Ultimate Inca Trail Packing List
Trekking Inca Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu and wondering what should you pack? We've got you covered. Our ultimate tried and tested Inca Trail Packing List includes all essentials you must have with you for this once in a lifetime adventure.
Signing up for Inca Trail requires an adventurous soul and determination to reach one of the world's wonders, Machu Picchu, via a similar route Inca people did centuries ago.
Although after successful booking of this unique adventure you can have your heads in the clouds for a while when imagining how the stairway high in the mountains will lead you to the awe-inspiring sacred city, there are still some practical things you need to deal with before your departure.
The most important thing to know is to make clear what you need to pack for Inca Trail with you.
We've done many hikes around the world in the altitude such as Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, but trekking Inca Trail was yet a bit different, and packing for it was not that straightforward as usual.
First, the weather in Peruvian mountains is unpredictable any time of the year, and although your chances to have sunny and dry conditions during the trek are higher from April to October, you should be always prepared for all possibilities - chilly nights, warm days, cloudy and foggy times and rain - these are in short challenges you will need to deal with, and because hiking the Inca Trail is for many once in a lifetime experience, you should pack light and smart to make your adventure unforgettable for a good reason.
Remember, that there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate gear.
Second, you cannot hike the Inca Trail without a permission and travel company - and you will have a porter as well.
That means you need to pack your stuff into a daypack you will carry along the trail, while a porter will carry the rest of things you don't need during the day in a duffle bag from camp to camp - and there is a weight limit 6 kilograms per person (each company has its own regulations, so always check it before you start packing).
Third, we noticed that because of the aura around the Inca Trail, many inexperienced travelers decide to hike the Inca Trail because it is on their bucket list, but do not realize it is a serious physical challenge and every small detail can turn the hike into either the best thing they've ever done or into a nightmare.
That's why we've created this ultimate packing list for the Inca Trail for everyone, both experienced hikers and novices, to make sure you will pack all essentials with you and this adventure will be on the top of things you've ever done.
WHAT TO DO WITH THINGS YOU WON'T NEED FOR INCA TRAIL
No matter if you travel to Peru for your holiday or it is a part of your long trip around South America, you will need to store somewhere stuff you don't want to carry with you.
One of the options is to keep your extra clothes and electronics in the office of the agency you are hiking with, the other, more comfortable option is to leave it in your hotel, where you will stay before and after the trek, as virtually every hotel or hostel provide this service.
We know that leaving valuables behind can be painful, especially when you heard stories about large rooms with everything piled up there and people coming and going.
We've handpicked three hotels for every budget where you should be able to store your luggage safely while hiking the Inca Trail.
THE INCA TRAIL PACKING LIST
In this post, we will presume, that you've decided to hike the classic Inca Trail which takes 4-days and 3-nights. In case you will participate in the shorter or longer version of this trek, you only need to divide or multiple numbers of clothes you must pack with you.
Before we'll start with clothes, toiletries, and electronics packing essentials, there is one thing you cannot by no means leave behind. Before the trek starts, make sure that your passport is securely stored in your daypack - the Inca Trail is the most controlled trek in Peru, and carrying your passport is absolutely necessary to have with you otherwise, you won't be allowed to pass the control gate at the beginning of the hike.
- Passport Cover | Passport is the most important thing we have in our bags while traveling, that's why we use this cover to protect it.
Hiking poles are a chapter on its own.
We hiked Salkantay Trek only a week before the Inca Trail (you can also read our comparison of both hikes in this post), and my knees really hurt, I actually was not even sure I can make the Inca Trail without proper rest, but because we had no choice to change a date, I opted for hiking poles, and it absolutely saved my life (and experience from the Inca Trail).
- Hiking Poles | No matter how young or old are you, and no matter you've never used them before, hiking poles are almost essential for the Inca Trail (it is possible to rent them as well, but quality varies) because the terrain with hundreds of stone steps is pretty challenging.
PACKING LIST OF CLOTHES FOR THE INCA TRAIL
When hiking the Inca Trail, the key point is to work well with layers - it is usually cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon, so you need to wear several layers and simply take them on and off as you need.
Here is a list of clothes and equipment for the Inca Trail to make sure you will have an ultimate experience:
T-shirts or Sleeveless T-shirts for Him & for Her | Because the classic Inca Trail takes four days to finish, we brought two t-shirts with short sleeves each. It is up to you if you want to take a clean t-shirt for every day, we only do not have a feeling it is necessary. Because of lack of showers on the trail, you'll be smelly anyway.
T-shirts with Long Sleeves for Him & for Her | We use one long-sleeved t-shirt as an extra layer for an early morning hike, and the other one as a clean t-shirt for change in the camp and instead of pajamas.
Rain Poncho | When it rains a lot, we still think that no one ever made up anything better than good old plastic rain poncho.
Hiking Socks | It is important to have at least one pair of dry hiking socks for every day to prevent blisters. We also sleep in clean socks we will use the next day on the trail, so we don't need to carry an extra pair.
Sunglasses | We haven't invested in proper sunglasses yet. One of the reasons is that it is so easy to lose or damage them when traveling, that we always buy the cheap ones with UV at the local market.
Packing Cubes | To keep your duffel back in order and to keep your clean clothes separated from dirty ones.
Headtorch | Having a good torch is a must as the last day, when you hike to Sun Gate and to Machu Picchu starts very early, at 3 AM. Headtorch is also necessary when you are walking around the camp after sunset.
Dry Bag | When it rains, we always keep our electronics and valuables in a dry bag to keep them safe.
Day Pack | Although porters will carry almost everything for you, you still need to do some hard work as well. It is necessary to have a comfortable backpack, ideally with a waist strap where you will carry water, rain poncho, jacket, extra t-shirt, snack, trousers, sunscreen, and your camera.
We must inform you beforehand - there are no showers along the Inca Trail, except for a cold shower in the campground where all groups sleep on their last day.
When it comes to toiletries, we advise you to pack as little as possible - we believe that you will survive only with basics for four days. Our porters prepared for us every night a small basket with warm water so we could clean ourselves a bit, and although it was really basic, it was better than nothing.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Sunscreen | In the altitude, sun is even stronger than usual. We recommend you to have a good quality sunscreen with high protection (we use SPF 50).
Mosquito Repellent | The Inca Trail is tricky, because when you descend to the valley, you can be bitten by insect.
Deodorant | When a shower is not available, use at least deodorant - this one really works!
Blister Plasters | Guides should always have with them the first-aid kit, but we always take our own pills against headache, diarrhea and blister plasters.
Pills | Bring any personal medication you require on a daily basis and carry it with you all the time.
Hand Sanitizer | Our porters always had a hand sanitizer ready in a food tent, but on the trail, you will need to use your own.
Pills Against Altitude Sickness | If you already have a negative experience from hiking in the altitude, consider taking pills which help to deal with it. You can also buy a herbal substance in Cusco which helps when you breathe it, or it is common to chew coca leaves in Peru - your guides or porters will for sure give you some if you ask them!
Staying hydrated is really important, especially when hiking in the altitude. The tour will provide you with drinking water at camp during every meal when you can also refill your bottles.
The only thing you need to have with you is:
In order to pack as lightly as possible, consider what electronics you want to carry with you. Because photography is our hobby, we always bring a DSLR camera and three lenses, more than is the usual equipment, but taking photos on your phone is completely fine - depends on what do you prefer.
Power Bank | We believe that you want your electronic devices fully charged for the last day of the Inca Trail, to ensure you will have those iconic pictures of Machu Picchu, and unless you have a super phone or super camera with a battery which lasts forever, you will need a power bank.
Kindle | If you cannot be without your book, take a small portable library - you will surely have time after dinner to read in your tent.
FOOD & SNACKS
Food provided by travel companies is absolutely sufficient.
Every morning we also got a small snack (apple and a muesli bar) which was absolutely enough for us, but we are not used to eating sweets or extra snacks during the day when hiking apart from fruits.
If you like to reward yourself with chocolate or muesli bar when on the hike, pack some with you.
- Nutrition Energy Gel | Fantastic little things that will keep your body moving.
THINGS YOU DON'T NEED TO PACK & THINGS YOU CAN RENT OR BRING YOUR OWN
When booking the Inca Trail, the company should let you know what equipment is included and what you can bring or rent from them. If we hadn't been on a long-term trip, we would have for sure brought our own sleeping bags and air mattresses as it is always better to sleep in own stuff than in rental ones, especially because rentals are usually not in the quality we normally prefer.
You do not need to worry about a tent and duffle bag - those will be provided free of charge - you only need to pay a bit extra in case you travel solo and want to sleep in a tent alone, otherwise, you will most likely get a partner, another solo traveler from your group if there is one.
You can either rent a sleeping bag with clean linen and air-mattress for a fee, but if you know you will use it in the future, it is definitely worth to have own.
Sleeping bag, linen, and air-mattress go to a duffel bag and you won't have to carry it by yourself.
Sleeping Bag | It can be really chilly at night, but considering you will sleep in a liner and you'll put on some clothes, a light sleeping bag should be absolutely sufficient.
Linen or Cocoon | Silk liner is a must when traveling - you can use it into a rental sleeping bag or as another layer when it is too cold.
Air-Mattress | Again, you can rent an air-mattress, but if you prefer having your own, we can recommend this one.
Inflatable Hiking Pillow | This item really depends on what comfort do you require when camping. Inflatable hiking pillow is a great feature (and agencies don't rent it), but you can always roll up some spare clothes under your head.
We never leave our country without proper insurance and so you should not.
We met several people in Peru who ended up in the hospital because their bodies reacted badly to the altitude - one girl even joined our group only for the last day on the Inca Trail because she was sick in the hospital after hiking another high altitude trek, Rainbow Mountain.
It is necessary to get insurance which covers hiking at the altitude!
Although you paid your tour in full, you will still need some cash when hiking the Inca Trail.
First, you will give some tip to your guides and porters - they prefer soles over dollars. Also, there were a couple of vendors along the trail where you can buy pop or beer, and also, after Machu Picchu, the last lunch in Aguas Calientes is not included.
It is possible to withdraw money in Cusco before the trek or in Aguas Calientes, where the adventure ends in case you don't have enough cash or when you want to buy some souvenirs.
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