Preparing for the bucket-list hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu comes with a lot of planning. We make it easier by securing permits, booking hotels before and after the hike, and making sure you have the best guides and porter crew on the trail—after all, we have 40 years of experience here. Yet one thing we cannot do is pack your bag. Luckily, we have this handy list of less obvious items that you should definitely bring on the Inca Trail. Enjoy!
Hydration bladder for your daypack (and a cover for the mouthpiece)
The hydration bladder should be a no-brainer because it is so convenient while you’re hiking. We recommend at least 2-3 liters (anything more is added weight because you can refill during lunch), along with a daypack that can accommodate—somewhere between 20-36L daypacks should suffice. What most people don’t remember is ensuring you have a cover on your mouthpiece to protect it from outside elements, one of the causes of illness while on the trail. I actually forgot a cover for my mouthpiece and ended up using a small toiletries bag from the hotel. It worked perfectly well for me and saved me from worrying about my mouthpiece accidentally brushing up against things whenever I set it down.
Electrolyte powder or tablets
Because of the high altitude—nearly 14,000 feet!—these really came in handy even at times when I didn’t think I needed them. They were the added boost I needed to get over Dead Woman’s Pass as well as a great recovery supplement after our first day on the trail. Gatorade and Nuun carry some of my favorite electrolyte powder.
My husband and I normally do not hike with hiking poles, but we were so grateful to have them on the Inca Trail. Parts of the hike will feel like you’re on an endless Stairmaster, and the poles help take some of the weight off your knees and provide extra stability during the downhill portions. They also work well if you need to point something out on the trail.
I went back and forth as to whether I wanted to pack the extra weight of a book; however, I am so glad I decided to bring one for the nights at camp. After dinner, I usually settled into my sleeping bag to read before falling asleep. I recommend Turn Right at Machu Picchu and Lost City of the Incas, or maybe a phrasebook if you want to practice your Spanish with the guides and porters.
A good hat (for the sun and rain)
We tell you to pack for all different types of weather, so it’s important to have multi-functional items. I packed a mesh hat with a duckbill to protect myself from the sun on clear days, and it kept my rain jacket hood out of my face on rainy days. When you’re not using it, you can easily strap it to your daypack.
Cash (with envelope for tips)
It may seem odd to bring cash when you’re not planning on shopping on the trail, but most of our porters head back on our final hiking day so we don’t see them once we arrive at Machu Picchu. Your Trip Leader will usually collect and distribute any tips for porters on your last morning on the trail.
Spirit of Adventure
It may rain. Your altitude medication may give you vivid dreams. You may break down in tears of joy when you set eyes on Machu Picchu. There’s no telling what this journey holds for you as an individual, all we can tell you is that it will be an adventure. We do our best to make sure you’re prepared before and during the trip so you can embrace everything this experience has to offer. It is one of our highest-rated and best-selling trips, and for good reason.
—Text by WT writer, Kirstina Bolton Motamedi. Check out her other blog post of her experience hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu here. See our full recommended packing list under “Pre-Departure Information” here.