Hiking the Inca Trail had been on my bucket list for some time. So to actually hike the trail was a dream come true. But there was a lot of things to do before we did the trek, getting fit for one! But what was also important was what we should take with us on the trek.
You get to take two packs with you on the Inca Trail hike. The first pack was carried the entire trek for us by a porter and we could pack up to 6kg in that pack. The second pack we carried ourselves. In this pack we carried everything we needed each day. So what specifically did we pack?
Pack 1 – Carried By Our Porters
- Sleeping Bag. If you don’t want to take your own sleeping bag, you might be able to hire one from your trekking company. We took our own. Either way, the weight of the sleeping bags goes towards your 6kg limit. My sleeping bag is a Denali Capsule 500. It weights 1.3kg (so 4.7kg left to pack) and has a Comfort Rating of -4 Degrees Celsius. If you are looking at purchasing your own sleeping bag two things that are important are weight (the lighter the better) and the comfort rating (it got down to -5 degrees Celsius at night when we did the hike in June).
- Sleeping Mat. Our trekking company supplied each of us with a trekking mat which did not count towards our 6kg limit. However, we had our own mats and when sleeping on hard ground, we found one a bit thin to get a reasonable sleep. So we decided to take our own as well. That way we could double them up and we found that allowed us both to get a good night sleep each night. We took Denali Trek Standard Hike Mats. The mat weights 855 grams (so 3.845kg left to pack).
- Pillow. We took BlackWolf Self Inflating Pillows. They only weigh 200g (so 3.645kg left to pack) and are so much better than trying to stuff clothes into a t-shirt to make into a pillow.
- Thermals. As we did the trek in winter, we slept in thermals. With thermals and our sleeping bags being rated -4 degrees Celsius we stayed pretty warm during the night.
One thing to remember is that the tents are pretty small. I’m 5’6″ and Darren is 6’2″ so there wasn’t a lot of room in the tent. While we slept we sometimes touched the sides of the tent which were wet with dew. This meant our sleeping bags did get wet and we had temperatures as low as -5C on our Inca Trail hike.
The clothes you aren’t wearing will go into the pack carried by the porters and go towards your 6kg limit. So what did I take:
- 2 Icebreaker Tech T Lite Short Sleeve T Shirts. I wore one and packed one. And yes only 2. The great thing about these t-shirts is that they are made from merino wool. I was originally sceptical about the claim that you can wear these t-shirts for a number of days without any odour – I tend to sweat a lot. But I love these shirts. Also I took short sleeve shirts because it got quit hot a couple of times (it’s all about layering).
- 2 convertable pants – the ones that zip off part of the legs so you have a pair of shorts. Because it did get hot a few times, it was good to be able to convert pants into shorts during the day. Again, I wore one pair and packed one pair. There are a number of different brands so find a brand that suits you.
- Knickers. I took a pair for each day. I like a fresh pair of knickers every day and they don’t weight much!
- Sports bras. I took two sports bras – again I wore one and packed one.
- Socks. I took 2 pairs of thick merino socks. Again merino wool can be worn more than one day without any odour. And make sure they are thick socks.
- Jacket. I had a Jack Wolfskin zip up jacket (see the photo below). Make sure the jacket you take is light weight and warm.
- Gloves. A light weight pair of gloves for the start of each day.
- Hat for the day.
- Beanie for when it’s cold.
- Hiking boots. I wore a pair of Keen boots. The most important thing about your boots is make sure they are boots (they give support to your ankles) and you wear them in (along with your socks) before leaving for the trek. We did a number of hikes at home before heading to Peru, some as long as 18km in a day to make sure our boots were comfortable. You do not want blisters on your first day hiking.
On day two of the trek there is an opportunity to have a shower, but there is only cold water – actually it was freezing (well really cold) when we were there in June. It was way to cold for a shower – I really don’t like cold showers!
Pack your personal items in a bag and that bag goes into your 6kg limit pack (unless you need to carry them with you during the day). Personal items to take include:
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- extra hair bands (2) – I have long hair and wear it up when I go hiking
- wet wipes – we used these for a quick “bath” each night in our tent before getting into our thermals
- Altitude sickness tablets
- Any medication you need to take
Pack 2 – Your Own Day Pack
Firstly you need a day pack that is comfortable and light weight. Make sure your pack has a comfortable hip strap so you are taking weight on your hips rather than all of it on your shoulders.
Items I carried in my own day pack / with me were:
- Passport. You go through checkpoints on the hike where you need to show your passport, so make sure you take it with you. Also you can get stamps in your passport for each stage you go through on the trek.
- Wallet. We carried small wallets and while we didn’t need them, we didn’t want to leave our cash and credit cards in our luggage at the hotel.
- Hand sanitisor. You are scrambling up and down rocks at different times.
- Camera. I carried my DSLR body and three lenses (maybe a bit of overkill but I did use all of them).
- A shower cap to cover your camera when it gets dusty.
- Mobile phone. There is no mobile phone coverage until a little bit on day 3 but you can take photos with your camera. I kept it turned off until I wanted to use it. Unless you carry a recharging pack there is nowhere to charge it.
- Water bottles. Make sure you take water bottles with you. We took two Camelbak bottles each. It is best not to take the cheap disposable plastic water bottles you buy at the supermarket. The porters boil your drinking water for you at each stop and most times when they fill your water bottles the water is still hot.
- Hiking poles. Even if you don’t usually use hiking poles, they are a must for the trek. We took one pair thinking we would only need one each, but ended up hiring another set. You can buy them in Cusco.
- A Peak Design Capture Clip. This clip attaches to your backpack strap and allows you to mount your camera (DSLR or mirrorless) to it for easy access. That way it isn’t swinging around your neck or hard to get to in your bag.
- A shower cap. It can get dusty on the track, so I had a shower cap to cover my camera while hiking.
- A small travel towel. I attached it my backpack strap.
The porters provide you with snacks at breakfast and lunch each day so you have food while walking.
Another tip – take some Snickers bars with you.
I had the flu for most of the hike which meant I did most of the trek with an empty stomach. I just couldn’t eat the amazing meals our cooks made for us for each meal. Every meal was three courses (including breakfast). I struggled to each a part of one course for the first two days. By day three I was able to eat a little more for breakfast. By about 10am on day three, the hunger kicked in (I was obviously feeling better!). So that Snickers bar tasted AMAZING!
And then we survived the Inca Trail and made it to Machu Picchu!
Quite the list! Packing for the trip is daunting, I’m sure. Good thing we have people like you to scout ahead!
Thanks Amy. The hard part with the Inca Trail is being restricted to minimal weight so you really do need light weight gear.
Such a detailed post! It’s a shame that you didn’t have the chance to eat normally due to your flu but it looks you enjoyed it anyway! Very nice experience!
Thanks Val. Having the flu definitely made the hike harder but I loved every minute of it.
The Inca Trail is totally on my bucket list! I didn’t realise you had to pack so little, thanks for the handy tips.
Thanks Claire. Each porter carries 20kg, so with food, tents and everything else we need to pack light. We did a few practice packs before leaving home to make sure we could keep under the weight.
I’m so jealous that you got to do this hike! It was on my bucket list for years. And then about 3 years before I finally got to Peru, I discovered that anything over 9k feet kills me. So, no Inca hike. What altitude sickness pills did you pack with you? Great guide.
Thanks April. That’s not good about altitude sickness. We had seven days at altitude before doing the hike including getting up to 5000 metres. On the first night I was getting headaches and was worrying. We ran into a couple of young Americans and were talking to them as they had been at altitude for a while. They asked if I was drinking 3 to 4 litres of water a day and I wasn’t. I started drinking more and was fine from then on. I’m not sure of the actual tablets we took – the doctor prescribed them.
Hiking Inca Trail was one of the best experiences of my life. Great list!
Thanks Nancy. It is an amazing experience isn’t it. It definitely was a pivotal moment for me – I realised at that point that if I put my mind to anything I could do it.
Wow I can’t believe you did the trek with the flu! Did you spend much time in Cusco beforehand acclimatising?
It was definitely tough with the flu Katie. We actually had nine days at altitude before hiking the trail. We had travelled down the coast from Lima and then up into altitude before working our way back up to Cusco. We had got up to 5,000m before getting to Cusco.
This packing list is so helpful! I never know what to pack for things like that. Kudos to you for hiking the trail, especially with the flu!
Glad it’s helpful Julia. Having weight restrictions definitely means you need to pack carefully. And thanks, it was definitely a bit more difficult not being able to breath through my nose for the first two days of the trek!
Great list. And kudos to those amazing porters that constantly carry the packs up and down the trails. I like your camera clip on your backpack. I might have to invest in something like that. 🙂
Totally agree about the porters Olivia. They are absolutely amazing. And the camera clip is a must have. It makes taking photos especially when hiking so much easier.
I plan on doing this someday and trust that this list will come in handy. Thanks for sharing!
Hope you get to do the hike Katy. It is amazing.
This hike is in my bucketlist sicne forever but getting to that part of the world from where I am right now is super expensive! However, this guide will surely come handy whenever I happen to visit there 🙂
The Inca Trail and Peru are definitely worth the trip Rahma. We live in Australia so for us so many things are so far away so I can understand.
The Inca Trail is high on my bucket list and your packing guide is super helpful!
Hope you get to do the hike Brianna. It really is an amazing experience.