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Packing Tips

Hola Dragones,

Now that you’ve seen the FOI and Tentative Itinerary and have an idea of what to expect this summer, you can begin some preparation. On the practical side, you do not want to miss these packing tips!

Part of what is outlined in this note is found in more detail in the Peru Course Preparation Manual that you already have. Here we want to make some extra recommendations for our trip, which will be an immersion in three quite different terrains:

1) Communities and backcountry in the high Andes – IT CAN GET VERY COLD!

2) Towns in temperate Andean river valleys – don’t forget to bring street clothes.

3) Hot and humid jungles of lowland eastern Peru – cover up for sun and bugs, but with light layers.

Keep this in mind to pack. In principle, it is important to consider the endless benefits of packing light. That’s why this note is ends with a section about efficiency – gear that can be used in all three zones.

For the high Andes: Cusco is a city over 11,000 feet, and most of the time on our course we will be around this altitude. Expect a Yak about preparation for the altitude soon. After a short period of altitude acclimatization, we will get ready for a hike above 14,000 feet for a few days. We strongly recommend to prioritize the following gear and clothes, in addition to other items described in the Peru CPM. You may induce from the suggestions that at night over 4,000 meters in the winter it gets EXTREMELY COLD. Prepare accordingly.

  • Waterproof hiking shoes/boots – don’t forget to break them in as much as possible.
  • Mummy style sleeping bag that has a temperature rating of at least 0 degrees F. This is extremely important for a proper rest on cold nights near 15,000 feet
  • Insulated sleeping pad
  • Top & bottom long underwear, either synthetic or wool
  • Warm down or synthetic ‘puffy’ jacket
  • Medium weight gloves/mittens for the chilly evenings and mornings
  • Wool or fleece hat

For town:

  • Bring street clothes. A common feedback that we get from students on South America programs is that they wish they’d been told to bring more casual clothing to wear during our frontcountry time. For example, you’ll be in homestays in the medium sized town of Urubamba for at least a week with Spanish classes, ISP activities, and free time to explore and play. It can get chilly at night, but during the day you may be most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt.
  • On that note, consider bringing a small gift for your homestay families and other local friends you may make, if you’d like. It is not required by any means, just up to each of you. We should have extended homestays in both Urubamba and Huacaria.
  • Spending money – whatever you will need for souvenirs, snacks, laundry, postcards, and postage. You can withdraw local currency easily with an ATM card.
  • A student ID card (only if you have one) for sweet discounts.

For the Amazon, we need to consider a humid, hot, and buggy environment. Although the hot and humid aspect would make us think that it is better to be as uncovered as possible, that is not the best idea to escape from mosquito bites! Therefore, it’s ideal to travel with lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs and is breathable and quick drying. A secret: light colors attract fewer mosquitoes because they make you retain less heat!

Gear and clothing that work for ALL THREE ENVIRONMENTS – the mountains, town, and the jungle:

  • Water purification, if you are considering buying a Steripen, we suggest the “Ultra” and “Freedom” models as they are sturdier and don’t require batteries (they have an internal rechargeable battery and hold a charge for extended periods of time).  For more information, see the SteriPen website to compare models.  Keep in mind that lithium and non-AA batteries can be difficult to find in-country so bring extra if necessary!  If bringing a SteriPen, please also bring a back-up purification method such as Sweet Water or Aquamira.
  • Two water bottles, 1 quart each/32 oz.
  • Lightweight and breathable rain gear that can cover you and your small backpack. In the cold, you can wear layers underneath it. If it rains, snows, sleets, hails, etc. while we trek and camp, then we will trek and camp while it rains, snows, sleets, hails, etc.
  • A light sweater/fleece that will keep you warm even if wet. This is an essential element of the layering system. Fleece is generally lighter and less bulky than wool, but both function well.
  • Sleep sheet: It is great to have a light sleep-sheet to use in hotter areas like the Amazon and that can double as a sleeping bag liner in cold conditions.
  • 3 pairs of wool or synthetic socks: an expedition-weight pair (for sleeping) and 2 lighter pairs
  • 3 pairs of cottons socks
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 4 t-shirts, best if a couple are breathable and quick-dry. Lightweight long sleeve shirt can be great for protecting the skin from sun, bugs, and plants in any environment.
  • 2-3 pairs of long pants, at least one pair breathable and quick-drying
  • Good hat or visor and sunglasses. The sun in the tropics, especially at altitude, is very strong. If we are walking on snow or ice, your eyes will need even better protection.
  • One plastic tupperware container. This should hold 1L – 1.5L and be very sturdy. While on the trail, we usually pack lunches in our tuppers and use them for take-away food in town as well.
  • Utensils. This can be as simple as a spoon from home. It’s nice if it fits in your tupper.
  • A good headlamp. This is possibly the most used item throughout the course. Bring extra batteries for this, or rechargeables.
  • Watch with alarm clock is mandatory! Students are responsible for waking up in the morning and meeting on time throughout the day. Each student needs to bring an inexpensive watch and/or a travel-size alarm clock that fits in a pocket or daypack.
  • Some duct tape can be used to fix just about anything. We will not be trekking with an entire role, however. Feel free to bring some wrapped around a pen or water bottle, etc.
  • Earplugs will help block out the many new noises (think roosters) when you need to rest.

Ok, there it is! We know this can seem like a lot but encourage you to not worry about it too much. The most important thing to bring by far is a humble and positive attitude. Together, we will figure out a way have a great course no matter what!

If you have additional questions you can write to [email protected], or wait for a call from one of your instructors within a few days. We look forward to our first conversation with you!

A muy poco ya!


p.s. photo taken in Cusco at a exposition of the National Potato Day. You see, Peru has MANY climates to which life adapts in diverse ways. With some good attention, however, one can understand and pack accordingly. Let us be inspired by this display.