Getting ready to head to Machu Picchu? Here's how I packed for Machu Picchu and how to deal with altitude sickness.
We took the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu. We were in the Andes Mountains the whole time, but came from the opposite side as the traditional Inca Trail. The weather was slightly warmer and also included a lot of humidity and mosquitoes (50s at night, 60s in the morning, 75 degrees Fahrenheit midday). I got bit by so many more mosquitoes on this trek because we didn't plan ahead and have enough bug spray. Bring a ton of 100% deet bug spray!!! I know it's bad for the environment, but you won't be using it for very long. I learned this the hard way. If you want to see our full itinerary, info on the tour group we used, and hear that story, see my previous post.
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 thing, we had to carry our packs the whole time 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 this pack from REI to store all of my things for the four days.
What to Pack
- Walk shoes or boots
- I brought 2 that were made for hiking/athletics and breathable and I could layer them
- Water bottle (refillable)
- Head lamp or flashlight
- Rain jacket (a foldable one that is very light)
- 4 pairs of pants to hike in
- 4 shirts for hikes
- Swimsuit (we visited waterfalls, river rafted, and went to hot springs)
- sleep outfit (sleep pants, top)
- 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
- bought on sale from Amazon.com
- I looked cool ok?!
- First Aid Kit stuff – Imodium, Advil, tums, anti-malarial, altitude sickness meds, Band-Aids, Neosporin, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, allergy pills, blister pads
- serious about those blister pads, wearing the same shoes everyday means rubbing the same spot over and over
- Go Pro (I have the Hero 3+ and it's great)
- Extra battery packs
- solar charger
- You'll most likely not have access to plug ins the whole time, an extra charger is good and this one recharges itself so you don't have to worry about it running out of charge 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, poles help take the stress off. They are not expensive, light weight, and will really help with your knees.
- Pedialyte and propel 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 over do it on this one, they will feed you plenty, but at the same time, it's nice to have a snack while you hike! Mike overdid it and threw a bunch away because they ended up taking up too much space.
Notes on Altitude Sickness
Peru in general has a high altitude. Cusco has a very high altitude. This should be taken seriously and we planned ahead to make sure we were prepared. Since we knew it was a big altitude change, we planned a few days to stay in Cusco and acclimate a little more. I'm so glad we did! We needed that time because it really was different. Here are the things I researched from all 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 most helpful.
I did get pills from my doctor (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).
- 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, limited physical activity for a few days, plenty of fluids and painkillers if need be.
- Stay hydrated. Pedialyte and propel really help with altitude sickness. You can buy it as little dry packs and add it to water.
- Some hotels provide oxygen tanks
- ask your hotel before you book if you really want one
- we didn't find this necessary, but it is possible
- 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 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. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to get prophylaxis medications before you leave. Discuss your past medical history and explain that you are going up to elevations greater than 8,000 to 9,000 ft. Make sure you're not allergic, and get a prescription for acetazolamide from your doctor.
- 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.
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What did I miss? Anything you packed that should have been on my list? Let me know!
Don't forget to look at my entire guide for two weeks in Peru!