Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a once in a lifetime opportunity! While it is definitely easier to take the train to Machu Picchu, trekking the Inca Trail makes that first sighting of the citadel of Machu Picchu so much more exciting and rewarding. The Inca Trail trek is usually around 4 days, where you will need to camp in tents each night along the way. This post covers what to pack for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and how to be prepared for your trip!
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About the Inca Trail Trek
Before I get into the packing list, let’s talk a little about the trail itself. Honestly, the citadel of Machu Picchu is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Inca ruins. There are so many other ruins that we visited along the way. If you are physically able, I highly recommend taking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu over taking the train.
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit the Inca trail is between May and September. This is winter in the Sothern Hemisphere. So why is winter the best time? Because it’s also dry season. The Inca Trail is full of steps. It was not easy even with no rain and I cannot imagine doing it in the rain. Furthermore, the area also gets misty which may hinder your ability to really enjoy the sights and views on the trail.
Winter temperatures range from 20C/68F during the day to well below freezing at night (even up to 20F). You are exposed to the sun during the day as there is hardly any cover on the trail. It’s generally a case of waking up and wearing all your layers because it’s freezing to taking everything off the minute the sun comes out. You will need to pack for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for both these situations.
The Inca Trail is 43 km/26 miles and takes about 4 days. Each night is spent in a camp where the crew will set up your tent. The facilities at camp sites are basic. Some days the toilets are squatting toilets. Only one camp site had a shower facility but no hot water. You only get a small bowl of warm water each morning to brush your teeth. Furthermore, there is also no electricity. Given these basic facilities it is really important to pack appropriately for the Inca Trail.
What to know more about what it is like on the Inca Trail and the camp sites? Check out my article where I really give you ALL the details about the trail and what to expect!
Tips for Packing for the Inca Trail
- Don’t overpack – while this is good advice in general, this is especially important on the Inca Trail. Why? Because you would probably hire a porter to carry for stuff for you and this porter has a strict weight limit that he is allowed to carry. They weigh the bags every morning before they put it on their backs. Depending on the company you hire, this limit is 6kg to 8 kg
- You will be given a duffle bag by the company and have to fit everything into that bag. Use their bag over anything you have as that is one less thing for you to bring
- Keep your day bad light – again pretty similar to the one above but carrying a heavy bad and dealing with altitude is not fun. Keep your day pack as light as you possibly can
- As I mentioned above, facilities are pretty basic so you really don’t need to carry a lot of things like toiletries. Prepare to not smell good for a few days! and that’s ok because everyone is in the same boat
- Break in your hiking shoes if they are new. Go for long walks at home ahead of the trip
- Almost all companies offer an option of them providing a sleeping bag and mats for a fee. Take it! Because this doesn’t count towards your allocated weight. If you bring your own, that will count and you will have to either reduce what you pack or carry it on your own
What to Pack for the Inca Trail
Given that the best time to visit the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is also during winter time, this what to pack for the Inca Trail list is going to focus on this time.
- Good hiking shoes – steps, steps and more steps…that’s how I would describe what the trail is actually like. Break in your shoes beforehand if they are new
- Thick jacket like a puffer jacket
- Light fleece type jacket
- Flip flops (I carried another pair of sneakers with me and I didn’t need it)
- Pants – 2-3 hiking pants or leggings (I wore leggings. I also think they were slightly less bulkier than hiking pants)
- Tops – Bring a few short and long sleeve combinations. The trail gets hot by day time even in the winter
- A good rule of thumb is 3-4 short sleeve and 2 long sleeve with one of them being a long sleeve top for the night
- Pajama bottom – I brought 1 thick flannel PJ’s that I wore every night
- Thermal wear for the night – 1 set should suffice
- Thick socks/hiking socks
- Sports bras
- Beanie hat
- Raincoat or rain jacket if you are going during rainy season – you can also get a water proof jacket as your thick jacket so you don’t have to pack a separate rain jacket
- Rain ponchos – that can go over your daypack as well
- A daypack – bring a super light one. I have one that can fold up which is super convenient when it’s not in use
- Backpack cover
- Re-usable water bottle and water bladder
- Adjustable trekking poles
- Toe warmers – these are an absolute life saver for the night (my number 1 recommendation!)
- Sun glasses
- Passport (you need it to get your pass)
- Money for tipping porters
- Small travel size bottle of lotion
- Wet wipes – lots of them. consider these your shower!
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray
- Travel toilet paper
- Small quick drying towel
- Small trash bags or light weight bags (like big zip locks) to separate worn clothes from good ones inside the duffle bag OR if you have light weight packing cubes, those will work too
- Small packs of tissue
- Lip balm
- Head lamp with batteries
- External battery packs – in case your phone dies because you can’t charge it. I find the ones that are solar charged are good because you can strap them to your backpack when you hike during the day to re-charge
- Camera equipment (GoPro, DSLR etc) if you use them and extra batteries – see my photography gear HERE
- Knee guards and ankle guards if you have bad knees or ankles
- If you need/have an inhaler, definitely bring that!
- OTC pain relivers (to relieve any muscle pain or for any other ailment like a headache)
- Stomach pain relivers
- Chat with your doctor if they would recommend an AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) prevention pill
While all 3 meals + an evening tea time treat are provided, I recommend bringing some snacks to munch on while hiking. Some examples are:
- Energy bars
Nice to Haves if There is Space/Weight
- Dry shampoo (if you want to “wash” your hair)
- An inflatable pillow to sleep
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HERE is my Machu Picchu link again! You definitely should read it before you go!
Also going to Rainbow Mountain? Check out my post HERE or below