The Complete Inca Trail Packing List: Pack Like A Pro

Embarking on a Machu Picchu hike or thinking about an Inca trail vs Lares trek option to the ancient Inca citadel requires a well-thought-out Inca Trail packing list to ensure you’re prepared for the adventure ahead. 
From the lush Urubamba River Valley to the breathtaking heights of the Andes, having the right gear is essential for comfort and enjoyment on Mount Machu Picchu.
At Skyhook, we want to help you pack smartly so you can focus on the awe-inspiring experience that awaits on this epic Machu Picchu circuit.
5 day salkantay trek

What to Pack for Machu Picchu: The Essential List

As you gear up for the majestic trails leading to Machu Picchu, let’s dive into the essential items that should top your packing list.

Trekking Essentials

Duffel Bag

When selecting a duffel bag for your Machu Picchu trek, opt for durability over aesthetics. It should withstand the rigours of your Inca trail training plan and eventual travel while still being spacious enough to hold your gear without exceeding the weight limits for porters, which is typically around 7-8 kg. 
Check with your tour operator for specific allowances and how long to hike Machu Picchu and consider a bag with sturdy straps for easy handling.

Backpack 

Your backpack is your day-to-day lifeline, carrying essentials like water, snacks, and extra layers.
  • Size and Capacity: Aim for a 30 to 50-litre capacity, which is ample space for necessities without being overly cumbersome.

  • Comfort Features: Look for padded shoulder straps, a supportive hip belt, and a design that promotes airflow to your back to enhance comfort during long trekking days.

Pro tip: Test your pack fully loaded on a preparatory hike to ensure no surprises on the trail. Adjust the straps for a snug fit that doesn’t shift as you move.

Backpack Rain Cover

A rain cover is non-negotiable. It keeps your essentials dry and can be easily stowed when not in use. Some backpacks come with integrated covers, but universal covers are readily available and just as effective.
machu picchu trekking poles
Pack your trekking poles!

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are invaluable for balance and support, especially on the uneven terrain of the Andes.
  • Material and Adjustability: Choose lightweight materials like aluminium or carbon fibre. Adjustable poles are versatile for height differences and terrain changes.

  • Using Poles on Different Terrains: Adjust the length for uphill and downhill sections to maintain stability and reduce strain on your knees.

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is necessary if you’re going on the famous Inca Trail. Nighttime temperatures can drop, so a good sleeping bag is crucial.
  • Temperature Ratings and Shapes: A four-season bag rated for temperatures below 0°C is advisable. Mummy-shaped bags are efficient at retaining heat.

  • Material Types: Down bags are lighter and more compressible but can be expensive and lose insulating power if wet. Synthetic bags are cheaper and insulate even when damp.

  • Renting vs Buying: When assessing your Machu Picchu hike tour cost, consider renting a high-quality bag if you don’t plan on frequent cold-weather trekking. However, for regular adventurers, purchasing may be more cost-effective in the long run.

Sleeping Bag Liner

A liner extends the life of your sleeping bag and can add an extra layer of warmth.
  • Fabric Choices: Silk liners are lightweight and add warmth, while cotton or fleece liners are heavier but can be more affordable.

  • Homemade vs Commercial Liners: For the budget-conscious, a homemade liner from an old sheet can work. However, for those seeking extra comfort and warmth, a commercial liner is a small investment for a significantly better experience.

inca trail sign

Hydration and Nutrition

Hydration Bladders or Water Bottles

Choosing between a hydration bladder and water bottles comes down to personal preference and convenience. 
Hydration bladders, with their tubes for easy sipping, encourage regular water intake and are easier to manage while moving, offering capacities of up to 3 litres. 
Water bottles, on the other hand, are simpler to refill and can be handy for mixing in electrolyte powders or for use with water purification methods.
Regardless of your choice, ensure a combined capacity of at least 2-3 litres to maintain hydration throughout the day’s trek.
At high altitudes, dehydration occurs more rapidly, not only due to exertion but also because of increased urination and faster breathing rates. Regular sips, even when not feeling thirsty, are crucial to prevent dehydration and prevent Machu Picchu deaths.

Nutrition

The physical demands of trekking to Machu Picchu mean your body will burn calories at a higher rate, necessitating a higher caloric intake.
Pack high-energy, nutrient-dense snacks like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, and consider energy bars or gels for quick, on-the-go refuelling.
Maintaining electrolyte balance is vital to prevent cramps and maintain muscle function. Pack electrolyte replacement sachets to mix into your water. Don’t shy away from the occasional salty snack to replenish sodium levels.
Salkantay 5-day trek
Happy faces at the end of the trek.

Clothing and Footwear

Base Layers for Comfort and Warmth

Your base layers are your second skin on the trail, providing warmth and moisture management.
Opt for materials that wick sweat away and dry quickly, like Merino wool or synthetic fibres, to keep you dry and warm. Ensure a snug fit for maximum insulation but with enough stretch for a full range of motion.

Middle Layers for Insulation

The middle layer is your main insulator, trapping warm air close to your body. A lightweight, packable down or synthetic jacket is ideal for the varying temperatures you’ll encounter. Look for one that can be easily compressed into your pack when not needed.

Outer Layers for Protection

Your outer layer should shield you from wind and rain without sacrificing breathability. A waterproof, breathable shell jacket with ventilation zippers will protect you from the elements while preventing overheating.

Socks

Invest in high-quality hiking socks with cushioning, support, and moisture-wicking properties. Wool or synthetic blends are best. Consider bringing liner socks to reduce friction and further protect against blisters.

Trekking Boots

Footwear is critical: a pair of well-fitted, sturdy trekking boots with good ankle support and grip will keep you steady on uneven terrain. Break them in well before your trip to avoid discomfort and blisters.

Gaiters

Gaiters are a key accessory for keeping debris out of your boots and protecting your lower legs from underbrush or wet conditions. They’re especially useful in muddy or snowy sections of the trail.

Headwear

A warm hat is essential for chilly mornings and evenings, while a wide-brimmed hat or a cap will protect you from the intense Andean sun during the day. Look for lightweight, breathable materials that wick away sweat.

Handwear

Lightweight gloves are great for cooler mornings, while waterproof gloves are a lifesaver in wet conditions. Consider gloves with touchscreen compatibility to easily navigate your GPS or smartphone on the go.
hiking during inca jungle trek

Personal Items and Toiletries

Sunscreen and Lip Balm

The high altitude and proximity to the equator make sun protection a must. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to shield your skin from harmful UV rays. Don’t forget a lip balm with sun protection since chapped lips can be a painful distraction on your trek.

Insect Repellent

Mosquitoes and other insects are prevalent in the region, so a good insect repellent is essential. Products containing DEET or picaridin are the most effective. Consider treating your clothing with permethrin for added protection.

Personal Hygiene Products

Pack travel-sized hygiene essentials to maintain cleanliness and comfort on the trail. Biodegradable soap, a quick-dry towel, wet wipes, and hand sanitiser are all must-haves. Women should also remember to pack feminine hygiene products, as they may not be available en route.

First Aid Kit Essentials

A well-stocked first aid kit is your safety net for minor injuries and health issues. Include plasters, antiseptic wipes, blister bandages, pain relief medication, altitude sickness medication, and personal medications. It’s also wise to carry rehydration salts in case of gastrointestinal distress.
taking photos at machu picchu

Gadgets and Accessories

Cameras and Memory Cards

Capturing the breathtaking scenery and once-in-a-lifetime moments is a big part of any Machu Picchu adventure. A durable camera that can handle the elements is a must. 
Pair it with high-capacity memory cards so you never have to worry about running out of space. For those using their phones, ensure your memory is cleared enough to accommodate countless photos.

Portable Power Banks

With limited access to power outlets during your trek, a portable power bank becomes a lifeline for keeping electronic devices charged. 
Choose a lightweight, high-capacity power bank that can provide multiple charges for your devices. Solar-powered chargers are also an eco-friendly option that can harness the sun’s power while you trek.

Headlamps and Flashlights

A reliable headlamp or flashlight is essential for those early morning starts or late evening treks. Look for one with adjustable brightness settings and a red light mode to preserve night vision. 
LED lamps are better for their long battery life and brightness. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries or ensure your lamp is fully charged before setting out each day.
family on inca trail jungle trek

Documents and Money Management

Passport, Permits and Visa Requirements

A valid passport is your key to international travel and is required to enter Peru and access Machu Picchu. Ensure your passport has at least six months of validity beyond your travel dates. 
You must also book your Machu Picchu permits in advance. Remember, these permits have limited availability.
Check the latest visa requirements for your nationality, as they can vary, and some travellers may need to arrange a visa in advance.

Cash and Credit Card Tips

While major credit cards are accepted in larger cities, cash is king on the Inca Trail and in smaller towns. Carry enough Peruvian soles for purchases where credit cards aren’t an option and for tipping guides and porters. 
It’s wise to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid fraud alerts or blocks on your cards. Also, consider bringing a money belt or a hidden wallet for security against theft.
overlooking Machu Picchu Mountain (2-day Inca trail)

The Ultimate Machu Picchu Packing Checklist

Double-check this list as you pack and cross off each item to ensure nothing is left behind. With this checklist in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the Inca Trail and enjoy the splendour of Machu Picchu.

Category

Item

Checked

Trekking Essentials

Durable duffel bag (7-8 kg capacity)

[ ]

Comfortable, adjustable backpack (30-50L)

[ ]

Backpack rain cover

[ ]

Adjustable trekking poles

[ ]

Four-season sleeping bag (below 0°C rated)

[ ]

Sleeping bag liner

[ ]

Hydration and Nutrition

Hydration bladder or water bottles

[ ]

Electrolyte replacement sachets

[ ]

High-energy snacks

[ ]

Clothing and Footwear

Moisture-wicking base layers

[ ]

Insulating middle layer

[ ]

Waterproof/breathable outer shell jacket

[ ]

Hiking socks and liner socks

[ ]

Broken-in trekking boots

[ ]

Gaiters

[ ]

Warm hat and sun-protective headwear

[ ]

Inner gloves and waterproof gloves

[ ]

Personal Items and Toiletries

Broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+)

[ ]

Lip balm with SPF

[ ]

Insect repellent

[ ]

Biodegradable soap and quick-dry towel

[ ]

Wet wipes and hand sanitizer

[ ]

Personal medications and hygiene products

[ ]

First aid kit

[ ]

Gadgets and Accessories

Camera with extra memory cards

[ ]

Portable power bank or solar charger

[ ]

LED headlamp or flashlight with batteries

[ ]

Documents and Money Management

Passport with 6 months validity

[ ]

Visa (if required)

[ ]

Cash in Peruvian soles

[ ]

Credit/debit cards

[ ]

Money belt or hidden wallet

[ ]

Conclusion

As you figure out the best time to hike Inca trail and finalise your preparations for the journey, remember that this Inca trail packing list is your key to unlocking a hassle-free experience on your Peru tours.
With every item ticked off, you’re one step closer to securing your Machu Picchu travel insurance and immersing yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and rich history of Machu Picchu with us at Skyhook Adventure.
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