Having the right Inca Trail packing list and gear will help you prepare for (and survive!) the trip of a lifetime. The trick is getting the right balance of things you’ll need while taking the absolute least weight possible. It will be different for each trekker, of course, and will vary based on what your trek company provides and the season you hike. Read on for tips to help you build your own Inca Trail Packing List! Click the turquoise links below for more info on each item.
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What your trek company will usually provide: (confirm before booking)
- Tents. Generally these are provided and carried by the porters, so they DO NOT count in your weight allowance limit. Ours were 3-person tents for 2 travelers. They will also set up a shared dining tent.
- A small duffel or stuff sack for your personal belongings that the porters will carry – with a maximum filled weight limit of 6kg (13lbs, 3.6oz). You will only have access to this at camp in the evenings and overnight. WARNING: some treks do not include this, or offer a porter for an additional fee.
- Water after the first day of your trek. Most companies ask you to carry water the first day, then will fill your bottles or water reservoir for you with boiled water at mealtimes. Others might ask you to bring purifying tablets or a Steripen.
- All meals during the trek and plates, utensils, cups, etc. You might want a few small snacks, but even these are sometimes provided. After you reach Machu Picchu, meals are not included.
- A portable toilet. Ours was set up at lunch and overnight in camp.
- Some companies provide or rent sleeping mats. If it isn’t provided by your trek company, bringing one will count toward your weight limit.
- Transfer to km 82 (the starting point), entrance fees/trail passes for the trek and Machu Picchu, and train tickets from Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Cusco.
Inca Trail Seasons and Weather
Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, so their seasons are the opposite of those in the U.S. Our summer is their winter, but it’s also the dry season, so many trekkers plan a trip from May – September. I traveled in November, and we had a steady drizzle for a good part of 2 out of 4 days, but the scenery was greener due to the rain.
Be sure you have what you’ll need for your season: bring sunscreen and UPF clothing for the dry season, and extra socks and quick-dry clothes during the rainy season.
- Check out Cusco seasonal average temperatures and rainfall from Holiday-Weather.com
- Inca Trail climate info from IncaTrail-Peru.com
Gear Weight Limit
If your trek includes this, you’ll be provided with a duffel bag with a maximum weight of 6kg (or 13lbs, 3.6oz) that the porters will carry for you during the day. While you trek, you’ll carry a day pack including water, a jacket, camera, sunscreen, or any items you’ll need before evening. You might be inclined to take extra and spread the weight to your day pack, but I strongly encourage trekkers to carry as little as possible during the day.
Our itinerary included an overnight in Ollantaytambo before the trek began, so my list below includes clothing for that night as well as 4 days/3 nights on the trail. It might look like more than 6kg, but keep in mind that you’re wearing a good amount of the clothing and gear while you trek.
With clothing, the biggest concern should be warmth, sun protection and keeping dry. You won’t have much energy for photos, and honestly no one cares how many times you’ve worn your pants. Except the llamas. They’re super judge-y.
Inca Trail Packing List
- Pants: 3 pair. I brought the Prana Monarch convertible (zip-off) pant, the Bettona Boyfriend pant from Athleta and yoga pants/tights to sleep in.
- Tops: 4 short sleeve t-shirts and 1-2 long sleeve. Some blogs I read recommended wool, but I preferred quick-dry performance fabrics. I slept in that day’s shirt to save space.
- A fleece pullover
- A down vest (that doubled as a pillow)
- 5-6 pair of wool socks. Consider taller ones: you can tuck your pant legs into them if you have to use squatty potties.
- 5 pair of underwear
- 2 sports bras (one to wear and a spare)
- Ahnu Sugarpine waterproof hiking boots. I was glad I had the ankle support and my feet stayed dry. I usually wear an 8M (sometimes 7.5) but I sized up to an 8.5 and added a pair of insoles. If you travel in the dry season and are sure-footed (not likely to roll an ankle), you might prefer Salomon Women’s Ellipse 2 Aero hiking shoes.
- Waterproof pants – I actually didn’t use these though because it was never a downpour, just a steady drizzle.
- Flip-flops or lightweight slip-on shoes to wear at camp
- A cap, a warm hat and mittens
- A good poncho, even if your pack has a cover
- If you travel in the dry season, consider a UPF headband, hat or scarf
Because I had read that you could buy knit hats and mittens as local crafts, I picked those up at a market the night before our trek began.
- Women’s Osprey Sirrus 36 Backpack or Osprey Stratos 36 – they come in different sizes based on your height.
- 1.5 or 2L water reservoir – our guides were good about telling us how much water we needed to bring for the first day of the trip, and our cooks boiled water for us to carry after that.
- Collapsible water bottle for use around camp (AKA brushing your teeth)
- Sleeping bag. I used the Marmot Sorcerer Women’s Mummy, rated to 20 degrees F and weighing 3 lbs. Keep in mind that in all seasons, the nighttime temperature on the trail is right around freezing. I’m not a regular camper but researched and found out that mummy bags keep you warmer because of the shape.
- Sleeping mat (often these are provided or you can rent them)
- Hiking poles – I rented these in Cusco through my tour company.
- A small microfiber towel and washcloth
- Body wipes/face wipes (1-3 packs, based on how much weight you have and how clean you want to be)
- Antibacterial hand wipes (1-2 packs)
- Sunscreen – in the dry months, the weather will be cool but sunny during the day. Since you’ll be at a high altitude, reapply sunscreen during the day.
- Lip balm with sunscreen
- Basic toiletry bag (deodorant, toothbrush/paste, lotion, ibuprofen, sports tape if needed, basic first aid items, blister prevention cream, bb cream to be more presentable for photos at Machu Picchu)
- Toilet paper and “shepee” – I honestly only needed these once because our tour provided a pop-up bathroom when we stopped for lunch and at camp, but I was glad I had them.
Other Inca Trail Packing List Must-Haves:
- Giant ZIPLOC BAGS. I’m not kidding – buy these if you go during the rainy season or just to keep everything clean and organized. I put things inside the XL storage versions and managed to keep everything inside both my daily pack and the porter bag dry.
- Cell phone – I set it to airplane mode and slept with it inside my sleeping bag to keep it warmer, so it kept its charge the entire trip.
- Motivational playlist – for the most difficult parts of the trail. I’m looking at you, Dead Woman’s Pass.
- Camera – I took most of my photos after we got to Machu Picchu, but I had to carry it the entire time, which was possibly the worst thing ever in my life (maybe).
- A few snacks – our tour group kept us well-fed and provided snacks at some breaks, so I didn’t need most of what I brought.
- Passport – you’ll need it to enter the park, and you will get a stamp there and at Machu Picchu.
- Luggage scale – check the weight of your bags with a scale, but leave it behind for the trek.
- Cash to tip your guides and porters.
Included in our Inca Trail Packing List, I also brought these adorable journals for me and my sister, in case we survived and wanted to blog about the trip later. (That one keeps selling out, so here’s another cute option for llama journaling!)