If you’re planning to do the epic Inca Trail hike in Peru, you need this comprehensive Inca Trail packing list. Packing for the trail is serious business, because if you forget to pack something important, you’ll regret it; but equally, if you pack too much, you’ll resent the extra weight.
Before I did the Inca Trail, I agonized over what to pack, I bought a bunch of new gear. After doing the hike, I had learned some lessons about what was worth taking – and what was not. So I’m happy to share my hard-earned wisdom with you, to make your experience on the Inca Trail easier.
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My Comprehensive Inca Trail Packing List
If you’ve already read my guide to preparing for the Inca Trail, all you need now is my Inca Trail packing list. Or rather, my six Inca Trail Packing lists – because, I find it easier to break the packing list into categories.
I’ve included links to the products on Amazon.com to make it easier for those who wish to buy any of these items. This is the .com site because the majority of my readers are from the US.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.
Inca Trail Packing List: General Guidelines
It is so important to pack well for the Inca Trail. You could be very thorough in mentally and physically preparing for the Inca Trail, but there isn’t much you can do if you start the trail with the wrong kit in your pack.
The first principle to remember is, only pack what you need. Any unnecessary stuff is just dead weight that someone (either you or those already very hard-working porters) has to carry up and down mountains – so think carefully about what you bring.
And don’t worry about the gear you need for the rest of your trip to Peru, but don’t want to take on the trail. All the hotels in Cusco are used to people doing the Inca Trail, and they will let you store your gear in the hotel. You can buy one of those cheap shopping bags/hold-alls from the market in Cusco if you need it.
And the second packing principle is – everything needs to perform well. It is sometimes tough on the trail and conditions can change quickly, so you need kit that helps you feel ready for anything.
So with that said, my recommended checking and packing lists are…
List 1: Equipment your tour guide should arrange
You most likely don’t need to bring any of the stuff in list 1 yourself, but I’ve included this list so that you can check with your tour operator to be sure they’re covered. Consider this one more of a checklist.
- Tent & sleeping mat – as explained in my guide to preparing for the Inca Trail, it is worth checking how many will be sharing each tent and what size the tents are
- Cooking equipment & food – you might want to confirm which meals will be provided on the first and last days
- Buckets for washing water – sounds small, but if this is the only means by which you can wash, you’ll appreciate it
- Porters to carry all of the above – you will be in awe of how much these guys carry on their backs!
Ps. If you haven’t chosen a tour guide yet, check my other post for things to consider when selecting one. But also, consider Sungate Tours, who I used – I’m not an affiliate for them, but they looked after me every step of the way and were amazing, so I’m happy to recommend them.
List 2: Camping kit you’ll need but can hire
This list contains some items you’ll need, but you don’t need to bring them with you to Peru. You can hire camping equipment in Cusco during the days before the trail, or through your tour operator (again, best to check with them in advance, so you know whether you need to arrange these items or not).
- Sleeping bag – some people have their own; many rent them just for the trip
- Walking sticks – these are optional, but I definitely recommend them! Some of the steps are steep, and some are uneven and slippery, so having sticks to help steady you is a good idea. I relied on mine quite heavily.
List 3: Essential clothes
Now we get onto the essential Inca Trail packing list items that you will need to take in your pack. You don’t need much clothing, but you need to be prepared for changeable weather (it can change several times a day in the Andes!):
- Good walking boots, suitable for uneven ground and steep, sometimes slippery steps, and for rain or warm weather. Mine are Salomons hiking boots with Goretex.
- Boots are probably the most important item! As I mentioned in my other post, make sure you break these in before you start the trail
- Cushioned walking socks PLUS liner socks – 1 pair of each for each day. I wore Bridgedale walking socks with Merino wool and Bridgedale liner socks.
- This might sound excessive, but if you hurt your feet, it will be miserable for you, so it is worth the extra protective measures, in my opinion
- Liner socks are especially useful for the downhill sections, where your feet may slip over and over within your boots and you could get blisters
- Wicking tops – one per day. I had a mix of Rab and Berghaus tops.
- For the uninitiated, wicking tops are made of material that pulls sweat away from your body so it can evaporate more easily – therefore, your clothes feel less damp and heavy, which is nice
- I saved the best-looking one for the last day, when I knew I’d be taking photos in Machu Picchu (some people bring a new outfit for Machu Picchu selfies, but I didn’t think that was weight worth carrying for me)
- One pair of non-absorbant hiking trousers
- They’ll get very grubby, but I really don’t think you need more than one pair
- Underwear (I won’t tell you how many pairs to bring, ha ha)
- Warm fleece with a hood for cold evenings and exposed mountain passes; you could substitute the hood for a woolly hat. This North Face one is not the same as my Berghaus one, but is similar
- Waterproof & windbreaking jacket in case it rains (also useful for chilly evenings at the campsite). Mine is Mammut.
- Sun hat & sunglasses
- Shorts or leggings & T-shirt for camp, which could double as something to sleep in (basically something which will be dry and comfy, should you get wet on the trail)
List 4: Essential kit
- You will need to present this at each checkpoint along the trail
- For tipping your guide, the cook and the porters (your tour operator can advise what the going rate is), plus there are a couple of places to buy extra snacks on days 1 and 2 and also in Machu Picchu itself
- I was glad I had some extra cash with me so I could pay for my pack to be carried by the porters from Day 2 onwards (I couldn’t have arranged this by credit card or with an IOU!)
- Comfortable backpack – with a waterproof cover. I would say around 60-70l should be big enough for most people. Mine is a Berghaus Trailhead.
- Plus a smaller day pack, if you are not carrying your own backpack (so you can have access to your fleece, snacks, water etc during the day)
- Water bottle – ideally one you can fit in your backpack pocket, for ease of carrying
- First aid kit, including plasters for blisters, which is your most likely ailment on the trail
- Mosquito spray
- On my trek, I found that on warm days, the porters asked to use some of my mosquito spray because they didn’t have any. So if I did it again, I would bring extra to help them out (did I mention they work hard?!)
- Sunscreen & SPF chapstick
- Torch, ideally a headlamp
- This is essential for evenings at the campsites, as there will be barely any other light. If you need to leave your tent for any reason (eg to go to the loo), you will not want to do that in pitch black!
- Ps. The upside of the pitch black is that on clear nights, you might see the Milky Way, which is amazing
- Snacks / emergency rations
- I was given snacks each day by our tour operator, but I kept some Kendall mint cakes in my pack as a ‘just in case’. I didn’t use them, but it makes sense to have a backup for emergencies
- Camera / camera phone
- You won’t get a signal on the trail, but you’ll want to take photos!
- Toilet roll
- Don’t expect there to be any paper in the toilets along the trail or in the campsites, so you will want some of your own!
- Antibacterial wipes
- Just as there won’t be toilet paper in the trail toilets, there won’t be soap & water for hand-washing, either, so these will help you stay hygienic
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Flannel, soap, deodorant & waterproof bag
- In the absence of showers, you will be making do with a bucket of water for personal hygiene, so a flannel will come in handy
- Any essential meds, eg asthma inhalers
List 5: Not essential, but I’m glad I took these anyway
This sub-section of the Inca Trail packing list is non-essential things that I took in my pack and they ended up being very helpful – therefore, I recommend you take them too.
- Packing bags / dry bags. Mine are Exped bags.
- These are so handy! These are waterproof, sealable bags you can use to separate items within your pack. They have three benefits:
- They keep things organised. When you’re packing and repacking each day, it is so much easier to do that with a few neat bags, rather than lots of loose items
- They gave me extra peace of mind that should it rain heavily, my clothes would stay dry
- They can separate dirty clothes from clean stuff. I appreciated this when I had a fresh, clean top to wear on the last day
- These are so handy! These are waterproof, sealable bags you can use to separate items within your pack. They have three benefits:
- Shampoo & shower gel
- If you’re entirely comfortable with the idea of not showering for four days, don’t bother bringing these, but I’m glad I had a small amount with me (I used refillable travel bottles)
- I did brave one of the cold showers on the 3rd night and while the shower cubicle itself was not clean, it felt glorious for me to come out clean, after three days covered in sunscreen, mozzie spray, dust and sweat!
- Travel/Sports towel
- If you think you might shower, I’d recommend a special sports towel, designed to dry quickly and to take up very little space and weight
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- This sounds very poncey, but if you’re renting a sleeping bag and you’re concerned about how hygienic it is, a sleeping bag liner is a good way to resolve that. I didn’t choose silk to be luxurious: it’s because it is warm, thin and light
- Also, the extra warmth was nice on those cold nights in the mountains!
- Camping pillow
- This is basically a small, light pillow that can be rolled and compressed into a bag. Otherwise, you’ll be resting your head on the floor or a bundle of clothes, which is fine – but for negligible extra weight and space, you can have a small pillow
- Power bank & connector for phone
- If your phone battery is unlikely to last four days, take a power bank to top it up during the trail (remember to charge the power bank fully first!)
- Altitude sickness remedies
- I don’t know for sure that these worked, but I was glad to have options, as I did suffer from breathlessness and headaches on the trail
- Chemists in Cusco can sell you tablets before you depart for the trail, and your tour will likely offer you coca leaf tea (but don’t bring any coca leaves back to your home country without being sure they are legal there!)
- Rehydration sachets & gut paralysers
- I didn’t have any gastric problems on the trail, thankfully, but I had peace of mind knowing these were in my pack should I need them
List 6: Things I wish I hadn’t bothered with (but you could consider)
The final list is items that I took, but I regretted it. I just didn’t find them useful, so they ended up being unnecessary weight. That said, your needs will vary by season, so it’s a good idea to check with your tour guide what they recommend for the month you are doing the trail.
- Warm gloves
- I was advised I may need them in the evenings, which can get very cold, but I found that my fleece with thumb hooks was sufficient when I went in September.
- Waterproof poncho
- I went in the dry season and it only rained once during my hike and this was overnight. If it had rained while I was hiking, I had a backpack cover and a decent rain jacket, so it seemed like I’d had these relatively heavy plastics ponchos for no reason.
- BUT, if you go in the rainy season, you will most likely need this. It is best to check what your tour operator recommends for the dates you are planning to do the trail.
- Flip flops for camp
- I read these could be good at the campsite, for when I had taken my boots off – but I found it was too cold to walk around without socks on and too awkward to wear socks with flip flops, so they were a bit redundant. If you have lightweight closed-toe shoes, these might be better, but I honestly didn’t feel like it was essential to have a second pair of shoes.
- Water purifier tablets
- Check with your tour operator, but I was provided with sufficient drinkable water (that had been boiled), so I didn’t need to purify any water.
- Female Urination Device
- OK, this is a delicate one… The toilets along the trail are gross, so I was recommended to take a device designed for women to avoid sitting on dirty toilets. But, without getting into details, it’s a strange thing for the female body to adjust to peeing standing up, and it wasn’t as easy to use as I thought. After one try, I gave up and resorted to squatting in hidden spots when there wasn’t a usable toilet and I needed to go. But maybe it will work better for you if you practise more than I did!
I hope you find these packing lists helpful! Let me know if you have any questions about any items. And check out my other tips for preparing for the Inca Trail, and also the best things to do in Cusco, where you’ll stay before and after the Trail.