It’s easy to get carried away when asking yourself “what should I pack for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail”. There’s a tendency to go nuts at the outdoor store and over pack everything plus the kitchen sink. While being prepared for all eventualities is generally commendable, carrying more than a mule is counter productive. Don’t be that guy. There’s a strict weight limit on the Inca Trail (see footnotes below) so make sure you don’t tip the scales by only taking the gear you need.
What Should I Pack For Machu Picchu and The Inca Trail?
1. Boots/Walking Shoes: The foundation of your trek, these should be good quality and waterproof. Go for a decent brand (eg Merrel/North Face) and make sure you’ve broken them in well before starting any long distances. If you make a bad choice here you’ll have 4 days of pain.
2. Socks: The second most important item on your packing list. Take at least four pairs of thick cotton socks and three pairs of ankle socks with Dri Fit or similar. Change at least daily to stay on good terms with the other trekkers.
3. Fleece Top/Hoody: It gets fffrezing in the evenings and the 4am starts can be nippy. This will provide the much needed warmth when you’re body’s cooled down from the day’s hiking.
4. Convertible Trousers: You might look like a dick, but these are a godsend when the weather goes loco. Zip the legs on or off in a flash depending on your preference. The choice is yours.
5. Dry wicking T-shirts: Three of these should do. Two short sleeves and one long sleeve to protect your arms from the sun if it’s scorching.
6. Underwear: Dry wicking if possible. A pair for every day and an extra just in case…
7. Wide Brim Hat: Proteck Ya Neck. Essential in the sun. I had a traditional wide brim brought from Ecuador which did the job perfectly, even if it did look a bit Mick Dundee.
8. Day Pack: You’ll only carry your daily essentials in this pack (water, snacks, extra layer etc). The rest of your stuff will be packed up and given to the porters who’ll transport it from camp to camp. With that in mind keep your day pack compact. 20 litres should do the job.
9. Mozzie Spray: There’s a few parts of the trail where you’ll need to slather yourself or risk being munched alive by these little fckrs. It may be toxic and melt your skin but products containing DEET are by far the most effective repellent.
10. Hand Sanitiser: Don’t get sick on the trail. A dodgy stomach when using trail toilets is no fun for anyone.
11. Sunscreen: The sun gets hot so make sure you slip slap slop. Factor 30 or above will keep you safe from them UV rayz.
12. Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Stinky breath when sharing a tent is a no. Keep it fresh.
13. Camera: Essential. This will be one of the most photogenic adventures of your life. Capture those special moments, just leave the selfie stick at home.
14. Extra Batteries or Battery Pack: Running out of juice for your camera on day three will result in much annoyance and frustration. Remember your ABC – Always Be Charging.
15. Sunglasses: Don’t be a squinter. Take a good pair of sunnies.
16. Small bottle of Rum: (or Whiskey/Brandy)– Mix a shot or two into your coca tea at the end of the day and melt into your sleeping bag. The ultimate tipple after a long day of hiking.
17. Painkillers/Meds: It can be tough at the top so make sure you have something to numb the pain if needed. Sore and inflamed joints can be alleviated with a few ibuprofen washed down with a shot of rum (optional).
18. Camelback/Water Bladder: Stay hydrated & stay alive, so the motto goes. Two litres a day while on the trail is optimum. Clean water provided each morning and afternoon to re-up your pack.
19. Wet Wipes: Good for all over use in the absence of showers for a few days.
20. Passport: You’ll need this to get onto the trail and at various points along the way. Remember to get the official Machu Picchu stamp at the end.
21. Zip Lock Bags: Many uses. Separate your stuff so it’s easy to find and keep it dry. Take plenty.
22. Headtorch: Make sure you get into the right tent at night to ensure you stay friends with your neighbours..
What I Bought and Didn’t Use.
1. Rain coat: It didn’t rain and on top of that our tour company provided plastic ponchos which would have done the trick in a light shower. However I think we may have been lucky with the weather. Leave home without a waterproof coat at your peril.
2. Umbrella: See above. Even if it rained an umbrella wouldn’t have been much use as we had walking sticks.
3. Earphones: I thought a Rocky ‘Eye of the Tiger’ style moment might be needed at the tough points, but these stayed stashed at the bottom of my pack.
4. Plasters/Band Aids: We had 100 assorted plasters (smallest box we could find in Cusco) and didn’t use one of them.
5. Woolly Hat/Gloves: We were advised these would be needed at night and in the morning but tbh it was never that cold – or maybe we’re just nails?
6. Jeans and Belt: These were too heavy and couldn’t fit into my duffle without going over the specified weight. The stylish convertible adventure trousers had to do (which worked out fine).
What Was Provided By Our Tour Company.
We rented the following from our awesome tour company Alpaca Expeditions for $50 USD total. Much easier and convenient than buying and lugging around ourselves.
1. Sleeping Bag: Mummy style and extremely warm.
2. Inflatable Camping Mat: Thick, warm and kept us off the cold ground sheet.
3. Walking Poles: Was dubious at first but glad we hired these. The steep stairs up and down are killer on your knees and after the first day these were lifesavers. Pretty much everyone in our group from early twenties to late fifties had a pair.
How Much Stuff Can I Bring In Total?
Thankfully, the hard working porters are restricted as to how much they can carry along the trail. In the past this was not always the case and they often hauled dangerously heavy loads (including the kitchen sink, literally). On the first morning you’ll be given a big duffel bag in which you’ll need to pack everything for the week. The total weight for this bag cannot exceed 7kgs. This must include your sleeping bag and sleeping matt if you’ve hired them. As a rough guide these usually weigh 3kgs, leaving you 4kgs for everything else. Keep in mind anything you’ll be wearing or carrying during the day will not count toward this 7kg max weight. At the end of each day when you get to camp, you’ll receive your duffel bag with all the stuff you’ll need for that evening and the next day. .
When Did We Travel?
We did the Inca Trail in late November, the beginning of the rainy season. However we only experienced a smattering of rain for a few minutes on the last night. Having said that we’ve heard the trail can become soaking wet at times so keep that in mind.
Pack Light and Smart.
It should go without saying but travel with only what you need. If you’re hesitant about bringing something then don’t. Think about what you could do without and not what would be handy to have. Ditch the toiletry bag and just pack your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant in a ziplock. There’s soap on the trail for washing hands and face etc. Invest in lightweight/quick drying material clothes. Pack layers instead of heavy coats/jumpers. You’ll meet two types of people on the trail- those who packed light and those that wish they had. Enjoy!