The Inca Trail – The Essential Packing List

Machu Picchu

It’s most certainly the most famous hike in South America and probably one of the most famous hikes in the World. The Inca Trail is a bucket list must.

Hiking your way through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu is both back breaking (especially if you choose not to hire a porter) and awe-inspiring. 4 days of bitterly cold nights, knee aching climb’s and stomach churning toilets are dissipated by the dream -like cloud forests, mystic ruins and emerald peaks. Be prepared to see scenery and landscapes, unlike anything you have ever seen before.

Lynds back to Machu Picchu

Cloud Forrest, Peru


There is no denying that anyone about to embark on the Inca Trail is about to be put through their paces, however, there are a few secret weapons that can be pre-packed in order to make your Inca trail experience as pain-free and spectacular as possible.

Curved Terraces Machu Pichhu

Mosquito Repellant

Be prepared for a relentless onslaught of Mosquitos throughout the entirety of your trek.  They are everywhere and without descent repellant, you will be bitten to death. It’s worth investing in the strongest repellent possible. We found it impossible to find anything over 30% in Peru so, if possible, pre-buy in your home country ahead of travel. Our favourite is Lifesystems Expedition 100+

Coca Leaves

Coca leaves are readily available throughout Peru and cost next to nothing. They have been used by the Inca’s for hundreds of years to soothe and treat various ailments. Today they are regarded as a popular cure for altitude sickness and are consumed in vast quantities by the porters who trek the trail in their droves daily. Even if like Jake and I you are pretty well acclimatised to the altitude prior to the Inca trail, they are worth having in your back pocket as a number of the ascents are very steep and can cause even the most acclimatised to feel a little light headed.

Walking Sticks

As somebody who suffers from back pain, I have found hiking with walking sticks to be an invaluable aid. Using two sticks instead of one not only aids in improving your balance but is a massive help when climbing down the giant steps after Dead Woman’s Pass. As the majority of the hike is on stone cobbles I would recommend plastic tipped walking poles as they are less likely to slide across the stone steps.

Lynds looking down valley

Biodegradable Wet Wipes

These are nothing short of ESSENTIAL. Unlike other treks across Peru such as the Santa Cruz trek, the Inca trail is scattered with toilet cubicles and you are encouraged to use them rather than looking to nature as an alternative. Be warned the toilets are foul and are rarely equipped with any toilet roll or soap. Have a handy miniature pack of wet wipes to hand throughout the day as well as a larger pack for a wet wipe wash in the evening as there is only one (cold) shower available throughout the trek and it is at the end of day 3. 

Good quality walking boots with ankle support

Although the majority of the Inca trail is paved with stone the stones can get extremely slippery especially upon the descent. There were people on our trek who despite having walking shoes didn’t feel they had the grip or support they needed to handle the very steep steps especially when the stones are wet. It is definitely worth investing in some good quality boots that have been worn-in ahead of the Inca Trail. If you’re already travelling without boots, there are a number of good quality outdoor shops in Cusco including North Face which offer decent boots for £100.

Dry Shampoo (One for the girls)

If like me you can’t stand having greasy hair take a travel size bottle of dry shampoo with you to refreshen up your hair. There is a shower on day three but be prepared for ice cold water.


Most of the tour operators will provide up to 3 (sometimes 4) meals a day however due to the amount of energy you’ll be exerting you will want chocolate, nuts, fruit and sweets to snack on throughout the hike. There are stalls at various stop points across the trek, however, prices are steep (£2 for snickers!) After making it to Dead Woman’s pass you will want to treat yourself with a tasty treat so be prepared and pre-pack one ahead of the trek.

Benidicto and cake

Sleeping Mat

The ground that you will sleep on is very rough and stony and, believe me, isn’t conducive to a  good night’s sleep. Most tour operators provide a basic sleeping mat, but they are extremely thin and do very little. If you’re getting a porter to carry your bags, it is worth bringing your own inflatable mat in order to be in with a chance of a good night’s sleep.

Iburphophen Gel

It goes without saying that over the course of 4 days you are more than likely to encounter some aching and tired muscles. I take ibuprofen gel with me everywhere due to my bad back, however, it was probably one of the most in-demand items within our tour group who developed stiff knees, sore backs, and aching shoulders. You can pick it up in any pharmacy in Peru alongside stick on heat patches which I found helped my back during the cold nights.

Playing Cards

If like Jake and I you are planning on embarking on the Inca trail as part of a group tour, you’ll no doubt enjoy three nights of great food and warm coca tea to relax after four long days of hiking. We enjoyed hours of fun playing cards as a group, It’s a great way to get to know your group better and provides hours of fun.

Lots of warm clothes

The nights are bitterly cold which are only heightened be continually being outdoors. It’s worth packing some base layers which you can wear under your clothes at night. Pack two pairs of warm socks, one pair to hike in and one pair to sleep in.

Other essentials: Backpack, Sleeping bag, rain jacket, water bottle, water purification tablets, head torch, sunhat, wooly hat, gloves, sunglasses, SPF lip balm, blister plasters,

If you’re yet to book the Inca trail check out our handy guide to finding the best tour operator.

Lynds ruins day 3

Jake carrying bags

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