What to pack for your Machu Picchu adventure? Here is a detailed list of our recommendations for equipment and gear for the Inca Trail. Some of the key things to consider when you are buying equipment are the season that you will be hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the duration of your hike.
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The weather in the Peruvian Andes is directed by two main seasons, the dry season which lasts from April to late September, and the wet months from October through to March.
The dry season on the Inca trail is crowded with tourists, so we recommend that you plan your trip for the shoulder months of the dry season – late March or early April, or the October/November period.
It is strongly advised that you avoid hiking in the months of December, January and February (the Inca trail is actually closed for restoration in February) and while you can still visit Machu Picchu by train during these months, expect rain at the Citadel.
The daily temperatures in the region are moderate and consistent throughout the year, with the daytime average in the low 20s (Celsius) and the average night time temperatures around 5°C.
It is, however, not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing during the evening, so it is important to be prepared for a range of temperatures whatever time of the year you plan on hiking. Below are weather charts that show the weather that can be expected all year round, although we advise you to pack with rain in mind even if you are hiking in the dry season.
Even in the driest months of May, Jun, and July it is still possible to encounter a rainy day. It is important to pack with this possibility in mind so as not to be caught out in the rain without any protection. Please note: While the temperatures are relatively moderate in the day time, they are known to have fallen to freezing at all times of the year.
While this list caters specifically for the Inca trail, other treks to Machu Picchu often require a very similar packing list. Most of the items will therefore carry over, but make sure to compare the number of days you have planned to hike with the 3 to 4-day itinerary of the classic Inca trail.
Of course, if you plan to stay longer you will have to increase the number of hiking trousers, shirts, underwear and socks that you take along. Similarly, compare the conditions of the Inca trail with the alternative trek you have chosen, to make sure there are no additional pieces of equipment that you need. For example, if the trek is known to present a high volume of mud, it is often helpful for hikers to pack gaiters.
The best philosophy to combat variable weather is by layering. This means that you are able to easily add to your padding if you are at chilly high altitudes, or when you drop into a low shadowed valley, or in preparation for an icy evening, but you can also conveniently remove layers at the peak of the day’s heat.
The most important thing to remember when you are layering, though, is that each layer must allow moisture to pass through it and evaporate off into the air. This ability is largely dependent on the fabric of the clothing. For example, wool is known for its moisture transfer, wicking, properties, while material such as cotton and denim unhelpfully absorb moisture and should not be used. Below we summarise the types of clothing you will need to pack as well as recommendations specific to each.
A base layer is important as a first level of insulation for the cold evenings and misty mornings – you will be eager to remove it as the day heats up. While you will likely only need a top, you may want to also pack a pair of leggings just in case you hit a particularly cold spell.
We suggest you use Our recommended base layer clothing is manufactured by Smartwool or Icebreaker – as they make market-leading lightweight, merino wool products at a good price, but any merino-wool base layer will be fine.
For hiking shirts, we suggest you pack 3 x short sleeved tops, as well 1 x light-weight long-sleeved shirt. The best fabric for your shirt is a breathable, quick-drying merino, polyester or nylon. Make sure to avoid cotton. These lightweight, breathable shirts from Merino 365 are good or any shirts from Wooly and Smartwool would be fine.
Mountain IQ has a selection of branded Machu Picchu hiking attire – you can even get a 10% discount by using the code MPTrek.
If your trek is 3 to 4 days long, you will probably need 1-2 pairs of trousers, and potentially an additional pair for hikes longer than 4 days. Recommend brands include: Columbia, CQR, prAna or Gash Hao.
Otherwise, it is a good idea to pack a pair of trekking shorts for warm afternoons, such as Black Diamond Notion or these by Columbia. Here are women's equivalents from Columbia and Jack Wolfskin.
You might want to pack a wrap-around sarong or mid-length skirt to allow you to change your base-layers underneath as there is not much privacy in the campsites.
On the nippier evenings, you will need to cover up with something a bit warmer, so you’ll need to pack a mid-weight fleece, preferably one made of Porlartec material. Polartec generally comes in grades of 100s, 200s or 300s and the Columbia option is typically warm enough for the Inca trail.
Although more expensive, one of the best fleeces for Polartec are Patagonia for women and for men.
Alternatively, we also found sleeveless puff jackets and vests useful, like North Face Acancagua Puffed Vest, Nuptse and Campshire Sherpa Fleece. They also cost a bit less.
Over your fleece jacket you will need to have a weather-resistant layer. This should be relatively light but warm and durable enough to protect you from wind and rain.
A few options include North Face Men's Resolve Jacket for men and for women.
You'll still need to pack a basic poncho to keep most of the moisture out. These are cheap and practical: rain poncho or rain poncho with a hood
A headband can double as neck-protection from the sun, as well as a scarf and ear-warmer for chilly evenings. TYTN headband, helps keep your neck and face protected and prevents particulates entering your throat when you breath.
During the out-of-season winter months (Dec, Jan and Feb), we highly recommend bringing a balaclava or neckband. Here are some these winter balaclavas or or this one.
Order a TYTN duffel directly and get a FREE: Neck Warmer, 2 x TSA locks and Rain Cover.
As extra insulation for your head on the cold nights, a winter fleece beanie is recommended, especially if you haven’t already packed a headband. A warm fleeced beanie or fleeced headband are absolute must-haves: North Face and provide good beanies.
Good sunglasses are necessary because of the UV intensity at high altitudes which causes eye-damage.
Their lenses offer 100% protection from UVA, UVB and UVC and their lenses block 90% of visible light from entering your eyes. Although these features are not strictly necessary in Machu Picchu – you will not suffer the glare from reflection off snow – but a simple pair of Julbos are still a good idea.
For example, mountain sunglasses from Oakley or Julbo Montebianco Mountain are good quality and highly versatile.
Alternatively some cheapos from Duduma could be ok also.
Lightweight, waterproof, breathable gloves are mandatory to help you on the higher-altitude passes and for the chilly morning and evenings. Look for a pair that is designed for aerobic activity, but with a little extra warmth.
Pearl Izumi Thermal Lite Gloves are good and should work when the weather is moderately cold. Ozero and Under Armour also makes ok thin gloves.
Please Note: Even if the gloves you buy are marketed as “waterproof”, the hole for your hand leaves enough room for water to enter the glove no matter the properties of the material itself. If there is enough rain, the inside of your gloves will get drenched, which will be seriously inconvenient for the rest of your trip.
We advise that you reserve your gloves for chilly, dry mornings and evenings and not wear them during downpours.
Your hiking boots can make or break your experience. It's crucial that you arrive with a good pair of boots that has already been broken in to avoid a hike plagued with sore feet, blisters or bleeding toes. The most important factors to look out for when purchasing your boots are fit and quality.
To check if your boots fit properly, first try them on with a mid-weight trekking sock on and push your foot to the front of the shoe. Place your index finger between your heal and the back of the boot – if your finger fits snugly then this is the right shoe fit for you.
There are a number of things to look out for to determine the quality of a hiking boot:
Some of the best brands for hiking boots are from Salomon, Scarpa, Mishmi and Hi-Tec. For the best boots, see the Scarpa Kailash, Salomon X Ultra and Quest or anything from Meindl Ohio for budget boots.
For women, Columbia Newton Ridge (heavy) and Newton Ridge+ (light) could be great.
After a long day on your feet, you will want to take your hiking boots off as quickly as possible for relief. A simple pair of light-weight sandals will be perfect to air your feet. Alternatively, you could pack a pair of lightweight trainers. Consider Ecco® Yucatan or KEEN Whisper.See our reviews of the hiking sandals available.
Bring along 4 pairs of socks – or one for each day of your hike. Light-to-mid weight socks made of high wicking material are perfect. Some options are merino wool, or if you are allergic to wool you can opt for a synthetic acrylic or acrylic-blend sock.
You can also go for a sock which has a waterproof membrane, but remember that cotton socks they absorb water and promote the formation of blisters, so they are not ideal for hiking. It is also important that your chosen socks have flat seams which prevent blistering.
The sock brands which could work well include MIRMARU, Danish Endurance or any socks from Smartwool.
Gaiters are zipped over your lower leg, covering the top of your hiking boot to prevent mud, water, pebbles, dust and grit from entering your boots. These are not usually necessary as most trails on the way to Machu Picchu are heavily trodden. Gaiters may come in handy if you are hiking in a particularly rainy season, as the mud can be an irritation to trudge through.
Walking or trekking poles are essential to saving your knees on the thousands of steps you will be climbing up and down. We find that the best value for money foldable trekking poles are from TYTN, a small brand for hikers.
With the help of trekking poles, the shock to your joints will be reduced by 25 % - even higher according to a 1999 study published by the Journal of Sports Medicine.
Poles also help to improve your balance on the trail, minimising the risk of a nasty fall.
Depending on the kind of money you want to spend on your poles, there are a range of options.
You'd need adjustable light-weight trekking poles (around 350 grams per pair) that are easy to store, durable and versatile. For great value, check out the TYTN CARBON X Trekking Poles that come as an offer and include a free neck warmer.
Alternatively, if you have more budget, our favourite is the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or Leki Micro Vario.
Order TYTN poles directly and get a FREE neck warmer.
A headlamp/ torch will be used when you are walking around the campsite and preparing for bed in the evenings. You may need it on the trail if you are up before sunrise, and if you lag and reach the campsite after dusk has fallen.
Petzl is the leading producer of head torches, and we suggest getting either PETZL REACTIK+ (premium) or PETZL Tikka (budget).
The bag that you bring is highly dependent on the support team that you have accompanying you. On the Inca trail, it is common for trekkers to carry their own gear, while porters will carry camping materials like you tent and food.
If you have the extra cash, some people hire a porter who will carry 7-14kgs of your personal gear as well. On some of the alternatitve hikes to Machu Picchu it is common for companies to use pack animals (mules or llamas) to carry around 5kg of your gear.
When you arrive in Cusco, you will separate your hiking gear from the rest of your travel kit. You will typically leave the surplus clothes in your hotel, so it is important that you either pack a small duffel bag or simply use your main travel suitcase and pack your hiking backpack inside that.
If you have porters, it is important that you separate the gear that you will need during the day from the items that you don’t need that the porters will be able to carry straight to the next campsite for you.
Every day, you will be wearing a total of about 3-5kg of kit. This means that you will have to carry about 3kg of gear yourself, as well as 2-3kg for snacks and water.
Overall, most people keep their daypack below 10kgs. If you are trekking without porters, you will need to be conservative with the weight of kit you bring. Try keep your total kit below 15kg (including the 3-5kg of kit you will be wearing).
Order a TYTN duffel directly and get a FREE: Neck Warmer, 2 x TSA locks and Rain Cover.
When looking at backpacks, one of the key features is the ability of the bag to transfer most of the weight onto the trekkers hips. Your shoulders should support no more than 30 % of the total weight. Critical features of a good backpack include:
For a good unisex daypack, we suggest the Osprey Talon 33 or Osprey Talon 22. Another option is the North Face Casimir 32 for men and the North Face Casimir 27 for women.
Finally, you may want to bring along a 30L dry bag, such as the Duc-Kit Pro Premium. These are super waterproof and especially helpful for a porter to transport your personal items in.
One of the main tips to avoid altitude sickness is to stay well hydrated throughout your trek. On the trek, you should drink 2-3L of water per day. Although your touring company should take care to provide you with clean water, you might want to bring water-purification tablets or Isotonic powderalong as an added precaution and to make the water taste better.
To carry your daily water, you can bring along two 1L bottles or use a hydration bladder that holds 2-3L. Some of our favourite products are CamelBak Eddy 1L or, if your daypack includes space for a hydration bladder (the Osprey Talons do), the 2L Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir .
It is possible to rent a sleeping bag in Cusco, but we advise against it due to their dubious hygiene standards and problematic quality.
If you still decide to rent a sleeping bag, make sure to bring a sleeping bag liner from home and follow the guidelines below to make sure your bag is reasonably reliable. Consider Sea to Summit Thermolite.
A good quality sleeping bag is just as important as good hiking shoes. The following are the key characteristics to keep in mind when buying or borrowing your sleeping bag for Machu Picchu:
Cheaper synthetic bags:
- Marmot Trestles 15 -9C, lightweight
- Mountain Hardwear Lamina 15 -9C, lightweight, top of the range
- Coleman North Rim 0, -10 C somewhat heavy
Down bag: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 men only, -9C, super-light)
Passport – you need it to enter the Inca trail and Machu Picchu. Bring a few certified copies too just in case
Insurance – travel and trekking insurance is required by most trekking companies, and we highly recommend taking it out before your trip. Remember to write down and bring down your policy number, as well as a copy of the policy you have signed up for, just in case.
Trekking towel (optional) – this might be of use after a rainy (or sweaty) day on the mountain to dry off. You might also have the option to shower in one of the campsites, so a towel will come in handy
Swimsuit (optional) – For the hot springs near Aguas Calientes, just below Machu Picchu, where you can enjoy a well-deserved dip
Small umbrella (optional) can be really useful if you encounter a light drizzle. You may want to avoid putting on your full waterproof kit, so an umbrella is a helpful precursor.
Sweat-resistant sunblock is crucial to a successful hike. Make sure that you get one with an SPF of higher than 30, and that the product is sweat-resistant. P20 is known as the best option for any athlete. Bring along lip-protecting sunblock too.
Insect repellent is necessary to ward off irritating flies and mosquitoes. Reliable brands with a Deet content of at least 90% are best. Although Cusco is considered a low-risk malaria area, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Wet Wipes – Perfect for a quick wipe down after a long day’s exercise, and helpful to freshen up. Also bring hand-sanitizer to clean your hands before meals.
Waterproof ziplock bags of variable sizes for you to separate your wet and dry clothing. Bring small zip lock bags for your valuables such as your camera, money and passport.
Pee funnel (optional) – Many women find a pee bottle invaluable on the trek, but men can of course also bring one along for convenience. Look at the option by Freshette.
Blister plasters with pain relief.
General Medication – Bring along a Paracetamol based pain killer to ward off early headaches due to altitude sickness. Your guide should also bring along a first aid kit.
Snacks – Bring along about 2 energy bars for each day on the trail, as well as other healthy energy foods such as raw nuts.
Toiletries – In addition to the toiletry standards (toothbrush, toothpaste, travel soap etc), make sure to pack a roll of toilet paper for your hike.
Cash –Bring along cash in US dollars for tips, and in Soles for small mementos and access to toilets in Machu Picchu. The tips should amount to about ($5/day for porters per trekker, and $20/day for guides per trekker).
Book or Kindle – Machu Picchu reading material will really add to your overall experience. Some recommendations include The White Rock by Hugh Thomas which give a great background about the search for the Lost City. The Footprints Cusco & Inca Heartland guidebook also provides a brilliant overview of the history of the region.
Camera to make these once-in-a-lifetime memories last. Some good options are given here, or you can bring along a GoPro Hero, if you are worried about packing too heavily. Remember to bring along everything fully charged as there will be no charging points on the trail.
If you have any further questions or queries about this Inca Trail Packing List for Machu Picchu, then please leave a comment below and we'll respond as soon as possible.