Last November I had the honor of taking the Salkantay Trek into one of the 7 Great Wonders of the World - Machu Picchu. After hiking five days, fifty miles on foot.. I have to say it was worth every. single. step. I won’t give away too much - as I feel everyone should experience this place for themselves. But what I will share with you - is how to prepare by packing the right things.
If you haven’t been to Peru yet. I can describe it as wholesome and spiritual. This country is REAL. Nothing too fancy and spruced up. The culture is hard working and encompasses the true hustle of humanity.
Traveling through the airports, on my layover I had the opportunity of speaking with locals in Lima. Their advice to me was imperative and I will share it with you as well. Coming from America.. we are so spoiled, we don’t even know it.
When you arrive to these guided trails, whether you take the Inca Trail, Salkantay or other passes, you will be offered mules, donkeys and horses to pack out your clothing, gear, whatever you need. I opted out of this option for a number of reasons. 1. I don’t want to use the animals. They don’t get tips anyway. 2. I wanted to see what I can do myself, how much I can endure. I knew if I proved to myself I could pack out more than I needed, I could do this on my own. Survival!
Okay so here goes.. The things I packed that I got most use of:
Multi Day Backpack - if you’re gunna pack out gear, the choice and fit of your pack is going to make or break your hike. I chose to hike with the DEVA 80 from Gregory Packs. I have previous experience with this pack and swear by it. It has every pocket you need for easy access to last min things on the go.. like snacks/water, rain coat, warmer layers, sunglasses etc. The WishBone Frame keeps the bag form fitting to your spine and minimizes sway. I can go on and on. This will always be my go-to pack for long multi-day treks. As the days go by, this pack becomes a part of your body. The extra 40lbs I packed out felt like nothing.
Waterproof Boots - I am sure you saw this coming. Everyone has experience with ill-fitting boots. I made the gutsy choice on this trail to hike out with fresh, brand new boots.. not sure about fit for long distance and brave enough to endure the blisters I knew were going to come my way. But guess what.. not one blister!! Not one drop of water. Actually.. these boots still looked brand new after 50 miles! Keen Footwear’s PYRENEES. I am an advocate of these babies now. I have total faith they would take me on the PCT and back.
Rain Jacket - Ever heard of GoreTex? It works. The Salkantay takes you through diverse terrain, from mountain tops into the jungle. You endure multiple elevation and climate changes. MUST HAVE RAINCOAT. Something breathable, but waterproof. Which most companies fail at. GoreTex is the way to go. The jacket I wore daily dried quickly overnight to be ready for the next day. I don’t even think I have washed it since I got home. It smells great and isn’t even dirty! Wanna know what kinda jacket it is… the Burton Sadie Rain Jacket. Not one drop of water came through.
Leggings,leggings, leggings - Every girls go-to daily wear. But not all leggings are made equal! This we know already. So pack your BEST leggings. Not necessarily the ones that make your butt look good. No one is out there to check you out anyway! Unless you’re on the hunt for a cute llama ;) I wore my Glyder Apparel Elongate leggings the most. They’re long enough to tuck into your socks, thick enough to keep the wind from whipping through, bugs biting and also thin enough to keep you cool in the humidity. Okay okay, and they also make your butt look good.
Those are my MUST HAVE items for comfort on long treks. Of course we all know what else to bring right? Good wool socks, snacks, a hat and sunscreen. Don’t forget your toothpaste! The list goes on. If ya really want to know because you are headed out on the hike in the near or distant future - feel free to contact me. I will fill you in and give you the full - mom style pack list.
Now, for the things I did not know I needed. That were great to have on the trail:
Coco leaves - yes, you will test positive for Cocaine over the next two weeks. But this is not the real deal people. This is the natural leaf which helps blood circulation, getting oxygen to the body, elevation sickness.. the list goes on. And the local guides swear by it. My advice is to swing by the local market and grab a baggy of fresh leaves before you leave for the hike. Make sure they’re not too dry. When you need them, just tuck them in your lip and trek away.
Chapstick WITH Sunscreen - OMG my lips blistered. Even with a hat on, my bottom lip looked like I had injections. I had normal, amazingly great lip balm (I’ll fill you in on my all time fave soon), but I should have brought something with some sun protection. So when you pack, ain’t no regular Burt’s Bees or Blistex gunna work. Head over to (okay here’s my fave) Raw Elements and treat your lips to some earth and body friendly goodness. I always order these in bulk because I love the smell. A bonus: their sunscreen is legal in areas that have outlawed harmful common sunscreens.
A Clean Outfit for Machu Picchu - I know this sounds funny.. but if you plan on actually hiking into Machu Picchu, bring something clean to wear when you get there. Believe it or not, the town is like a hidden oasis. Most people there did not just hike in. They took a train, bus, whatever. No one stinks like you will when you arrive. When you come stumbling into town, walking with gumby legs, dirt on your face and greasy hair. So get ready to take the best shower of your life and put on some “regular clothing”. Heck, you might even have the energy to head out and party. Me on the other hand, I basically wore my pjs and ate cake.
What my layover conversations with Lima locals taught me:
Don’t drink the tap water! The water contains Giardia and can make you quite sick. This means veer from fruits and salads that may have been washed with faucet water. Say away from homemade juices that aren’t bottled or made with bottled water. Be sure you boil your water before you drink - if you are drinking your own water on the trail, the water in the streams is also contaminated.
Don’t trust your belongings just sitting around. It is a busy area in the cities and not everyone is as trustworthy as they seem. Keep your money, passport and other important possessions safe. I used a fanny pack - they’re back in style anyway.
There is so much more to this trek than just packing right. Make sure to pick a great guide to take you there, bring a happy, ready-to-explore attitude, and get ready to have some of the best experiences of your life. The nature and culture is so diverse, lush and this is a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy!!
My trekking guides: First Step Expeditions. This crew provides a great time and INCREDIBLE food along the way. Check their page for upcoming trips.
Feel free to contact me for a full packing list if you want - I am always happy to share more with you! Safe travels out there!!