Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular treks in Peru with thousands of visitors going each year. I booked my trek on an impulse with my friend and it ended up being the highlight of my entire trip to Peru! I’ve written about what to expect on each day of the trek in my latest posts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 & Day 4, but thought I’d put together a Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail in order to help future Inca Trail trekkers have an amazing trip like I had!
I’ve started this guide with 4-day trek packing list because packing was the main thing bothering me about my trip. I also went in November which is the end of the dry-season and beginning of wet season so I had no CLUE what to pack. My advice to you…layer like an onion. I’ve also included a few other tips about bathrooms (important…), booking your trek, hiring a porter and much more below.
Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail: Tips and Packing List for the 4-day Trek
- 1 rain poncho
- 2 long sleeve shirts – one for sleeping and one for hiking. Examples here and here.
- 1 tank top
- 1 short sleeve shirt/or another tank top
- Hiking pants – I loved my Columbia Saturday Trail stretch pant and wore them 3 out of the 4 hiking days.
- 2 pairs of leggings – One fleece lined for sleeping and one if you want to switch out of your hiking pants.
- Hiking boots – I got great North Face ones in Vietnam. Some people wore tennis shoes, but were complaining and it looked painful. I don’t recommend it.
- Chaco sandals or flip flops – I opted for the sandals so I could be a little more elevated and covered up when I went into the bathrooms
- 2-3 sports bras and 5 pairs of underwear
- 1 fleece pullover
- 1 puffer or warm jacket
- 1 raincoat
- 2-3 pairs of socks – I brought 2 for hiking and one for sleeping. SmartWool is a great brand for hiking and staying warm.
- Ball cap and/or beanie
- Bandana – okay it may look weird, but it helped me from giving my neck a 3rd-degree burn
- Hiking poles – I rented these from our trekking company at the beginning of our trek. They were really good quality but did cost about $30 just to rent.
- Packing cubes – these are awesome and will help keep your stuff organized in the porter bag. You can also use one as a pillow if you stuff your coat inside.
- Fold up water bottle
- Camelback water bladder
- Battery pack extra chargers
- DSLR camera– I carried this around with me, but I love taking photos so it was worth it. If I were to go now, I’d bring my Sony a6000 mirrorless camera since it’s so light!
- Sleeping Mat (provided)
- Sleeping Bag (provided)
- Toilet Paper – Bring an entire role because there isn’t any provided.
- Baby wipes – These were a lifesaver! They worked for cleaning off after a long day of hiking.
- Face wipes – I didn’t bring makeup on the trek, but my face would be caked with dust each night so these were nice!
- Hair ties
- Neosporin and band-aids
- Contacts and solution
- Bug spray
- Hand sanitizer
- Snacks – I brought a few shot blocks to curb my appetite and give me energy. The food they serve will keep you pretty full, but it’s smart to bring a few other snacks just in case. We also bought coca candies along the way to help with the altitude.
- Passport and ID – To get stamped at all of the stopping posts
- Soles (Peruvian money) – To tip the porters on the final night.
- Zip lock bags -to put trash in on the trail
Other TIPS for the Trek:
1. Pick a great tour group.
We went with Peru Treks and absolutely loved them. The food was awesome, the guides were great and they treated their porters well. If I did it over again I’d use them again 100%. I also have heard great things about Llama Path, but after experiencing Peru Treks first hand I would highly recommend them!
2. Choose your time of year and book your trekking company early.
We trekked in mid-November which is the beginning of rainy season. It rained one day of our trek (the last day), but the rest of the days were sunny and amazing. Be sure to book your trek at least 5 months in advance and even earlier if you’re going in high season which is the North American summer months.
3. Pack appropriately.
I’ve included a list of items I packed above, but make sure you don’t pack too much. Usually, if you get a porter you’ll get to put 5.5kg inside. My sleeping mat and sleeping bag (that I rented) were 3kg which left me 2.5kg (5.5lbs) to pack in the duffle they provide. This ended up being fine for me! In the pack, I put my sandals, large fleece, all of my toiletries and rest of my clothes. The rest of it I packed in my day pack.
4. Hire a half porter.
Just do it unless you hike all the time and enjoy walking up a steep incline for hours on end with heavy stuff on your back. My dad and brother and another dad and son on our trek all came with the notion of carrying their large backpacking backpacks and had to get a porter halfway through. Luckily you can do that!
5. Rent a sleeping bag and hiking poles.
We rented both of these items through Peru treks. Some people didn’t have poles and I ended up giving one of mine to a girl who didn’t have any and it probably saved her life going down hill. It’s steep! You can bring your own sleeping bag, but it was easier for me to not have to haul one around the rest of Peru.
6. Bring cash and your passport.
You’ll need money to tip the porters at the end of your trek. Usually your trekking company will tell you the correct amount to tip the guide and porters. Make sure you bring this with you and try and get smaller bills if you can. You’ll also have a chance to buy water from local ladies so have money for water and snacks at least for the first 2 days.
I’m not going to lie, the toilets on the Inca Trail are nasty, but they aren’t AS gross as the horror stories I had heard. Make sure to pull your pant legs up high, bring your tp and your head lamp and don’t look around. Most are squatting toilets with a hole in the ground and porcelain around the hole. They usually spray them down with water every few hours, but still be prepared for the worst and you won’t be as grossed out. Bring wipes and toilet paper with you.
I don’t think you need to be training like crazy before hiking the Inca Trail (although it can’t hurt). I was doing HIIT workouts and running intervals on the treadmills before going, but my friend did yoga which really helped her with breathing in the altitude and climbing up the mountain. I recommend doing some sort of constant work out before the trek and you’ll be fine. You certainly don’t need to run for 10 miles a day uphill with bags of bricks on your back like some people say! 🙂
9. Altitude sickness.
This is a real thing! My brother and a few others got altitude sickness on the trail. Be sure to drink your coca tea, chew coca leaves and bring altitude sickness meds just in case. The guides will give you their natural remedies and will help you. Just take your time and you’ll get through it!
10. Take your time.
My advice is to take your time on the trail. Stop and take pictures and enjoy yourself. Some people bolted up the mountain, but I preferred to look around, stop and take pics, and joke around with my fellow trekkers. You’re most likely only going to do this once in your life so smell those roses. 🙂
Weather can be unpredictable with fog rolling in after it was scorching hot so be prepared and pack layers.
I thought I’d be drinking water out of a stream that I’d have to get myself, but that wasn’t the case. I never used the iodine drops that I bought. For the first 2 days you’ll drink water from water bottles you’ll buy from local ladies. I just filled up my cambelback pouch with those. The next two days the porters will boil water for you. I wouldn’t even bring a water filter or iodine drops if I were you.
Hiking the Inca Trail is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and I hope you get the chance to experience it at some point in your life! I also hope you can find my guide to hiking the Inca Trail useful! Is there anything I’m missing?
Do you think you’d ever want to hike the Inca Trail?