Packing for the Inca Trail can be a real challenge – you want to be comfortable and have what you need for four (or more!) days, but you’ll need to keep your pack light. It’s a struggle and worth spending some time considering carefully before throwing your bag together.
This is why we’ve created this ultimate Inca Trail packing list – we’re sharing exactly what to pack for the Inca Trail, and what is better to leave behind.
We’re sharing some travel essentials we never leave home without, plus some of the tricks we’ve learned along the way to make long treks like this even easier and much more enjoyable, whether you’re a novice or a pro.
Plus, keep reading for our summary of exactly what to do with the things you won’t be taking on the trail, and why you’ll actually have TWO full bags with you on the Inca Trail – and how to pack them both.
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Backpacks and Luggage for the Inca Trail
It’s important to be aware of how your belonging will be transported with you along the Inca Trail before you get packing! You’ll have two bags for your belongings: one you’ll carry with you (you’ll likely want a daypack), and one that will be carried by your tour company’s porters.
All Inca Trail tour companies provide porters, and for each trekker the porters will carry a standard-sized bag (provided by the tour company) with a maximum weight of 6 kg (about 13 pounds).
You’ll fill your porter’s bag to that weight, and everything else you will carry in your pack.
With this in mind, you’ll want to pack as lightly as possible. A day pack of about 35L in size should be the maximum size you’re aiming for, remembering, of course, that you’ll still be allowed 6 kg of weight in your porter’s bag.
A good daypack is what you want for the Inca Trail! I’ve had a North Face Recon Daypack for years – it’s by far my favorite for travel – and it’s the perfect size for the Trail.
It has a 30 L capacity and is quite light, but fits so much. It also happens to be stylish and have a laptop sleeve and makes a great general, everyday backpack for students or digital nomads.
A larger backpacking backpack is a possibility for the trip, though not recommended. You really won’t need (or shouldn’t need) anything larger than a 35 L daypack for four days worth of items.
We usually travel with the Osprey Men’s Rook and Osprey Women’s Renn 65L backpacks, and while they’re very comfortable and lightweight, they would have been overkill and a lot to manage on this 4-day hike.
For obvious reasons, bringing luggage on the Inca Trail is impossible, but you may have brought luggage with you to Peru. That is fine! You’ll just have to leave your luggage with your hotel in Cusco – pretty much every hotel or hostel in Cusco does this for trekkers, just make sure to inquire in advance.
Looking for where to stay in Cusco that will store your luggage for you? These are our favorites in Cusco:
- Saqray Hostel ($)
- Casa Andina – Cusco Plaza ($ – $$)
- Hotel Rumi Punku ($$)
- Tocuyeros Boutique Hotel ($$ – $$$)
- Monasterio ($$$$)
Travel Essentials for the Inca Trail
You need to bring your passport with you on the Inca Trail – don’t leave it with your other luggage in Cusco! You can’t hike the Inca Trail without it, AND, you need it to enter Machu Picchu (you’ll get to stamp your passport with a Machu Picchu stamp while there). Digital versions or copies are not accepted!
Never heard of a Steripen? This tiny UV light pen is a game changer for international travel, sanitizing water from any source in just a minute. You’ll save so much money on bottled water while traveling, AND cut down on single-use plastic consumption.
Water Bottle with Filter
Having a water bottle with a filter is probably more useful for the Inca Trail than a steripen, though I always travel internationally with both. I’ve had several water bottles with sanitization filters over the years, and the Lifestraw filtering water bottle is by far my favorite!
You’ll need a sleeping bag for the Inca Trail. If you don’t already have one you love, look into getting an ultra-packable backpacking / hiking sleeping bag that folds down to next to nothing and weighs even less.
If you don’t want to deal with buying or packing your own, you will be able to rent one from your Inca Trail tour company. However, these sleeping bags tend to be quite bulky and heavy, so they’ll cut in to your porter’s bag space and weight much more than you might hope for.
Sleeping Bag Liner Sheet
If you’re going to rent a sleeping back from your tour company, consider bringing a sleeping bag liner sheet!
White Noise Machine
I always travel with a tiny portable white noise machine, which is one of my travel gear essentials to make sure I get good rest while traveling.
You never know whether you’ll be able to hear street noise or music from your hotel or Airbnb (on the Inca Trail, noisy fellow hikers), so a portable, rechargeable sound machine is key.
Even if you don’t usually use an eye mask at home, I always recommend having one for travel to help you sleep. These are fantastic for the Inca Trail to block out sunlight for early nights or mornings.
Another must for good sleep while traveling, long a favorite with hostel goers, some cheap, reusable silicone ear plugs are an easy travel gear must-have.
Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance will cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and much more. Check out the policies available from World Nomads (the best value and most flexible travel insurance out there!) or compare plans using Aardy.
A travel towel might be overkill if you are exclusively staying in hotels or Airbnbs, but it’s a must on a trip like this.
A microfiber travel towel folds down into a tiny pouch, and is perfect for drying off after a rainstorm, drying your brow, or repurposing as a pillow.
Even with your sleeping bag, a cozy, easily-packable travel blanket can be a travel essential on the Inca Trail. It will help you stay cozy before zipping in to your sleeping bag for the night, and be repurposed for sitting around at camp at the end of the day.
Silicone Reusable Bags
You may already have reusable silicone baggies at home to store food, but I love to bring these along for travel as well.
They’re absolutely perfect for storing dirty or muddy socks, wet towels, or anything else you don’t want hanging out inside your pack.
They’re also great for storing jewelry for travel, though you certainly won’t be needing that for the Inca Trail.
An inexpensive headlamp is a great addition to your pack, and you’ll need it if you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Recommended!
Clothing for the Inca Trail
You’ll want a good pair of hiking boots for the Inca Trail. I tend to think that many long hikes can be done in good sneakers, but the comfort and support hiking boots will provide will be essential for the trek.
I’ve had the same Merrell hiking boots for over a decade now, and they’ve been to dozens of countries, and show no signs of quitting. Jose has some men’s Timberland hiking boots that he loves and recommends.
Merino Wool Base Layer
If you’ve never used a base layer when hiking or spending extended time outdoors before, now is the time. Merino wool is truly magic – it keeps you perfectly cool and protected from the sun during the day, and warm and cozy at night. The temperatures can vary wildly from day to night here, so that base layer is key.
Here are our merino wool base layer recommendations:
- Women’s Merino Wool Base Layer Top
- Women’s Merino Base Layer Bottom
- Men’s Merino Wool Base Layer Top
- Men’s Merino Wool Base Layer Bottom
You can layer clothes like shorts, a t-shirt, and a rain jacket over the base layer and remove as needed based on the weather. You’ll definitely be sleeping in these as well!
Light Down Jacket
It can get quite chilly on the Inca Trail, especially during the dry season – April to October – so a light down jacket is a good idea.
The Eastern Mountain Sports Feather Pack Jacket is a cult favorite for a reason – they are light enough for a fall afternoon, but layer well for the dead of winter.
The best feature for travelers is that they are PACKABLE, and fold into a little pocket, taking up minimal suitcase / backpack space. This is a must for the Inca Trail!
Bring along a few good pairs of hiking socks (at least 2 pairs!) – merino wool socks are a great option, but other types of hiking socks work fine, too.
You may want to bring one long-sleeve t-shirt for layering, especially at night, though with a base layer and sweater you should be fine.
Bring two or three t-shirts for wearing during the day. You can layer them over a base layer, or just wear them as is.
Sweater or Sweatshirt
You’ll want a good sweater or sweatshirt, especially when it gets cold in the evening – you’ll definitely be sleeping in this.
I’m a big fan of leggings anytime and anywhere, but especially for a hike like this. If you’re planning on using a base layer, they might be redundant, but if not, they’re essential.
Hiking Pants or Shorts
You’ll want good, breathable hiking pants or shorts for this hike that you can layer over a base layer or use alone. No jeans or too-tight or too-restrictive pants; when you’re hiking for four days straight, comfort is absolutely key.
I recommend two different hats for the trek – a baseball cap or sun hat for the day, and a beanie or other warm hat for the evenings and night.
You’ll want to bring along a good pair of gloves for the cold nights and the windier moments on the trail. I recommend e-tip gloves so you can easily take pictures while hiking without taking your gloves off every five minutes.
Even if you’re planning on completing the Inca Trail during the dry season, you still might encounter rain – I’d say the chance is high enough to absolutely warrant packing a rain jacket. If you’ll be hiking during the rainy season, this is a MUST.
If you’re in the market for a new rain jacket, make sure you get a breathable one, as you’ll be sweating underneath it! We’ve both had the same Columbia rain jackets for years, and can’t recommend them enough.
Toiletries and Personal Care Items for the Inca Trail
You’ll need sunscreen even on the cloudiest days of hiking the Inca Trail; at this high elevation, you’ll burn much more easily than you would at sea level!
Lotion and Lip Balm
You won’t be doing much of anything for your appearance while hiking, but bring these along for comfort. You’ll really need them if you get burned!
There generally aren’t too many mosquitos on the Inca Trail because of the elevation you’ll be hiking at, though in the rainier months you’ll find bugs at the lower elevation portions of the trek.
Bug Bite Lotion
Despite your best efforts, you will likely get some bug bites. Bring along Murphy’s insect bite relief balm – this stuff is all natural and works like a charm. Or, whatever you have on hand!
You won’t be showering for four days (that hot shower at the end of the Inca Trail is like nothing else), but I still recommend bringing a bar of soap, in case you need to keep a cut or scrap clean. Bring something biodegradable, like Dr. Bronner’s to do right by the environment.
Baby Wipes or Facial Wipes
Like I said, you won’t be showering for four days. If you want to feel refreshed after a day of getting sweaty while hiking, bringing some baby or facial wipes along is an inexpensive (lightweight!) solution.
Again, no shower for four days. For the sake of your tour guide and the other participants on your hike, remember to pack your deodorant.
Aspirin / Ibuprofen
This is just the kind of important thing to bring along with you that might slip your mind while you’re packing. Don’t forget – but hopefully you don’t need it!
Unfortunately, you never know when stomach issues may strike when traveling. You’ll want to have Imodium or a similar product with you in case you were to need it on the Inca Trail.
Coca Leaves or Altitude Sickness Pills
Hopefully, you’ll have the chance to adjust to the altitude here before embarking on the Inca Trail.
If you haven’t quite adjusted, or if you’re nervous about the altitude, bring along some coca leaves (available in the markets in Cusco) – this is what generations of indigenous Peruvians have used for altitude sickness, and they TRULY work. I
f you’re not so sure about them, you can buy altitude sickness pills on Amazon instead.
This is (of course) a MUST, but it’s something you might easily forget to include. Grab an extra roll in Cusco and make sure it makes it into your daypack.
Feminine Hygiene Products
Don’t get caught by surprise on this trek without having the products you need – this would be disastrous. Even if you think you should be fine without, bring your chosen feminine hygiene products along just in case!
Don’t think about traveling without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, at home or abroad.
Tech and Photography on the Inca Trail
You’ll want to keep your backpack light when packing for the Inca Trail, but these are some recommendations of the tech and photography gear you might want to bring with you.
While drones are allowed on the Inca Trail, it’s important that you do NOT bring a drone with you as you hike the Inca Trail.
Why? Your Inca Trail trek will end with that hard-earned visit to Machu Picchu.
Having a drone in your pack will cause problems, as drones aren’t allowed within the Machu Picchu complex.
Another item not to bring on the Inca Trail? A tripod! Tripods are not permitted inside Machu Picchu. Even a selfie stick or a GoPro mount is off-limits.
Leave them with the rest of your luggage back in Ollantaytambo or Cusco! Instead, these are the things that you should add to your Inca Trail packing list.
You’ll definitely want a GOOD power bank while on the Inca Trail to keep your camera or phone powered while camping for four days.
Travel Adapter / Converter
You don’t necessarily need to bring your electrical voltage converter and plug adapter on the Inca Trail with you, but definitely bring it with you to Peru!
It might be good to carry along with you if you plan on staying the night in Aguas Calientes after the trek.
Your phone probably takes excellent photos these days.
However, if you’re in the market for a great camera for travel, we recommend the Nikon Coolpix B500 digital point and shoot – our favorite for beginners – and the Nikon Z 50 Mirrorless camera for those looking with a little more control. This is Nikon’s smallest frame DSLR camera, and it’s perfect for travel.
Extra Camera Memory Card
The Inca Trail has some of the most beautiful scenery (and interesting ruins!) on Earth, so you’ll be taking a TON of photos.
Pack an extra SD memory card for your camera – you’ll be glad you did when you can take all the photos you want on your last day of the trek at Machu Picchu!
Extra Camera Battery
You do NOT want to run out of camera battery at the end of your trek in Machu Picchu! Bring an extra charged battery with you, or, a rechargeable one compatible with your power bank.
At the end of a long day of hiking you’ll probably just want to rest at camp, eat, and enjoy the views, but if you can’t imagine being so disconnected for multiple days, bring a tablet (Jose loves his Amazon Fire tablet) with downloaded shows or movies to wind down the day.
Good headphones are a must for the trek or travel in general. Bring along wireless headphones or even better, good old cheap wired headphones and a headphone adapter (if needed) so you don’t have to worry about powering your headphones during the trek.
Travel Safety Gear for the Inca Trail
First Aid Kit
Having a basic first aid kit is a must for travel, especially somewhere as remote as the Inca Trail. You can easily make your own first aid kit – grab a pouch and add bandaids, gauze, painkillers, alcohol pads, etc. – or just grab a simple travel first aid kit and toss it in your bag.
S-biner micro locks are one of my favorite, underrated pieces of travel gear.
Luggage locks with flexible chains are another inexpensive and easy way to keep your belongings safe, whether you travel with luggage or a backpack. I keep my luggage / backpack locked at all times, even when leaving it in a hotel room, and especially when in a hostel!