Machu Picchu Packing List and Dealing with Altitude Sickness

Getting ready to head to Machu Picchu? Peru is amazing and Machu Picchu is truly such a special place to visit. I know how tricky it can be. Having the right things for a multiday high is really important, plus altitude sickness is a concern. This Machu Picchu packing list came from my trip and the things I wish I had brought!

This guide to what to pack for Machu Picchu contains affiliate links to trusted partners.

Table of Contents

 

Planning Ahead for Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu takes some preparation, but it should also be on everyone’s list of once in a life time destinations. It was just incredible, and I loved the entire experience. We went to Machu Picchu in June, which is actually winter in South America.

We were in the Andes Mountains the whole time but came from the opposite side as the traditional Inca Trail on the Jungle Trail. The weather was slightly warmer and also included a lot of humidity and mosquitoes (50s at night, 60s in the morning, 75 Fahrenheit midday).

Warning for those who get bitten by mosquitoes often who are hiking the Jungle Trail… I got bit by so many more mosquitoes on this trek because we didn’t plan ahead and have enough bug spray. Bring more than you think, and make sure its 100% DEET bug spray! I know it’s bad for you, but you won’t be using it for very long. I learned this the hard way and almost ended up in the hospital from my body’s reaction.

We were in the mountains, and so we had to be prepared to layer things to wear overnight and take off the next day as it got warmer.

Because we were hiking the whole time, we had to carry our packs by ourselves, so we tried hard to pack lightly. We brought smaller packs and took only what we needed. Our larger packs were left at the hotel. 

The lighter the better. I bought my pack from REI to store all of my things for the four days. They, unfortunately, stopped selling it; however, here’s a good option from Amazon!

Machu Picchu Packing List (4 Days)

Note that this list pretty much stays the same any time of year, however, if the weather is colder when you’re visiting, bring more layers! The mountains can get very cold and it’s best to check the temperatures before finalizing your trip.

Clothes and Gear

  • Good pair of hiking boots— I own Merrell boots that are great.
  • Lightweight jacket for layering — I brought one thicker jacket that was made for hiking/athletics and a breathable sweater so I could wear them daily. I would make sure both unzip fully so you stay breathable!
  • Water bottle (refillable)  — I think my Hyrdoflask is best!
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Rain jacket — a foldable one that is very light.
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • 4 pairs of pants to hike in — I have two pairs of Columbia pants that are favorites: thesedry fit ones and these convertable ones. Both help keep mosquitos off you with their loose fit.
  • 4 shirts for hikes — I have some ExOfficio hiking shirts that I highly recommend! Keep bugs away and hike comfortably.
  • 4 pairs of socks, etc.
  • Swimsuit — we visited waterfalls, river-rafted, and went to hot springs.
  • Sleep outfit — i.e. sleep pants, top, etc.
  • An everything vest — easy to grab stuff during a hike and still keeps you somewhat warm! People made fun of me for getting this, but I loved having it.

Other Items to Pack:

  • First Aid Kit and medicines: Imodium, Advil, Tums, anti-malarial, altitude sickness meds, Band-Aids, Neosporin, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, allergy pills, blister pads, etc. I recommend taking what you have at home and storing the medicines in a pill pack instead of buying everything travel size!
  • Blister pads – Wearing the same shoes every day means rubbing the same spot over and over.
  • GoPro — I have the Hero 10 and it’s great.
  • Extra power bank
  • Solar charger — You’ll most likely not have access to outlets the whole time, but an extra charger is good to have and this one recharges itself so you don’t have to worry about it running out of battery, too. It totally came in handy!
  • Waterproof cases for all electronics
  • Hiking poles — Our guide had poles, and we were envious the whole time! You are hiking up and down steep mountains, and poles help take the stress off your legs and joints. They are not expensive, light-weight, and will really help with your knees.
  • Snacks for the hike
  • Pedialyte and Liquid IV really help with altitude sickness. You can buy it as little dry packs and add it to water. Plus they add flavor so you don’t get sick of only drinking water!
  • Granola bars — don’t overdo it on this one while packing. A few will feed you plenty, and it’s nice to have a snack while you hike! We overdid it and threw a bunch away because they ended up taking up too much space.

Tips to Avoid and Deal Altitude Sickness

Peru, in general, has a high altitude—an average of 5,102′ above sea level. Cusco has a very high altitude—11,152′! This should be taken seriously, and we planned ahead to make sure we were prepared.

Since it is a big altitude change, plann a few days to stay in Cusco and acclimate a little more. I’m so glad we did this on our trip! We needed that time because it really was different. Here are the things I researched from all the different sites that I found were easy enough to do without feeling like I was doing too much. I’ve highlighted the ones that I found the most helpful tips for altitude sickness.

I did get altitude sickness pills from my doctor before the trip (see below for what kind) and took them when we got to Cusco, however, I forgot them when we actually left for Machu Picchu. I ended up being fine, but I did have to take Aspirin and drink lots of fluids (water and Pedialyte). You can consider discussing this with your doctor before a trip to Peru.

My advice:

  • Frequent small meals of easily-digested carbohydrates, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding alcohol and additional salt will all help to protect you against developing altitude sickness.
  • Mild cases of altitude sickness can usually be treated with rest, a few days of limited physical activity, plenty of fluids and painkillers, if need be.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink more water than you think you need to. Pedialyte and Liquid IV really help with altitude sickness. You can buy it as little dry packs and add it to water.
  • Some hotels provide oxygen tanks, ask if you need it. Don’t wait too long. Ask your hotel before you book if you have any concern and discuss it with your doctor.
  • Start out slowly, pace yourself, and remember to listen to your body until you perfect a comfortable stride.
  • Acclimatize yourself to the elevation by staying a couple of nights at higher altitudes before starting your trip to allow your body time to adjust.
  • Ascend slowly and carefully when symptoms of altitude sickness present themselves.
  • Be aware of your body’s temperature as perspiration can sap your energy.
  • Wear light-colored clothes during summer months and dark-colored clothes during winter months to absorb or repel sunlight.
  • Learn pressure breathing, a technique that overcomes nausea. Purse your lips and exhale fully to allow the carbon dioxide in your lungs to escape, and force oxygen into your lungs.
  • Always take extra precautions when it comes to basic hygiene as you are more susceptible to bacteria and viruses in a new environment than in your usual habitat.
  • Take antioxidant vitamins such as A, C, and E to help minimize the effects of high altitudes.
  • Take prophylaxis medications. Before you go on a journey where you will ascend to high altitudes, get some medication to help. You can schedule an appointment with your doctor to see if prophylaxis medications is right for you before you leave. Make sure you discuss your past medical history and explain that you are going up to elevations greater than 8,000 to 9,000 ft.
  • Purchase coca leaves. Though this is an illegal substance in the US, domestic people living in Central and South America use this to prevent mountain sickness. If you are traveling to these areas, you may purchase the leaves and either chew on it or make tea. They are everywhere in Cusco. Hotels have them, grocery stores have them, corner stores and convenience stores, too. We drank them daily.
  • Stay Warm: Dress in layers to stay warm, especially during colder nights at high altitudes. Cold temperatures can exacerbate symptoms, so be prepared with appropriate clothin
Heading to Machu Picchu? Make sure you're prepared with this Machu Picchu packing list, complete with tips for altitude sickness and a comfortable hike.
Heading to Machu Picchu? Make sure you’re prepared with this Machu Picchu packing list, complete with tips for altitude sickness and a comfortable hike.
 

Now you’ve got your Machu Picchu packing list, you’re even more prepared for one of the most epic heights ever!

Meghan

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