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Packing List for Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Planning to hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? As I’m sure you already know, it’s important to book a tour months in advance (3-6 months in advance for June-August – peak season). Remember, the trail is closed for the entire month of February for conservation efforts, so make sure you aren’t planning to visit then. You can hike the Salkantay trail without a guide, but it is currently required to have a guide and porters on the Inca Trail. There are many different companies to choose from, but I would encourage you to book your trip with a local, Peruvian company. I selected the 4 day/3 night trek with Trexperience from Cusco and LOVED my time on the trail. They offer several other competitively priced tours to the Rainbow Mountain, Sacred Valley or Humantay Lake.  

 

picture of the mountains along the inca trail with a rainbow in the background

After you have selected your Inca Trail tour and have booked all your flights, you need to make sure you have packed all the right gear for the strenuous 4-day trek. The porters can only carry some of your things, so you will need to pack a day pack with everything else. After having done the hike, these are my top things to include in your packing list for the Inca Trail:

 

Hiking Shoes

Some people (especially the porters) will be doing the trek in tennis shoes, but I STRONGLY recommend a good pair of WATERPROOF hiking shoes with ankle support. The trail path is very uneven, and it often rains, making strong grip shoes a necessity. Since you likely won’t have space for two pairs of walking shoes, it’s important to bring waterproof ones. I had some “waterproof” Columbia boots, but after a huge downpour, it didn’t matter what was waterproof, the water came in through my socks and down my legs, making my feet soaked after a 6-hour hike. I wish I’d had my old Columbia shoes, like this pair (but in women’s size) or the lightweight, but waterproof Palladium shoes.

 

Pro Tip: Pack paper towels or napkins or newspaper or plan to use a day-old t-shirt to put in your shoes at night to help absorb the moisture and dry out the fabric for the next day.

 

Sandals

After hiking all day, when you reach camp each night, you will want to change into dry clothes, often with more layers due to the dropping temperature, but a pair of sandals or flip flops will be a nice change for your feet to breath and relax after a strenuous day.

 

Layers

Each morning, the wakeup call comes before the sun is up, and it can often be chilly. The evenings (especially in the summer) can see drastic temperature drops, so it’s important to pack lots of layers, including a rain jacket, long sleeve or thermals, t-shirts and several pairs of socks. You may wear the same hiking pants each day, but changing shirts and socks will be imperative to staying dry and healthy (not to mention reducing the body odor smell because you won’t have a shower for 4 days).



Refillable Water Bottle

On the first day, you will need to pack 2 liters of water as the team will not be able to boil and filter water until midday. I brought a 2-liter water bottle as well as my refillable water bottle WITH a filter. I love this bottle from Brita. While the water on the trail is boiled each day, I preferred to use my filtered water bottle as an extra layer of protection. 😊


Jordan sitting on a rock on the Inca trail holding her Brita water bottle

Bug Spray & Sunscreen

During my Inca Trek, we had more rain than sunshine, but I still put sunscreen on my face every morning. In the summer (June-August), you may bake in the sun as you walk along, especially on the second and third day. There are some areas of shade, but mostly the trail is out in the open. I did, however, use bug spray every day. Unfortunately, we still got eaten alive by sandflies, which weren’t impacted by my OFF spray and deet. I’m not sure what bug spray would work on them, but I’d definitely include it on my packing list for the Inca Trail.

 

Hat 

Given the sun and rain, I would encourage a hat. I used the hat to keep the rain off my face more than the sun. Also, as a girl, a hat was a great way to hide the fact that my hair hadn’t been washed in four days! 😊

 

Headlamp 

This is the one thing I wish I had known to bring before my trip. I have been traveling for a year, so I don’t have a headlamp on me and just planned to use my cell phone light in the evenings to shuffle around the campsite. However, when you are trying to crouch over a toilet in the dark with nowhere to place a phone (but my neck or mouth) and take out toilet paper from your plastic bag all the while not trying to fall into some unknown wet puddle, a headlamp is much appreciated. It would have been a comical experience if it wasn’t so traumatizing! Lol Bring a headlamp. Learn from my chaos.

 

Snacks 

Everyone in my group kept saying “You’re a girl scout! You have everything!” I have a fear of going hungry (though I’ve never missed a meal in my life accidently), so I’m always careful to carry extra snacks. Trexperience does a great job of providing snacks in the morning for your hike that day and each meal had many different options, so I never went hungry, but boy did I enjoy my sour gummy worms as a special treat after our hike through the Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2. Also, due to the unexpected changes to our last day hike and the extra walking, my peanut butter and crackers were shared throughout the group when we didn’t eat for 8 hours. Pack some granola bars, trail mix or a special sweet treat to reward yourself for all your hard work!


jordan pointing to a waterfall off in the distance on another mountain while on the inca trail

Basic First Aid Kit

The trail is unpredictable, as is nature. Long hikes may leave you with blisters, so make sure you pack Band-aids, blister protectors and/or blister creams. While I was very impressed with the food on the trail, always make sure you pack Imodium or other stomach meds to combat tourista (diarrhea). But my most coveted medicine was ALEVE! After sleeping on the ground each night and climbing or descending thousands of feet each day, an Aleve each evening or in the morning was a lifesaver on my joints. I actually ran out giving out my extras to others on the trail!

 

Passport

Your tour company should stress this, but you need to pack your original passport with you for the Inca Trail – don’t forget and leave it packed in your stored luggage. You will need your original passport for the various check points along the trail. Our guide handled most of them, but we needed to show our passport at the beginning of the trail in Ollantaytambo and again at the entrance of Machu Picchu.

 

Extra Money

Again, your guide will likely provide a rough estimate, but I would suggest 300-400 soles (or the USD equivalent) for small snacks, toilets on the first day or food at Machu Picchu, as well as tipping for your guides and porters. There are no ATMs on the Inca Trail, so be sure to get cash out while in Cusco.


picture of a tent on the inca trail

Power Bank

This seems obvious, but I was shocked at how many people in my group had dead phones by the end of the trek. You are camping. Without power. So, if you plan to take pictures on your phone, you will need to pack your own power bank. My power bank lasts for about 4 charges, which was great, but I used my phone for pictures during the day and as a flashlight at night (since I wasn’t smart enough to pack a headlamp). As such, I needed to charge it almost every night. You don’t want to get all the way to Machu Picchu and then not have a way to take pictures of the wonderful sights!

 

Ear Plugs

If you are solo traveling, you may be sharing a tent with someone else. Regardless, you may have a loud snorer in the tent next to you. If you are a light sleeper, I would strongly suggest bringing a pair of ear plugs.


picture of jordan standing in front of the "welcome to inca trail" sign

Toilet Paper

The toilets on the trail are basic at best and gross at worst. None of them will have toilet paper, so you will need to pack your own roll for the 4-day Inca Trail trek.

 

Extras: Sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses and hiking poles. All of these can usually be rented from your tour company, but if you have one you like (or the packing space on your international flight for your own), I’d suggest bringing these along. I bought a hiking pole in Cusco for much cheaper than the tour companies rent them, but I didn’t find it super helpful. It’s definitely more beneficial on the third day during the great descent, but I think they are optional. Hiker’s preference.

 

Hope these things help make your trip extra special! Remember, the altitude is no joke, and you should plan to spend a few days in Cusco or Puno (or other high-altitude areas like La Paz, the Salt Flats, even San Pedro de Atacama in Chile) before attempting the four-day Inca Trail trek. Even after spending 10 days at altitude, I still struggled with my oxygen levels on the Dead Woman’s Pass. You can buy altitude sickness meds in Cusco or choose to take the coca leaves, coca tea or coca candies to help offset the symptoms.

 

Best of luck and enjoy the adventure to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Happy Inca Trailing!  

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Toilet paper 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

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