The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is an excellent alternative trek to the Inca Trail. It is a physically and mentally challenging 5 days 4 nights hike, especially in rainy season. I went in mid-March and it rained every single day of the trek, except for the last day, Machu Picchu day. The rain could’ve put a massive damper on the experience, but thankfully, I packed the right socks, boots, and rain gear to keep me blister free and dry! Below you will find my Salkantay Trek packing list, but before we get to it, a few things to consider when packing your own bag.
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Tour or Independent Hike
The Salkantay Trek can be completed without a tour guide, however, I opted to use a tour company, Salkantay Trekking. Therefore, this packing list won’t be too beneficial if you decide to complete the trek independently as you’ll need to bring (and carry) your own food, camping equipment, and plenty of water. I loved going with a guide because I only had to carry my water for the day, snacks, and layers in my day bag. The rest of my clothing was packed in a duffel carried by donkeys from campsite to campsite.
Different types of weather require different gear. This packing list is dedicated to the rainy season, because that’s when I went so that’s what I know!
The rainy season is from November to March. The dry season is from April to November. However, Machu Picchu is located in the jungle which means it could really rain at any time, so it’s best to be prepared for any type of weather, including hot and humid during the day and chilly and cold at night. This means layers are essential to enjoying your trekking experience.
The weather and how you plan to complete the trek are excellent starting points for planning your trip to Machu Picchu. And you may need to take items not listed here, but this Salkantay trek packing list will get you started!
If you’d like a printable version of this, make sure to leave your email below and I’ll send you one!
General Overview of What I Wore Each Day
What I wore on hiking days:
- Smart Wool Midweight thermal pants
- Athleta hiking pants
- Nike thermal shirt
- Dry Fit t-shirt
- Mountain Hardwear ¼ zip pull-over
- REI rain jacket
- Marmot Men’s rain pants (purchased in Cusco the day before the trek)
- Darn Tough hiking socks
- Keen Waterproof Hiking boots
What I wore to bed & around camp:
- Athleta joggers
- REI thick hiking socks
- Nike thermal shirt
- Mountain Hardware puffy coat
What I wore to the hot springs:
- Flip flops
What I wore on Machu Picchu day:
- Clean black leggings
- Tank top
- ¼ zip pullover
- Rain jacket
- Darn Tough hiking socks
- Keen Waterproof hiking boots
What I packed in my Day Bag (Osprey 10L from the Farpoint):
- 2 L Camelback
- Rain gear
- Ear warmer headband
Everything else went in the duffel bag.
Pro Tip: If you’re doing more than hiking to Machu Picchu while in Peru, you likely have a bigger backpack or suitcase. Leave that at your hostel or hotel while you’re trekking and only take what you need.
Passport – Your passport is required for entry to Machu Picchu and you can get a stamp on your passport as well! The stamp doesn’t occur at the gate, there is a little stand outside where you stamp your own passport. It’s free – don’t pay for this!
Cash – If you decide to go with a tour company you will need cash to tip the guides, chefs, and animal caretakers. Additionally, you will need cash to pay for the hot spring night (which is such a relief for your muscles on day three of the trek) and for any snack stops along the way.
Tickets – The tour company will take care of the tickets to Machu Picchu for you, but if you go solo, make sure to buy them in advance! And bring them with you!
Athleta Hiking Pants – I only packed and wore one pair of hiking pants the entire 5-day trek. I changed into clean leggings for Machu Picchu day. I got my hiking pants from Athleta and loved them. They’re super comfortable and quite fashionable – they could be worn in the city if you were so inclined. They don’t carry my specific version anymore, but these are very similar.
Leggings – Leggings can be worn as an additional layer, to sleep in, or kept fresh for Machu Picchu day.
Joggers – I love my joggers from Athleta and slept in them each night.
Sport Shirts – I wore two workout shirts during the hike. They each got worn on back to back days. I wore a fresh tank top from Athleta on Machu Picchu day.
Thermal Shirt – Nike is my go-to for thermal wear, mainly because I have plenty of it from my athletic training days. Pack at least one thermal shirt that you can wear during hikes and one to sleep in.
Thermal Pants – These pants are lightweight and thin enough to be worn underneath my hiking pants. Thermal pants can also be used to sleep in at night. Only one pair is needed.
Marmot Rain Paints – I almost didn’t have any rain pants, which would’ve made my very rainy trek very miserable. The day before we departed, I stopped into a sporting goods store in Cusco and bought the only pair left in the shop. They happened to be men’s Marmot pants, but they worked wonders at keeping me dry every day.
REI Rain Jacket – Loved my rain jacket with a hood from REI. It is lightweight and not lined, so you’ll likely need an extra layer underneath it as well.
Mountain Hardwear Puffy Coat – I didn’t wear my puffy coat during the hike, but I did use it at night to keep warm.
Pull Over – I purchased a lined ¼ zip from Moosejaw on impulse one day. It’s since become one of the things I wear the most in my backpack.
Socks – Socks are the most important things you’ll pack. I packed two types of socks, two pairs of REI brand hiking socks and one pair of Darn Tough socks. I ended up wearing the Darn Tough socks every single day of the hike. On day 4 I tried to switch to the REI brand, but I got blisters about two hours into the 8-hour hike. Thankfully, I’d packed my Darn Tough socks in my day bag so I could change them on a break and the blisters stopped developing. Keep one pair clean to sleep in at night. Good socks are essential to a happy hike and these were worth the money.
Undies & Sports Bra – Really, I didn’t see a reason to pack a real bra. I packed two sports bras and wore the clean one on Machu Picchu day. But do make sure you have enough underwear, I packed six pairs of my favorite ExOfficio underwear. They’re super comfortable, don’t ride up, keep smells at bay, and dry quickly if you need to wash them during the trek.
Beanie and/or Ear warmer headband – Depending on what you’re most comfortable in, bring something to keep your ears and head warm. I liked the headband for when I was hiking and the beanie to wear at night.
Hat – If you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day, you’ll want a hat to keep the sun off of your face! I wore it in the rain to keep the rain off of my face 🙂
Sunglasses – I didn’t have, or need, any as it rained constantly. But if you go in the dry season, you’ll need them!
Gloves – The air is cold and thin at high altitudes and your hands are out in the elements (holding the walking sticks). Keep them warm with gloves!
Buff – I wore my buff to keep my neck warm, dry, and to wipe the sweat! Plus they come in plenty of fun colors!
Towel – a lightweight, quick dry towel is great for the night at the hot springs
Hiking Boots – A good pair of well broken in hiking boots is essential. Don’t try to break in hiking boots on the trail, you’re feet, and you, will be miserable. I personally love my Keen hiking boots that cover my ankle, I feel like ankle boots give me more stability. But find ones that work for you and make sure they’re waterproof!
Flip Flops – Admittedly, I didn’t shower until night 4 in my Aguas Calientes hotel room, but if you plan to shower at campsites, you’ll want flip-flops. I also used mine for the night at the hot springs.
Birkenstocks – There is something about pulling off your hiking boots and putting your feet in Birkenstocks. It’s like they immediately relax or breath a sigh of ahhhh. I wore Birkenstocks with my REI socks in camp each night. It’s a good look, right?
Capture the Memories
DSLR – My Canon Rebel basically went everywhere with me and the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu was definitely no exception. Was it a bit annoying to carry a DSLR every day…sure…but I’m glad I had it!
GoPro – I didn’t use my GoPro at all, but many people in my hiking group used one. It was great for the rainy days.
iPhone – I kept my phone on airplane mode the entire time to disconnect, but I kept it in my pocket to use as a camera when I didn’t want to deal with getting the DSLR out.
Food & Water
Food – If you’re hiking the Salkantay trek independently, you’ll need to pack and carry your own food and all cooking equipment. I’m not sure how to do this, but this website is a good resource.
Snacks – The tour company I used gave us daily snacks, but if you have anything you like on hikes, be sure to pack your own. I packed a bag of peanut m&ms for each day!
Hydration Pack – The tour company also provided clean drinking water for us to fill up our hydration packs before we headed out for the day. I carried a 2L hydration pack.
SteriPEN – The water in Peru is not safe to drink, make sure to use the SteriPEN’s UV light to kill all the harmful bacteria so you can drink the water, and decrease plastic bottle usage!
Check out this video to see the SteriPEN at work!
Medications – Make sure you have any prescription medications you may need.
Anti-Altitude Sickness Pills – Talk with your doctor about this before the trek. The altitude is challenging as Cusco lies at 3400m, on day two of the trek you’ll climb to an altitude of 4900m and Machu Picchu is at 2400m. I didn’t use any, but I spent about 4 days acclimatizing in Cusco beforehand and didn’t drink any alcohol leading up to the trek.
Coca leaves – Our guide carried these with him. On day two, I had a wad of leaves permanently in my cheek. Supposedly, they help with altitude sickness and I didn’t end up getting sick at all! Yay for natural remedies. You can pick up your own coca leaves in Cusco.
Makeup Remover Wipes – I didn’t wear any makeup, but it was nice to use these to “wash” my face each night.
Bug Spray – It sounds crazy, but I’m one of those people who has never been bitten by a mosquito. In fact, I can’t remember the last bug bite I’ve had. That being said I still packed these mosquito repellent wipes and gave them to others on the hike when they were getting bitten by bugs.
Sunscreen – Even though it rained each day, I still put sunscreen on in the morning just in case the sun decided to come out! I love Sun Bum sunscreen!
Of course, the basics: deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lense equipment (plus extra), glasses, shampoo, conditioner, coconut oil.
Ladies – The Diva Cup would come in so handy for a trek of this type.
Provided by the Company
The company provided (for a rental fee) walking sticks, sleeping bag with liner, and a pillow!
Rain Cover – Consider packing a rain cover for your backpack. It packs down small so if you don’t use it, no big deal. I’m glad I had it to keep my day bag dry!
Vaccinations – Before heading to Machu Picchu, make sure to consult a travel health clinic to receive any vaccinations needed for Peru.
Travel Insurance – Ok, even if you’ve never bought travel insurance before, this trek would be a good place to start. This is a physically demanding 5-day trek with many unknowns – such as how your body will respond to the altitude, to the changes in climate, and to the hike itself. Plus, you’ll be in fairly remote areas, it’s better to be safe and covered! I use World Nomads for every trip!
Never go hiking without travel insurance!
I hope this packing list for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu has been helpful!Feel free to leave a comment below with any questions you may have about your upcoming trek to Machu Picchu! And drop your email for a printable version of this list!
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