Peru is a real paradise for hiking and history lovers, trekking here you can combine impressive Inca ruins with stunning scenery; glaciers, turquoise color lakes, snow peaks of the Andes, hundreds of alpacas peacefully walking around and condors gliding in the skies. Sounds exciting?! Then it’s time to start planning a trip to hike some of the best hiking trails in Peru.
We spent quite a lot of time in Peru, mainly in the Cusco region, and did several hikes – our gear recommendations are based on our own trekking experience in the country. The gear and clothes we took with trekking in Peru were very similar to what we packed for hiking in Patagonia.
Peru hiking regions
Two main hiking areas in Peru are Cusco and Huaraz – both offer great hiking trails through the Andes with stunning scenery; snow peaks, glaciers, turquoise lakes, meadows, and hundreds of alpacas, plus hiking around Cusco you get a chance to see some of the most spectacular Inca ruins. Both regions have similar climate and weather conditions – trekking and camping gear for Cusco and Huaraz will be quite similar.
Treks in Cusco
- Inca Trail – 43 km/26 miles, 4-5 days, guided tour only
- Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu – 74 km/46 miles, 5 days
- Choquequirao trek – 60 km/37 miles, 4 day
- Ausangate trek – 70 km/43 miles, 4-5 days
Treks in Huaraz
- Huayhuash trek – 120 km/74 miles, 8-10 days
- Santa Cruz trek – 50 km/31 miles, 3-4 days
- Cojup Valley – 35 km/21 miles, 3-4 days
Travel insurance for hiking in Peru
Trekking like any outdoor activity involves risks of getting injured or losing some of your gear due to weather conditions, theft, break downs, etc. Most hiking routes in Peru are high altitude treks through the wild sparse populated areas it’s advisable to ensure yourself and your gear before you go on a hike especially if you’re planning to do it independently, without guides, porters, etc.
Choosing an insurance company that you can rely on in case of emergency is very important, we recommend World Nomads. The company focuses on covering outdoor activities including trekking. Peru is one of their top hiking destinations it means they have experience in working with local companies. A great thing about World Nomads is that you can buy insurance online while traveling, it takes only a couple of minutes. Their insurance policy is very flexible you can buy insurance to cover the whole period of the trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s one or two days. Get a quote right now!
Note! Always read carefully terms and conditions.
Suggested tours and activities in Peru
- Inca Jungle and Rainbow Mountain trek (G-Adventures)
- The Inca Trail (G-Adventures)
- Machu Picchu through Choquequirao ruins (G-Adventures)
- Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu (G-Adventures)
What to pack for trekking in Peru?
We started our South America hiking mission in Peru where we bought quite a lot of stuff there most of it wasn’t great quality, cheap and fake. Some of it worked fine some like my hiking shoes fell apart after a couple of treks. If you don’t do a lot of hiking buying real expensive gear might be not worth it but if you like trekking I’d recommend investing in a good quality gear that will last you for years. In Peru we trekked independent, see how we packed for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, a guided hike to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa.
Camping and hiking gear
First things first – a good backpack. There are some light versions of backpacks without an aluminum frame (outside or inside) they’re lighter than standard hiking backpacks and great for traveling but less comfortable for walking long distances. Believe me, I had one of them and it didn’t sit great when it was loaded I kept adjusting straps and moving it up and down all the time.
Make sure a backpack is easy to adjust and has enough compartments, to have a holder/pocket for water bottles and a loop for trekking poles is quite handy as well. Make sure your backpack has a rain cover, the weather in the mountains is unpredictable.
For men we’d suggest a 70L backpack it’ll be enough to fit gear and food, don’t take bigger backpacks you’ll end up overloading it with unnecessary stuff. Here are some options; if you’re a seasoned hiker and going to use a backpack a lot – buy a good quality one like Deuter ACT or Osprey Atmos. If you go hiking every once in a while and don’t want to spend too much on gear – buy a cheaper model like Teton Escape or High Sierra Sentinel.
For women, a 50L backpack is big enough at least I’ve never had a bigger one and always managed to fit everything inside. Here are some options for different budgets; prime quality backpacks – at Deuter ACT Lite 60, Deuter ACT Lite 50 or Osprey Atmos AG50, for a budget option check High Sierra Explorer models.
How to pack a backpack for hiking
| Deuter ACT backpack |
Tent – a very important item to pack for trekking in Peru, on most hikes camping is the only accommodation option. Your tent must be waterproof, light (you’ll have a lot to carry with), easy to pitch, stable in wind, and reliable (you don’t want it breaks in the middle of nowhere).
If you decide to rent a tent in Peru pitch it before you go to make sure everything is fine. If you want to invest in an awesome tent, look at buying MSR Hubba Hubba NX – it’s very light (1,3kg), packs super small, easy to pitch, waterproof, spacious, shaped great to resist strong wind, and will last for years. We bought this tent about a year ago and used it quite a lot in Canada, it worked great on the West Coast Trail.
If you rather buy something cheaper check out one of the middle price range two-men tents like MSR Elixir, Marmot Catalyst, or Hyke and Byke Zion. Here are some one-man tent options MSR Hubba NX or North Face Storm Break in case you’ll hike alone.
Sleeping bag – would recommend having one that can go down to -5°C/23°F comfort in case it gets really cold and it can even in summer – we woke up once on the Ausangate trek in a tent covered in snow. For hiking in Peru, I used a down sleeping bag and Campbell had a synthetic one – both worked good.
I prefer down bags they are light, soft, and pack small though modern synthetic bags are quite compact as well. Keep in mind with down bags if it gets wet it’s difficult to dry it. For synthetic sleeping bags, Kelty Tuck or Teton Sports TrailHead is a good and budget option. Down bags are usually more expensive – check these models; Vitals Summit 20 and EOLUS 800.
Camping mat – an important camping item, it adds quite a lot to keep you warm while sleeping – make sure your mat has good isolation. We used to carry foam mattresses but first, they’re not very comfortable and soft and second, after a couple of hikes they start looking dilapidated and dirty. Now we use inflatable camping mats – they pack very small and fit easily into a backpack and are much more comfortable.
Camping stove – on most treks in Peru you won’t be able to get food you have to carry supplies and cook your own meal. We advise buying a screw-in camping stove with Piezo Ignition (no need to worry about matches or lighter). These stoves are awesome – very small (can put it in your pocket) and light, work great (our never failed), plus it’s easy to get gas anywhere in the world (we used it in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa).
Stove screen – it does get quite windy sometimes rather than trying to find a hidden spot for cooking bring a screen – it saves time and gas, it packs small and weighs nothing. Ohuhu camp stove windshield is a great option for hiking – it weighs only 274 g/0,6 lbs, has an adjustable size and pegs to secure it into the ground.
Cooking pots – we use a set of two pots; one for cooking and one for boiling water. You’ll need as well a plastic bowl (we use lids instead), spork/fork & spoon, cup. As an option you can buy a cooking set with pots, stove, bowls, spork, etc. there are many options.
AeroPress coffee maker – if you’re like us a real coffee snob, can’t live without a cup of coffee in the morning and don’t drink instant coffee buy an AeroPress. We always travel with one and even take it on hikes. It’s such a pleasure in the morning to sit with a cup of good coffee next to your tent somewhere in the mountains.
Pocket knife – we always take our Swiss Army knife with when we go hiking or camping – very handy, can be used for cutting, opening cans etc.
Headlamp – is a must-have item on the trek if you want to read, cook, pitch a tent etc. – most campsites don’t have electricity, sometimes there are no campsites at all so you’ll need a headlamp.
Water bottle – you can use a normal water bottle with purifying tablets or filter or buy a LifeSrtaw bottle. I personally don’t like drinking water that tastes like a swimming pool for me LifeStraw is a much better option. We wouldn’t recommend drinking water from rivers and creeks in Peru without purification – there are many alpacas and cows walking around it can be contaminated.
Camping towel – we’re both hands for microfiber towels; light, small, dry quick, easy to wash and come in different sizes and colors, a must have item for any hiker or backpacker.
Trekking poles – it’s not compulsory but recommended to have, all the time you hike in the mountains there many steep descends that can be tough on your knees, especially if you walk downhill with a heavy backpack – poles will help to reduce the load on the ankles, knees and hip joints.
Padlock – handy to have one if you want to walk around to check out nearby ruins or swim in a like you can lock your tent with a padlock to make sure everything stays safe.
Ziploc bag or waterproof pouch to keep your valuables (passport, money) safe and dry.
Don’t forget to take a couple of plastic bags for rubbish on most hikes there are no places to throw it away you’ll have to carry it all the way back.
Suggested trekking and camping gear for Peru
Clothes for hiking in Peru
Hiking shoes – good boots is a must have for hiking in the mountains. What is important in hiking shoes;
- have good grip – sometimes you walk on muddy or rocky terrain
- fit good – you have some space to wiggle your toes
- good quality – won’t fall apart after one hike
Models for men. If you like low shoes – Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof or Salomon X Ultra Prime are good options for you; durable, waterproof, comfortable, have a good grip. For those who prefer high-cut models – KEEN Targhee II Waterproof or more budget option – Columbia Granite Ridge. If you buy a new pair wear them before you go on a hike even super quality new shoes might cause blisters. It’s very unlikely you’ll walk in the snow in Peru unless you do some high altitude hikes in winter (July, August) – normal hiking shoes will be good enough.
Models for women. I bought a pair of Salomon Ellipse 2, and walked in these shoes for about 2500 km in the last year, mostly in Spain (on the Camino de Santiago) and in Nepal. They were extremely comfortable I walked in them in all kinds of weather; pouring rain, snow, summer heat, and on different surfaces from tarred roads to sand dunes and snow paths. After all these walks my shoes are still alive and I’m planning to sue them on our upcoming trip to Peru n September 2019. Other similar options to look at – KEEN Targhee II and Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof or a bit cheaper model – Columbia Dakota Drifter.
Merino wool socks – a must-have especially for long hikes. In the past, we didn’t pay much attention to socks – bought any random cheap socks and used to have blisters. We’ve heard a lot from other hikers about merino wool socks and finally decided to give it a go. They do work great, now we always wear them for hiking. Some advantages of merino wool socks; don’t absorb odors, protect your feet, dry quickly, and very durable. For an even more comfortable walk check Darn Tough hiking socks they’re famous for great foot support and blister protection. I like their ladies’ models; colorful and funky.
Rain poncho – in case your jacket is not super waterproof or you want some extra protection (you might need some if you hike in rainy season). We’d recommend buying a poncho that can fit over a backpack to make sure nothing gets wet. We always pack ponchos when go traveling – they are small and light and are often quite handy. Personally, I don’t like walking with an umbrella at all.
Trekking pants – for men normal light fast dry hiking pants will be fine, if you go hiking in winter months – warmer waterproof pants. For women, I’d suggest packing trekking pants and yoga pants. I always take both and prefer wearing yoga pants – they stretch easily and are more comfortable. For hiking in lower temperatures, I usually put thermal pants underneath.
Fleece – always pack one when you go hiking in Peru even if it’s warm during the day at night in the mountains it always gets chilly. If you hike in winter you might need a fleece for wearing during the day under your rain jacket. Check these fleeces for women they come in so many different colors.
Hiking shirt – one long sleeve shirt and one T-shirt will be enough. Campbell always hikes in Columbia shirts, I prefer stretchy running shirts (both long and short sleeve). If you’re planning to do high altitude hikes in Peru rather, take two long sleeve shirts I don’t remember myself walking in a T-shirt on any of the hikes.
Sports bras – they are great for hiking and outdoors definitely recommend sports bras over normal bras.
Thermal underwear – really recommend to pack it with, you can use thermals (men’s models) for sleeping and as an extra layer for hiking if it gets cold. I always take normal cotton socks for sleeping as well.
Underwear – take two-three pairs with depending on a hike duration.
Swimming costume – not necessary for every hike but some routes have hot springs on the way – it’s awesome to soak in hot water after a couple of intense hiking days.
Beanie – we’d recommend taking a beanie – it can be quite chilly in the morning.
Gloves – if you do one of the high altitude hikes (over 3500m) or hike in winter – definitely take gloves with.
Sunglasses – bring sunglasses for hiking in the mountains with high UV protection and polarized lenses.
Buff/headwear – nice to have a buff for some extra sun protection especially if you walk in a T-shirt with an open collar.
Suggested hiking clothes for women
| Rain jacket | Fleece | Running shirt | Running T-shirt | Hiking pants | Yoga pants | Rain poncho | Thermal underwear | Sports bras | Gloves | Beany | Cap | Sunglasses | Hiking shoes | Flip flops | Socks |
Suggested hiking clothes for men
Gadgets and devices
Camera – it’s always a tough choice for us what camera to take; we have a mirror camera Canon EOS 80D and a mirrorless camera Olympus OM-D. The quality of photos is better with the mirror camera but it’s big and quite heavy usually on multi day hikes we take the mirrorless camera.
GoPro – a great thing to take with on a multi-day hike; light, small, great footage, and good photos. If you’re not a photographer or a blogger and take footage mainly for yourself it’s not worth carrying a big mirror camera with rather take a GoPro. We just upgraded our old GoPro3 to GoPro Hero 6 Black and are very happy with it – for now, we’ve used it more for filming underwater and I can say the quality of the footage is really good. If you want a budget alternative check AKASO EK7000 it might be not as great as GoPro but costs less than half.
Drone – we’re still considering buying a drone, yes, it’s been almost a year and we haven’t decided yet. It can be great to have it and take on short day hikes but packing a drone for a multi-day hike where you have to carry camping gear and food is a little bit too much. I just can imagine awesome footage you can get in the Peruvian mountains with it. DJI Spark is probably the best option for traveling; a small, light, takes good footage.
Smartphone – we use our smartphones a lot for taking short videos and photos for Instagram, for navigating, listening to music and even as a torch when we can’t find one. We always buy a local SIM card to stay connected and keep our readers up to date with our adventures.
Earphones – if you have a smartphone it’s logical to buy earphones for listening to music, audiobooks etc.
Kindle – Campbell’s best friend, he always takes his Kindle Paperwhite with on hikes. Most of the time you finish your hiking day quite early and after making lunch and pitching a tent it’s nice to relax and read a good book. I prefer paper books but thinking about buying a Kindle for myself as well in some places it’s difficult to find a book you’d like to read in a language you know. If you’re a happy owner of a Kindle don’t hesitate to join Kindle unlimited program by Amazon you get access to hundreds of thousands of Ebooks and audiobooks with it.
GPS watch – we don’t have one and like with a drone have been thinking about buying it for a while. It’s great for hiking and running, navigating and many other things but our main problem is its price. To have it on a hike will be quite handy especially for navigating and measuring distances so it’s more “yes” – Garmin Fenix 5X might be our next big hiking purchase.
Power bank – if you’re planning to use a lot at least one of the mentioned gadgets a power bank is a must have on a multi-day hike as I already mentioned most of the trails in Peru go through uninhabited areas with no electricity.
Note! Peru uses powers sockets of type A (like in the US and Canada) and C (like in most European countries) it’ll be handy to have an adapter to be able to use both types.
- First Aid kit – we always advise to take it with on hikes you never know what can happen from a blister to a sudden stomach problem or a headache.
- Mosquito repellent
- Lip balm with UV protection
- Soap/shower gel
- Cream/body lotion
- Humid tissues
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
Download complete Peru hiking packing list
Weather in the Cusco region
There are two different seasons in Cusco; rainy and warm season and dry and cold season. Day temperatures in the region stay more or less the same throughout the year, night temperatures are about 5°C lower in the dry season. Due to high altitude even in the warmest month, it doesn’t get hot, the temperature stays around 20°C. The difference between day and night temperature is quite big and nights are always chilly or even cold high in the mountains.
As for rains; December – March are the wettest months in Cusco – it’s the worst period for hiking the rainfalls are quite heave. May-August are the driest and the coldest months when chances of rain are very small you can rather get snow in the mountains. Shoulder season – April and September – November doesn’t get as much rain and are a bit warmer than winter months. Both times we hiked in Peru it was in October-November. October was totally fine but in November we did get some rain in Cusco but not on the hikes.
Weather in the Huaraz region
The climate in Huaraz is very similar to Cusco – located over 3000m about the seas level Huaraz has the same temperature throughout the year with slight changes in winter months. Nights in Huaraz are always cold especially high in the mountains.
In Huaraz like in Cusco, there are two well-determined seasons; dry and rainy season. In the dry season between May and September chances of getting rain are very small and even if it rains it’s more of a drizzling. Most rainfalls happen between January and March – we wouldn’t recommend hiking during this period. Hiking in shoulder season April, October – December you may be lucky and get no rain or unlucky and get wet from time to time.
Recommended books and guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Peru (Travel guide). Paperback and Kindle edition.
- The Last Day of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie. Paperback and Kindle.
- Lost city of the Incas by Hiram Bingham. Paperback and Kindle.
- Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams. Paperback and Kindle.
- Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash: The Hiking & Biking Guide (Trailblazer) by Neil Pike. Paperback.
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