Machu Picchu is not the type of destination where you can throw stuff in a bag and buy something you forget when you arrive. Instead of packing the morning of (my usual practice), I started a packing list when I booked the trip about 6 months before we left. I read a number of blogs, travel sites, and G Adventures‘s suggested packing list for the Machu Picchu hike.
Still, somehow, it wasn’t until my friend pointed it out a week before, that I realize that it would be cold! Yes, I knew the southern hemisphere had winter during our summer, but for some reason, it didn’t click with me that it would be cold. We were going to be in the Andes Mountains at high altitude; Machu Picchu is not at the beach! Somehow I thought the suggested winter hat and warm clothes were suggestions for a trip at a different time of the year. Who knows what’s wrong with me, but thank goodness for smart friends!
I wanted to put together a list of the items that I thought were important to pack (and the ones I didn’t see a lot of value to). Essentially, you have to pack for 3 trips: to Lima (if you plan to stay there), Cuzco (a city), and then the actual hike to Machu Picchu.
When I was reading lists, I thought I would need to pack a bag for the porters to carry. I bought a new duffle from REI specifically for this purpose only to find out it wasn’t necessary. The tour company provides you a very small bag for your hiking items. It was much smaller than I expected, so I ended up not taking everything I originally planned – including my sleeping mat that I dragged all the way from the States.
The Must Brings You May Forget
- Sunscreen. Thankfully, our group was very friendly so I was able to borrow some from fellow travelers. I would have been miserable! Even though it’s cold, you can still get sunburned because you are at a high elevation and there is little shade. I am 34 and still haven’t learned that lesson.
- Bug spray. There were so many nats on days 1 and 2; it was annoying. There was also some type of mosquito that bit people. I am usually attacked by mosquitos, but I was lucky. Those who were bitten said they were extremely itchy and bug spay helped keep them away. A cream or Benedryl would also be helpful.
- Medication. I packed Benedryl, Alieve, Immodium, and nausea medicine. I’m glad I packed all of them. I used the Benedryl to sleep the second night, but it would have a lot of uses. We also took medication for altitude sickness in Lima to prep for our time in Cusco since it was suggested by our travel guide.
- A lightweight water bottle (at least 1 liter). I brought my Artic bottle with me for the overall trip because I take it everywhere. I was nervous about bringing it on the hike because it is too small to fit on the side of my backpack. Since I didn’t want to lose it or add that much additional weight, I bought two plastic water bottles at the market before we left and used those as refillable bottles. It worked okay, but I would have rather had a real water bottle. Bring one from home but make sure it is light (plastic) and seals well.
- A hat. I was literally sitting in the car ready to leave for the airport when I went back inside and grabbed a ballcap. I am so glad I made that decision. This was a lifesaver for me because it was sunny and helped block the sun from my face. It was also helpful to wear a hat when you didn’t get to shower for 4 days…
- Sunglasses. These were not only helpful for the sun, but also because the beginning of the trail is very dusty. Your sunglasses will block getting dust in your eyes.
- First Aid Kit. I travel with this most of the time, but I was surprised that many people didn’t have one. You never know when you’ll need to use it, and I used it for one of my fellow travelers.
When in Doubt, Bring These…
- Hiking Poles. On most lists, it said there were optional and my friend hiked without them, but there is no way I would have made it to Machu Picchu without my hiking poles. I had never used them before and thought they were kind of gimmicky. They are not. There is a purpose and you won’t regret them. A few people on the trip rented one pole and wished they would have gotten two. If you’re an experienced hiker and no you can do without, then don’t. But if you’re a novice like me, I think they are incredibly handy.
- Hiking Pants. I personally didn’t know there was such a thing until my friend mentioned she bought some the night before we left. I made a last-minute trip to REI right before closing and picked up a pair because I was so nervous. Originally, I was going to wear my workout pants. These probably would have been fine, but I am so glad I had my hiking pants. It was easier to brush off dirt and (I felt) were cleaner than my workout pants would have been after 4 days. I overpacked on pants, so I ended up only bringing my hiking pants all four days and my pajama bottoms. This actually served me well, even though I packed two extra pairs of pants. That being said, it’s always good to wear your clothes before a trip like this. If I did that, I would have learned…
- Belt. You need a belt (or at least I did). My pants stretched out a lot, so it left me constantly pulling up my pants which was difficult to do hiking and using my hiking poles. Luckily, my friend had one that she let me use, but that is the last time I forget one.
- At least 3-4 sports bras. I didn’t bring enough and had to rotate between 2. Unfortunately, it is hard to dry out your clothes because it is cold and damp at camp. I would take the extra space and pack extra to help you feel cleaner.
Necessities that are on Your List
Daypack or on Your person
- Passport and Important Documents
- Hiking shoes
- Day pack
- Journal (I actually used the one on my iPhone)
- Headlamp / flashlight
- Snacks – they give you snacks when you start, but I also bought some gummy candy in town and brought Nuun from home for electrolytes and caffeine.
- Portable power pack to recharge your phone
- Hat and gloves for cold weather
In Your Porter bag
- Pajamas – 1 pair
- Shirts (layers are a must!) – 4 base layers
- Sweatshirt / zip-up
- Short-sleeved shirt (depends on you as a person, but I never wore mine)
- Helpful to have the quick-dry material. I brought 4 long-sleeve running shirts.
- Pants – 1-2 pairs
- Socks – 4 pairs. Since you have to pack conservatively to fit in the bag, bringing 4 pairs of socks allows you to hike the first day, change into your second pair when you get to camp and wear those same socks on the day 2 hike. Make sure these socks are hiking socks or a good-quality pair of running socks. A blister could make the trip very painful.
- Rain jacket
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pillow
- Hand towel (they bring you warm water to clean after hiking and it is so worth it! You want to use this and not get your other clothes wet)