Hiking the Inca Trail is one of the most rewarding ways to visit Machu Picchu. It’s suitable for beginner hikers and doesn’t require a ton of gear. However, the weather in the Andes can be variable as you gain and lose altitude. Here’s what to pack for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Gear Needed for Hiking the Inca Trail
Most Inca Trail tour companies have porters who carry a bulk of the gear including tents and everything needed for cooking. You will likely also have a porter who will carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad. I recommend renting these from the tour company so you don’t have to bring them on the plane. Here are the additional items you will need for hiking the Inca Trail:
I personally like boots from L.L.Bean. I use these boots which are no longer available, but there are plenty of other choices!
A Large Water Bottle
Our tour company recommended carrying 2-3 liters of water. Since you can refill at lunch and at the end of the day, I had no problem using a 32-ounce Nalgene. You could also try a Camelbak if you prefer.
A headlamp is essential once the sun goes down. You’ll need it to get from the dinner tent to your sleeping tent and if you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. On the last morning, you start hiking around 3:30am so it’s also needed then. I always bring an extra set of batteries just in case!
The porters will carry your main gear in a duffle bag, but you’ll want to keep things like a warm layer or two, sunscreen, and water in your day pack.
A Pack Cover
For your daypack, I recommend getting a pack cover like this in case of rain. Since the porters will carry the rest of your stuff, you can pack that in a trash bag to keep it dry.
Recommended Clothing for Hiking the Inca Trail
2 Pairs of Hiking Pants or Leggings
I wore workout leggings like these instead of hardcore zip-off pants. I recommend bringing two pairs. When I was cold, I’d wear both pairs!
2 Short Sleeve Shirts
These shirts from Under Armour are good for wicking away sweat. Even though the hike is four days, it’s good to pack light and re-wear clothing when you can.
1 Long Sleeve Shirt
A long sleeve shirt is good for layering. I wore this during our hike. I wore it in the morning when we started hiking and kept it in my daypack. At night, I’d wear it to dinner along with my other layers.
1 Warm Base Layer
I wore this Smartwool base layer at camp once the sun went down and for sleeping. Instead of bringing a down jacket which is somewhat necessary at the campsite, I would layer this with my long sleeve, fleece, and raincoat. Not bring a down coat saved room, and I was only a little bit cold at dinner.
I went with the classic North Face Denali. If you’re debating between bringing a fleece and a down jacket, the fleece is more versatile.
You’ll likely experience rain at some point so a raincoat is a must. This one does a good job of preventing you from overheating thanks to the armpit vents.
If you end up with rainy weather, rain pants are a must for keeping you dry and making the hike less miserable.
Underwear and Sports Bras
I brought two sports bras and fresh underwear for each day.
2-3 Pairs of Hiking Socks
If you’re prone to blisters like I am, the thicker the sock the better! I think two pairs is enough if you don’t mind repeating each pair. You may want a third clean pair for sleeping.
Hat and Gloves
Shoes for Camp
Unless you like wearing hiking boots all the time, you’ll likely want to air out your feet in another pair of shoes. You could bring rubber flip flops (especially if you plan to shower), but your feet will be cold at night. I ended up wearing a pair of old Ugg Moccasins that I threw away at the end of the hike.
Other Items for Hiking the Inca Trail
These are essential for staying organized since you’ll be pulling stuff out of your duffle and repacking each morning.
Large Trash Bags
Your tour company might provide these. Pack your items in trash bags before placing them in your duffle. This will keep them dry in case of rain.
You won’t encounter any outlets on the Inca Trail. I recommend bringing a portable charger like this one that can fully charge your phone seven times! I used my phone to read and listen to audiobooks since there is a lot of downtime at camp. If you plan on doing this, having a charger is absolutely necessary!
Of course you will need the usual like a toothbrush and toothpaste, but you might also want sunscreen and bug spray. I also recommend wipes to stay clean. A roll of toilet paper comes in handy too.
When deciding what to pack for hiking the Inca Trail, it’s important to pack light. Since there are weight limits on what the porters can carry, you are limited in what you can bring. Also, you’ll want to keep your daypack light to make it easier on yourself.