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South America Travel Tips

Machu Picchu Packing List

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The absolute most important part of this whole trip is packing. It’s key to know exactly what you need and to make sure you have all of it before you leave. While I’m sure you can pick up any loose ends in Cusco prior to starting the hike, I absolutely wouldn’t recommend it because you risk not finding exactly what you need and/or it being overly expensive. Here’s a list of all the things I thought were necessary for making it through this trip. 

THE BIG STUFF 

I’m going to start this list with the most important things. Namely a backpack and a sleeping bag. If you don’t have these two items, I’m not really sure what it is you’re doing. I would definitely suggest splurging on these in particular because you’ll carry the backpack all day every day, and your sleeping bag will be the only thing that gets your life in order at the end of the day. REI will become your best friend, become a coop member so that you can shop the garage sale and special member sales…I did this trip just after graduating from college which meant I was broke and needed all the sales I could find. 

The day pack that I chose was an Osprey Kite 36. This is a women’s backpack, it’s very important to pay attention to gender because the backpack will frame your back and hips differently depending on the gender of the pack. 36L was the perfect size for a daypack, it held everything I needed for the day plus my 1.5L bladder for water. Honestly, I travel with this pack almost everywhere because it is just that nice and easy to carry. It also has a rain fly…which is essential to keep your pack and gear from getting wet in the rain. 

For the absolute best night’s sleep, I picked the The North Face Women’s Cat’s Meow sleeping bag. Y’all when I tell you it was like sleeping on a cloud…Maybe it’s because I was so tired by the end of the day but I’ve never loved a sleeping bag so much. Obviously I haven’t gotten much use out of it since because I hate hiking, but if I lived up north or in the midwest it would be something I kept in my car for those just in case winter moments. It’s a 20 degree mummy sleeping bag with a fitted hood and draft collar. I was honestly too warm some nights, but that’s better than the alternative. The bag came with a storage bag and a compression pack which is necessary for packing the bag to give to the porters. 

To go along with the bag I would suggest also buying an inflatable mattress pad, a sleeping bag lining, and a pillow. I ended up buying my sleeping bag and all accessories while on a trip to Toronto at two stores: Mec and Sail. Pro Tip: For Americans, if you are living close to the Canadian border or are planning a trip to Canada prior to going to Machu Picchu, I would highly suggest you purchasing a decent amount of your gear while in Canada for two reasons – 1. Their outdoor stores are amazing and have more selection than any store I’ve been to in the US. 2. Because of the value of the Canadian dollar compared to the US dollar, you will save about 20-25% buy shopping in Canada, plus in certain parts of the country you don’t have to pay for sales tax. I bought a simple Mec Backpacking Pillow and a Klymit Static Lightweight Sleeping Pad. Both of these items are inflatable which makes them that much easier to pack. The sleeping bag liner, I purchased from REI. Make sure you get a mummy liner so that it matches the shape of your sleeping bag. None of these accessories are absolutely necessary… you could do without (especially since our tour company gave us a mattress pad) but I wasn’t mad I bought these things because I used every single thing. 

FOOTWEAR

We’ve discussed this. Your feet are important. Protect them. Love them. Buy yourself a good pair of mid or high top hiking boots. Please. You absolutely need the ankle support. If you roll your ankle on the first or second day, honey you’re screwed for the rest of the trip. So do yourself and those in your group a favor… no one wants to hear you complaining about your ankles hurting and being sore. I choose Keen Steens Leather Waterproof Hiking Boots. Please, for the love of god, make sure your boots are waterproof. Not that you’ll be trekking through water because you won’t be, but if it rains… I can’t think of anything worse than walking with wet soggy feet. Personally, I think hiking boots are probably the ugliest footwear you could ever buy, but you really won’t be that cute on this hike anyways so might as well make sure the boots are comfortable and functional. REI is one of the best places to try on boots because they have these little inclines and rocks in the footwear area that you can walk on while trying on each boot…it’ll give you a bit of an idea of how your feet will slide and move in the boots. 

Make absolute sure that you break in your hiking boots BEFORE you get to Peru. I walked 2+ miles in them every day for about 10 days while wearing my backpack before we left. Then I made sure to wear them everywhere while in Cusco before starting the hike. 

You will also need a pair of shoes that you can be comfortable in around the camp site. As soon as we got settled into our tents at each of the sites, my boots came off immediately. My favorite pair of comfy shoes are Birkenstocks. It seemed that a lot of people brought Chacos. What you decide is up to you, but for me, I wasn’t into messing with all those straps at the end of the day I just wanted something I could slide on with my socks but something that would still be supportive. 

Socks are as equally important as the boots. I don’t know about y’all but if my feet aren’t happy, I’m not happy. Get some quality hiking socks. Enough for the hike plus a couple extra just in case. My two favorite brands are Darn Tough and SmartWool

 

Clothing 

Just like hiking boots, hiking pants are no where near attractive but they are pretty necessary. I had a really hard time finding the right hiking pants. They don’t seem to make them for short girls with hips and thighs…I guess we don’t hike much (well I don’t, but someone must!). Anyways, I ended up buying hiking pants at Mec as well while shopping in toronto. Just make sure you try several different pairs on and you don’t settle because settling = chaffing. As I’ve said before, and again I know it’s weird, but men’s athletic briefs were an absolute life saver when it came to chaffing. 

I bought tshirts from GapBody which I still where everyday to work because they are that comfortable. Longsleeve loose nike dri-fit shirts (Michigan gear of course) as a layer for the early mornings. Then a fleece 1/4 zip for when it was really nippy. 

Another important layer is a nice raincoat. Doesn’t have to be designer, it just needs to keep you dry in the rain. 

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

Lastly, there are a few items that we picked up after reading some reviews and blogs. 

First up, Trekking Poles. Now most of the websites we looked at didn’t state that these were necessary, rather they were a suggestion. Y’all, they are necessary. Trust me on this one. They won’t help you much on a climb, so buy some that can expand and retract and strap them to your pack until you go down hill. Trekking poles will save your life not only on the downhill, but also on the descending steps, and the slick jungle cobblestones. 

Second thing you need is a dry bag or fully waterproof bag to pack in. This is what you will pack your clothes and sleeping bag in to give to the porters. At the beginning of a trip the tour company will give you a dufflebag, which is all the space you will have to pack in for the items you give to the porters… this bag is not at all waterproof. Which means, if it rains, your shit is getting wet. You’ll be wearing wet pjs and sleeping in a wet sleeping bag. Ew. DO NOT forget this item. Seriously, it’s important. 

Third is a headlamp. We didn’t use this extremely often, but when we needed it – it came in handy. The absolute only reason you need to get this is to have a hands free light to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. For starters theres no electricity out on the trail. So when you have to make your way in the dark to the hut with the porcelain holes in the ground and then you have to squat (without touching anything because it’s dirty but also holding your pants and making sure you don’t pee on your shoes) you’ll wish you had a hands free light. You can also use it for the very early morning hikes.

Fourth item is Moleskin. You’ve probably never heard of it so while you’re already at REI, ask someone. Moleskin is meant to cover “hotspot” areas on your feet, ankles, and toes to stop heat and friction and prevent blisters. Doesn’t matter whether you’ve broken in your hiking boots or not, 10 miles up and downhill will cause some friction and the last thing you want are blisters. 

Lastly, a first aide kit. I’ll be honest and say that we didn’t even open this while on the trip, but if we hadn’t bought I guarantee you we would have needed it. 

CAMERA GEAR

I would absolutely not recommend you bring an expensive camera/tripod/lens kit or anything of the sort. This is just not the environment for that kind of photography. Not to mention the weight that will add to your backpack, which trust me, you already have enough weight to carry. I traveled with a GoPro, the Hero 4 to be exact because that was the newest model at the time. With it, I made sure I carried 2 extra batteries (so I had 3), the waterproof case, and the floating hand grip. Some people use mounts and that would probably be helpful for action shots and videos while trekking, but I wasn’t into all that at the time. 

If you have any questions on any of the items leave a comment, reach out on social media, or shoot us an email! We’d be happy to answer any questions.