Thousands flock to Peru every year to hike to Machu Picchu. The most popular route is to hike the Inca Trail which requires planning as the dates for the trek fill up fast (hikers should book at least six months in advance). Although famous, the Inca Trail is not the only route, in fact – there are 14 ways to Machu Picchu. This ultimate guide on what to pack for Machu Picchu includes an Inca Trail packing list as well as essentials for the Lares Trek (which we, Gemma and Craig, completed), Salkantay Trek and the thrill-seeking Jungle Trek as well as what to wear on the big day! All Machu Picchu packing lists have been tried and tested by seasoned travellers, so you can trust their advice on what works, and what you can leave behind. Remember, you will be restricted by size and weight specifications and/or what you can realistically carry on your back. Feel free to use the ‘jump to’ section to select your hike of choice.
Know before you go
Most of hotels and hostels in Cusco offer storage for rucksacks and suitcases and the majority of Machu Picchu hike companies provide duffel bags (max weight 5-8kg) which are carried by porters and donkeys. It is advised to fill your own day bag with hiking essentials, first aid items, water and snacks, although most companies provide snacks too. Treks require camping and it gets cold at night so consider this when reviewing our packing lists.
You must wear in your hiking boots/shoes before trekking, there is no time for sore feet although you can hire a donkey if required. Altitude sickness is real! Acclimatise in Cusco before you set off on your multi-day hike to one of the new modern seven wonders of the world! Quick note, the most important item you must pack is your passport or you will not get access to Machu Picchu!
Naturally, we do not advise going away on any trip without travel insurance. I researched which provider to commit to for weeks (I am that annoying customer) and settled with True Traveller because they cover high altitude hiking (not all providers will). I had to use them while in Vancouver, I had one GP visit and two stints at a physio; True Traveller paid out quickly which was ideal as we were on a budget.
What to Pack for Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (also known as Camino Inca or Camino Inka) is the most popular hike in Peru. The 4-day day hike passes through forest, villages and Inca ruins but due to its popularity, the trail closes every February for cleaning. A maximum of 500 people are allowed to hike per day and this includes 300 porters and guides. Camping is required each night, baby wipes are essentials and there is a 3am wake-up call to hike to Inti Punku to catch the sunrise. So bearing all of this in mind, here’s your Inca Trail Packing List.
Inca Trail Packing List
By Claudia Tavani | My Adventures Across The World
Packing for the Inca Trail is easier said than done, and it requires a bit of planning. One essential thing to keep in mind is that walking it is harder than you may think, given the altitude and the almost daily rain. What you pack depends on whether you intend to hire a porter.
There’s a strict, no more than 7 kg of weight that an individual can give to a porter, and that also includes the weight of the sleeping bag.
If you decided to carry your own backpack you can obviously take on more weight, but I advise against it. In fact, my tops are to pack as light as possible, hire the services of a porter, and only take a small daypack with daily essentials along. I have seen various people refusing to hire a porter and giving in on day two of the trail.
Having said so here’s a strictly essential packing list for walking the Inca Trail
Clothes and gear
- Hiking boots – don’t even consider wearing anything else. Running shoes may be lighter and more comfortable, but you really want all the extra ankle support
- Hiking pants/trousers – best if water resistant
- A good rain and windproof coat and an extra poncho to wear on top, if necessary. Keep in mind that if walking in the winter, it may get even colder than expected
- A change of pants/trousers – preferably leggings which can also be worn as pyjamas
- A thermal shirt – it does get tremendously cold at night
- One or two extra t-shirts
- A good sweater, best if a fleece
- A hat and a scarf
- A couple of changes of underwear
- Hiking socks
- Flipflops – for resting your feet at night
- A refillable water bottle – read Gemma’s review here
- A headlamp
- Snacks – they are typically provided on the trail, but they are very basic (popcorn, some fruit) so if you think you’ll need the extra energy, carry a couple of energy bars and some trail mix
- Cash – to tip the guides and the porters
- Camera and/or phone
- Power bank – there’s no way to change anything during the hike (Two Scots Abroad never travel without this one by Anker)
- Extra memory card
You won’t be able to shower at all during the Inca Trail, so spare yourself the weight and just take a small bar of soap and hand sanitizer, a pack of wet wipes, deodorant, travel toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, sunblock and a small moisturizer (take a sample), mosquito repellent, lip balm
- A small quick dry towel
- A roll of toilet paper
- Prescription medications and common drugs – paracetamol, Imodium, etc
Lares Trek Packing List
The Lares Trek is one alternative to the Inca Trail and it covers four days/three nights (two nights camping and one in a hotel in Aguas Calientes). Wake up calls are early, the nights are cold and the hardest part of the hike is reaching 4650m (15255ft) above sea level at the Condor’s Pass. The reward? A hot chocolate at the top, in the snow. Like the Inca Trail, you can hire porters and donkeys to carry your larger bags (max weight 8kg, usually provided by company). This is the hike that Craig and I did, here’s our packing list for the Lares Trek.
Clothes and gear (male/female)
- Quality raincoat (I love my Marmot as it is light and folds into its own pocket)
- Leggings/walking trousers
- Waterproof trousers, the packaway ones are fine – I lived in these Trespass ones (everyone wears waterproofs)
- Shorts (wore at Machu Picchu)
- 3 vest tops (you will want a clean outfit for Machu Picchu)
- A cardigan/fleece
- Gloves (I bought wool ones from the market for 8 soles, Craig paid 11 soles on the road)
- 4 x underwear
- 1 x bra
- 4 x socks
- Scarf? (I found useful as a cover too)
- Quality poncho (our company gave us this)
- Sunglasses (for when you are lucky!)
- Quality bag cover
- Walking sticks (you can hire for $15)
- Camera/phone (cover-up in the rain, one of our team lost her camera to the rain Gods)
- Money (limited opportunity to buy during trek but needed for tipping and Machu Picchu day as lunch is not included)
- Passport (needed for Machu Picchu, we learned the hard way…)
- Swimwear/towel for day one baths
Toiletries and medicine
- Baby wipes
- Deodorant (1 x stick / 1 x small spray)
- Dry shampoo
- Hair bobble and kirby grips/bobby pins
- Suntan lotion (vital)
- Deet (or any insect repellent, your guide may show you the natural plant version!)
- Tissues (or steal some toilet roll)
- Blister pads (you won’t find these in Cusco, invest in Leukotape which I always tape up with before hikes)
- Coca leaves/ash or coca sweets for altitude
Machu Picchu Shoes
Each packing list stresses the need to have decent walking boots! The second most important tip I can offer (number one is to remember your passport) is to break in your hiking shoes before you touchdown in Peru. As mentioned above, trainers will not cut it. Multi-day hikes take their toll on your joints, you are already putting your body under tremendous stress by walking at high altitude so do your knees a favour and invest in a decent pair of walking boots or shoes.
I actually prefer trek trainers like these walking shoes by Salomon because they are lighter for packing and I don’t like boots touching my ankles after previous Achilles trauma!
Also, pack one pair of flipflops to let your feet breathe at night and give them a rest. You won’t want to put your feet back into your boots once they are off and there’s no way you should be going to the toilet barefooted.
First Aid Kit
- Painkillers (headaches with altitude)
- Malaria tablets (if taking)
- Coca leaves/sweets
- Others had prescribed altitude sickness tablets – discuss with your doctor
- Update: I never travel without these hydration tablets now (mostly as a hangover cure!)
- Plastic bags for rubbish/wet clothes
- Cereal bars (one box)
- Bananas (green ones ripen in one day)
Salkantay Trek Packing List
By Owen Ter | My Turn to Travel
Salkantay differs slightly to the Inca and Lares because the hike can last from three to five days and optional activities are offered along the way such as zip-lining, horseback riding and hot spring dips! The highest point is 4600m above sea level. Owen from My Turn to Travel went for the long haul and hiked for five days and four nights. Here’s his Machu Picchu hike packing list.
- 1 day pack for essentials
- 1 day pack/duffel bag carried by mules (depending on your agency, it might be provided and maximum weight is 5-7kg)
Clothes and gear
- Towel (showers are available on the final day hotel at the Agua Calientes)
- Bathing suit for Santa Teresa hot spring
Hiking t-shirts split into followings:
- 1 or 2 t-shirts for high altitude trek (cold)
- 1 for humid weather (cloud forest hike)
- 1 for a hot (trek from Santa Teresa to Agua Calientes)
- 1 for Machu Picchu outfit (photo opp!)
Hiking pants long and short for different climate at different sections of the trek
- Wear long pants if doing ziplining. There are TONS of blood-sucking insects
- Underwear for 5 days trekking
- Thermals (or base layer) for first night campsite at >3900m and second-night campsite 2900m
- Fleece jacket
- Rain jacket
- Insulated jacket (recommended to wear layers as internal heat generated keeps trekkers warm)
- Gloves (it can get very cold at campsite and Salkantay pass)
- Beanie for cold weather
- Sleeping bag/pad -10 degrees C (Available to rent from company)
- Refillable water bottle (min 1L)
- Trekking poles (optional, can hire from company)
- Small locks for the duffel bag on the mules
- Waterproof ziplock bags
- Trekking shoes
- Socks for five days (two days cold, three days warmer) + extra socks in case of rain
Toiletries and medicine
- First aid kit (hangover remedy is recommended – cheap drinks at Santa Teresa’s campfire)
- Insect repellent and itch cure
- Wet wipes and hand sanitiser
- Toilet Paper
- Passport for Machu Picchu
- Charging cables for phones and camera (charge at Agua Calientes hotel)
- Fruits/additional food and drinks
- Beer and drinks available at various campsites
- Bus to hot spring (15 soles)
- Hot spring entrance fee (10 soles)
- Ziplining (100 soles)
- Photos for ziplining
- Exploring Aguas Calientes (food, drinks, souvenirs)
- Payment receipt – Important!
- Train ticket/receipt if included
- Huayna Picchu/Machu Picchu Mountain ticket if included
Lastly, prop for Machu Picchu money shot… Check out Owen’s guide to the Salkantay Trek.
Inca Jungle Trek packing list
By Patrick Muntzinger | German Backpacker
The Inca Jungle Trek is a great way to reach Machu Picchu since it’s a nice mix of trekking and fun activities such as zip lining, mountain biking and rafting. Your accommodation will be guest houses (no camping equipment needed) and your guide will also take care of all your meals.
An important note: don’t book the trek online in advance – you’ll pay most likely four times as much as people who book the trek directly in Cusco. There’s always enough availability (even in high season), so walk around Cusco, compare different offers and make sure to get a good deal – 150$ for the four days, including all accommodation, activities, meals and entrance to Machu Picchu is a fair price.
After this is sorted, it’s time to pack your bag! Here’s the ultimate packing list for the Machu Picchu Jungle Trek
Clothes and gear
- 1 x pair of long pants (especially in winter, it cools down in the night)
- 2 x pair of shorts (good for hiking)
- 1 x swimming trunks (you’ll go rafting)
- 4 x t-shirts
- 1 x sweater (for these cool evenings)
- 1 x rain jacket (especially in the rainy season!)
- 4 x underwear and socks
- Hiking shoes (comfortable for a lot of walking)
- Flipflops (for the guesthouses and rafting)
- Passport and documents
- Headlamp or torch (you’ll start climbing up to Machu Picchu when it’s still dark)
- Chargers and adapter
- Camera and phone
- Candy and snacks
Toiletries and medicine
- Toilet paper (always good to have in South America)
- Travel towel
- Mosquito spray
Generally, it’s recommended and possible to pack very lightly for the Inca Jungle Trek. Since you’ll have a guide with you, everything is basically organised. Make sure to take only a small daypack which is comfortable to carry on your back (remember there is biking), and you’ll be fine!
What to wear to Machu Picchu
It is likely that you will visit Machu Picchu early in the morning to miss the crowds so you will need a warm layer until the clouds lift. Thereafter, your outfit will really be weather dependent so pack a raincoat in your day bag and be conservative with your dress code.
You can wear shorts and vest tops but dresses may be questioned (check out Follow Me Away’s story). 2017 rules allow cameras but tripods and drones need to be left in Cusco. Suntan lotion is also recommended, even if it’s misty you can still get burnt.
Machu Picchu trek packing list overview
Personally, I feel we packed efficiently for our trek. We advise you to carry snacks, your first aid kit, sunglasses, camera, phone, hats, gloves and most importantly, your passport in your Machu Picchu daypack and remember to collect your stamp at the entrance!
Now, this might sound crazy but I am seriously considering a hammock for future hikes/camping trips. Naturally, this would only be seriously considered in warmer climates with a low mosquito count, but every time I see someone with a hammock (even in the airport, genius!) I am super jealous. This cause also helps out homeless people – win-win!
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» Read next: our international hiking packing list