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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.
Long pants: I am going to call these “pants you change into at the campsite”. They can be anything from jeans, work out pants, yoga pants or what I brought, my sleep pants.
>>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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What time of year did you go? I am going in September.
This is a great list.! I struggled with the weight limit, mostly because my fantastic -20 degrees, 4 seasons rated sleeping bag weighs 3 kgs.! I went for 2 pairs of long pants (both zip offs) and alternated each day (and also slept in) and a shirt for each day. We experienced quite a bit of constant rain for which I was grateful for my waterproof jacket and waterproof cover on my day pack. I wore my beanie most days too – I was there in December and I was freezing most of the time. I saved space by only taking my hiking boots and just keep the laces loose when around camp. Gross yes, but so is everyone else ☺
I got a Machu Piccu water bottle holder (for 1 Lt) before the trek and loved it (a camel back is probably easier but I didn’t bring one). It looks a bit silly but now doubles as a souvenir.
Like you I can not rate wet wipes any higher – they are awesome and definitely make you feel a bit cleaner and fresher after your 5 or 7 hour stroll.
I’d also add in 2x walking poles – I don’t do any trek without them ☺
I’m doing the Inca Trail in September. I’m chubby and carry my weight in my stomach so wearing pants can be uncomfortable and I almost always stick to skirts. I was planning on wearing leggings on the Inca Trail, either underneath a knee-length skirt or on their own with a longer tunic to cover my butt. This is what I would wear to go to the gym, what what I’ve been wearing to practice hiking locally. However every time I talk to people about it they keep telling me I need pants. Is there something about leggings that makes them unsuitable? I realise it might get a bit cold in the mornings but a bit of walking should take care of that right? I sleep in drawstring scrub pants.
it is REALLY cold at night (and you’re sleeping outside, remember!). i’d maybe invest in a really extra warm pair of “leggings” (like thermal leggings) if you want to stick with those, but then i think you’d be fine during the daytime. for night, you’ll probably want a second layer of leggings (or maybe long johns?). i think we woke up in sub-freezing temperatures at least 2 of the mornings. think WARM CLOTHING!
On my trek one of the girls wore leggings with knee length skorts (skirt at the front, shorts at the back) most days. Another girl wore leggins with a normal length shirt (that is, waist length). It really is what you are comfortable in – we had another trekker wearing what we called ‘stoner pants’ she got from the markets in Ecuador. So in general leggins themselves aren’t unsuitable.
I think it might be more the weather that you need to contend with. I can only speak on how December was – Day 1 was clear and lovely weather, Day 2 it was raining for a few hours in the morning and bounced between cool and freezing (esp at the top of Dead Womans Pass). That night was definitely freezing, Day 3 was cool again. We did the 4 day trek in 3 so I didn’t get up early to make MP for sun rise – I’d expect it would be harder warming up when the sun isn’t up.
All in all, a fantastic experience 🙂
I did the Inca trail with GAP two years ago, and the man on your picture was one of our porters!!! This is hilarious!!! I had such an awesome time!
Hi! Great list, EXCEPT for those that might be carrying their own pack and skipping the whole porter thing! My sister & I both did the 4 day Inca Trail hike and carried our own packs (which is totally feasible since the trekking company carries your tent and food PROVIDED you know how to pack lightly)!!
Just a few suggestions for those that might want to skip the porter and venture to carry your own pack…
PANTS: zip off hiking pants are perfect for daytime on the Inca Trail… and you’d probably only need one pair (even if they would get really wet, most hiking pants are super fast-drying). i would NOT take jeans. EVER. they are heavy and if they get wet, it’s worse yet. if you want a pair of pants for around the campsite at night, i found that thermal spandex pants are perfect. you want them to be tight at the bottoms just in case the ground is wet – you definitely DON’T want wetness on any part of your clothing! then for sleeping, those same spandex pants are perfect for a base layer, and then you can put on an additional pair of yoga-like pants for inside your sleeping bag at night.
SHOES: for hiking, i’d definitely go with the hiking boots. mid-height hiking boots would be ideal to save your ankles because you’ll be doing lots of walking on rocky & uneven terrain. and while you’re spending a pretty penny on boots, i would go all out and get gore-tex… it’s definitely worth it to KNOW that you’ll have dry feet as long as you don’t step in anything wet that’s over 6 inches deep! for the campsite you’ll want any pair of easy-to-slip-on shoes. i chose my favorite pair of TOMS, but other people in my group took an old slip-on pair of sneakers or crocs. it’s really important that you can wear socks with whatever shoe you choose, though, because it’ll be cold! you might throw in a lightweight pair of flip flops if you’re freaked out by showers, but i skipped that.
T-SHIRTS: no way do you need one t-shirt for everyday of the hike! i’d stick with one on your back and maybe another one for the last day of the trip, after you get a shower at the only spot along the trail for showering!! you’re stinky anyway, and so is everyone else around you, so who cares if you wear the same shirt over and over?!? 🙂 but, definitely go with a wicking shirt to minimize the wetness of sweat.
LONG SLEEVES: (including long sleeved shirts/sweatshirts): i brought kind-of a lot of long sleeved things on the trek, but it worked perfectly. i had a lighter long-sleeved pullover shirt (again, wicking) for hiking in, an under armour cold gear shirt for sleeping, and then a fleece. additionally, i had a zip up softshell jacket (the only “coat” i took), which was awesome for putting on top of my long sleeved shirt when it was cold during our hikes (like, when we were at 14,000 feet in altitude and the wind was crazy!). at nighttime, i literally would layer everything and be totally toasty warm.
UNDERGARMENTS: i just brought one sports bra in addition to the one i was wearing. i saved it for the last day after my shower so i felt nice & clean. i did go with a pair of underwear per day (they pack small and don’t weigh much) and went with non-cotton underwear.
SOCKS: super important!!! i had 2 pairs TOTAL of actual hiking socks, but i also took one sock liner to wear underneath and prevent/minimize blisters. then i had a really thick pair of alpaca wool socks for sleeping in at night… gotta keep those feet toasty warm!
RAINGEAR: it’s a MUST!!!! even if it doesn’t rain, you don’t want to risk getting wet and being wet for the rest of the trip. make sure, too, that you have a rain cover for your pack – even if YOU don’t get wet, you’ll be equally miserable if YOUR PACK (and all your stuff) gets wet!
COLD WEATHER STUFF: hat (or a balaclava is even better!), neckwarmer (less bulky than a scarf), thin gloves (a thin wool will do). i’d also take handwarmers – though just one per night.
ELECTRONICS: skip the flashlight and take a headlamp instead. so much more practical because you can still be doing things with your hands (like holding your trekking poles while hiking in the dark early morning hours on that last day of hiking). i love taking pictures and took a few thousand pictures on my second trip to machu picchu, so i just made sure i had a good quality camera with a long-lasting battery (and then i took one extra plus my charger for the last night on the trail when there is electricity).
TOILETRIES: toilet paper. take the inner cardboard out and flatten the paper itself, squeezing it into a small plastic ziplock bag. probably you’ll want shampoo and a small bar of soap. skip the bug repellant and pack sunblock instead! wet wipes are a travel essential, no matter where you’re going, but especially when you cannot bathe for a few days. i usually just gave myself a quick wet wipes bath just after getting out of my hiking clothing and felt nicely refreshed! deodorant is a must, as well, but don’t bring any lotions or girly smelling things… that’s just silly… YOU ARE HIKING! 🙂
SLEEPING BAG/PAD: definitely get a cold-weather rated sleeping bag. my sleeping bag was only rated to 35 degrees F, so i added a liner which got me about 10 additional degrees of warmth. i also was sure to take my self-inflating therm-a-rest to keep my body off the cold ground. i slept like a roasty toasty princess 🙂
MEDICAL: the only thing i took was medicine for altitude sickness, as i am done at any altitude above 12,000 feet. worked like a charm and was extremely lightweight to carry 🙂 if you’re prone to blisters, you may want a couple of band-aids and such.
PACKS: since you’re carrying your own stuff, you’ll definitely need a quality hiking pack. i used the gregory jade 50, which had sufficient space and was comfortable. i think my sister’s pack was a 45 liter, so she took even less stuff and had a lighter weight pack (i think the total weight of her pack was a little less than 12 pounds). even if you’re carrying your own stuff, you’ll still want a lightweight and small day pack for taking inside the ruins once you arrive at Machu Picchu because you are not to take a big pack inside (your big pack is checked in a small storage room outside of the ruins).
WATER: i took a 3 liter water bladder which fit perfectly into my pack (and made it tons heavier when it was full… but that’s more inspiration to drink, drink, drink while you’re hiking!!). i also had a 1 liter nalgene bottle, which i strapped to the outside of my pack.
MISC: skip the pillow and use a rolled up t-shirt instead. one bathing suit is a must if you’re staying in aguas calientes. take enough cash for the trek (you’ll need to research ahead of time what to tip your porters), and be sure to take a debit card, just in case. you need your passport.
Wow awesome feedback, Athena! Thank you so much for your in-depth insight 🙂 Means a lot to have the support of traveling ladies everywhere to help provide solid information for others looking for help!
Karin Louw says
On Athena post on Novem 3 2012 she posted about the medical she took medicine for the altitude sickness. We are going now in April my I ask what medicine she used.
I know about the DAimox.
Thank You Brooke & Athena! I have a month before I go in Oct! I’m nervous & excited at the same time! I’ve read a ton of articles online but this has been one of the most helpful!
Super helpful girls! Especially the comment from Athena. I’m hiking the trail in October with my fiance and we are carrying our own packs. It’s s nice to hear from another minimalist girl packer that it’s totally do-able to carry your own and have everything you need.
Andrienette Fourie says
Doing the GAdventures Trek from Choquiqera to Machu Picchu in June 2015. Any tips re clothing to take or not? X
I’ve researched so many different packing lists and this is the best one yet! I’m also using G Adventures for the tour/hike in June.
My luggage was lost en route to Peru so I had to get the bare essentials in Cuzco, including boot rental, on New Year’s Day. Looking back It was totally do-able with the basics but I did miss having a headlamp. I second the suggestion of comfy pants for end of the day, even comfy shoes/sandals even if you have to wear socks with them. A fleece is essential but go for a lightweight one rather than the bulkier ones. A basic rain jacket, the kind that rolls up into a nice little pouch, is perfect. I never needed any water purification tablets. I was with G Adventures, GAP at the time, and they boil all water so this was never a concern. Bring something for altitude if you think that might be an issue, my guide had a homeopathic remedy that worked immediately for me. I wore only one pair of pants for the trek and didn’t feel like I needed another. I wish I had had a daypack with hip support, when climbing up some of the rocks (some as high as my knees) it would have been nice to have some weight off my back. I would also suggest bringing tips for guides and porters. I know some countries don’t tip but the porters work so hard, it’s unbelievable what they do – carrying your 12 lb pack, setting up all the tents, tables, chairs, cooking and food supplies, etc. they really do make the trek so much easier and really deserve a nice tip. Luckily my group had some leftover sparklers from NYE and on the last night the porters sang a song and we all lit sparklers. Then we tipped and I think they really appreciated it. When I finally got my luggage back I was embarrassed by how much I had overpacked, how little of that would have fit in the 12 lb bag and how unnecessary most of it was…so my point is you can do the trek with very little!
Great feedback, Marisa! This is exactly the thing I try to tell people when they overpack- people are way more resourceful and resilient than they think!
PS – Sorry to hear about the luggage issues, btw! Not a great way to start a trip!
Hello, we will be doing the 3 day Inca Trail Trek this coming August 4th. What hotels do you recommend in Cuzco? Do you think that one pair of trekking pants is enough for a 3 day hike?
We stayed at Hotel Suenos Del Inka in Cusco. Location was central, we were able to walk to a lot of places. It wasn’t anything luxurious as we were already “roughing it” we were just glad to have a warm shower and a bed to sleep in after 4 days on the trail. I personally took 2 pairs of pants and alternated wearing them.