Inca Jungle & Alternative Treks Packing List

Clothing

The best way to think about your clothing for the Inca Trail is through the lens of layering.

The ability to layer your clothing up or down from morning when it is rather cold to the mid afternoon when temperatures reach their peak and then drop back down to freezing at night is key.

Layering also comes in handy as you ascend high passes that are exposed to winds or descend into shaded valleys.

Effective layering only works if each layer allows moisture to pass through and escape to the external environment. In fact the best layered clothing, like wool, promotes moisture transfer through its wicking properties. Cotton and denim absorb moisture and should therefore be avoided.

Below we set out the types of clothing you should bring with you and provide specific recommendations on what characteristics to look for in each.

Underwear

You should bring 2-3 pairs of sports underwear, like those made by Icebreaker, or indeed any sporting brand (e.g. Adidas).

For women bring two pairs of sports bras.

Base Layer

Over your underwear you should wear a lightweight base layer (or next-to-skin layer). You won’t wear this everyday day, just when it gets cold in the mornings, on the high passes and in the evenings.

We recommend SmartWool, but any merino base layer will work. Typically you only need a top (i.e. torso) base layer, but it is worthwhile bringing one bottom (i.e. legs) layer just in case it gets very cold in the evenings.

Trekking Shirts

In terms of shirts we recommend 3 x short sleeve shirts and 1 x long sleeve shirt. Ideal fabric is a breathable, lightweight and quick-drying polyester, merino or nylon. Make sure that your shirts are not cotton.

Our partner, Mountain IQ, have an awesome selection of branded Machu Picchu hiking apparel. Get 10% off Mountain IQ gear with our discount code ‘MPTrek‘.

Other great trekking shirts are made by Icebreaker, Craghoppers and Columbia.

Hiking Trousers and Shorts

Bring 1-2 x pairs of hiking trousers – 1 is fine for 3/4 day treks, an additional pair is ideal for treks greater than 4 days. Hiking trousers from Columbia are great. The convertible trousers are excellent, see these.

Also bring one pair of trekking shorts. Columbia make good and affordable hiking shorts for men and women.

A tip for the ladies: Consider bringing along a lightweight, mid-length skirt (like these) to allow for privacy when changing in and out of base layers on the trail and for unexpected restroom breaks in-between camps.

Fleece Jacket and Wind Breaker

For the colder stretches on the trail you should bring one mid-weight fleece jacket or parka top / jacket. Fleeces that use Polartec materials are great. Typically Polartec fleeces come in 100s, 200s or 300s. The 100s are a little light and 300’s too heavy. Two-hundreds provide great warmth and comfort, and are perfect for the Inca Trail.

Noteworthy brands include Columbia, The North Face, and Helly Hansen

Soft Shell Jacket

In addition to your fleece parka or jacket you should also have a water-resistant and wind-proof jacket shell layer. Again, you want this to be relatively light (not a winter jacket), but still warm and sturdy. It needs to withstand any rain that you will encounter (although as you will see below we recommend taking a cheap poncho / rain gear in addition to your shell jacket).

We recommend the Patagonia Torrentshell, The North Face Resolve or the Marmot Precip Jacket.

Rain Gear / Poncho

Finally, you can never truly predict the weather on the Inca Trail. As an extra precaution you should bring lightweight rain gear, or preferably a poncho that sits over your body.

Here is a recommended, cheap Hooded Waterproof Rain Poncho.

Sun Hat

You should bring a lightweight, easy-to-store sun hat to protect your head and face from getting sun burnt and reduce the probability of heat stroke. We prefer sun hats that have an adjustable neck cover, like the one shown adjacent. Do not bring a large bulky hat, like a straw hat, as these are difficult to store.

Here are some good hiking hats.

Neck / Head Band / Bandanas

If your hat doesn’t have a neck cover you might want to bring a neck or head band which can help protect against sun burn whilst doubling as a scarf or head and ear warmer during the cold nights.

Have a look at these versatile and seamless TYTN Bandanas, which are available in microfibre and polar fleece options. They are really affordable and can be used as a neckband, head cover, scarf, bandanna or wristband.

Fleece Beanie or Head Band

As we have already mentioned the nights get cold on the Inca Trail. We suggest bringing a winter fleece beanie or head band.

Sunglasses

Good sunnies are a must. At high altitude (greater than 4,000 meters) the UV intensity is high and visible light strong.

This can be damaging to your eyes. A leader in polarized glasses is Oakley. All their lenses provide 100% protection from UV A, B and C and their category 4 lenses block 90% of visible light. This is slightly over-kill for Machu Picchu as you will not be trekking under snowy conditions which intensifies visible light.

Nonetheless, a basic pair of Oakley’s will provide great versatility, are awesome value, and can be used equally well in non-mountain environments.

Headlamp

You should also bring a headlamp or torch which will be used in and around camp, and as a back-up if you are a little slow on the trail and finish your trek around dusk. Headlamps are preferable as they allow you to keep your hands free.

The leader in head torches is Petzl. We recommend getting the affordable, but good Petzl TIKKINA.

Hands and Walking

There is one mandatory item that you should bring for your hands – lightweight, weatherproof gloves – and another mandatory item you should bring to assist you in your trek – walking poles.

Here we discuss the key characteristics of both and provide some affordable recommendations.

Gloves

On the Inca Trail you are not going to experience blistering cold environments that require seriously insulated, heavy gloves or mitts, but you will likely encounter cold nips on the higher passes and in the mornings and evenings.

A pair of lightweight, breathable and weatherproof gloves that are built for high-output aerobic activities like trekking, yet provide some warmth in cool environments, is what you should be looking for.

Affordable, yet good lightweight, warm gloves, that provide some weatherproof functionality are made by Outdoor Research, Black Diamond and SealSkinz.

To deal briefly with the ‘weatherproof’ factor, gloves are intrinsically not waterproof as much as retailers will try 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 in the mornings or evenings.

Walking Poles

Walking or trekking poles are a must on the Inca Trail.

You will be trekking along an undulating landscape for up to 5-6 hours a day, for 3-4 days. Your leg joints, particularly your knees, will take a battering. With the aid of good trekking poles you will reduce the impact on your joints by up to 25% (a 1999 research study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine showed even better results than 25%). Poles also give you better balance.

An affordable but good quality trekking pole is the TYTN Aero. It’s lightweight, has a quick-lock system and uses a combined cork and EVA grip for great durability.

Alternatively, if you have a bigger budget then the Black Diamond Alpine Cork or the Leki Corklite are market-leading poles.

Affordable, yet good lightweight, warm gloves, that provide some weatherproof functionality are made by Outdoor Research, Black Diamond and SealSkinz.

Your trekking poles should be lightweight (250-350 grams per pole), adjustable (ideally with a lever-locking, not twist-locking mechanism), aluminium or carbon-fibre (not steel which is heavy and susceptible to snapping), and with a good, water-resistant grip (cork is most durable and performs well in wet conditions, rubber and foam are fine but not ideal for wet conditions).

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are one of the most important pieces of gear in your Inca Trail packing list. Your feet are what get you up and down the trail to Machu Picchu.

It is paramount that you bring a good pair of boots that are well-worn in (i.e. the inner sole should have started to mould to the shape of your foot).

Do not arrive with brand new boots that you haven’t worn yet – you will get blisters, sore feet and even loose toe-nails!

An affordable but good quality trekking pole is the TYTN Aero. It’s lightweight, has a quick-lock system and uses a combined cork and EVA grip for great durability.

Alternatively, if you have a bigger budget then the Black Diamond Alpine Cork or the Leki Corklite are market-leading poles.

Affordable, yet good lightweight, warm gloves, that provide some weatherproof functionality are made by Outdoor Research, Black Diamond and SealSkinz.

There are two key factors to look for in a boot – fit and quality.

To test good fit on a boot, place your foot inside the boot with a mid-weight trekking sock on. Push your foot all the way foward. Take your index finger and insert it between your heal 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.[/one_half_last]

In terms of quality you should look for these key characteristics.

  • Medium to high tops to support your ankle. The higher the top the heavier the boot. Ideally we recommend sturdy medium high tops made from leather or a leather-condura material
  • The sole should be made from rubber and have mid-to-deep lugs for good traction. The deeper the lugs the heavier the boot
  • Mid-weight boots are best for Machu Picchu. Heavy boots provide great cushioning and are very durable but can be a little heavy to trek in
  • The inner membrane should be waterproof. Gore-tex is the best material for this
  • The lacing-system should incorporate speed hooks or D-strings which provide additional ankle support

The Italian brand, Asolo, make incredible hiking boots. Have a look at their Asolo Fugitive hiking boot. Other good hiking boot brands include Salomon (see their Quest range ), Berghaus (see their Explorer range), the Timberland Chocorua or the Hi-Tec Men’s Altitude VI.

Trekking Shoes / Sandals

After a long day trekking the first thing you are going to want to do is take off your hiking boots and air your feet. We recommend bringing a basic pair of lightweight trekking shoes or sandals that you can slip into, whilst still wearing your socks for warmth. Alternatively you can bring a pair of lightweight trainers.

Here are some good hiking shoes or sandals.

Trekking Socks

You should bring 4 x pairs of trekking socks. Look for a light-to-mid weight trekking sock made of high wicking material. 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. Alternatively, a merino wool sock with a waterproof membrane is also an option. Avoid cotton as they absorb and retain moisture making your foot susceptible to blistering. If you are allergic to wool you can go for a synthetic acrylic or acrylic-blend sock.

Great trekking sock brands that meet all the criteria above include Smartwool, Bridgedale, Point 6 and Wigwam. These socks all have flat seams (bulky seams lead to greater friction and ultimately blistering) and provide great cushioning to the foot.

Gaiters (Optional)

Gaiters sit over your trekking boot and lower leg and prevent mud, water, pebbles, dust and grit from getting into your boots.

They come in use on rugged trails or in wet and unpleasant conditions. Most trails to Machu Picchu are relatively well worn but if you are trekking on the shoulder rainy months (March/April and October/November) you may want to consider bringing gaiters.

Backpacks and Daypacks

The type of bag that you should bring really depends on how your support team is composed.

On the Inca Trail many people carry their own gear with porters employed to carry camping materials (i.e. tents, food etc.). It is possible to hire a personal porter who will carry between 7kg-14kg of your gear and some tour companies include porters as standard in their service.

On the alternative Machu Picchu treks it is common for trekking companies to use pack animals like mules or llamas to carry gear. In this case around 5-7kg of your gear can be carried by a mule or llama.

When you arrive in Cusco you should separate your non-trekking gear into a small storage bag that you can leave for safe keeping in your hotel for collection when you return from Machu Picchu. If you plan to travel to Peru with a suitcase then inside pack your empty backpack or duffel bag, and when you arrive leave your non-trekking gear in the suitcase and use your backpack for the trail.

We recommend taking no more than 15kg of gear on your Inca trail trek (this includes your sleeping bag and sleeping mat). If you have porters then it is best to give them gear that you don’t need during each days’ hike, like your sleeping bag, sleeping mat, trekking sandals, spare clothes, toiletries etc, as they typically rush ahead of you to setup camp and hence you will not have access to this gear until you arrive at camp each evening.

You will be wearing approximately 3-5kgs of gear each day (i.e. your trekking boots, daily trekking clothes, hat, trekking poles etc.).

This leaves a maximum 3kg of gear that you need to carry yourself (i.e. rain gear, gloves, your camera, valuables, fleece etc.). Make sure you factor in the weight of water and snacks which can amount to another 2-3kg. Most people can keep their daypack lighter than 10kg.

If you are trekking without porters (this is unusual on the Inca Trail) then you should try to keep your total gear weight below 15kg, 3-5kg of which you will be wearing and 10-12kg carrying.

For trekkers on alternative trails like the Salkantay, Choquequirao, Lares or Vilcabamba, you can afford to be a little heavier as you will have mules who can carry 5-7kg of your gear.

If you plan to trek independently / unsupported on one of the alternative trails, then try pack as light as possible, keeping your pack under 20kg. You will be carrying your own tent, food and cooking equipment so avoiding any bulky items is important. We have not provided specific recommendations on packs for unsupported treks, but you will need at least a 50L backpack.

For Inca Trail and alternative trail trekkers, you should look for the following characteristics in your backpack / daypack.

Backpack / Daypack

Good backpacks are designed to transfer load weight to your hips. The shoulder straps should carry no more than 30% of the weight. Here are the key features to look for in your rucksack:

  • Size: The ideal size backpack for the Inca Trail is a 30-36L lightweight pack. These can easily carry a maximum load of 10kg. If you are trekking self-supported (no personal porter) then you might want to go up one level to a 40-50L pack. If you have managed to stay super light and have porter support then all you need is a small daypack for your bits and pieces (a 20L pack will be fine)
  • Waterproof: Backpacks are generally not waterproof, but good ones should be weather resistant. Look for design materials like pack cloth for the bag and Condura for high friction areas (i.e. inside of the straps). A water-resistant urethane coating is also beneficial
  • Design: For perfect fit the harness and suspension system should be multi-size and adjustable. The shoulder straps should be well padded and not restrict movement, and there should also be a hip belt that’s well padded. The best manufactures, like Osprey and North Face, design specific bags for women that have reshaped hip belts that are wider and more moulded; and narrower, but broader shoulder straps

Duffel Bag

The one complication that you might run into is transporting all your gear from your home country to Peru. Thirty to thirty-five litre packs like those mentioned above are relatively small. We suggest bringing all your gear including your rucksack in an 80-90L duffel bag. This can then be left in Cusco, storing your non-trekking gear, and your rucksack can be used solely on the trail.

For a really affordable, high quality duffel we recommend the TYTN Travel Duffel Bag.

Top tip: wear your hiking boots when travelling to Peru to reduce baggage weight.

Dry Bag

One other option that you may want to consider is taking a 30L drybag which can be used by your porters to carry your gear from camp to camp. We have seen a few trekkers use these types of bags as they are super waterproof.

There are a number of good options out there, our favourite is the Duc-Kit Pro Dry Bag.

Water Bottle / Hydration Bladder

Water Bottle

Due to the effects of altitude you need to stay well hydrated on the Inca Trail. You should aim to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. Water is typically supplied by your trekking crew at the beginning of each day.

You should check with the operator that your crew boil, filter and treat the water with water purification tablets before providing it to you.

As a precautionary measure you might want to bring your own Water Purification Tablets.

It is possible to buy water at certain points along the trail but we recommend against this as it’s expensive and leads to unnecessary waste on the trail.

Hydration Bladder

Alternatively, if you are using a rucksack like the Osprey or North Face mentioned above then a hydration bladder is very effective. You can go for the Osprey water bladder or our preferred water hydration bladder is made by Platypus.

Get a bladder that holds between 2-3 litres (anything more is too heavy!).

It is a good idea to add an isotonic powder, like Gaterade, to your water for additional energy and better taste.

Sleeping Bag and Accessories

There is one mandatory sleeping accessory – a sleeping bag – and four optional pieces of sleeping gear that form part of your Inca Trail packing list. Here we deal with each.

Sleeping Bags

A good quality and warm sleeping bag is a must on the Inca Trail. Here are the key characteristics to look for in a sleeping bag.

Please note: It is possible to rent a sleeping bag in Cusco but we recommend bringing your own as rented sleeping bags are often not great quality, and sometimes have questionable hygiene standards.

If you do plan to rent then make sure to look for the key characteristics set out below, and bring a sleeping bag liner with you to Peru for additional insulation and cleanliness.

Down vs. Synthetic

Sleeping bags come in two types – goose or duck down, and synthetic. Down sleeping bags are generally lighter, warmer and better quality. They are however, more expensive.

To decide between the two types, think carefully about how often you will be using the sleeping bag for future adventures or treks. Many people who trek the Inca Trail graduate to higher more challenging classic world treks like Mount Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit. A lightweight, warm down sleeping bag will serve you very well on most, if not all classic high altitude or winter treks, for many years into the future.

On the other hand, if the Inca Trail is just a one off with little likelihood that you will be going to high altitude or on winter trekking trips in the future, then a good synthetic will suffice.

Warmth

Regardless of season, it can get pretty cold at night on the Inca Trail (as seen on the temperature chart above). The coldest months coincide with the dry popular trekking season of May through September. During this time sub-zero temperatures are common at night. We recommend a four season bag for all year round with a rating of -10 C (14F). During the dry shoulder months of March-April and October-November you can get away with a three season bag (-4 C / 25F). December, January and February are very wet and not great for trekking. Visiting Machu Picchu by train is fine, but we would not recommend a trekking / camping trip at this time of the year.

Weight

As you / your porter will be carrying your sleeping bag, the lighter weight the better. There is however a tradeoff between warmth and weight. Try get a bag that is no more than 2.5kg.

Shape

Mummy-shaped sleeping bags are the best as they are designed to fit the contours of your body and hence provide great insulation. Sleeping bags that have an insulated hood and draw-chord are great. Another useful feature is a two-way zipping system that allows for easy unzipping at both ends.

Sleeping Mat (Optional)

A roll mat is typically provided by tour operators on Machu Picchu treks, but if you want to ensure that little extra sleeping comfort and insulation then you might want to bring a lightweight sleeping mat.

You can get a self-inflating version. We recommend Therm-a-rest mats.

Sleeping Bag Liner (Optional)

If you decide to go for a three season sleeping bag or rent a sleeping bag in Cusco, it’s worth bringing a sleeping bag liner for additional insulation should temperatures get really cold at night. Go for one that is mummy-shaped so that it fits your sleeping bag contours. Here are some good and affordable options.

Inflatable Pillow (Optional)

A simple inflatable pillow can come in handy if you are one of those people that needs a soft surface to rest your head. Alternatively just stuff the hood of your sleeping bag with some spare clothing.

Ear Plugs (optional)

It can get a little loud at the various camps. If you are a light sleeper basic ear plugs will prove to be very effective in giving you an uninterrupted nights rest

Other Accessories

Passport – You need your passport to enter the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. We recommend bringing a few copies of the identity page as well

Insurance – You should have trekking and travel insurance for the Inca Trail. Remember to write down your policy number and ideally carry a copy of your policy on you. If something does go wrong the trek you will want to contact your insurance company immediately. We have written a detailed guidance article on how to choice the right insurance here. We recommend World Nomads.

You can use the calculator below to get a quick quote or visit World Nomads directly.

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