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The Ultimate Packing List for Trekking to Machu Picchu in 2018

Peru Hiking
by Miguel Angel Gongora Meza Jan 12, 2018

If you’re planning a trip to Machu Picchu (one of the new seven wonders of the world), you need to make sure you pack all the essentials. Going unprepared could easily turn your trip from an incredible experience into a nightmare, particularly if you don’t have much experience hiking.

1. Backpack

Since you’ll be hiking to Machu Picchu, you’ll need a bag which allows you to carry everything you need comfortably.

Look for a sturdy backpack with strong straps to spread the weight evenly across each side of your body. Remember to invest in a rain cover for your backpack, as most aren’t waterproof.

The size of pack you choose will depend on whether you’re trekking self-supported or assisted. Will you need to carry all your belongings, or are you trekking with a porter who can carry some items for you? If you choose to hire a porter, then all you need is a daypack that fits all of the things that you will need throughout the day while you are hiking, such as rain gear, water, a warm fleece, snacks, a headlamp, sunscreen, bug spray, camera, and passports. Porters will take everything else. On that note, here is something very important you should know before hiring an extra porter.

2. Passport

It is essential that you make sure to pack your passport first. Showing passports to access both Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail is mandatory (you’ll also get a cool stamp!). Consider putting your passport and money in a waterproof bag to keep them dry.

3. Clothes

Your Macchu Pichu hike packing list should include enough clothes to keep you comfortable in a variety of conditions. The weather in the southern Andes of Peru where Machu Picchu is located is defined by two marked seasons: the rainy season (from November to April) and the dry season (from May to October) which means that one should wear clothes accordingly. This is all about practicality, so forget style for now.

  • Tank topsLoose, comfortable tank tops or T-shirts are perfect for trekking during the day. They’ll keep you cool while offering some sun protection. For bonus points, invest in a quick-dry sports top for extra comfort.
  • Long-sleeve topsWhile it’s warm on the hike, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu can get chilly, so packing one or two long-sleeve tops is a smart move. They don’t need to be thick or bulky — they just need to cover your entire upper body to protect you from both the cold temperatures and the UV rays. Once again, quick-dry long-sleeve tops are ideal.
  • Fleeces or down jacketsThe evenings in the Andes of Peru are cold for the most part, particularly in the dry season which is winter time in the Southern hemisphere.

    Packing a lightweight fleece or a down jacket in your daypack is a smart way to keep yourself warm and cozy without adding too much extra weight to your day pack.

  • Waterproof jacketRainfall is typical on the Inca Trail and other alternative hikes to Machu Picchu as they are located in the midst of the cloud forest, so a waterproof jacket is an absolute must.

    Again, this doesn’t need to be bulky, just capable of keeping you dry. You can also buy a plastic rain poncho from the local vendors at the entry points of any of these hikes.

  • Trekking pantsYou’ll want a pair of pants that are comfortable to trek in and sturdy enough to withstand difficult conditions. You’ll wear these every day, so be sure to test them for comfort beforehand. Convertible pants are the best option; you can walk in shorts during the day and zip up the legs if/when it gets cold.
  • Comfortable pantsOn the day you reach Machu Picchu, you’ll want a set of fresh, clean clothes to change into. Packing a pair of leggings or yoga pants is perfect for this. They can even double up as nightwear in a pinch.
  • Socks and underwearPack clean socks and underwear for each day of the trek. Throw in a few spares, too, just in case it gets colder at night. Experienced hikers know that if your feet are warm, then your whole body is warm too.
  • Thermal pajamasSince the nights can get cold, packing a pair of warm pajamas is a good idea. Thermals or leggings are ideas for your bottom half, while a thermal or long-sleeve top will keep your upper body warm.
  • Hiking boots and sneakersNo Machu Picchu packing list would be complete without a good pair of hiking boots or sneakers. Choose the option you find most comfortable, and be sure to break them in properly before your trek. As a matter of safety, trekking in hiking boots is recommended. Change to a light pair of sneakers once you get to the campsites to let your feet rest.
  • SwimwearWant to enjoy a splash in the hot springs before or after visiting Machu Picchu? Don’t forget to pack your swimwear! Even if you don’t end up swimming, you’ll benefit from having a spare set of underwear in your pack.
  • SunhatPack a lightweight sunhat that covers your head and neck to help avoid sunburn and heatstroke. Avoid bulky straw hats, as these are difficult to store and carry.

4. Sun protection

Don’t let your trip be ruined by sunburn. Apply sunscreen several times each day. UV rays at high altitude are much stronger than at sea level. For ease of application, choose an eco-friendly spray or aerosol version.

5. Sunglasses

Once again, when trekking at a high altitude, UV intensity is high and can damage your eyes. Stay safe by investing in a pair of high-quality sunglasses to wear during your trip.

6. Water bottle, hydration packs, or camel bags

You won’t get very far if you don’t stay properly hydrated. Make sure that you pack a decent water bottle, hydration pack, or a camel bag. Pick any of those things that can carry one to two liters to ensure you have enough each day. Make sure your backpack or daypack has a pocket to hold it.

On most organized treks, the crew will supply you with safe water at the start of each day and at lunchtime. If you want to be extra safe, pack your own water treatment tablets or filters.

7. Headlamp or flashlight

Are you a slow walker? If so, you might find that you finish trekking around dusk each day. Carrying a headlamp or flashlight to find your way will be essential. Even if that’s not the case, having a flashlight to find your way around camp each night is very handy.

8. Walking poles

Trekking uphill and downhill for several hours a day will quickly take its toll on your joints. Packing a pair of high-quality walking poles is a good move. Choose lightweight, adjustable poles. Make sure they have a water-resistant grip in case of rainy days. Whether you’re an experienced trekker or not, walking poles will make your trek a lot more comfortable.

Creating the ideal Machu Picchu trek packing list is all about planning ahead, testing items beforehand, and preparing for every situation.

Start with the items above, then mentally walk through each day of your trek and see if anything is missing. Will you want a camera to take photos? Ties to keep your hair out of the way?

Every packing list will look a little different, so dedicate some time to creating a list that is perfect for you.

Finally, permits for the Inca Trail for May, June, and July 2018 are selling out. Follow up with one of your New Year resolutions.

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