I can’t remember if I actually wrote at one point about packing and such for PCTs coming to Peru, but might as well do it again (assuming I’m awesome and completed the task in the first place).
The skinny: packing for Peru is easy and hard. Easy in the fact that Peru has a lot of stuff available (well, stuff that you need) for purchasing and the cold hard truth is that no Peruvian I met has an REI membership but somehow manages to get by day-by-day. The hard part is that in Peru is: you don’t know whether you’ll be in hot or cold climate and that some sizes are hard to get. For the climate thing, bring stuff you can layer (i.e. long sleeve shirts, sweaters, flannel shirt, fleece jacket) so you can transition from hot to cold in style. I would advise bringing a big ass jacket – if you need it (aka if other people wear it), you can buy it closer to your site (full disclosure, I live in the coast).
Speaking for men (the often forgotten gender), pants are generally made for short people around here. So getting something to fit my 6’2” 33/34 frame is tough. In fact, I’ve never bought pants in Peru. Shorts, yea. Pants, nope. They never really fit right. Shoes are the same issue. If your foot size is around 44 or less (look up the converstions yourself), you should be ok. My 46s just cant seem to squeeze into too many of the black market shoes available here. Even department stores have a limited supply of my clown shoes.
So what to do?
For clothes - I actually recommend around 3-4 pairs of hiking pants (think North Face, ex-Officio, Columbia) that are tough, durable and that preferably look like regular pants rather than something off the front cover of the North Face catalog. While you won’t be battling the wilderness every day, your pants will face the rock and brush of clothes washing and these brands usually hold their own. Even the campesinos wear buttondowns and trouser pants, so I had to leave some of my choice t-shirts at home. Simple short sleeve button downs or plain t-shirts can work. Oh, you’ll be line drying your undies, so no white underwear unless you want to show off your skid marks.
Shoes – I wear my boots like a mofo. Everywhere I go is flat, but since they’re closed toe and pretty durable it works. Sandals are a no-no if you’re in ‘work’ mode. I have a pair of sneakers, but they get beat up here in the desert so I only wear them sparingly. But when I go home for a visit, I will be bringing back a few extra pairs. Trail shoes are also a popular choice.
Backpack: I have a regular American jansport backpack that I use for everyday use and weekend travel, and a hiking backpack for extended trips. For coming to Peru – I brought my hiking backpack (50L – 65L is recommended), my Jansport backpack, and a large army surplus duffle bag – which I haven’t used since I got here.
Although, many volunteersvolunteers also sport the ubiquitous Peruvian market bag to carry their accessories. Provided my base camp is a hostel room, these bags (teamed up with a Jansport) hold a ton of stuff, and don’t stick out as much as a big hiking pack might. Available at any market place in Peru, these stylish bags are available in a wide variety of checkered colors (red/green/blue) as well as with Disney characters.
Beyond clothes and shoes, you really don’t need too many accessories. Laptop (definitely), some kind of MP3 player, maybe battery powered speakers, small mag light, rechargeable batteries, USB drives (a big one and one or two small ones), some books to read and trade around, and bring a few momentos from home. I have a sleeping bag and pad that gets used once in a while, but I’m not a big camper.
Weird things I brought for mementos: Homer Simpson bobble head (been following me since college), Terrible Towel (I’m a proud Pittsburgher), a few t-shirts that remind me of home (including a Sydney Crosby shirt and Doink the Clown), and a bunch of photos. I have a wall covered with photos from home, and (soon enough) of stuff from Peru. It brightens up the room, seeing the drunken smiles and being reminded of drunken memories.
I can’t really think of stuff that I brought but don’t use…largely because it’s probably stuffed in the back of my closet and will be pulled out come mid-December (COS).
You’re going to overpack. Just don’t do it too much.