Packing List: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
(We’ve updated this post with post-trip comments in italics)
Packing can easily be the most stressful part of a vacation, so we hope to be helpful to those planning similar trips by sharing our complete packing lists for every trip we take. We’re no mountaineering pros, so all of these items are straight from our closet, with a few things purchased to fill in the gaps. Check back after a few weeks for updates on what we wish we had and hadn’t packed.
Here’s what we’re taking for a 9 day/10 night trip to Peru, which includes a 5 day/4 night trek over the Salkantay Pass. First up is Shane’s list, then Iylana’s, and last the gear and other items we share.
1. and 2. Travel Days This combo of Mountain Khaki approach polo and khaki pants makes a light and comfortable pairing for a long day of travel. These will get washed in our hotel and left behind with our non-trail gear for reuse at the tail end of the trip. For traveling back, I will basically piece together an outfit from whatever clean clothes I have. We’ll wash what we can before starting the trail. Pictured are Horny Toad khakis and an Eddie Bauer henley. (All good here. Kept me feeling comfortable and fresh for both 16+ hour travel days.)
3. Sleepwear A light pair of PJs and Under Armour Shirt of my favorite team (similar here) works for our days in Cuzco as well as setting aside for when we get to Aguas Calientes. The other pair (White Sierra fleece pants and Mountain Hardwear tee) will keep me warm on the trail. (Again, this was the right call, although it’s possible you could eliminate one set of sleepwear if you don’t mind the potential odor)
4. and 5. Cuzco An Eddie Bauer henley and Marmot shorts are a comfortable combo for exploring the ancient Inca capital. For our second day, Mountain Khaki shirt with Mountain Khaki shorts. Again, these will be washed in the sink along with the previous days clothing. A few items, like the shorts, will go in our duffel for the trail while the others stay behind at our hotel. (It was a bit cool in the mornings, but by mid-morning it was plenty warm enough for shorts. I used my rain jacket as a warming layer in the morning.)
6. Trek Outerwear Patagonia Nano Air jacket provides warmth but is immensely packable, making it easy to carry in my daypack and deploy when needed. Same with the Under Armour rain jacket (similar). Easy to stuff away when not needed, but also doubles as a nice layer when not needing the Patagonia jacket. Fleece neck gaiter and Mountain Hardwear dome. (I never actually needed my rain jacket for rain. We got lucky in that regard. However, it did come in handy as a nice thin layer for cooler mornings. The Patagonia jacket performed as expected.)
7. Trek Day 1 The first day of the trek has us climbing Salkantay pass and layers will be needed, as well as being prepared for precipitation. Under the DWR Mountain Hardwear pants are Marmot fleece lined base layer pants. A Columbia fleece jacket goes over a Mountain Hardwear base layer, all of which is under the Patagonia jacket. From our research, we’ll be adding and shedding layers at a moments notice. (This was the perfect set for the first day. The weather fluctuated a lot from cold to warm so layers came on and off a lot and I was glad for everything I had.)
8. Trek Day 2 Day two has us descending from the glacier into the jungle so shedding layers will be important again. I’ll start with the Columbia fleece over a Under Armour heat gear 1/4 zip. A lighter pair of Marmot leggings under the previous days Mountain Hardwear pants is an option if the day starts out too cold. (I actually didn’t use the second pair of leggings. It wasn’t too cool when we set out and quickly warmed up as we hit the jungle. I would leave them behind and plan on reusing day one leg layer if needed.)
9. Trek Day 3 Two days is enough to wear those old pants! Day three has me going lighter with a breezy pair of Horny Toad pants. I’ll also have shorts with me, but our research suggests bugs will be too bad for that. The Mountain Khaki long sleeve is cooler than it looks, and the sleeves can be pulled up if it gets too warm. (I was a little hot on this day. Generally speaking, I am fashionably opposed to convertible pants, but I would have liked a pair for this trip. This is why they are made. For cool mornings and hot afternoons.)
10. Trek Day 4 Day four has us arriving in Aquas Calientes. The Horny Toad pants get reused and paired with a Mountain Khaki approach tee. The Kuhl swimsuit will be put to good use in the hot springs. (Not pictured, but also advisable to have some evening wear for Aguas Calientes). (After a warm day 3, I just opted to wear the Kuhl shorts all day. It worked out well.)
11. Trek Day 5 Machu Picchu day! I have an option between the khakis or shorts from earlier travel days to pair with Horny Toad roll-sleeve shirt. (I elected to go with the shorts which gave me a fresh and clean pair of pants for the return trip without having to do laundry.)
12. The Essentials Under Armour hat and Warby Parker sunglasses (prescription) to keep the sun out my eyes. Taking 7 pairs of ExOfficio Give N Go boxer briefs (they claim 1 or 2 will do you through 17 countries, but I don’t want to push it. 5 pair go on the trail). Simply put, they are the best underwear ever. Five pair of Smartwool hiking socks for the day and a pair of ExOfficio Bugsaway socks for the evenings. Make sure to have an extra pair or two of socks. Nothing worse than wet socks. A few pair of Smartwool running socks for non-trail days. For the trail I will be taking Patagonia Tsali 3.0 trail shoes. Lightweight shoes are important for comfort. Some will recommend ankle-covering boots but they don’t really offer more protection than trail shoes, but do tend to add bulk and weight. For non-trail days, Sanuk Drewbys are incredibly comfortable shoes for walking. (Regarding the Patagonia shoes. They were comfortable and lightweight and performed as expected. However, they were not waterproof. This was a last minute change for me as the shoes I originally intended on taking didn’t work out. I didn’t experience any blistering or anything due to wet feet, however I would recommend making sure your shoes are waterproof. Your feet will undoubtedly get wet. The Sanuks were comfortable for travel and non-trail days. I tried to make them my camp shoe as well, but probably should have elected to bring a pair of flip flops instead.)
1. and 2. Travel Days Two days of flights calls for lightweight pants and long baggy shirts. I hate wearing backpacks, so I always take a tiny purse to hold small things like my cell phone and room key. Sanuks are my go-to sandal for everyday vacation wear. I will probably end up washing these outfits in Cuzco so I can wear them again at the end of the trip. It’s important to have clean clothes to fly home in! (It’s nearly impossible for clothes to air dry here. See if your hotel can have laundry done for you.)
3. Sleepwear I like to take sleepwear that can be worn as an outfit if needed. I’m also taking leggings and a long sleeve tee for sleepwear on the trail as we’ll be camping in very cold weather. (Made the right choice! First campsite was very cold at night. Make sure your sleepwear is something you’re comfortable wearing around the campsite because I definitely wore these to dinner!)
4. and 5. Cuzco We’ll be spending two days in Cuzco to acclimate to the altitude. I’m sticking to my favorite Merrell shorts with thin t-shirts. Again, I’ll try to wash these so I have clean clothes to wear in Aguas Calientes after the trek is over. (Take your jacket with you when you’re out and about in Cusco, it goes from hot to cold very quickly! I also switched to my hiking boots when we visited Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo.)
6. Trek Outerwear Mountain Khaki quilted jacket to either wear or carry every single day on the trail. When rolled, it packs down really small so I can stuff it in my daypack. I also love that it’s a matte finish. Also taking one of these Marmot cowls that are perfect for pulling up over your nose in cold weather. I need a hat and gloves, but I know I will want to buy some alpaca wool goods, so I’ll pick those up in Cuzco! (This was the perfect jacket because I was able to stuff it in my daypack after the sun came out.)
7. Trek Day 1 Water resistant hiking pants and a fleece layer are a must for this cold and possibly wet trek. I’m also taking this vest with lots of pockets since I rely on my iPhone to capture photos quickly, and hate to have it stuffed away in my backpack—similar version here. I’ve been wearing in these super lightweight Timberland hiking boots for a few months in preparation for the trek. (Very happy with my choices of pocket vest and boots!)
8. Trek Day 2 I plan to wear mostly the same clothes from the day before with a fresh t-shirt.
9. Trek Day 3 Fresh pair of pants by Columbia, fresh t-shirt. (I could have saved some space by not bringing these pants and just wearing my leggings from Trek Day 1.)
10. Trek Day 4 From what I understand, day 4 will take us into a jungle climate with lots of bugs, so I’m going to try out this ExOfficio BugsAway shirt. On this day we’ll arrive in Aguas Calientes where we’ll be staying in a hotel and having showers before dinner. I plan on taking a clean change of clothes for the evening, which will probably be something I washed in Cuzco. (We were actually in the jungle beginning on Day 2. I switched my outfits for Days 3 and 4 since we spent a lot of time on Day 3 on a coffee farm. Lots of bugs! I think my BugsAway shirt did the trick because I hardly got any bites. It was so hot that day, I was glad I had a tank top underneath because I definitely shed all the layers I could as the day went on.)
11. Trek Day 5 – Machu Picchu Day This is the day for photos, Machu Picchu day! I’m wearing black leggings with my favorite striped t-shirt. From Machu Picchu, we’ll take the train back to Cuzco in time for dinner. For that evening I’ll probably change into the clothes I wore in Cuzco before.
12. The Essentials
A simple one piece swimsuit for the hot springs in Aguas Calientes. Two sports bras for the trek, seven ExOfficio underwear, six Smart Wool socks (one for each day of the trail AND a clean pair to wear at night). Also taking a packable rain jacket.
I try to remember it’s best to pack light – you can almost always do laundry or buy new clothes at your destination if you somehow didn’t pack enough!
1. Luggage We’ve taken our Osprey Sojourn wheeled convertible backpacks on many trips and absolutely love them. We both have the 60 liter capacity. All of the backpack straps easily tuck away to convert into a rolling suitcase. We’re taking these to Cuzco, but thankfully, we won’t be taking these on the trail. If you’re hiking with a tour company, they will likely give you a duffel which your porter will carry. Your luggage stays at their offices in Cuzco.
2. Daypack You will be carrying a daypack for water, sunscreen, etc. This one matches our luggage set and even straps onto it.
3. Water You need to carry at least 1.5 litres of water on the trail. Our water reservoirs are from Camelbak.
5. Pillow These stuff away really small, so we usually carry them while traveling.
6. Packable Duffel Great solution to bring souvenirs home if you’ve already stuffed your bag to the gills before you even arrive! Similar here.
7. Pocket Knife Could come in handy in the wilderness.
8. Flashlights Headlamps are highly recommended for middle of nowhere midnight bathroom trips. We’re also taking this tent light. (Didn’t need the tent lamp.)
9. Universal Power Adaptor This is the one we have. (2 out of 3 hotels had American style plugs. But we were glad we had this for the 3rd hotel!)
10. Battery Pack Charge up your phone/camera with this portable power bank.
11. and 12. Cameras Iylana uses her iPhone for photos when traveling. Shane uses a Sony A7s.
13. Headphones if you can’t stand the peace and quiet for 5 days.
14. Medical Kit Your group will have a medical kit, but I always take a few things I know I’ll need. Ibuprofen, Pepto, Band-aids for foot blisters. (Update: we definitely should have also included knee braces, bug itch cream and Immodium!)
15. Sunscreen and Chapstick
16. Bug Spray (Get the strongest you can find!)
17. Wet Wipes With limited shower availability, you’ll want to have lots of wet wipes at the end of a long day’s hike. (Also pack toilet paper.)
19. Binoculars Nice and compact. Will be good for birdwatching and when we camp in front of Machu Picchu. (Ended up not carrying these because they made the daypack too heavy. But it would have been nice to have them at our campsite at Llactapata on Day 3 because you can see Machu Picchu across the valley.)
20. Passport Please don’t forget this. That would be a very sad airport meltdown!
So that’s our packing list plan! We’ll find out soon enough if there’s anything we missed or something we should have left behind.
Check back for our follow up post after the trip where we break the list down. FOLLOW-UP HERE