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Help with gearing up for Peru!

Evil GummyEvil Gummy Registered User
edited June 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
So, at the end of July I will be traveling to Peru for two weeks. On my itinerary is going to be some hiking, as I've always dreamed of exploring some trails, and also marching to Machu Pichu.

I haven't settled on any one trail yet, and I hear the environment there can vary.

So kind lads, help me out here. I need to find a good backpack, and good hiking shoes, for a small sized female. I'll be going to REI tomorrow and am trying to NOT be completely unprepared!

Also, any other recommendations for gear I might need. My main goals are keeping it light, I don't mind roughing it, my major issue will only be I HATE being cold, and also don't want to lug a bag full of concrete around for days...

Evil Gummy on


  • matt has a problemmatt has a problem Points to 'off' Points to 'on'Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    The best idea would probably be to go to REI and tell them you're going to Peru, and what you're going to do. The only advice I can think of off the top of my head is to wear any hiking boots you buy for at least a week before you leave, because new hiking boots + trail = horrifying blisters. They need to be broken in first. Are you going to be doing any overnight camping, or just day hikes?

    matt has a problem on
  • CauldCauld Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I think you've got a pretty good handle on things. Just make sure the backpack fits well and is comfortable. When I hiked to Maccu Piccu some porters carried most of the things, but I had a small backpack with clothes, sleeping bag, and a pillow. I also kept some extra water in there.

    The weather isn't very cold there and varies quite a bit from the shade to the sun. I distinctly remember often taking off and putting on a windbreaker type jacket. I imagine its because of the altitude. Make sure to give yourself at least a few days to acclimate in Cuzco before trying to hike. If you get headachy and short of breath you probably aren't very well adjusted to the altitude yet.

    The locals will tell you to chew on some wadded up coca leaves with some black stuff in the middle. Its a mild stimulant and the black stuff is kind of the activator. They use it as a cure-all. It works pretty well and is good fun.

    Cauld on
  • DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Just a reminder, you need to be getting your vaccines right now if you haven't gotten them yet.

    I was actually going to go to peru but didn't have time to get vaccines so I ended up hiking the Hawaiian islands instead.

    I always plan to travel light but end up like a turtle. One thing I've never regretted is carrying extra water.

    Dman on
  • WootloopsWootloops Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Socks, splurge on a great pair of socks (or several). Often over-looked, but if there's one thing I learned from the swiss is to always have good quality socks on you. Not only will it make the hiking much more tolerable, but it'll help mitigate your cold issue as well.

    Enjoy Machu Pichu, I remember looking down those trails felt almost magical, as cheesy as it sounds: like a fairy tale.

    Wootloops on
  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Prepare for altitude sickness. Not necessarily in Machu Picchu, but definitely in Cuzco. I took my uncle's leftover altitude pills (he'd done the Inca trail a month prior) but really the thing that helped the most was coca tea. Even then, you will be exhausted.

    Hiking around might not be as simple as you would think. If you hike the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu you are required to hire a guide and most tour operators will make you take a team of porters as well. I'm not sure about the other trails, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true for them as well. The Peruvian government doesn't want to deal with tourists getting lost and dying of altitude sickness.

    If you're up for it, I really recommend saving a few days for the rain forest. I flew into Iquitos, the largest city in the world not accessible by road, and took a river boat with a guide down to a lodge on the outskirts of a local village. My guide grew up on the Amazon and would tell me about all the plants and their uses as we hiked through the rainforest. I also got to meet the village shamen and try some of his potions. It was definitely the best experience of my life.

    Also, seconded making sure your vaccines are up to date. My doctor flipped out on me when I went to him at the last minute (especially when I told him I was going to the rainforest).

    oldsak on
  • Uncle LongUncle Long Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Though my environment here in Alaska in the Tongass National Forest is going to be a bit different than what you're going to be facing in Peru, there are some general suggestions that still apply.

    First off, don't skimp on your feet. Wear good socks. Smart wool is great for when you're hiking, but I like regular wool when I'm sleeping or puttering around camp. So, since it sounds like you'll mostly be taking day hikes, wear the smart wool.

    Bring water and keep hydrated. Water weighs a lot, which sucks, but it's an absolute necessity.

    If you are hiking in the rain forest, and I live in a rain forest, you're going to want to have a waterproof shell, which they will help you with at REI, rain pants, a dry bag (we see SEALINE up here most often) and I wear Xtra Tuffs. They're fishing boots, not hiking boots, but for me, in the cold and the rain it's a choice between keeping my feet dry and added ankle support. It's what people wear up here. No one goes climbing in hiking boots here.

    Now, the big thing you need to remember when packing is to also try and keep things light. Pack for what you're going to encounter during the day and what you feel comfortable carrying on a hike. The folks at the store should be able to help you. Short of winter snow caving, you're probably not going to need a behemoth 88 L pack, and you wouldn't want to haul it around half empty either. Oh, and if you do get a big bag, you tend to want to fill it with extra crap, or at least I do, and extra weight.

    In the end, though, hiking is kind of a big thing in Peru, and you mostly have to go through guides and porters. That means that you may be putting in some serious exertion on the hike, but you won't have to pack for survival, so probably a decent pair of boots (don't skimp!) and a day bag should cut it.

    I don't know if any of this helps, but maybe it'll give you a direction when talking to the folks at REI/planning your hikes.

    Uncle Long on
  • furiousNUfuriousNU Registered User
    edited June 2009
    oldsak wrote: »
    Prepare for altitude sickness. Not necessarily in Machu Picchu, but definitely in Cuzco. I took my uncle's leftover altitude pills (he'd done the Inca trail a month prior) but really the thing that helped the most was coca tea. Even then, you will be exhausted.

    I remember when I first arrived in La Paz, Bolivia I felt like I was about to pass out all the time for the first few days regardless of the fact that I was in good shape and had taken altitude pills. Give yourself a day or two (at least) to acclimate.

    I don't know if you are going on any extended backpacking trips, but I found having iodine pills to purify water+two water bottles was really nice so I didn't have to waste time boiling water.

    When you get fitted for a backpack, make sure you have someone in the store help you adjust straps and figure out which pack is best for you. You stated that you have a small frame and are female so try some of the woman's packs, those will probably fit you best. If you don't find something that is in your budget at REI, be sure to get your torso measurement which is helpful if you want to buy a pack online. Don't get a pack that is too big, the idea is to travel light(I recommend 3000-4000 cu inches for a one month trip)!

    Good luck

    furiousNU on
  • ZombiemamboZombiemambo Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    If it's hot, I'd recommend a good pair of sandals, such as Chacos. They're good for moderate hiking, especially in warm weather.

    Oh, and if you're hiking for more than 30-45 minutes, I recommend a Camel Bak.

    Zombiemambo on
  • WastedwombatWastedwombat Registered User
    edited June 2009
    I did the Inca trail about a year ago, so I'll share what I remember...

    If you're planning on doing the Inca Trail, you need a permit, which I believe has to be bought at least a year in advance due to the demand. I did it through a tour operator about 14 months in advance, as apparently the days of just turning up in Cuzco and going are over. There are other less well-known trails, which you might want to check out (although you may still be required to hire a guide and / or baggage carriers). Depending on speed and fitness you're looking at around 5 - 8 hours hiking a day.

    You could also get a train to the town at the bottom of the mountain and bus up, but nothing beats the sight of the place after 3 days of heavy hiking!

    You're going to want to spend a couple of days in Cuzco to get used to the altitude, for the first 2 days I found I had no energy at all.

    It also gets very cold up in the mountains at night, whereas the days tended to vary between scorching hot and pouring with rain. So you're going to want a good quality waterproof jacket - they sell plastic ponchos all over the place, but they don't breath at all and are deeply unpleasant in the heat. I just about got away with a thick, warm sweater and a plastic poncho - but I was very lucky with the weather. If I did it again, I'd definitely take a jacket!

    Sandals are good for hanging around the camp site after a days hiking, but you'll need good quality hiking-boots. The path isn't very flat and you'll be clambering up uneven (and slippery) rock steps, so you'll want decent grip. In the rain its even worse.

    Oh, and remember a camera and lots of film - the view are amazing!

    Have fun!

    Wastedwombat on
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