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Having the right gear will help you prepare for (and survive!) the trip of a lifetime while hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. 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, but the tips and advice below will help you know what to pack for every season. Read on for exactly what you need for your Inca Trail Hike Packing List to conquer the “Classic 4 Day Inca Trail Hike.”
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What Trek Companies 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. Your porters will carry everything to magically set up breakfast, lunch and dnner each day – often with several courses each meal! You might want a few small snacks, but even these are sometimes provided. After you reach Machu Picchu, though, meals are not included but you can get lunch at the restaurant there.
- A portable toilet. Ours was set up at lunch and overnight in camp.
- Some companies provide or rent sleeping mats and sleeping bags. 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 South America, 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.
Dry season: June through September is when you’re less likely to have rain during your trek. However, it’s more likely that Machu Picchu will be more crowded when you arrive. (The number of people permitted on the trail is the same in all seasons, though.) In addition, you’ll need to be careful to protect yourself from the sun, which is strong at the high altitude.
Wet season: October through April is the rainy season, and muddy trails can make the already-difficult trek more challenging. The trade-off is that Machu Picchu could be less crowded, and you can get greener landscapes for your photos.
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 more info on Cusco seasonal average temperatures and rainfall from Holiday-Weather.com
- Inca Trail climate info from IncaTrail-Peru.com
Gear Weight Limit for Your Packing List
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.
The “Classic” Inca Trail hike is 4 days/3 nights of trekking to reach Machu Picchu. My 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.
After you arrive at Machu Picchu, you will go to the front gate and store your gear except your day pack. You won’t be able to take trekking poles into Machu Picchu, either. You’ll pick everything up again before you board the buses to Aguas Calientes at the end of your day at Machu Picchu.
Inca Trail Packing List
Clothing for the Trek
- 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. I love all of the Athleta hiking pants – check them out here.
- 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. (Yes, I can’t believe I typed that either.)
- 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 Merrell Women’s Siren Edge Hiker.
- 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. You’ll want to take off your hiking boots at the end of each day.
- A cap, a warm hat and mittens
- A good poncho, even if your pack has a cover – in the rainy season, this is a necessity! You can buy them in Ollantaytambo if needed.
- 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.
- A day pack. I carried a 36-liter day pack for my Inca Trail Trek, although a 24-liter pack would work as well. I recommend the 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.
- Sleeping bag. I used a Marmot mummy bag like this one rated to 20 degrees F and weighing less than 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.
- Collapsible water bottle for use around camp (AKA brushing your teeth)
- Sleeping mat (often these are provided or you can rent them)
- Trekking 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 plastic 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 and battery pack – I set it to airplane mode and slept with it inside my sleeping bag to keep it warmer, to save on power.
- 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. Seriously, they will make it possible for you to hike the trail – don’t forget this one!
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!)
Haven’t yet booked your trek? Check out these itineraries from G Adventures and Intrepid Travel!
Next up on the Inca Trail Survival Guide: You’re ready for Part III: The Trek.
Catch up if you haven’t read Part I: The Training Plan.
Pin these Inca Trail Packing List tips for later!