Packing List for Hiking the Inca Trail
Packing for the strenuous, multi-climate, four-day hike is something most hikers stress over months before setting foot in Peru, and for good reason. There's no Target or 7/11 on the Inca Trail, and once you start, you have to rely solely on what's in your pack. The last thing you want to realize at the trail-head is that you forgot your hiking boots!
That said, you also do not want to be lugging a bag bigger than a small human up steep-ass mountains for four days either. So, you really have to plan carefully.
Here are the main questions we asked ourselves when packing:
- Is it necessary? Be very discerning about what takes up the precious space in your pack. Hiking boots obviously, but do you need two pairs of outer hiking pants? And ladies, keep the make-up to minimum...Llamas really don't care ;)
- Is it heavy? While preparation is key, either you or a porter will be carrying your pack and there are stringent weight limits (9 kilos / 20 pounds per person max). *Tip: to reduce weight, use an iphone rather than a DSLR camera and ditch adapters, toiletries, chargers or shoes you won't use. Also, do not bring tons of snacks. Our company (SAS Travel), and most others we saw, feed you like royalty!
- Can it do double duty? Many items can...especially if you get creative. Tip: the down jacket that stuffs in its own pouch makes an awesome pillow and a Camelbak that doubles as a day pack will save your life!
Other Dos and Don'ts:
- LAYER! Especially in South American winter. It is HOT during the day and near freezing in the morning and night so you will perform many wardrobe changes. Make it easier on yourself by doing something like this: undies (and sports bra for ladies), wool base layer, short sleeve and outer pants, fleece or down jacket, beanie, gloves. You can easily strip off as you go.
- Take a day bag (Camelbak) for water, anything you'll need on the trail, and storing extra layers. *Tip: the porters DO NOT hike with you. They RUN from campsite to campsite each day so it's set up when you arrive, which means you cannot get in and out of your big bag throughout the day.
- Bring a fresh outfit for the day you arrive at Machu Picchu. You'll feel so good in clean clothes and will be taking tons of pictures, so you may as well look decent. *Tip: this outfit can double as your pajamas to save space!
- Bring fresh socks for each day. You will not want to put on the stinky, stiff ones you hiked in for 12 hours the day before. Trust me.
- Undies for each day. Obviously, but remember, nothing good comes from flipping them inside out and going for round two when you're hiking 12 kilometers per day!
- Keep snacks to a minimum. For four days this was what I, a girl with an appetite, ate in between prepared meals: 4 granola bars, 1 bag dried fruit, 1 bag nuts, 3 pouches energy gummies. Jeff ate a little more, but not much...They seriously stuff you at camp!
- Bring extra toilet paper. Like two to three rolls per person. Your nose will run a lot, you'll pee and...ya know, in the woods and very rustic facilities, so you'll want more cushion than less.
- Forego the rain jacket and buy a cheap poncho in Cusco. They work great and cover your pack too.
- Break in your hiking boots! I cannot stress how important this is. You are literally walking / hiking 12 hours each day and you want to be comfy.
- Hire porters. See photo above...They are incredible. And honestly, the hike is HARD no matter what you carry, so make it as light and enjoyable as possible while supporting the local economy at the same time. *Note: porters do not carry your personal backpack. They provide you with a duffel bag the night before to transfer your stuff into. This makes it easier for them to pack and carry multiple people's belongings up and down the trail.
- Bring tons of toiletries. The showers are cold and you will not feel like taking one at the end of the day. Oh, and make-up is not necessary since you'll be sweating all over the place. I took lip-gloss. *Tip: WetWipes and Neutrogena face wipes are your best friends. Both big 6'3" Jeff and I, a girl who definitely sweats, were amazed at how little we stunk after four days of using only these to cleanse. Remember: face, pits and nether-bits! And bring multiple packs.
- Tote multiple electronics. They're heavy and please just enjoy the hike with your own eyes, not through a lens the whole time. An iphone is perfect for pics and video, but a GoPro is a good option too. *Tip: there are no charging station in the Andes, so the more devices you have the more backup charges you'll need and that gets heavy. We also found our GoPro lost charge very quickly.
- I repeat DO NOT forget: sunscreen, chapstick, sun glasses, baseball hat, beanie, gloves, band-aids, blister band-aids, and bug spray.
Here are our bags:
Our final packing list for the four-day Inca Trail hike in July 2016 (winter):
Britt's pack: 40L Osprey Farpointe (hired porter)
- One pair of outer hiking / cargo pants
- Two pairs of capri-style yoga pants
- One Merino wool, base layer (leggings and long-sleeve top)
- Two short-sleeve tops
- Two long-sleeve tops (in addition to the Wool base layer)
- One fleece sweater
- One down jacket with included pouch
- 4 pairs of undies (Fabletics are the BEST and don't chafe)
- 2 sports bras
- 4 pairs of socks
- 1 pair hiking boots
- 1 pair Teva sandals (for camp; you will want to change out of your hiking boots)
- 1 beanie (purchased in Cusco)
- 1 baseball cap
- Toiletries: WetWipes, Neutrogena Face Wipes, mini-deodorant, mini-toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mini-face and body lotion, toilet paper, hand sanatizer
Day pack: Camelbak (Britt carried)
- Basic first aid (band-aids, Neosporin, iodine, IB Proufin, Nyquil PM, Benadryl, anti-itch cream for bug bites)
- Two snacks for the day
- iphone and GoPro (with mini tripod and collapsible selfie-stick. I know.)
- Any extra layers I had taken off or planned on using
- Hand sanitizer, bug-spray, mini-hand lotion and chapstick
- Toilet paper
- pStyle pee funnel for ladies (OMG a lifesaver!)
Jeffs pack: 55L Osprey Farpointe (hired porter)
- One pair outer hiking pants
- One base layer (leggings and long-sleeve top)
- Three long sleeve tops
- Two short sleeve shirts
- One fleece jacket
- Four pairs hiking socks; one pair Alpaca 'sleep socks' bought in Cusco
- One pair hiking boots
- One pair Teva sandals
- 2 beanies (one with visor for the day, one softer for sleeping)
- One baseball cap
- One pair gloves
Day Pack: Osprey zip-off day pack from his backpack (Jeff carried)
- Vapur water pouch
- Small Sony point and shoot camera
- Two snacks plus a bag of dried fruit
- Toilet paper
- Any layers removed during the day
- Hand sanitizer, sunscreen, WetWipes, bug spray, chapstick
- Extra shoelaces
This was the perfect amount of clothes and supplies for the four-day hike, but rest assured, if you forget something you can buy pretty much anything you need in Cusco.
Also remember that anything you bring will need to be carried by a human: either you or a porter. So, be courteous to yourself and your fellow man and make sure it's necessary before packing it...backs and legs around the world will thank you. Happy hiking!