Due to regulations on the Inca Trail, if you are using a porter, each hiker is only allowed to bring 6kg (about 12 lbs) worth of stuff (or course, if you carry your own stuff, you can bring as much as you want – to carry). This includes the weight of the sleeping bag (about 1.5kg) and the bag provided (.5, in my case). Everyone gets a mat free of charge, but if you rent an air mattress, that is another 1kg so you either have 4kg or 3kg worth of space to fill.
When the group first heard about the limitations, most of the girls groaned. I just rolled my eyes. What did they even want to pack? We were going to be camping and hiking everyday with no showers or proper bathrooms. I have no idea what they expected.
All tours give you a list of recommended items. I went with GAP (Now G Adventures) and their list was pretty spot on.
Hat: Rain or shin, highly recommended. Wide brim for day and wool beanie for cold nights
Bandana: I didn’t bring and was fine. Personal choice.
Zip off pants: YES! Super helpful when switching from hot to cold on the trail and happens really fast.
T-Shirts: One for everyday of the hike.
Thermal underwear/Long Johns: A must for sleeping at night.
Underwear/Sports Bra: Etc, etc etc. You know what works for you.
>>Read about the best travel pants for women.
Sweater/Fleece/Sweatshirt: 1 or 2, for day and night, if you can spare the space (or just carry your day one in your pack to save space in your porter bag).
Long-Sleeved Shirt: Personal choice. Recommended. I didn’t bring one and I was fine (I don’t like long-sleeved shirts anyway).
Trekking shoes or hiking boats: If you have hiking boats, please bring them. I didn’t have a pair and didn’t want to spend the money on something I was probably not going to use again so I just wore my sneakers. Not the best idea, but I don’t regret my decision.
Rain Poncho: I guess? Apparently it rains on most tours, but my group got lucky, because it didn’t rain a lick for 4 days. Your call.
Warm socks: A pair for every day and/or night. You can never pack too many socks.
Gloves and Scarf: It gets so cold at night.
Sandals/Closed toed shoes (camp shoes): These were very helpful. If you can spare the space, I highly recommend bringing a pair of CLOSED TOED SHOES for walking around camp and the bathroom because the last thing you want to do is put your gross hiking shoes back on after you have taken them off for the day. If you can’t spare the space, then sandals will do just fine.
Jacket: The weather changes a lot on the trail. I brought my down jacket as it’s fairly lightweight and doubles as a pillow, but the choice is yours on what kind you are most comfortable with.
Day pack: Basic backpack or whatever you use as your day-to-day bag will work.
Sleeping Bag: You can rent these on arrival and they are appropriate for the porter bag.
Water bottle(s): Bring enough bottles that will last for the day and night as we only had the chance to fill them once a day. Water and other drinks are provided at meals.
Bug repellent: See Rain Poncho.
Personal Medical kit: Yes, although the guide should have anything you may need. Bring any personal meds and band-aids and you should be fine.
Sun block/sun glasses: It gets very sunny at the high elevation and the weather changes quickly.
Bathing suit: Personal choice, if you are staying longer in Aguas Calientes and want to take a dip in the hot springs in town.
Cash/Passport: There is no reason to bring a lot of cash, but don’t leave your wallet in your suitcase in Cusco, so I assume you’ll bring it all anyway. There is lots to buy on the trail the first day and a half (at inflated prices of course) and there is no reason to buy any of it. You’ll need money for Aguas Calientes at the end of the hike and of course, bring bills to tip the guide and porters on the last night. Both Peruvian Soles and US dollars are accepted as tips. And you need your passport to enter the trail!! Like your wallet, you won’t leave it in your suitcase anyway.
Wet wipes: These things were a daily life saver! Since there are no showers on the hike (until the last day, but they are super gross and worthless except to the porters) you’ll use these every single day. They are a MUST!!!! For some reason, they aren’t on the list GAP provided (maybe they don’t sell them in Peru?) but I brought them from home and they were AWESOME.
Blow-up Pillow: I brought my airplane neck pillow that I can blow up every night, so that saved on weight and space and was super useful.
Toilet Paper: There were a surprisingly number of holes to do your business in (no bowls) along the trail and TP was never provided. Some tours provide it, but you have to ask the guide and why go through that embarrassment? Just grab a roll from the last hotel/hostel you stay at. They pretty much expect you to.
Flashlight: A MUST!!!!! Bring 2 if you can. It gets so dark at night, it’s unbelievable. There are no lights along the trail or at campsites that are not brought in by porters.
Camera: Duh. Make sure your battery is all charged up the night before as there are no places to charge it on the trail.
Some people brought their phones to use as alarm clocks, take pictures and to call their families when we arrived at Machu Pichu. There is no reception along the trail, so unless you need it for these reasons, don’t bother. The porters will wake you up and give you enough time to get ready for the day. I didn’t bring mine (left it in my suitcase in Cusco) and I was fine.
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About the author: Rebecca Several works at an office job by day and spends her free time figuring out how to make her limited US vacation days last the longest by night. She originally traveled to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa back in 2007, parlaying that into a general work permit for an additional few months before discovering the Work and Holiday Visa in Australia where she traveled for an additional 8 months. She only meant to be overseas for one year but whoops! Didn’t make it home for over two years. She writes about her travels on her website Travels at 88mph and can be found on Twitter @purplekat99.
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