I was sitting in my briefing looking down at the packing list for the Salkantay Trek that the guide had just given me. By this point, I had been on my South American backpacking adventure for six months and there was more stuff on this list than I had brought for my entire trip.
Whilst I initially felt daunted by the list stretched out in front of me, I took a minute to gather my thoughts. I was sure I didn’t need all of this stuff. Tim and I had lived the last few months out of a solitary carry on bag each and frequently marvelled at the size of the bags that most backpackers lugged around with them.
I looked at the list once more and thought to myself, I got this.
The Salkantay Trek
Before I first go into a breakdown of what you need to pack (believe me, it is not as much as you think), I will introduce the company that I did the Salkantay Trek with. After much deliberation regarding prices and inclusions, Tim and I opted for the company Salkantay Trekking. Read why here!
One of the main plus points of Salkantay Trekking for me was that we would not need to carry our main bags as mules would be provided for this purpose. The only thing that would saddle us down would be a day pack for water, snacks, waterproof jacket, camera and any other essentials. Salkantay Trekking recommended that this day bag be a 30 – 50-litre pack! The bag I have used for this entire trip is only 40, something had to give!
Salkantay Trekking did offer us the option to leave our main luggage at their office. Not wanting to unnecessarily lug around my MacBook for five days, I took them up on this offer. This left me with the 7-kilo duffle bag which would be carried by the mules and then my day pack, which would certainly not be 30 litres!
Pros to packing light for the Salkantay Trek
- You give the mules an easier time.
- You really don’t need 7kg worth of stuff!
- The duffle bags are not waterproof so there is a chance your stuff could get wet, (especially if you trek in the wet season as we did).
- You will need to carry this duffle to and from your hostel so give yourself an easy time.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I am a light packer. Take my advice.
My packing list for the Salkantay Trek
Items you should rent if you don’t have them:
- Walking poles: I cannot stress the importance of walking poles enough! These will help hugely when your both ascending and descending, which you will do a lot on this trek.
- Sleeping bag: Can be rented all over Cusco. Speak to your tour operator directly to see whether they are offering any deals on package rentals.
- Tent: If it is not included in your tour. Salkantay Trekking provided more of a glamping experience for us so a tent wasn’t necessary.
For your day pack (15 litres):
- Phone: Don’t expect to have any signal but the phone is a good backup for photos!
- Passport: For your Machu Picchu stamp! I forgot to get one and will be forever bitter about it.
- Water bottle: At least a litre per day although everyone is different. After the first morning, Salkantay Trekking provided our water.
- Insect repellent: You probably won’t need this for the first couple of days but once you get to Chaullay it will come in handy.
- Waterproof jacket: Ideally a thin, lightweight one which can be packed down really small.
- Waterproof poncho: In case you really hate getting wet (I do), invest in a massive fold away poncho. You will look silly but you will be drier than everyone else and your daypack won’t get wet.
- Sunblock: If you, like me, are more ghostly in complexion that olive brown, suncream will be your saviour. It is all too easy to get burnt at altitude, just ask my scalp.
- Dry bag: Depending on the time of year you do the Salkantay Trek it can rain a lot so make sure your valuables are protected.
- Snacks: I wouldn’t recommend bringing your own snacks if you are on an organised trek. Ours were provided by Salkantay Trekking and never left us hungry.
- Money: If you’ve picked a good company, you will probably find that pretty much all of your expenses are included in the price you’ve paid. However, keep some cash on your for necessities along the trail (like beer).
There you have it, that is all you need in your day pack!
For your duffle bag (one of these outfits you will need to be wearing, this is not some kind of nudist trek):
- 2 pairs of merino wool socks: This trek will make you stink regardless of how many socks you bring. You may as well save the weight and washing. Merino wool is great for hiking and will help prevent blisters.
- 1 pair of sports leggings: These need to be sports leggings as they are sweat resistant which means they will dry quickly.
- 2 quick dry t-shirts: One for relaxing and one for trekking.
- 1 pair of loose-fitting trousers: For sleeping and relaxing in. These need to be comfy.
- 1 pair of waterproof hiking boots/shoes: To be worn during the hike and also for leisure time. Make sure these are broken in before you attempt your hike.
- 1 fleece: Fleeces were traditionally the symbol of just retired women with too many dogs but they are light and they are warm. Layers are crucial to packing light.
- Towel: You will need this for the hot springs at the very least.
- Deodorant: Let’s be honest, we all know you’re not going to pay for a shower so you will stink. At least try to lessen the impact on your fellow hikers with some deodorant though.
- Coca leaves: Personally, I would urge people to stay away from altitude sickness medication. Allow yourself enough time to acclimatise and use coca leaves to fend off the effects.
- 1 buff: Keep that neck warm.
- 1 hat: I didn’t use mine but Tim swore by his for the early morning starts.
- 1 bathing suit: For use in the hot springs (this is an optional extra but well worth it).
- Sunglasses: Glaciers can be shockingly bright under the sun to the naked eye so make sure you’re protected.
- Toilet paper: It is more scarce than you would expect!
- Toothbrush and toothpaste: Oral hygiene is still important.
- Headlamp: Useful for the early morning starts, especially the trek up to Machu Picchu (if you decide to do that bit).
- Plastic bag for dirty clothes/wet clothes.
- Plasters: In case your feet start misbehaving (or like Tim you are overly clumsy and are likely to cut yourself somehow).
- Chargers: I’d highly recommend a portable charger as you won’t always get the option to charge at the accommodation. Also, remember the cables and chargers for your phone and camera.
- Any medication you need.
- 1 pair of comfy leggings: To be worn under trousers for those chilly nights.
- Clean underwear for every day (five pairs): I’m not a complete dirtbag.
- Hand sanitiser: For all those al fresco toilet stops.
Surprising things you won’t need on your packing list for the Salkantay Trek:
- A floaty red dress for your Machu Picchu photos: I don’t know who these Instagram Influencers are but I can tell you they certainly didn’t hike to Machu Picchu in that dress!
What is on your packing list for the Salkantay Trek?