Inca Trail & Alternative Trek Packing List for Machu Picchu
If you are planning to trek the famous Inca Trail or any Alternative Trek to Machu Picchu?
This Inca Trail Packing List will help you to prepare for your outdoor adventure in one of the most stunning regions of South America.
Luggage for the Inca Trail Trek and Alternative trek is generally divided as follows:
1.- Your main suitcase or backpack, can be left in the storage of the of Cusco hotel. most of the tourist generally stay at the same hotel before and after the trek
2.- A small daypack that you will use to carry daily essentials such as a jacket, camera, water and sunscreen.
We hope that this packing list for Machu Picchu will be useful for any trek you choose and you can do only a few small variations that can suite better for you
What should I wear for the hike to MachuPicchu?
Layers will be your best friend while trekking. Along the Inca Trail and Alternative trek temperature can drop during the night, so having layers will make your trip more enjoyable.
Temperatures will fluctuate based on your location. You’ll layer when reaching the peak point during the second day and during the morning when it can be cold and humid.
Remember, layering doesn’t mean to wrap yourself up like a mummy. Your body needs to breathe especially in the humidity. Cotton is perfect for this, ask before buying your trekking clothes, materials do matter. We’ll show you some examples here:
You should bring 2-3 pairs of sports underwear. Any sports brand provides this kind of bra, you can do some research about the best one.
This will be the layer in contact with your skin. We advise you to put it on during cold mornings and when the temperature drops during the night. Don’t forget to bring the bottom layer just in case it gets very cold in the evenings.
Look for base layers with breathable material, we don’t want to be wet and get cold. The Inca Trail & Alternative Trek weather is unpredictable so you need to be ready.
Talking about T-shirts we recommend 3 x short sleeve shirts and 1 x long sleeve shirt. Polyester is breathable, lightweight, and quick-drying. Merino or nylon are other recommended materials. Make sure that your shirts are not cotton.
Hiking Trousers and Shorts
You need to bring 1-2 pairs of hiking trousers – one is good enough if the trek is no longer than 4 days. If you are on a multi-day hike, bring two. Also bring one pair of trekking shorts. There are multiple brands that provide this, Columbia is one of them. For ladies: Consider bringing along a lightweight mid-length skirt. This allows for privacy when changing in and out of base layers on the trail. Also useful for unexpected restroom breaks in-between camps.
Fleece Jacket and WindBreaker
This will be for the colder portions on the trail, you should bring one mid-weight fleece jacket. Fleeces that use Polartec materials are great. Typically Polartec fleeces come in 100s, 200s or 300s. Two-hundreds provide great warmth and comfort. They are also perfect for the Inca Trail. The other ones are either too light or too heavy.
Soft Shell Jacket
In addition to the previous item you should bring a wáter-proof and wind-proof jacket shell layer. Remember, packing light is key here just make sure the jacket is warm and sturdy. This jacket is to avoid getting wet by the rain, use it to stay protected. will provide you with a plastic poncho to cover this one up and guarantee no wáter will get to you.
Rain Gear / Poncho
As mentioned before, weather in the mountains is unpredictable. This last item is to prevent any inconvenience. You can use your plastic poncho above this to let the plastic poncho take most of the impact.
You’ll need one of these, but again the one you bring needs to be light and easy to store. We prefer sun hats that have an adjustable neck cover, like the one shown below. Don’t bring a large bulky hat, like a straw hat because these are difficult to store.
These scarfs are multi-use. If your hat doesn’t have a neck cover, these will be the perfect solution to not get sunburn.
This fleece beanie is to protect you from the cold both during the day and the night.
You need to protect your eyes to witness the wonderful Inca Trail. At high altitude (greater than 4,000 meters) the UV intensity is high and visible light is strong.
Oakley is a leader in polarized glasses. All their lenses provide 100% protection from UV A, B, and C. This is slightly over-kill for Machu Picchu as you will not be trekking under snowy conditions which intensifies visible light.
Once at the campsite during the night, the vision is limited due to the lack of light. If you need to go to the toilet you’ll need a light and running your phone’s battery is not an option. A headlamp is the perfect option, it’s small, easy to pack, and will leave your hands free.
Protect your fingers
During the hike water-proof gloves are a must. You need to have lightweight and completely waterproof gloves to protect your hands from the rain and cold. Walking poles are as well mandatory for your trek as a point of balance.
Even though in the Inca Trail you are not going to experience freezing cold temperatures. You’ll likely encounter cold nips on the higher passes as well as in the mornings and evenings.
You’ll need a good pair of lightweight and waterproof gloves. Try to find the ones special for this kind of activity as well as guarantee some warmth for your hands.
To deal briefly with the ‘weatherproof’ factor, gloves are not as waterproof as retailers will try to tell you they are. Without trying to state the obvious, there is a huge gaping hole where your hand sits. Given enough wet weather, your gloves will get drenched inside regardless of the water-resistant membrane. We suggest not wearing your gloves when it rains heavily, and saving them for when it is dry but cold.
You need to protect your feet, they’re your tool to get through the Inca Trail & Alternative trek. So trekking boots are a must and you can’t go without them.
They need to be actual trekking boots, we recommend the ankle covering ones to guarantee the protection of your feet. Don’t arrive with brand new boots that you haven’t worn yet. You’ll get blisters, sore feet, and even lose toe-nails.
Push your foot all the way forward to test good fit on a boot. place your foot inside the boot with a mid-weight hiking sock on. Take your index finger and insert it between your heel and the back of the boot. A perfect fit is if your finger sits snugly in this gap. If it is too tight to get your finger in then the boot is too small, and vice versa.
In terms of quality you should look for these key characteristics.
- Rubber sole should be made from rubber and have mid-to-deep lugs for good traction.
- Heavy boots are great but can get you exhausted, try to aim for some mid-weight ones for this Inca Trail.
- Gore-tex is the best material to make the boots waterproof
- The lacing-system should incorporate speed hooks or D-strings which provide additional ankle support
Trekking Shoes / Sandals
When arriving at the campsite you’ll take out your boots and let your feet breath. To avoid any injury or cold, take some normal sneakers or sandals to let your feet rest without any danger. This will also allow your trekking boots to get dry in case you sweat too much or it was raining.
Why can’t I do the treks with other kinds of shoes?
We get this question a lot, there’s always the doubt on why trekking boots are mandatory. Why can’t they do the trek with running shoes or normal sneakers.
Trekking these paths is no joke. The terrain is not flat and there are severe uphills and downhills. Trekking boots are made special for this kind of terrain. The difference in material between a trekking boot and a mere running shoe is abysmal.
The sole needs to be resistant, Inca Trail is a path made out of Stone. A normal running shoe isn’t able to hold a multi-day hiking without tearing up. You can bring more shoes but weight would be an issue.
Second reason, ankle protection, you need to protect them going up and down steps. Mountains have a huge impact on your knees and ankles. Running shoes don’t have ankle protection and leave you unprotected in case of misstep. We recommend bringing ankle-covering trekking shoes, an injury in the middle of the trek can destroy your experience.
Bring at least 4 pairs of trekking socks. Material is key here, look for some resist ones and not too heavy. The best trekking socks are made from wool, preferably merino, as they promote breathability and are very good at wicking moisture away from the foot. If you can find the ones with a waterproof membrane, then you found your socks. Avoid cotton If you are allergic to wool. You can go for a synthetic acrylic or acrylic-blend sock.
These are optional just to add extra protection from mud, water, bugs, etc. They’re not a must but can be very helpful.
Consider them if your trek is booked for the wet season months
Backpacks and Daypacks
1.-For treks like Salkantay a 30L backpack can be a very advisable option
2.- Since we do have two version of the Inca Trail one with personal porter and one with out personal we recommend you to have a 50l backpack
The Inca Trail regulations don’t allow the use of animals on the trek. That’s why the help of the porters is required but always under the government regulations.
For Inca Trail and alternative trek trekkers, you should look for the following characteristics in your daypack.
We encourage you to take seriously the kind of daypack you’ll purchase. Fashion doesn’t matter, in the trail find a trekking daypack and pay attention to the features:
1.-Size: Machu Picchu regulations only allow a max of 25L backpacks. If you exceed this 25L limit, the rangers will ask you to store your backpack during your guided tour. Remember that your porters will carry 7 kgs for you, so try to pack light.
2.-Waterproof: Your backpack needs to be waterproof, most of them aren’t, so this feature is vital.
Design: Multi-size and adjustable backpacks are needed. Check that they fit your body without restricting your movement or harm your shoulders and hips. The best manufactures, like Osprey and North Face, design specific bags for women. They have reshaped hip belts that are wider, more moulded, narrower, but broader shoulder straps.
Water in the Trail
To fight against altitude sickness, water is the best option. Keeping yourself hydrated will help your body rise to the challenge. Water will be provided by our crew from the first camping lunch until the end of the trek.
It’s possible to buy water at certain points along the trail but we recommend against this. It’s expensive and leads to unnecessary waste on the trail.
In order to carry 2 or more liters of water on you each day you can either:
Use two 1 liter bottles
Use one 1.5 liter bottle (and drink half a liter before you head off in the morning)
Use a hydration bladder (these can hold between 2-5 liters)
Based on your backpack you can choose this option. It’ll adjust to your bag and will be easy to use which is what we’re aiming for.
Get a bladder that holds between 2-3 liters taking one bigger than this will be too heavy.
If natural water is not your thing, a rehydrating poder will be perfect. Such as gatorade or other brands will help to provide energy and a better taste.
Sleeping is one of the most important things when trekking. Having a sleeping bag that can provide comfort, warmth, and protection is mandatory.
It’s possible to rent a sleeping bag with us. This’ll guarantee the quality and will set you free from bringing one from home.
Natural vs Synthetic
Natural feather sleeping bags are always better, lighter, and quality is second to none. But they are more expensive than others, keep that in mind.
When buying a sleeping bag you need to be honest with yourself. If you’ll use it for upcoming and perhaps more challenging treks after the Inca Trail, then go for a better quality. It’ll last longer and will be used more. If not, just go with something that’ll be useful for that trek, don’t break the bank. A lightweight, warm sleeping bag will serve you very well for many years into the future.
The coldest months coincide with the dry popular trekking season of May through September. Be aware that temperaturas can drop to below zero degrees (Celsius). Since Cusco and the Inca Trail & Alternative trek can hold all of the four seasons, go for a -10 C (14F). During dryer months like March-April and October-November you can bet for a 3 season sleeping bag (-4 C / 25F). We already mention that December, January, and February are not great for trekking to Machu Picchu. You can go by train but if trekking is your thing, avoid these months.
Your porter will carry your sleeping bag but always, lighter is better. Warmth and weight always come together but try to bring a sleeping bag no heavier than 2.5 kgs.
Since the sleeping bags we rent are mummy style we advise to bring this kind. Why? Because this style guarantees comfort and protection. These kinds of sleeping bags adjust to your body and will provide adequate comfort.
Air Mat (Optional)
Comfort is always welcome when taking some rest after a whole day of trekking. But again remember that weight needs to be kept as low as possible. We rent an air mattress, this is 1 kg and will be included in your duffel bag weight. We will include a foam mat for free so if you don’t want to rent an air mattress we advise you not to bring one on your own.
Inflatable Pillow (Optional)
This is an optional ítem as well. This’ll add extra comfort, we include pillows that will be taken by the porters and won’t affect your weight. Inflatable pillows are good because they don’t use a lot of space and weight is reduced.
Ear Plugs (optional)
Noise is not that much of an issue along the nights in the Inca Trail. It’s all nature but if you’re a light sleeper these will help a lot. They won’t use much space and weight is almost none.