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5 Essentials I Forgot to Pack for the Inca Trail Hike

5 Essentials I Forgot to Pack for the Inca Trail

The following post has been submitted by Meg Rulli. See all of our packing list (and mistake) posts here.

In 2012, my husband Tony and I traveled around the world for 12 months trying to check off as many items from our bucket list as possible. One of our must-see places was hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which we got to experience on our third month into our trip. Taking 4 days and 3 nights to hike the Inca Trail was one of the biggest highlights of our trip and it was 100% worth the time, effort, and money.

And while it was the experience of a lifetime, there were definitely things I would have done (and packed) differently a second time around. As much as Tony and I prepared for the hike, we still missed out on packing a few essential items that were much needed on the journey.

To help other gals avoid these same packing woes, I have come up with a list of things you absolutely MUST bring on the Inca Trail hike… which I neglected to bring!

Meg in all of her Inca Trail gear
Meg in all of her Inca Trail gear.

Here are the 5 Essential Things I Forgot to Pack for The Inca Trail hike:

Tall Socks – Random, I know. But here is where they come in handy: the bathrooms. Otherwise known as “Inca Toilets,” there are many bathrooms along the trail, but they often are nothing more than a rundown outhouse or hole in the ground at best. Not to mention, they only get cleaned a couple times (if ever) during the year, so they can get pretty sketchy.

The tall socks come in handy because you can tuck your pants way up into your socks so they aren’t touching the ground of the bathrooms. I saw several people do this on our trek and it was such a genius (and sanitary) move!

This is not a campsite you want to navigate around in the dark .
This is not a campsite you want to navigate around in the dark.

Headlamp – Once again, this comes handy in the bathrooms… or when you need to go pee outside in the middle of the night at your campground! None of the bathrooms at the camp sites along the trail have electricity. After 6pm, everything was pitch dark and Tony and I both brought handheld flashlights – it was a huge pain trying to fumble around in the pitch dark bathrooms while holding a flimsy flashlight. And trust me, you do not want to drop anything in the Inca bathrooms.

On our final night on the Inca Trail, Tony actually did drop his flashlight in the mens bathroom and completely smashed it to pieces. The poor guy was stranded in the dark shouting for help for 5 minutes before I came to his rescue! Total amateur hour. Don’t repeat our mistake. Come prepared with a headlamp and you will be able to swiftly navigate around in the dark (and in the bathrooms) with full use of both of your hands!

Baby Wipes – Yup, I’m going back to the bathrooms discussion again… Can you tell this was a pain point for me on the Inca Trail?

Several girls on our trek brought packs of baby wipes and they were a BIG hit with our group. They were great for quick sanitation after leaving the restrooms or finishing up a meal on the hike – and since nobody showers for 4 days on the trek (all the showers along the trail are ice cold), they were the perfect portable item for freshening up!

worst poncho ever
Worst poncho ever.

A Quality Poncho – Prior to our trek, Tony and I spent 50 cents on the cheapest ponchos we could find in Cusco, which basically were flimsy garbage bags with a hole punched out for the head. I’m not sure what our thought process was (especially since our Inca Trail trek was on the edge of rainy season), but do not make the same mistake we did. Day three and four of the hike was incredibly rainy and my poncho lasted about 45 minutes before it was torn to shreds from my gear and trees/rocks along the hike. Meanwhile, the people in our group who came equipped with high-quality ponchos were dry and comfy throughout the wettest parts of the hike.

Even if you’re hiking to Machu Picchu outside of the rainy season, prepare for rain and spend the few extra dollars on a poncho that will hold up!

Quality Snacks – Cliff Bars, good chocolate, gourmet beef jerky… bring it all. During the four-day hike, there are many stops along the way where you and your trekking group will gather for snacks and socializing. If you want to be the popular kid in the pack, bring quality snacks with you, as it’s one giant potluck snacking feast for the entire journey! Quality snacks are great for these breaks and for bonding with your group. As you know from the school yard, anyone who has great snacks becomes an instant hit!

Your Turn: Have you hiked the Inca Trail? What were some essentials that you recommend packing?

>> Don’t forget to have a look at our ultimate female packing list for the Inca Trail.

* * * * *

About the Author: Avid traveler, foodie, and outdoor enthusiast. Meg and her husband, Tony, travelled around the world in 2012 and chronicle their trip (and current adventures) on their blog, LandingStanding. Meg has always had a passion to travel and explore new things and was fortunate enough to marry a guy that shares these same passions. They recently moved to Portland, OR and continue to live a life full of adventure… until their next big trip!

* All images provided by Meg Rulli.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Abby Woody says

    I’m going to have to get a headlamp of my own. My dad’s that I have used is not the simple 1-strap one–it has a second strap that goes down the middle of your head too, which makes putting it on oddly like figuring out the legholes in underwear! Haha.

  2. Melissa says

    Long pants! Even though the climate on the Inca Trail is MUCH different than say, Iquitos, it still has it’s fair share of biting insects! I took a nap in a hammock after lunch on the trail and woke up with several bites from what looked like some sort of horse fly… and they seemed to become immediately infected and extremely itchy! I came across several fellow hikers who experienced the same thing… So now I wear very lightweight, made for warm weather, Mountain Hardwear hiking pants. The legs are wide enough that I can wear leggings underneath them too for colder weather if needed!

  3. Emily says

    A waterproof container (read: ziplock bag) to put your passport in. This so did not occur to me, and we hiked during the rainy season, so my passport ended up with some water damage around the edges. Ooops!

  4. Erin M says

    I hiked the Inca in 2013- best decision ever as Machu Picchu would have been disappointing if I had just caught the train

    Headlamp- I never ever go on any hike or trip without one.

    I can’t stress enough the benefits of 1 walking pole (some people take 2, but I find that clumsy). An extendable one that can fold easily into your luggage, or buy a cheap one over there and donate it to your guide afterwards if you don’t want to lug it home. I am young(ish) and fit, but a walking pole is invaluable for those long downhill climbs. Your knees will thank you.

    A deck of cards is a good way to pass time at camp and they don’t weigh much- and since you’ll have headlamps it’s easy to see 🙂

    Long socks is a great idea- I wore longer socks and it did come in handy for those pits. Those toilets (I refuse to call them bathrooms, they were holes in the ground!) were some of the worst I’ve been to in the world, including the Everest base camp in the Himalayas, which was a shocker. I recommend wrapping a scarf/sweater over your face and breathing in your own body odor!

    Baby wipes- agree. My best pal on a trip with no showers. Your hair will always survive 3-4 days of no washing but your face, pits and bits can always do with a bit of a freshen up 😉 But don’t take a big bottle, a small 10-pack that weighs next to nothing will do the trick

    I took a cheap poncho and it was OK but I was lucky with the weather and only needed it for the last morning- so a good quality one would have been a better idea, I just got lucky!

    Whilst the trips are all guided now and you’re likely to be fed pretty well by your guide, if you feel like a snack there are little stands almost the whole way up but they are EXPENSIVE. So yes, pack some snacks if you feel inclined

    Oh and don’t forget sunscreen/sunblock

  5. Scarlie says

    Thank you for your post!! All my questioned were answered all in one place!! I love this group especially when travelling with guys that don’t prepare much…hahahaha

  6. Kristi Hibbs says

    Great post with very practical advice. We are going to do the trek this fall 2019. Not sure if anyone is still monitoring this post but I was wondering if I needed to take a poncho if I am already taking waterproof shell jacket?

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