Travel to Machu Picchu: How to choose the best water bottle
In case you haven't heard, starting in January 2019, single-use plastic water bottles and other plastic waste is banned from Machu Picchu. For more information about the ban on water bottles click here.
How should you prepare for your visit to Machu Picchu? I'll describe benefits and limitations of different options for carrying drinking water to Machu Picchu. This is based on my 10 years of experience traveling and trekking in Peru. Other people have different experiences and that's fine. I don't claim to know all. I'm just sharing what I know.
Who does the ban on plastic apply to?
Everyone who visits Machu Picchu will be affected by the rule banning plastic water bottles, including hikers on the Inca Trail.
What kinds of reusable water bottles should we bring?
Visitors should bring their own personal reusable water bottles to fill up as needed. The amount of water needed per day varies from person to person based on age, activities and habits. The average minimum needed is usually 1 liter per adult. You may need more than one container. Here's my recommendations about how to choose the best water bottles:
- bladder, hard shell bottle, or pouch. I prefer water pouches because they collapse for packing and come in various sizes to mix and match as needed for different activities. Hikers use bladders for the convenience of being able to sip through a tube without opening bags or backpacks. The downside is that you can't monitor the quantity, and bladders with tubes require maintenance to keep them sanitized.
- wide mouth or narrow spout. I use both. I like narrow spout for drinking on the go and I chose a pouch with a flip-top that won't fall off or get lost. The Vapur pouch linked below is my "workhorse" for everyday drinking container when I'm on the move. The flip-top is easy to open, doesn't leak, and has been reliable for at least 2 years. I like the wide mouth cantene as a storage container for resupplying my pouch. I travel with several sizes of wide-mouth nalgene cantenes. (see links below)
- energy powders. My main drinking pouch is for water only. I reserve specific bottles for use with powders/supplements.
Where can we acquire the water needed to fill our bottles?
- bottled water is easy to buy anywhere in Peru. Even shops in small villages will offer cheap bottled water for sale. The idea is to buy large liter size bottles and pour into your reusable bottle. I'm not really sure if that reduces the amount of plastic waste or not!
- purify tap water from your bathroom sink. This option is preferred because the idea is not to buy any disposable plastic. I provided a link to a Katadyn filter system which includes a foldable bottle with a replaceable filter. This is the most affordable option I can find that provides the level of filtration needed to ensure safe water supply. Steripens are another popular option, and I have tried to use them. (there were some problems) It's best to understand how they work before you invest. They are not cheap. They work by stirring a specific quantify of water for about 1 minute to expose all the water molecules in the container to the UV light which kills bacteria. The problem is if the pen accidentally touches the sides of the container too often while stirring, it can invalidate the process. One strategy I used was to travel with an empty 32 oz yogurt container which was easy to fill with tap water and easy to stir. But occassionally I hit the side of the container and on one trip, the steripen shut down and would not restart. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to stir inside even a wide-mouth bottle.
- Hikers on any multi-day trek with camping and porters should start out on Day 1 with a full day's supply of water. Porters will purify water thereafter for resupply as needed.
- Hikers on day hikes including the 1 Day Inca Trail need to provide containers and water for the full day.
Can we buy reusable water bottles in Cusco?
- Ordinary plastic bottles can be purchased in Cusco. It's still possible to buy drinking water in disposable plastic bottles and reuse them while traveling, then discard. That strategy would work fine in Cusco and other places in Peru. But not Machu Picchu.
- At this time, the ban on disposable water bottles is quite new. But it's only a matter of time until vendors in Peru will be offering an array of reusable bottles, and hopefully pouches.
Water bottle features. What I look for:
- BPA-free material, sturdy enough to stand up to long-term use
- Soft side material that allows bottle to collapse and fold when empty
- Leak-proof (is it asking too much that a container designed to hold liquids should not leak?)
- Carabiner for attaching the container to bags or backpacks (pouches often come with a tiny carabiner that fits in a hole punched in the edge of the bottle. This setup is not designed to withstand the weight of a full container. And the hole may tear out. It only works for carrying your empty bottle)
- Flip-cap spout for easy opening/closing and won't get lost. For drinking directly from the bottle
- Wide-mouth screw top lid that attaches to the bottle (so it doesn't get lost)
- Containers in various sizes for mixing and matching as needed for different activities
- Able to stand up when filled with water
Water Filters. 2 areas that I pay attention to:
-The quality of the filtered water
-The lifespan of a filter
-Cost of replacement filters
- Function of using the container or device-
-I am not a fan of filter-as-you-drink. This doesn't work for sharing at all.
-Straw spouts get dirty.
-Bottles and filters that are heavy and bulky. (Water weighs 8.34lb/3.78kg per gallon)
Useful Links on amazon: (to see examples of the items I recommend)
- Nalgene Cantene (in various sizes)
- Vapur Foldable Water Bottle with flip cap
- Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration system (collapsible bottle and filter) (filters as you drink. Best for personal use only)
- Steripen UV Light (no filter replacement needed)
- Mountop UV Water Purifier Bottle (no filter replacement needed)
What do I use for filtering my drinking water?
I absolutely love my Camelbak UV Light filter. But it's not available any longer. The light is in the lid and all you do is screw it on your bottle and tip back and forth for 1 minute. It fits on any standard bottle and it recharges by USB. It's great for sharing. One device can be shared with your family or group. The battery life is so long I've never had to recharge during the trip. I called Camelbak to ask why I couldn't find it and found out they discontinued due to lack of sales! But look what I found?
Mountop UV Water Purifier is now available on Amazon. I was quite surprised to see that another company is offering what appears to be the exact same technology that I have in my Camelbak UV light purifier. I will get one and field test it and let you know how it works!