What to pack for the Inca Trail

Before flying out to Peru I scoured the internet for ideas on what to pack for the Inca Trail trek. You have to book with a guide – you cannot do it on your own due to restrictions, health and safety. I organised my trek with SAS Travel and my confirmation email highlighted some basics to take (good and comfortable walking shoes, warm clothes). Your guide will meet you beforehand to do a safety talk on the trek and to check your equipment. However, the list of things you should take is much more comprehensive!

Before we get into what to pack, lets first go through what you have to do to get on the Inca Trail.

Preparation

  • Book your hike in advance – the Inca Trail only allows 500 people per day. This includes guides and porters. For a group of 3 people, we had 5 porters carrying equipment, a chef and a tour guide (thats 7 people!). That means not many tourists are on the trail per day. To do our hike in September we booked in February. Try to book your hike at least 6 months in advance to secure your spot.
  • Fill out the necessary forms – you will need to do this to secure your place on the trail. It is required for the tour company to receive a permit to take you on the hike.
  • Passport – you MUST take your passport. It is used to control who can go through checkpoints on the Inca Trail. Only people pre-booked with guides who are expected on the trail will get through the checkpoints.
  • Rent your equipment – you will need to rent a sleeping bag, backpack and trekking poles if you haven’t brought your own with you. Your guide might provide you with the rental or will tell you where to rent from. You can rent the equipment whilst in Cusco.

What you will need

Clothes

  • Walking boots – make sure you have worn these several times. The worst thing you can do is take new boots that will rub you the entire way!
  • A good windbreaker raincoat – we were very lucky that it didn’t rain once. Many people go unprepared and have to buy extortionately priced and pathetic plastic ponchos from locals along the way. I got mine from Jack Wolfskin – it was expensive but it has a lifetime guarantee. Make sure you don’t buy an insulated raincoat, buy a windbreaker and just layer up underneath.
  • T-shirts – It can get really hot on some days, especially in the forests. Wear a t-shirt as a base layer.
  • Jumper/fleeces – You can get several climates in a day on the Inca Trail. You may start at low altitude but the higher you get the colder it becomes. You may also need to put one on at night, the tents get cold!
  • Hiking socks – Get some medium thickness hiking socks and keep some thicker ones for night time.
  • Trousers – not jeans! Use proper hiking trousers or shorts. Leggings are okay but try to use full length ones. I wore 3/4 leggings and my calves were so swollen I could barely get them off!
  • Jogging bottoms – to wear at night. It will be cold on the final two nights as you will be at altitude.
  • Hat and gloves – like I said, it gets cold at night!

Equipment

  • Sleeping bag – make sure its a thick one for sub zero temperatures. The final two nights are cold at altitude.
  • Trekking poles – I didn’t think I would need these but they are a complete life saver. You can usually rent some from the Cusco area or your guide. There are some very steep downhills on the trail and they really help with knee impact. After the 3.5 hour downhill on day 3, they were a lifesaver on day 4!
  • Backpack – you will have a lot of things to pack so make sure you get an appropriate bag. They can be found in most camping or outdoors shops.
  • Waterproof cover – if it rains, the last thing you want is for everything you packed to get wet. Invest in a waterproof bag cover to protect all your clothes.
  • Straps – you will need to make sure you can attach your sleeping bag to your backpack. Apparently a lot of hikers go unprepared and not expecting to carry their sleeping bag. Well, you do! If your bag does not have straps or carabiners then make sure you purchase some or you will need to rent another backpack.

First Aid

  • First aid kit – another thing I didn’t take and then I got bitten to death by mosquitos after one got stuck in my trousers. Luckily our guide had some but if you end up in a large group there might be limited supplies. Its best to take your own.
  • Blister plasters – Like I said before, you probably will get blisters walking 10 hours a day! Team these with anti blister socks and another pair of hiking socks and it should help.
  • Anti blister socks – I didn’t take any of these because my walking boots are older and well worn in. However this was a mistake. A four day hike up and down mountains is enough to give anyone blisters. I took some from someone in my group and they were a life saver!
  • Sun cream – it can get seriously hot during the day on some parts of the trail, even in September which is a relatively cool month. Plus you’ll spend several hours a day in the roasting sunshine! Make sure you protect yourself.

Gadgets

  • A wind up torch – you will be getting up super early to start hiking (3:30am on the final day) so having a torch makes it much easier to get ready! The other campsites have no lights so if you need the bathroom you definitely want a torch.
  • Camera – probably stating the obvious. I used only my phone camera but I wish I has taken a proper camera. It all comes down to how much space you have but either way, make sure you have one. There are some super picturesque spots on the way!
  • Battery pack – If you use your phone as a camera/torch then a battery pack is a great idea. A solar one is a good option if there won’t be a plug to charge it in. You can get a good one from Amazon for £20-£30.

Accessories & Extras

  • Passport – as mentioned at the beginning, you MUST have your passport at all times.
  • A plastic bag – this might sound random but if any of your things get wet or dirty you want to be able to protect the rest of the things in your bag.
  • Reusable water bottle – you will get water refills so make sure you take a bottle. After day 2 you will not be able to buy anymore water from locals.
  • Snacks – You might get hungry or need re-energising along the way. Take some energy/cereal bars with you.
  • Baby wipes – they come in useful for everything! And you won’t be getting a shower for a while.
  • Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, a hairbrush if you need one. You will get given a tub of water on a morning to wash with (it’s cold!).
  • Towel – a micro fibre camping towel is great as it’s compact.
  • Cash – some of the locals will hike the trail and stop to sell goods to tourists, at super inflated prices of course. If you think you’ll fancy a snickers along the way then keep some loose change.
  • Tissues – you may need something for toilet roll!

I hope you’re now more prepared for the Inca Trail trek! It’s a challenging four days but it is a great achievement and I enjoyed every minute of it!

To read a detailed account of the four days on the Inca Trail trek, read my post here:  The Inca Trail Trek

If you have any questions about the Inca Trail, leave a comment or drop me an email!

Originally written for adventuresofaginger.co.uk

This post may contain affiliate links – they are the original author’s own.

Photo by Patrick O’Neill for intrepidtravel.com.

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