What to pack for your Machu Picchu adventure?
Here is a detailed and ever-refining list of our recommendations for equipment.
Some of the key influences to consider when you are buying equipment, are the season that you will be visiting Machu Picchu, the duration and a route of your trek.
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 (degrees 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. For more details see our article on Best Time To Hike To Machu Picchu.
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 Smartwool, 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.
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.
Some of the best brands for lightweight trousers are from Fjällräven or Craghoppers. Many hikers appreciate the space-saving convenience of packing convertible trousers, such as these from Craghoppers.
Otherwise, it is a good idea to pack a pair of trekking shorts for warm afternoons, such as those sold by Columbia.
It’s also a good idea 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 200 option is typically warm enough for the Inca trail.
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.
As we’ll suggest below, you will still need to pack an additional, cheap poncho to keep most of the moisture out.
A headband can double as neck-protection from the sun as well as a scarf and ear-warmer for chilly evenings.
We love the design and feel of the new multi-purpose TYTN Bandanas & Neck Warmers.
They’re also really inexpensive and well worth the extra few dollars.
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.
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 purchasing the Petzl Tikka.
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 provides you with a little extra warmth.
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 therefore advise that you reserve your gloves for chilly, dry mornings and evenings and do not wear them during downpours.
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.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork is of high quality, but is correspondingly pricey.
You hiking boots are arguably your most critical piece of equipment, and can make or break your experience.
It is crucial that you arrive with a good pair of boots that has already been broken in so that you avoid a hike plagued with sore feet, blisters and even loose toenails.
The most important factors to look out for when purchasing your boots are fit and quality.
First, the fit. 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:
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.
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.
However these may come in handy if you are hiking in a particularly rainy season, as the mud can be an irritation to trudge through.
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).
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.[/one_half_last]
Your shoulders should support no more than 30 % of the total weight. Critical features of a good backpack include:
The Osprey and North Face rain covers are also suitable to provide water resistance.
To bring all your travelling and hiking equipment along to Peru requires quite a large duffel bag.
We recommend a 80-90L bag which can be left in Cusco to store your non-trekking clothes, such as the one sold by TYTN.
Finally, you may want to bring along a 30L dry bag, such as the Duc-Kit Pro dry bag. 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.
Experts advise that you 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 along as an added precaution.
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 the Camelback Water Bottle, the Osprey water bladder, or the hydration water bladder made by Platypus.
You might also want to pack an isotonic powder such as Gaterade, to help the water taste better.
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.
Cheaper synthetic bags:
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) – a small, foldable umbrellacan 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 – getting the right sunscreen 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 – a general 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.
Dry Plastic Bags – Bring a few plastic 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 Bottle – 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 – Even if you are fit and your shoes broken in, trekking up to 7 hours a day can be really hard on your feet and cause blisters. Take early action against blisters to reduce the damage and discomfort they will cause you.
When applying the blister plaster, remove all moisture from the irritated area and use a good brand such as Leukotape P. and Compeed. Make sure that you don’t use duct tape as some might recommend – it is not made for medical use and suffocates the wound underneath it.
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/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 – It is a great idea to bring along a camera to make these once-in-a-lifetime memories last. Some good options are given here, or you can bring along a GoProif 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.