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Inca Trail Packing List - What to pack for the hike to Machu Picchu

Last updated: 04 Aug 2023

As a wise man once said, there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate gear. Cold nights and damp days can turn the trek of a lifetime into a miserable march if you’re not well equipped. To make sure you’re as comfortable as possible during your Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, we've put together this handy list of everything you'll need to pack for the Inca Trail. We won't go so far as to actually pack your bags, though! This could also be a handy packing list for hiking Machu Picchu – two for the price of one.

The same packing list applies for all other camping treks offered by SA Expeditions. If you book a lodge-to-lodge trek you'll sleep in comfortable lodges at night but you'll still need most of the same items during the day.

SA Expeditions hiker at Cusco, Peru
Take in the panoramic views of Cusco before setting off on your expedition.

Things to know before the trip

Inca Trail Logistics

While hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the ultimate traveler must-do, it’s not exactly a walk in the park. Trekking through uneven, stony terrain at 8,730 to 13,828 ft above sea level requires a decent fitness level. Hiking at such altitude tends to drain people more, and even the smallest detail in improper preparation can slowly turn your dream hike into a dreadful walk. Don’t underestimate the power of the Andes!

But don’t worry – most of the weight you’ll be bringing on this trek will be off your back. Your baggage on the trail shall include:

  • One main duffel with a maximum weight of 6kg / 13.2lb, holding your extra clothes and toiletries

  • A daypack which you’ll carry on the trail

One of the best parts about hiking the Inca Trail with SA Expeditions is that we will provide you with the duffel bag where you can put the items you choose to bring on the trek and porters that will carry the bag, as well as the rest of your camping gear and food supply. The items you choose not to bring can stay in your main luggage and will be safely stored in your Cusco hotel.

Note that you won’t have access to your porter bag until you are at camp. Therefore, it’s important to prep wisely and keep essentials, such as water, an insulated jacket, rain jacket or poncho, and camera, in your daypack.

Seasons and weather considerations

Peru has two main seasons and shoulder seasons:

  • Dry season from May to September

  • Wet season from December to March

  • Shoulder season in October, November, and April

During the dry season, you’re less likely to be rained on through your trek. Though considering this is high tourist season, Machu Picchu becomes more crowded at this time. With clearer days, you would also need to be more considerate of sun protection, especially since you are closer to the equator at high altitude.

During the wet season, you’ll experience more rain, making the trails muddier and more difficult to hike. However, with higher precipitation comes lush vegetation. During the rainy season, you’ll find greener landscapes and less crowds at Machu Picchu. (Note: The Inca Trail is closed every February for maintenance. Machu Picchu operates year-round.)

In the end, you are hiking in the Peruvian Andes where the weather is unpredictable. Bringing quick dry layers, extra socks, a rain jacket, and sunscreen can go a long way. For a more comprehensive guide on the weather you can expect for your trip to Peru, please click the link here.

Best time of year to hike the Inca Trail

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a year-round activity, and the best time to hike the Trail comes down to personal preference. We recommend considering the shoulder season as you can enjoy the benefits of less crowding at Machu Picchu and lower rates than high tourist season. If you don’t mind taking a chance for some rain and cloudier days, shoulder season just might be for you.

Templo de la Luna in Cusco, Peru
Templo de la Luna in Cusco, Peru

Inca Trail Packing List - What's already included? 

If you’re traveling with SA Expeditions on an Inca Trail or Machu Picchu Trek, several essential items are already included in the cost of your trip:

  • An additional porter to carry your personal items (sleeping bag, clothing, etc.)

  • A private bathroom tent, which will be set up and taken down at each campsite

  • A Therm-A-Rest sleeping mat

  • A lightweight but warm sleeping bag designed for Andean conditions

  • A good quality two-person tent, which you will share with your travel companion

  • All meals and related equipment during the trek (ending after breakfast on the last hiking day)

SA Expeditions Great Inca Trail camp set up in Peru
On our camping treks, arrive to a fully set campsite along with a warm, hearty meal.

What should I bring to the Inca Trail?

You will need to adjust this list based on the time of year you decide to hike the trail. In general, you can expect colder nights and sunnier days April through September, while from October through March night temperatures will be cool instead of cold and rain much more likely. For more seasonal information, check out our article about weather in Peru.

Clothing needed for the Inca Trail Trek

  • 2-to-4 base-layer shirts (preferably lightweight, moisture wicking, quick-dry synthetic)

  • 1 mid-layer shirt, such as a sweater or sweatshirt

  • 1 top-layer jacket, such as a thick fleece

  • 1 waterproof jacket

  • 1-to-2 pairs of lightweight, waterproof hiking pants

  • Underwear

  • 2-to-4 pairs of socks

  • Warm sleeping clothes (may double as your “camp” clothing that you change into after you reach the campsite)

Equipment & gear needed for the Inca Trail Trek

  • Personal daypack that you will carry

  • Personal water bottle, easily accessible so you don’t have to waste energy taking off your pack every time you want a drink

  • Shoes adequate for hiking. Lightweight and waterproof hiking boots are recommended as they provide ankle support, warmth, and will keep your feet dry.

  • Headlamp

  • Waterproof casing for your bag (you can also use a poncho or plastic bags)

SA Expeditions Great Inca Trail day hike to Huchuy Qosqo in Peru
Our Great Inca Trail day hikes allow you to wander off the beaten path along pristine Inca trails while arriving to a comfortable hotel stay by night.

Personal Items

  • Passport

  • Money for tipping guide and porters (preferably in soles)

  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, etc.)

  • Toilet paper

  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer

  • Medications (headache tablets, band aids, personal prescriptions)

  • Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, SPF lip balm

What you may want to bring (optional items)

  • Camera

  • Deck of cards/reading book

  • Cold weather gear (hat, scarf, etc.)

  • Hiking poles (can be rented when booking)

  • Extra snacks (snacks are provided, but you can bring special treats if you want)

  • Bathing suit

  • Towel

  • Shower supplies if you plan on taking a cold-water shower -or- baby wipes to clean off in your tent

  • Sandals or lightweight camp shoes

SA Expeditions Great Inca Trail Vitcos trek in Peru
Our team walks along a remarkable, well-preserved Inca wall on the Great Inca Trail Vitcos trek.

Ready for an incredible Inca trail adventure? Have a glance at our Machu Picchu and Cusco treks. If you're longing to go even more off the beaten path, our Great Inca Trail treks would surely suit you. Get in touch with one of our Destination Experts to start planning your expedition.

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