easy and fast. This is great if you have very limited time to pack up all your gear in the morning.
- Sleeping pad – Klymit Static V2 sleeping pad (1lb) – This pad was surprisingly comfortable. But it took more than 15 breaths to blow it up though (more like 25 breaths if you’re small like me, and matters at high altitude). It’s true that it’s noise-free so when you move around in your sleep, you won’t wake up your partner. It was also compact in size and fit into its own stuff bag. This was also the most pain in the butt to deflate in the morning because of all those chambers, but you’ll figure out a system by the end of day 3.
- Pillow – Klymit Pillow X (1.9 oz) – This inflatable pillow didn’t work out too well for me because it didn’t stay put during sleep. I think if there’s a way to use velcro to stabilize it to the sleeping bag, it may have worked. By day 2, I gave up and used my clothing sack as a pillow – it was longer and more comfortable. I also used my daypack as a footrest to elevate my feet after a long day of trekking. This ‘potato chip’ position as Jeff called it, really helps to alleviate tensions for my lower back and feet/legs.
- Headlamp – Black Diamond Spot Headlamp – I used this every night for 9 nights and the battery lasted the whole time. The band was made of a soft, felt/elastic material that was comfortable. It actually stayed on my head. It’s waterproof so I didn’t have to worry about being in the rain at night for “bathroom” trips. I only used one setting because I didn’t read the instructions beforehand to figure out how to use the rest of the light settings. I accidentally turned on red night vision once but then, couldn’t figure out how to turn on again. But it worked.
- Electronic charger – Anker Power Bank (20k mAh) (12.5 oz) – This battery lasted me exactly 10 days. It charged my iPhone, and smart-watch every night during camping and worked great. My iPhone was only used for pictures (no data, nor wifi during the trek) so I never used up all its battery in a day. I disconnected my smart-watch from my iPhone to save battery too.
- Mosquitoes repellent – Deet – It’s the only thing that worked. Really. Trust me on this. Our group had used every brand, and Deet was the only thing that worked. I had 3 bug bites, two of which were on both sides of my watchband, and the other was on my butt (I don’t know!). Some of my trek mates had up to 50 bites. >.<
- Bug repellent spray for clothes – Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent – All my clothes were sprayed with Permethrin a couple of days before the trip, and I am so glad of it. Even though we were at high altitudes enough times, we were in the low valleys long enough to have swarms of bugs constantly trying to suck our blood. Thank goodness for this stuff, I was protected.
The moral of the story is anything that’s compact, weighs less than 1lb, has its own stuff sack (with bright colors), inflatable, protects you from the sun, rain, and bugs, is the way to go.