Monday, June 13, 2011

Peru: Packing the Essentials

I love travelling, but I despise packing. In fact, writing this blog post is just another excuse to procrastinate from acknowledging the mess of bungee cords, clothespins, clothes and toiletries that are strewn across my bed.

There's a couple of packing challenges specific to my upcoming Peruvian adventure; I'm bringing a sleeping bag and Therm-a-Rest, my bag can't exceed 20lbs (we've hired a porter for our trek) and I'm going to be experiencing a range of weather conditions between Cusco and Lima. Luckily, in preparation for my Guyana trips last fall, I invested in some quality backpacking equipment, which makes things a bit easier.

After 10 year of travelling I finally have packing down to a bit of science. Regardless of the final destination, here's what you can always find in my bag:

Swiss Army Knife

I'm a firm believer that unless you're camping, a Swiss Army Knife only needs a corkscrew and a blade. If you have these two things then you're set to drink and dine.

Lulu Lemon Pants

They never stretch out (so you can wear them multiple times), they dry quickly and they can (arguably) be dressed up or down. The knock-offs just won't do. For whatever reason, nothing quite repels the smell of week-old backpacking filth like Lulus.

Wet Wipes

Early on in my travels, I mistakingly believed that in order to be a true backpacker, you couldn't shave, wear makeup or even bother looking in the mirror while on the road. These days, my travel beauty routine has expanded to include a little mascara and face moisturizer.

Makeup remover cloths (or wet wipes) are an incredibly wasteful product. I wouldn't use them in my everyday life, but they're perfect for international adventures. When you don't have access to a daily shower, it's refreshing to at least wipe down your face and armpits at the end of the day.


I mainly use my sarong as a wrap when I'm done washing up, but it can be used as a skirt, a towel or a blanket. In Vanuatu, it was even used by a traditional medicine practitioner to cure my gastro. (True story.)


This is a recent addition to my travel gear. Dance parties are always a must. For only $30, the iHome speaker provides amazing sound quality, has excellent battery life and packs up tidily. (It's shown expanded to full size in the photo.)

Head Lamp

I learned my lesson the hard way--never cheap out when buying a head lamp. There's nothing worse than trying to find your way in the dark with a head lamp that doesn't have much range. Same goes for torches that have short battery life.

Always choose a head lamp with multiple settings that takes standard batteries. (Personally, I like to use mine as a tent light. I'll hang it from crossbars at the top of the tent to shed light on the entire scene.)

First Aid Kit

After nearly being sent to the hospital in Vanuatu, coughing up my lungs in Croatia, and vomiting up everything I ate the last time I was in Mexico, I don't travel without a First Aid kit.

Even though it fits easily in the palm of my hand, it's packed to capacity with everything I could possibly need. Here's what I consider the essentials:
  • Midol (can be used as a muscle relaxant or for pain relief)
  • antibacterial hand wipes
  • adhesive bandages of various sizes
  • feminine hygiene products (fun fact: in a pinch, pads can be used as compresses)
  • antibiotics
  • anti-diarrhea medication
  • anti-acids
  • anti-constipation
  • cold medication
  • antihistamines 
  • eyeglass repair kit
  • ear plugs 
Dependant on where I'm headed, I'll also throw in anti-malarials, Afterbite and sleeping pills. For this trip, the only addition will be altitude sickness meds.


Scrabble is an amazing game for learning new languages. Play a game of multilingual Scrabble and challenge players to use words in any language they know. The only rule is that you have to define the word in order to play it. I'll admit, it quickly turns into something closer to Balderdash, but it's still a lot of fun.


  1. How did you manage to fit everything in to the first aid kit? Seems like a lot of items! Thanks for the list - so helpful. :)

  2. You have a such courage my dear. And this knife, what is it for exactely?


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