Your Essential Inca Trail Packing List – Machu Picchu Hike

Your Essential Inca Trail Packing List – Machu Picchu Hike

Before you even pack, we wanted to talk about booking your trip. There is a restriction of the number of people allowed on the Inca trail every day, so they recommended booking at least 4 months in advance. Although we were flexible with our dates, we booked 4 months ahead and even then we saw that some of the dates were not available. We booked Info Cusco as our tour group and did the traditional Inca Trail hike for 4 days and 3 nights in early August. They were not the cheapest option or the most expensive, but overall we loved our experience. We also recently went to Patagonia with OneSeed and they now have the Classic Inca Trail hike.

WHAT TO PACK FOR MACHU PICCHU (what they recommended + additions of our own):

What to Pack for Machu Picchu / Inca Trail Packing List.

I updated the photo to look nicer and links below, but here’s the old one. :)

What to Pack for Machu Picchu / Inca Trail Packing List.

What to Pack for Machu Picchu and Your 4-Day Inca Trail Hike:

  1. Backpack: We tried out pretty much every pack they had at REI and ended up both liking Osprey. This is the updated version of my youth backpack (since I am petite and kids stuff is always cheaper. :) ) And the updated version of Jacob’s Osprey backpack. We highly recommend you going to REI and trying them all on!
  2. Water! We both bought a 3L platypus big zip and an extra 0.5L soft bottle to mix in Powerade drops. In our opinion, Platypus >> Camelbaks. They’re easier to use and clean. On Day 2, there is a stop to buy water and from that point forward you need to be carrying enough water for the rest of the trip. They recommended 1 L per day (2L total for the last 2 days), but just to be safe I brought a half liter extra per day. I ended up drinking all of it, and it worked out fine.  I probably could have had more water, but since your pack can get heavy, 3L was my happy medium.
  3. Sleeping mat: Info Cusco has sleeping pads available, but we decided to bring our own since they pack much smaller and is lighter. We hired an additional porter, and we wanted to use the weight limit as best as possible. At the time we used REI Lite-Core 1.5 self-inflating sleeping pads, but these are the sleeping pads we currently use (they are even lighter and smaller! Don’t you love how technology keeps advancing?).
  4. Sleeping bag: REI Sub Kilo +15 sleeping bag. They say it sometimes goes below -10 degrees celsius, but it didn’t during our trip in early August. *Update: This is no longer available, but what you are looking for is a warm bag that packs as small as possible and weighs under 2 pounds. See what REI bags are available here.
  5. Walking poles: these babies saved our knees. I purchased the junior ones. Carbon fiber is pricier, but we figured that investing in something lightweight was better since we were already carrying so much weight on our backs.
  6. Six quick dry t-shirts: One per day + two extra in case we got drenched in rain. These are my current fave quick dry tees. They’re so versatile for hiking and day-to-day that I already have 3.
  7. Two zip-off hiking pants: I got this Columbia one and a REI one. Personally, the Columbia one is a better fit. The REI one was too baggy, so next time I’d buy two from Columbia. Jacob brought two of these in the color blade.
  8. A light, warm jacket: We absolutely love these nano puff jackets from Patagonia. We wear them all the time and take them on all our travels.
  9. Layers! We brought Patagonia Capilene layers (2 each) in midweight and thermal weight and long underwear. It’s good to have options since it fluctuates so much between hot and cold. The long underwear is especially great to sleep in at night as it gets very cold.
  10. Hiking shoes: Jacob brought his old hiking shoes, and I didn’t find any hiking shoes I liked at the time. I took a bit of a risk and brought my running shoes, but lucky for me, it didn’t rain on our trip. We currently use Vasque Monoliths (hishers).
  11. Flip flops to give your feet a break during stops. These are the comfiest ones I’ve found.
  12. Towel: We brought the lightweight fast drying Packtowl in M and L
  13. Gloves: It gets really cold  in the mornings and at night. Preferably ones that have grip for morning hiking. And waterproof if you get rained on.
  14. Rain Jacket: We have these stretch rainshadow jackets (feels nicer on the inside than the vinyl) When we got to Peru, we were told that we also need long ponchos (when it rains, it pours), so we bought them for 5 soles (approx 2 USD) at Day 1’s breakfast stop. Again, it didn’t rain, so we didn’t end up using either. *Update: Ended up exchanging our North Face for Patagonia’s Torrentshells.
  15. Lightweight hat to keep the sun off your face
  16. Bug spray: We used these. They recommended 2 bottles per person. We only used a total of one bottle between the two of us, but the amount of bugs probably differs for everyone depending on the season & weather. Recently we’ve switched to these sticks which feel and smell better but is only 30% DEET.
  17. Toiletries. Toilet paper (one roll per person), Toothpaste, Toothbrush,  Sunblock, Chapstick with SPF, Travel soaps & shampoo (they work but don’t lather like other soaps. I use 2-3 sheets sometimes), lots of wipes, and medicine (for headaches, altitude sickness medicine, Imodium, & pepsid ac). It happened to be that time of the month for me, so I had to pack my feminine products & midol as well. Also this! It might seem weird, but trust me.
  18. Undergarments: The exofficio ones are awesome! Jacob got the men’s boxer briefs. They stay really dry during the hike. I know their package says “17 countries, 6 weeks, One pair of underwear.” We brought one for every day. *shrug* If anyone has tried the 6 weeks in one pair of underwear, please tell us how it is!
  19. Socks: We wore these compression socks during the night to reduce muscle soreness.
  20. Flash light: Headlamps are much better than the handheld ones. If you’re a slow hiker, it’s possible that you may end up hiking in the dark, and you will need your hands on your walking poles.
  21. Camera / Phone / Journal: to record all the beauty you’ll encounter. We carried a 5D mark II and 24-105mm f/4 lens.
  22. Earplugs (not shown): If you’re a light sleeper and you have snorers in your group, you’re going to need these.

Now, as you can see below, I take my snacks very seriously… it ended up weighing over 10 pounds. If you’re an avid hiker, then you probably know this is a big mistake. The energy blasts & the bars were the most useful on our trip.  We even had some extra to share with our guide and porter. If I had a do-over, I would have tossed were the haribo gummy bears. As much as I love them, they were so so SO ridiculously heavy. I felt like an idiot.

What to Pack for Machu Picchu / Inca Trail Packing List.

MORE TIPS FOR YOUR 4-DAY HIKE:

  • An extra porter costs $120 and they carry 14 kg (30.86 lbs) for you. Jacob carried his stuff on his back (13.6 kg / 30 lbs), but I shared a porter with another person. The porter carried my sleeping bag, mat, and the extra clothes and toiletries that I did not need on me during the day. I was carrying 9.1 kg (20 lbs) which included my 7 lb camera & lens.
  • Bring cash to pay the remainder of your balance in Cusco. We paid the deposit online with a credit card, but they did not take credit card for the remaining balance.
  • Have 100 USD extra cash on you during the trip for water, showers, and tips. It’s recommended that each person tips 40 USD for the porters and the cook. You also tip the guide separately on the last day.
  • If you are worried about altitude sickness, get a prescription for acetazolamide. You can also buy it at the pharmacies over the counter in Peru.  In Peru, they will give you coca leaves for altitude sickness, but if you’re taking a drug test at your job anytime soon, steer clear since cocaine is made from coca leaves.
  • Don’t forget to bring chapstick with SPF!  I can’t stress it enough. Jacob got a severe sunburn on his lips that blistered and were extremely painful.
  • There is a “warm” shower available on the first night for 5 soles. Shower at your own risk. It’s still pretty cold and the night is cold. The other two nights, it’s freezing cold water. I showered or at least washed my hair in the sink, but if you don’t need to to fall asleep, I wouldn’t.  The last day after you see Machu Picchu, there’s a warm shower at the restaurant you will eat lunch in.
  • When you get to Machu Picchu they will sell water, but everything is really expensive (ie. 4-5 USD on a regular bottle of water. no such thing as tap ppl!
  • Once at Machu Picchu there is a place to check in your bags. This was included in our tour price.
  • The airport to the main square in Cusco (and most places you would be staying) should only cost about 8-10 soles.  Of course, we didn’t know this and paid 30-40 when we first arrived.
  • Don’t bring as many snacks as me! (Realization after the trip) Only bring what you are sure you will consume. Also, gummy bears are way too heavy. Go lighter!
  • Update: Check out this new bottle we discovered – you can click the links on the video to buy it directly from Amazon.

Now enjoy your hike!! Book your trip HERE.

If you blog about your hike, please feel free to leave a link your post in the comments section. We would love to see them!

Anything else I missed on our Machu Picchu packing list that you would like to add?

Updated: October 27, 2019

This Post Has 52 Comments

  1. Ready for getaway! Thank you so much because of this I have the idea on what to bring for my first ever hiking experience!

  2. great tips! thank you, i would be much ready for my hiking experience.. your such a big help! with this I’ll be 100% ready plus exciting getaway

  3. Thank you so much for posting such a thorough packing post. I love that you posted such great pictures and links to your gear. I’ve referred to your post many, many times over the past year and a half as I’ve prepared for my own trek. I head to Peru this weekend!

    1. Thank you for reading! :) I’m so happy that it has been helpful for you. Sorry for the late reply.. we’re currently on a road trip, so I’ve been behind. I hope you have a fantastic time in Peru. Would love to hear all about it!

  4. HI! I love your posts. Very informative and detailed. I had a question: How many batteries did you have for your camera? I’m assuming there won’t be any charging stations out on the trail. So, I am thinking of getting a third battery. What do you think?

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I think we took four to be safe. No, there weren’t any charging stations, but you might be able to take a portable solar panel that charges batteries. We recently just bought one.. but didn’t have it for the machu picchu hike. It really depends on how many photos you plan to take.. or if you take video, because video drains your batteries quick. I was mostly busy struggling on the hike that I didn’t think to stop for photos as often as I would have liked!

  5. I am curious how you packed your camera/lens(s)?? I have more photo equipment than the average person and am struggling with how to pack everything!!

    1. We only ended up packing one body and one lens (the 24-105 f/4). It’s probably my least favorite lens and prefer shooting with prime lenses in general.. but I wanted to take one lens that gave me the most focal range. The weight adds up quick! If I was a more experienced hiker I might have brought more gear with me.. but I struggled as is with the hike. I think you just have to gauge how much you think you can handle and by doing practice hikes with heavier packs.

  6. I’ll be doing this trek June 7 and unfortunately am experiencing severe back pain at this time(perfect timing lol) I did not request a 1/2 porter when I booked the trek & am seriously kicking myself for it now! I’m concerned I won’t find an extra porter at the start of the trek, now should this be a legitimate concern(cuz I’m freaking out lol) or are there many porters available to hire from your experience? Also, do they have packs with them or do I need to bring two different bags one for my daily needs & the other to give to the porter with all my other things like the sleeping bag/mat, etc.? Now because of my back issue is there anything you took that you could seriously have done with out? Because I’m pretty much following your pack list exactly, as you executed it beautifully. Any advice from you would be greatly appreciated! =D

    1. You should try to look into booking one now! I feel like you wouldn’t have much of a problem booking a porter, but then again I don’t know how busy the season is in June. We did not have to bring our own extra bags for the porters with Info Cusco. They provided them. I’m not sure if this is the case with all companies though.. I noticed that some porters didn’t have nice bags to carry but had to wrap stuff up in makeshift bags. Some companies definitely treated their porters much better than others. We packed our extra stuff that our porter would be taking in a roller suitcase and left everything we didn’t need at our hotel for pickup later. They gave us the porter’s bag the day before so that we could pack everything into it ahead of time. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions.. and hope your back feels better!

  7. Great post! Thank you. This helps a LOT. I am doing the Salkantay trek at the end of May. I just have a question for you. I can see that you had pretty large backpacks. So did you guys fit into the limit of 5-6 kgs that the porter carry per person or you paid for extra porter? Did you also have a smaller rucksack that you carried with you all the time during the hike? I am just not sure how this works. Cause 5 kgs seems very low to me, especially if we have to carry your own water.
    Please help :)
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Anna. You’re very welcome. And thanks so much for reading and commenting. Jacob carried all his gear and snacks on his back, so it’s possible to carry everything yourself depending on how advanced of a hiker you are. I actually shared a porter with another person that carried everything that I did not need on me during the day. So I had approximately 7 kg of stuff on our porter, and I was carrying about 20 lb / 9 kg on my back! Also, I forgot to mention I was carrying a pretty heavy DSLR (7 lb / 3 kg) which was included in my 20 lbs on my back. Hope this helps and have a great trip!

    2. I forgot to mention that we didn’t carry an extra smaller bag. Just our backpacks. Also, we packed an extra suitcase when bringing everything over internationally. The night before the hike, we packed the porter’s backpack and left everything we did not need on the hike behind at the hotel.

  8. May I know in which month did you guys do your trip? I’m doing the 4 day trek in mid april!

    1. So exciting! I thought I had that written in the post, but I guess not. Just added it, but it was in early August, which is the turn from dry to rainy season. We were extremely lucky and it was dry the entire time for us. April is supposed to be dry, but you still experience a wide range of temperatures going up and down the mountains so layers are always good. I would probably still pack a poncho / rain jacket just to be on the safe side. Hope you have wonderful trip! Please come back and link a post or photos from after. I would love to see them. :)

      1. A quick question if I may! I got everything that you’ve suggested, except for “8) A warm jacket”,I am planned to pack just tshirts and a rain jacket + Planning to buy a Poncho at Cuzco. is it really that cold that a Warm jacket is necessary during April? your advise is HIGHLY appreciated. (We don’t want to over pack, as we are visiting near by countries as well!)

        1. Actually, I got it wrong. April is the end of rainy season. So I’m thinking it might be very similar to what weather we had since we went at the turn of the season in August. I guess it depends on how many layers you intend to bring or if you don’t get cold easily, but we both found it very cold at night, and sometimes we would even sleep in our jackets inside our sleeping bags. The jackets we brought were helpful because it’s super warm but also lightweight and packed really small into a pocket.

  9. Great tips! I just wanted to know if you took the bus and train down from Machu Picchu to Cusco. I was informed that the train has restrictions on how big your pack can be (less than 157cm and weight of less than 11 lbs). I am just wondering how strictly enforced these rules are and whether you ran into trouble with 68L and 48L backpacks.?

    1. We took the bus down. Jacob’s pack was a 68L and mine was 48L and we had no trouble with them (i listed the links above on number 1). We weren’t told about any rules for how much we carried. All we knew is the more we couldn’t carry it on our backs, the more porters we had to hire.
      An extra porter costs $120 and they carry 14 kg for you.

  10. I’m going to do this trek in about 7 weeks. This will be very helpful! :)

    1. I’m so excited for you. :) It’s such an amazing hike.

  11. Hi! I read that packs larger than 20 liters aren’t allowed inside the park. Did you encounter any problems?

    1. I’m not sure what part of the park this may apply to. Are you talking about at Machu Picchu and not the inca trail? Throughout our 4 day hike on the inca trail, we were allowed to bring as large of a pack as we wanted. 20L is really small, and I don’t think anyone carried that small of a pack.

      1. Wow… didn’t see this reply until now but thank you! I was referring to inside Machu Picchu. I also read that they limit the size of packs on the trains but I think that has to do with merchants carrying a bunch of stuff to sell along the trail and in the park.

        I ended up getting an Osprey Aura 65. I know that’s HUGE but I wanted a pack I can use on other trips (when need to carry my sleeping gear) and it’s really great at cinching down to a smaller size. My only gripe with it is that it really should come with its own rain cover.

        1. OH I see!! Yeah, we had to check our bags in once we arrived. But that was better for us anyways. It made it easier to walk around, bc there are a lot of stairs! I’m not sure if it costed money or how much, because I’m sure that was taken care of through the tour we paid for. Are you trying to hike by yourself?

  12. THIS is the perfect list for any hike. I’m going to bookmark this for big walks in the future and for the day, one day, hopefully soon I get to Machu Pichu. I would never think to bring gold bears and it’s genius!

    1. Thank you, Anna! :) I hope you make it out there soon, too! Peru is beautiful. With the gold bears, I definitely should have stuck to a smaller pack instead of the 3 lb bag if I brought them. haha I will not deny it – they were delicious though!

  13. very useful your web page! congrats!

  14. I went with infocusco 5 months ago and was amazing!! and of course I recommend them. a lot of food for us and porters, porter very well treated, brilliant!

    1. That was the thing I loved most about them. I felt so bad for the porters of the different companies who weren’t treated as well.

  15. Hi Esther and Jacob! Three of my friends and I did the 4 days, 3 nights with Mayuc from last Friday, October 25th to this Monday the 28th. It was the most incredible experience! I just wanted to thank you because I consulted this page frequently when deciding what to pack. Very helpful!! :)

    1. Hi Vanessa. Congrats on making it!! :) Isn’t it incredible? I don’t think I’ll have another experience quite like it again. I’m so glad that this blog was helpful to you. Is there anything you would add to the list or anything that you wish you left behind?

      1. It was truly amazing. I know I will never forget how awesome it was. Per your advice I packed less snacks. Our company even gave us snack bags, so I made sure to consume as much as I could if not all of it every single day to lessen weight. I am a light sleeper so earplugs definitely helped when we camped close to other groups. Since we went at the end of the dry season slash beginning of the rainy season, it poured on us for hours after Dead Woman’s Pass (worst name ever) and I wish I had taken waterproof gloves. Mine got soaked and I couldn’t feel my fingers at one point from how cold it got. Also at this time of year nothing dries quickly so days later the gloves were still wet. Poncho was a MUST since my day pack is also not waterproof. I also didn’t use the one pair of zip-off pants I took. Could have left those behind, but you never know. Other than that I feel I made good use of everything I took with me – clothes, flip flops, walking sticks (my life savers!), headlamp, my camelbak, etc. – pretty much everything you listed above. :)

        1. Ooh earplugs. Good idea! I’ll have to add that to the list. :) Yeah, they did tell us we got really lucky.. they expected that we would get drenched.

  16. Well, in terms of difficulty, they are very much similar except for Kilimanjaro peak day which is way tougher than Machu Picchu. In terms of scenery, Machu Picchu by far is better than Kilimanjaro. In terms of people, I found both Tanzanians and Peruvians to be very nice people.

    1. It’s definitely on my list of hikes to do! :) It just seems much more difficult since it’s more days.

  17. Hi. Very helpful. I did the Machu Picchu trek but through Salkantay trail. please visit my blog http://www.saudihiker.com

    1. Thanks for reading! Awesome that you did kilamanjaro too! How did the hikes compare?

  18. Hi Esther!

    Thanks for this great blog post – it was really helpful in our group’s preparations for our upcoming trip to Machu Picchu next week! I had a quick question though – it may that time of the month for me as well during the hike, and I was wondering how you dealt with that? I would really appreciate it if you could provide some tips :[ I’m super worried about how to deal with this situation. Feel free to email me at [email protected]! Thanks so much!

    1. So glad that it was helpful! You have an email coming your way. :)

  19. In case you couldn’t tell from my comments on the other Machu Picchu posts, I’ve got this page bookmarked! I love that you explained what you needed and what you would do differently.

    My biggest issue is I drink soooo much water, I don’t know how I’d survive on 1L/day! I drink 1L sitting in my office not sweating/hiking/climbing a mountain, I imagine I’d need more for major exertion like that!

    1. oh man! more water means more weight on your back!

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