The Ultimate Packing Guide for the 4 day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu

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Packing is not one of our favorite things to do in the world, it’s an unavoidable chore that we have to deal with every time we plan a trip. We usually just throw a bunch of stuff together in our bags and figure it out later,  but for this hiking trip that would be a disaster. We stressed a lot over what to pack for the four-day hiking trip to Machu Picchu. After a ton of research we have created the ultimate (tried and tested) packing list for all you adventure enthusiasts; you’re welcome! For more information about the hike see The Inca Trail Hike – Logistics, Tips and Training 

Are you ready? Let’s start packing.

1. Hiking shoes: We spent a lot of time trying different shoes in all stores possible. I eventually decided to stick with my old Columbia shoes since they are waterproof and comfortable. I didn’t want to risk getting blisters while hiking. You will be hiking 8 to 10 hours everyday so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. I would stick to an older familiar pair than buying new ones right before the hike. Musu, on the other hand bought a new pair of Columbia shoes and wore them daily for three weeks before the hike. Make sure you break into your new hiking shoes. Our feet were super happy on the trail and our shoes served us well. Don’t stress too much over your shoes, you will be fine in a pair you’re used to hiking in.

2. Extra pair of shoes, Flip flops or sandals: These came handy at the campsite. Consider carrying an old pair of running shoes if you can fit them in. It rained really hard one night and my hiking shoes got completely soaked in spite of keeping them inside the tent. TIP: Keep your stuff away from the extreme corners of the tent to avoid them from getting soaked in the rain. Luckily my friend was carrying an extra pair of shoes which I borrowed for a day; thank you Shivani! The flip-flops were a good break from the hiking shoes but if your feet tend to get cold, an old pair of lightweight ballerinas or water-shoes would help too. I wore my hiking shoes around campsite when it was wet, and especially in the toilets. Also, get ready for stinky bathrooms, this is probably the only unpleasant part of the trip. But it’s part of the experience, so hold your breath, do your business quickly and run.

3. Hiking socks: We bought these lightweight Merino wool hiking socks from REI, they were extremely comfy. I would not recommend hiking in cotton socks. You will need 4 pairs of hiking socks and a pair to sleep in.

DSC08207Happy feet

4. Hiking pants: Columbia to the rescue! I was so conflicted between the zip off convertible pants, tights and hiking pants. I must have tried at least 10 pairs before selecting the right one. I usually hike in 3/4 length leggings and wasn’t sure if those would be warm enough, also didn’t want to get bitten by mosquitoes on my calves :P.  So I finally decided to carry two full length Columbia (omni-shield) hiking pants. They were reasonable and were the best purchase I made for this hike. There were a couple of women in tights and they looked comfortable, although one girl had a fall and ripped her tights. My advise would be to carry one pair of pants and one full length tights if your more used to wearing them. As for the boys, Musu carried two pairs of waterproof track pants.

5. Full sleeve T-shirts: I carried 4 full sleeve T-shirts and one tank top in case I needed it (I didn’t). All my shirts were UV proof, moisture wicking and quick drying fabric. I got most of my stuff from REI during their sale. The REI shirts can be a little pricey but they are a good investment for future hiking trips and look great, you don’t want to look boring in your awesome Machu Picchu pics :P. Pick nice bright colors that pop in your photos. Most guys are less picky; Musu bought 3 full sleeve tech tees and made the silly mistake of buying one cotton blend tee, he wasn’t very happy in that and was a stinky mess all day. Stick to the tech tees.

DSC07937Day 1 was pretty warm, we comfortably hiked in our tech tees all day

6. Light weight hiking fleece: I bought a lightweight fleece hoodie which I wore on most days of the hike. I also carried a fleece vest which I layered over my full sleeve tees. Musu hiked in his full sleeve tee on all four days and only layered up at night.

7. Heavy warm fleece or jacket: Musu and I carried thicker fleece hoodies to sleep in and wear at the campsite. It was perfect.

8. Hats: I carried a light weight fabric sun hat, a sports visor and a woolen beanie. These were great because you can easily fold them and put them in your day pack when you don’t need them. Musu wore his quick drying athletic cap.

hiking outfitFleece vest, gloves, sunglasses and a warm headband were in my day pack at all times

9.  Gloves and warm headband: Carry a pair of  lightweight fleece gloves, if you don’t have one you can always buy them from the local market at Cusco – a little fuzzy souvenir.

10. Poncho: We got heavy rain only at night when we were bundled up in our tents. It drizzled on one day for a bit and the poncho came in handy then. We bought the cheap plastic ponchos from Cusco. They were fine with the amount of rain we got but I would recommend getting the thicker plastic ones which were a few dollars more as they would provide better protection in case you get poured on.

DSC08291Enjoying the view

11. Sleep wear: One fleece pant, one full sleeve cotton tee-shirt, a pair of socks was our go to sleep attire. The sleeping bags were pretty warm so we were quite cozy in our tents.

12. Thermals: I carried a pair of thermals in case it got really cold. I do remember wearing it for a night.

13. Underwear: 4 – 5 pairs of your favorite comfy underwear. Girls don’t forget to pack your sports bras.

14. Toiletries: I picked up 2 packets of bath wipes from REI, these were a life saver, each packet has 8 big wipes. There were a couple of showers on day 3 campsite but I think you would be better off sticking to the wipes, the wipes leave you squeaky clean and fragrant. Also pack – sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, moisturizer, small body mist, 2 packets baby wipes, 4 rolls camping toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bug repellent wipes, and face wipes. For the ladies, leave all your makeup and foundation behind. I used a tinted mineral powder sunscreen by Peter Thomas Roth on top of my liquid sunscreen. The mineral powder provided an extra layer of sun protection and some coverage .. Bingo! You can also use some BB cream and layer it with the powder sunscreen for extra coverage. We need to look pretty in our pictures, I hear ya. Pack all your stuff in Ziplock bags or clear travel plastic makeup bags, makes it easy to find everything. Don’t forget your toothbrush and toothpaste.

15. Camping pillow: Bought one from Sports Authority. Musu made his own pillow with his clothes 😛

DSC08047All fuzzy and cozy in our fleece hoodies, hats and gloves

16. Waterproof duffel: We bought these from Walmart and put all our stuff in these first and then into the bags the company gave us for an additional waterproof layer.

17: Compression travel bags: These bags were great for dirty clothes. I also packed all my sleep wear in a separate plastic bag so its easy to find and get to. Just pick up one of the plastic laundry bags from your hotel room.

18. Medical kit: Bandaids, Immodium, laxative, digestive enzymes if your sensitive to certain foods like me, pain killers like Advil, altitude sickness pills (just in case), blister kit, Neosporin, A balm/cream for muscular pain if you need it. I did use it on my knees after day two’s uphill hike for some relief, it was bliss. We also carried a Swiss Army knife, we didn’t really need it.

19. Electronics: Camera, extra batteries, extra memory cards and phone to take some silly selfies and groupies 🙂

20. Headlamp: You will need these every evening at camp. Also, on the last day, we hiked to the checkpoint at 3 am and had to wait there for 2 hours before we could start the hike to Machu Picchu. So you will be hiking in the dark for a few hours.

DSC08182All geared up!

21: Snack bars and electrolyte: When you’re really tired and need a pick me up nothing is more satisfying that a yummy chocolatey caramely Snickers bar. We carried one for each day and it was bliss, we also carried a few cliff bars and Nuun tablets for our daily dose of sugar and electrolytes.

22. Day pack with hydration pack: I carried a small BCG hiking bag with a hydration reservoir. I consumed about 3 liters of water everyday. I would fill it up in the morning and at lunch. In my day pack I had – sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, gloves, headband, lip balm, wet wipes, toilet paper, small hand towel, camera, Snickers, Nuun tablets. Make sure you have enough space in your bag to fit in your fleece. Musu carried a 20 liter bag with the same items along with the first aid kit and 2 water bottles.

23: Passport: It’s mandatory to carry your passport on this hiking trip. There is a check point at the entrance where they stamp your passport.

24: Cash: Carry some soles with you to tip the chefs and the porters.

25: Earplugs or headphones: I had some trouble sleeping since there were snorers in the tents nearby. If you’re a light sleeper like me you will definitely need ear plugs. I put my headphones on and tried falling asleep listening to music when the rain was crashing down on our tent one night.

26: Silk liner for sleeping bag: You can buy these at any sports store, we got ours from Academy. If you are renting sleeping bags from your hiking company and are concerned about hygiene, this is your best bet.

To rent or to buy?

27: Sleeping Bags and mattress pad: We rented ours from the hiking company since we didn’t own backpacking sleeping bags. The sleeping bags we rented were comfortable and warm. If you are thinking of buying  lightweight backpacking sleeping bags that you would use often then this would be a good time to invest in them. We have broken down the cost of renting equipment below.

28: Hiking Poles: These are a must! The constant uphill and downhill can be hard on your knees. Do your body a favor and carry your hiking poles, you will not regret it.

Equipment rental costs for one person:
Sleeping bag: $30
Inflatable mattress: $25
Hiking poles: $16 (pair)

Additional costs:

Porters: Hiring a full porter costs $150 and gives you a baggage allowance of 14 kilos. You can rent half a porter for half the cost and allowance. We hired one porter between the two of us. Note that sleeping bags and mattress pads weigh 3 kgs a set, which means you have 4 kgs left to pack all your stuff in if you hire half a porter.

Tips: Tipping the porters and chef on the third night of the hike is tradition. From the past 15 years hikers have participated in this tradition as a way of showing their gratitude. Include this cost when planning your hike expense, the guide suggested S/250 per person as a tip for the porters and chef. You may also want to tip your amazing guides on the last day before saying your final goodbyes.

Breakfast on Day 1: We had to pay for breakfast on the first day. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast before starting our hike.

Miscellaneous: Carry extra cash to buy water or a few other things you may need on the first day.

*Tents, food, water and guides are included in the price of the hike.

DSC08503YES! We made it!!

p.s: We used Llama Path for our hike, they were amazing and took really good care of us. We had to manage our own water for day one, so make sure you fill up your bottles in your hotel room the night before. As for the food, we had delicious gourmet food everyday. Llama Path chefs did an amazing job, the food was finger licking good. We had four/five course meals four times a day – breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner. I have no idea how they pulled it off, it was amazing. I still crave the buttery popcorn they served at happy hour everyday.

Hope you find this packing list helpful. Good luck and happy adventures!!

2 Comments:

  1. thank you so much for these advices! Im going to do the inca trail with http://www.salkantaytrekking.com in november. We r very excited, but i must admit that im a bit scared. Im defenitly going to rent hiking poles!

    • Hi Liliana,

      That’s great! You are going to love it! The 4 day Inca trail hike was one of our most memorable trips. And what makes it fun and enjoyable are your fellow hiking companions from all over the world who are your family for those few days and they’ll keep you motivated through the hike. All the best!

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