Hiking the Inca Trail was something I’d wanted to do since I was a kid. Now that I’ve actually hiked and camped one of the best trails in the world, I can safely say it was one of my top five travel highlights ever.
Before I left the UK, I struggled to find a comprehensive packing list for the main Inca Trail. There’s so much information out there, it was difficult to find out what items were necessary and which items I could toss out of the rucksack and leave at home.
I did the trip with G Adventures, who were excellent, and organise it so that your camping equipment, food and a portion of your personal belongings are carried by a group of physically fit porters who accompany you on the trail, ensuring you have as light a rucksack as possible throughout the hike.
Things To Consider
Altitude & Weather
I did the Inca Trail at the start of November. The temperatures don’t vary too much throughout the year, but there is much more rainfall on the trail between November and March. Expect warm, balmy days, some sporadic heavy rainfall, and cool nights. Oh, and when it rains, it really rains, so take a few spare bin liners or dry sacs to keep the clean clothes inside your rucksack dry.
Also don’t forget the Inca Trail is at altitude. It is more than likely you will spend a couple of days acclimatising in Cuzco (3,400m) before the hike, to allow you to get used to the oxygen levels in the air. The Inca Trail itself varies between 2,500m and 4,200m. Many people bring altitude sickness pills, or you can buy Sorotche pills locally, but most people in my group didn’t need them. The locals eat and drink coca leaves, which is offered to you throughout the trail. This, combined with plenty of water, seemed to keep the altitude sickness at bay for me.
Leaving & Storing Luggage
It is personal preference on how much equipment and clothes you carry with you on the trail. To help guide you, here are three tips that should help you choose how much to pack:
Tip 1 – Most trips start and end in Cusco, which means you will be able to store some of your belongings in a hotel whilst you do the Inca Trail. I left quite a lot of clothes behind such as jeans and other bulky items which aren’t needed on the trail.
Tip 2 – The porters carry 6kg of your luggage. A sleeping bag, air mattress and a few other items should equal 6kg. You typically get your stuff back from the porters in the evening, so give them anything you need for the evening, such as toiletries and blow up pillows.
Tip 3 – Leave plenty of space for water. As you’re hiking at altitude you need to drink about three times as much as you normally would. I would recommend investing in a lightweight water bladder device such as a Platypus or Camelbak. There are places to refill your water, and you can buy bottled water along the trail, which means you don’t have to carry bulky plastic bottles around with you, saving valuable space.
Inca Trail Packing List
Based on my tips above, here’s my complete Inca Trail packing list. I’ve split the list into two parts – one packing list for the rucksack you carry, and the items you pack, but give to the porters during the hike.
Pack in your rucksack
- Camelback / Platypus / Water bottle
- Altitude sickness pills
- Insect repellent
- Passport (with photocopies – you need your passport to enter the Inca Trail…and besides, you get a stamp at Machu Picchu!)
- Travel insurance (with photocopies)
- Tip money for porters and guides
- Money to buy extra snacks and water on the trail
- Camera and spare battery
- Powermonkey / Portable Charger
- Waterproof cover for your backpack
- Fleece top
- Waterproof jacket
- 2 merino tops (merino is a great travel material – it keeps you warm in the cool, and cool in the warm)
- 2 t-shirts/shirts
- 2 pairs of zip off walking trousers – can also be used as shorts – invaluable! We recommend the Mountain Warehouse Extreme Zip-Off Trousers as they’re also anti-mosquito: read Emily Luxton’s review.
- 4 pairs underwear
- For girls: Sports bra (read why on Emily Luxton’s Travel Blog)
- 5 pairs of lightweight walking socks (keeping your feet dry prevents blisters)
- Hiking boots/ sturdy walking shoes – make sure you wear them in before the hike to avoid blisters!
- Sun cream (factor 50 or above to be safe – the sun is much stronger at altitude!)
- Sun hat
- Pod sacks / Exped waterproof bags – to keep spare socks, shorts and underwear dry
- First aid kit – Compede (lifesavers if you get blisters), Ibuprofen, paracetamol, anti-histamine, plasters, Imodium, Dioralyte re-hydration sachets
- Lightweight, windproof gloves
- Baby wipes
- Loo roll – bring PLENTY
- Walking poles** – day two of the hike is quite a hike up to Dead Womans Pass. You then have a 2 hour hike downhill. Poles will save your knees!
- Playing cards
- Anti-bacterial hand gel – you’ll use a lot of this – keep it with you at all times!
Give to the porter
- Head torch
- Sleeping bag**
- Air mattress / roll mat**
- Toiletries – travel sized deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, moisturiser, toothbrush
- Travel towel (Like the PackTowl Personal Towel – read the review on Emily Luxton’s travel blog)
- Spare walking trousers
- Flip flops – air your feet each evening!
** You can hire these from your group or locally in Cusco for a small fee
There you have it! Enjoy the hike!
As a digital marketer with a global role, Simon was taking up to 100 flights a year around the globe. In 2012 he decided to travel on his own time, and completed a six-month trip around South America, Australia, New Zealand and China. His blog, Simon’s Jamjar, is full of adventurous stories, from island hopping around Peru’s Lake Titicaca and having a mud bath in Colombia, to hiking the Inca Trail, and cycling the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia. Connect with Simon on his blog, or on Twitter.