Hiking the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu should be on every travelers bucket list. It was on my 30 before 30 list and I did it just shy of my 30th birthday. However, the most popular hike, the Inka Trail, is extremely crowded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s an amazing hike, but if I’m going hiking, I want to be out there with as few people as possible. Anyone else? Take my advice on this one and do the Salkantay Trek, National Geographic named it the best way to trek to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek 5 days and 4 nights of glaciers, mountains, jungle and amazing views – including my personal favorite the Salkantay Pass. The Salkantay Trek distance is 72 kilometers (approximately 45 miles).
As a result of the ever changing landscape, packing can be a bit of a challenge. I’ve done the the Salkantay Trek in Peru three times and will be headed back to do it again in the future. I don’t consider myself an expert on this trail by any means, but I’m damn good at packing for a hike and doing it as light as possible (within reason i.e. I’m not an ultra light backpacker).
What to pack for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
4 Season Sleeping Bag and liner
Believe it or not, it can get pretty cold at the beginning of this hike. During my last hike we woke up to snow and ice one morning we hiked up to the Salkantay Pass! Boy was I glad I had my nice warm sleeping bag. I’ve had my bag long enough that they don’t make it anymore, but it is very similar to the Big Agnes Yock 0 Down Mummy sleeping bag, which will probably be the next sleeping bag purchase. It’s rated to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and is 850+ goose down fill. For my liner I use the Sea to Summit Expander Sleeping Bag Liner. It’s lightweight, and has a little pouch for a pillow that I stick clothes in at night so I don’t have to bring a pillow with me. The liner will help you from getting cold if you sweat in your sleeping bag on chilly nights and is perfect for once it gets hot. You can just sleep with your bag unzipped, but inside the liner.
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Confession, I’ve got a bit of a thing for Sea to Summit. The gear they sell is always amazing, which is why I have so much of it. And, no, they’re not paying me to say that. Dry bags are a must when it comes to hiking. Nobody wants a wet jacket never mind a wet sleeping bag. The Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag has joined me on many an adventure and is always reliable. It’s relatively light and all of my clothes fit inside. I have a second one just for my sleeping bag and liner.
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Backpack and Waterproof Cover
I love my day pack! This baby has been all over the world with me. As a result it’s a bit old and Gregory Backpacks doesn’t make it anymore. It pains me to say it, but within the next year or so I’ll probably need a new one *que silent tears* I swear by Gregory backpacks. As a petite woman (I’m 5′ 3″) they’re the only bags that actually fits me properly. The updated version on my day pack is the Gregory Women’s Maya 22L pack. It weighs 23oz. and has a mesh vesting system where your back meets the pack to help avoid the dreaded back sweat. It fits everything a need for long days of hiking, and I have never had any complaints about Gregory.
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Water bladder and water bottle
Hiking at altitude is no joke. I’ve seen hikers of all abilities have challenges hiking above 11,000 feet. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to stay hydrated. I drink a TON of water while hiking so I use both a 3 liter Platypus Hoser and a 32oz. Nalgene. I have the Platypus for hydration on the move and the Nalgene to carry extra water, just in case. Not having enough water is a big fear of mine out on the trail, so I ALWAYS carry extra. I like the Platypus because it’s so light. Other water bladders tend to have a lot of bulky plastic, which I really don’t like. As for the Nalgene, they’re indestructible. I’ve had my favorite Nalgene since the start of my sophomore year of college in 2005, and it’s still going strong.
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For the love of whatever God you pray to, bring hiking poles. You might think they’re lame, but trust me, they help. In a recent blog post on Happiest Outdoors I gave my two cents on my favorite hiking poles. I’ve used many different kinds and highly recommend the Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles. They are lightweight, have comfy grips and fit nicely in my backpack. Whether you get these poles or something similar, please don’t purchase poles that turn in order to tighten into place. They never stay the height you want them to, and that is the worst, especially while going downhill.
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If you have good boots, you’ll have a good hike. If your boots suck, well…your feet are going to hate you. I’ve climbed mountains, I go hiking at least once a week and I wear my boots in the winter at home. These boots, are the best boots I’ve ever had and if Vasque stops making them I’ll cry. The Vasque Women’s Eriksson Gore-Tex Hiking Boot rock my world. I got them on sale, cause they were the sample size, from my local gear shop Outdoor Gear Exchange. Best. Purchase. Ever! Tons of ankle support, leather with a GORE-TEX lining, and great traction. But don’t forget to break them in before you hit the trail!
If you have flat feet check out this guide to the best hiking boots for flat feet to help you find the perfect boot. For those of you who have other issues with your feet ask your local boot outfitter or doctor for recommendations.
Please note that Vasque as discontinued the production of the Eriksson boots. I’m SUPER sad! I tweeted at them and they recommended I try the St. Elias FG GTX style. This was after I had purchased 2 pairs of Erikksons cause old habits die hard.
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This is a 2 hat trip because you’ll be going from cool temperatures to warm ones. For the cold days and nights I took my Buff Polar hat. I wear this during days 1 and 2 and at night to keep my ears warm. For when it starts to warm up any hat that covers your face will do. From a baseball cap to a funky all around wide brimmed hat. As long as it’s easy to pack.
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When it comes to the base layer you need 2 sets, 1 that’s thermal and 1 that’s moisture wicking. You can wear the moisture wicking top as a regular top, but I don’t recommend that with the bottoms because you can usually see right through them. For my moisture wicking layers I have Arcteryx. The top is the Arcteryx Women’s Phase SL Crew LS Top and the bottom is the Arcteryx Women’s Phase AR Bottom. They’re both odor resistant and super soft against my skin.
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My thermal base layers my top is Icebreaker Women’s Everyday LS Crewe and my bottoms are Smartwool Women’s Merino 250 Baselayer Bottom. While they’re from different companies, they’re both made from merino wool. I recommend the merino over synthetic because I feel it keeps you warmer. This is only my personal opinion and encourage you to make the best choice for your body.
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Gloves and Mittens
It’s important to have both gloves and mittens. The mittens will keep your fingers close together making them warmer when it’s really cold. The gloves are great because they are small enough to fit under your mittens if you feel like you need an extra layer and if it’s really sunny and your hands are getting burned (yes, I know this from painful experience.) you can wear them then too. I use a Lightweight Sport Glove and Down Mittens.
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Raise your hand if you want to wear your hiking boots after you get to camp. That’s right, nobody! You’ll need a pair of comfy camp shoes. Get yourself a pair of Crocs. They have so many different styles and every pair is really light. I can’t stand the look and feel of the original Crocs, so I have the Crocs Work Women’s Alice Mary Jane Shoes. They take up less room in my bag then normal Crocs do and they’re so cute the double as everyday shoes with a skirt. What can I say I love equipment that does double duty!
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All the Socks
In my opinion you can never have enough socks. Your feet will sweat and wet socks are the worst! If you feel like you’re getting a blister, change your socks. If you’re feet are cold, change your socks. I wear 3 different pairs every day. 2 pairs of Smartwool Women’s Hiking Medium Crewsock and 1 pair of ProCompression socks. That doesn’t mean I bring 12 pairs of socks for a 4 day hike, that’s insane. No matter the length of my hike I usually bring 6 pairs of socks – 4 Smartwools and 2 Pros. Here’s my process. Start your day wearing the Smartwool socks, at lunch put on the Pros (they help prevent my feet from swelling), and at night I wear another pair of Smartwools. The next day I wear my other set and swing back and forth and I wash as needed. This might not work for everyone. I’ve worked this out over years and years of hiking. Feel free to try it.
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Underwear and Bras
With the right pair of underthings you can get away with bringing 2 of each on a 7 day hike. You might think I’m gross, but on the Salkantay you’re probably not carrying your own stuff and you need to make weight on your bag. Patagonia Active Briefs are comfortable and odor resistant. You heard that right odor resistant. They can also be washed at night and because they’re quick dry usually worn the next day (weather pending). As for a bra I go with The North Face Women’s Versitas Fearless Reversible Bra. It has amazing support, so the girls aren’t following their own path. I LOVE that it is reversible! You can wear it one day and reverse it the second.
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The Salkantay is only a 4 day journey, so you should only bring 2 t-shirts. Some people bring long sleeve shirts too, but I use my base layer shirts and other layers to keep me warm if I need to. I always bring The North Face Women’s Flight Better Than Naked SS Top. It is lightweight, quick dry, and odor resistant.
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I’m a big fan of leggings while I’m hiking they’re comfortable, breathable and I can put my wicking base layer under them – bring 2 pairs. Since I lead this hike for WHOA Travel (I’m leading the May 18-25, 2019 hike come join me) I’m usually rocking my Move Mountains Leggings. I also bring a rain/snow pant, just in case. The Marmot Women’s Minimalist Pant go right over my leggings and even fit over my shoes, so I don’t have to take them off!
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Usually I bring 1 layer, but if it’s going to be colder when you’re there bring 2. I’m a big fan of my $5 thrift store wool sweater. Make sure it’s real wool and you’ll be good to go. The other layer I’d recommend would be the Patagonia Women’s Crosstrek 1/4 Zip. The 1/4 zip allows for ventilation while hiking and it’s PolarTec so you’ll be toasty warm.
I always bring a down jacket and a GORE-TEX jacket. My down jacket is a Marmot and is similar to the Marmot Women’s Quasar Nova Jacket. I’ve had it for around 5 years and it’s still going strong. This jacket is on the lighter side of down, but unless you’re going when it’s going to be extremely cold this will work just fine. You can never control Mother Nature, so always bring a rain jacket. I got this one by Rab last year on mega sale to wear while hiking to Everest Base Camp. It poured for hours on that trip and my core was completely dry. Yes, this Rab Arc Jacket is a men’s size, but it was one of the best gear purchase I’ve ever made! It isn’t a GORE-TEX, it’s Rab’s version of the same product they call Pertex Shield+ and it works like a charm.
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Plan on adventuring around Peru? Check out this 2 week Peru Itinerary.
Other important Essentials for the Salkantay Trail!
Here are a few other important items to pack:
Headlamp: Petzl Tikka
Personal First Aid Kit: DIY is the easiest, but there’s a link back there if you don’t want to put one together.
Wet Wipes: You’ll need more of these than you think
Sunglasses: Blenders Eyewear Blue Angel Polarized
Sunscreen: Sawyer Products SPF 50
Anything I missed that you would bring? Let me know in the comments!
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