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Minimalist Inca Trail Packing List for Late August/Early September

I am really into packing lists. I will spend days perfecting my packing list in Excel or in a notebook, and then when I actually pack, it takes me about ten minutes because I’m so overly prepared. Packing for a four-day hike through the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was no different. I have poured over every packing list I could find to come up with my perfect list, and then I put it to the test! So now I can share with you my perfect Minimalist Inca Trail Packing List! It is tried, tested and true!

A few points to clarify before we get started.

  1. I was very lucky with weather. Fortunately, we did not get caught in any real rain and it was never too hot or too cold (for reference, our travel dates 8/30 – 9/2). Some of us put on ponchos for about a second, but it was completely not necessary. I know that this is not everyone’s luck. Even though I didn’t get caught in much rain, my packing list does account for rain and all of my waterproof recommendations have been tested in rain (just not on the Inca Trail) and I think they’re absolutely necessary, even though I didn’t personally use them for rain.
  2. This is a minimalist packing list. Because this trip came in the middle of a three-month stint in South America, everything I packed for this trip had to come out of the backpack I’ve been carrying around with me for the past three months. While there are many things I might have liked to have with me, I simply couldn’t commit to lugging them around for three months unless they were absolutely essential.
  3. I’m a girl. This is my packing list as a 28-year-old female. Kenny’s list as a male was slightly different, but mostly just in that it included the male versions of my recommendations. I am not super girly (though you will find BB Cream on this list) and I’m fairly comfortable re-wearing slightly dirty clothes, which is why I don’t have a separate outfit for every day of this trip.

Alright! Now let’s get started.

Inca Trail Packing List


QuantityItemProduct ExamplePersonal Notes
3Fitness T-shirt, wickingNike Dri-Fit TI say three if you want to wear a clean shirt (almost) every day. Kenny brought two and probably would have been fine with one, especially if you're wearing it over your long sleeve base layer, which I did.
1Fitness Long Sleeve Base Layer, wickingNike Dri-Fit Long SleeveI wore this everyday to protect from sun and bugs, so you want it to be light and comfy.
1Half-zip Long Sleeve, wickingNike Element Running TopI wore this for warmth on cooler days and at night.
1Warm Fleece SweaterPatagonia Better SweaterI love this fleece for everything. It's a little pricey, but worth it for a quality piece I wear all the time. Also, I got mine 25% off on Black Friday at a sporting goods store, so there are deals that can be had if you look hard!
1Waterproof, Windproof, Warm JacketThe North Face Apex Bionic Jacket It gets pretty cold at the top of Dead Woman's Pass so it's good to have a warm layer. This is also perfectly waterproof so a good layer for rainy days, too. I've raved about this jacket for a while, and it has gotten me through many Chicago winters, so it has been put to the test. If you're buying new, I'd recommend one with a hood, but mine didn't have one.
1Fitness Capri Pants, wickingCompression Capri LeggingsEveryone told me I needed real hiking pants for this trek and they were wrong. You will be just fine in fitness capris or pants! They don't even have to be anything fancy. Full length pants would have been better, but I forgot mine and was fine in capri length. I threw my long pants on over them when it got cool or buggy, or if it rained.
1Waterproof PantsWaterproof OverpantsI bought a pair of Adidas waterproof golf pants (the 90s swishy pant kind) for $8 on Poshmark and they were fine. You just need an extra layer to throw on to protect from the bugs, rain, and chilly air.
2SocksAsics Running SocksYou'll want socks tall enough to protect from your hiking shoes, so be sure to test them. I wore one pair to hike in everyday, and kept one pair "clean" that I would put on every night after I washed my feet.
2UnderwearExOfficio Give-n-Go BriefsI swear by these over-priced undies! They are so worth it. Even though I didn't shower, it felt so good to change my underwear mid-trip!
1Sports BraChampion Sports BraI wore the same sports bra everyday. Is that gross? Probably, but #minimalist! Bring more if that weirds you out.
1Winter HatBeanie HatWe used stocking caps we got for free from a race. Whatever you have around is fine. It's not that cold, but it's nice to have it.
1GlovesKnit GlovesWe didn't get waterproof gloves and were fine, but it's something to consider.
1Baseball HatCubs Hat (obviously!)If you're not going to wash your hair for four days, it's probably best to have an option to cover your head.
1Hiking Shoes, WaterproofColumbia Waterproof Trail ShoeI've been really happy with these shoes. Easy to break in, comfortable and waterproof.
1Shoes for CampChucksI thought flip flops would be okay to change into after hiking and I was WRONG! It's too cold and buggy for flip flips. You will be very happy to have a pair of comfy kicks to change into after a long day of hiking.

Basic Essentials

QuanityItemProduct ExamplePersonal Notes
1Bug Spray30% DEET WipesI liked the wipes more than the spray because I felt like they got better coverage, but either would work.
1Travel SheetThe Friendly Swede Sleeping Bag LinerI take my sleep sheet everywhere because I just like sleeping in sheets I know. If you rent a sleeping bag from your tour provider, they will provide a liner, but I just felt better with my own.
1PillowInflatable Camping PillowIf you rent a sleeping bag from your tour provider, they may NOT provide a pillow with it (our provider didn't). We were the only people who brought pillows and were really happy about it!
6SnacksKIND BarsWe grabbed cereal bars from the store the night before, but our friends brought KIND bars and we were jealous. They do give you a few snacks between meals, but we liked having more than that. Plan for about two snacks per day for the three hiking days.
4Zip Locks & Plastic bagsEverything in your day pack and in the duffel you give the porters should be somehow waterproofed. Zip Lock bags and plastic shopping bags were great for keeping us organized and protecting our stuff if it rained.
1Dry SackSea to Summit Dry SackAgain, everything should always be kept waterproof and my dry sack was the best way to do that. I kept my phone, TP, and hat/gloves in my dry sack in my day pack every day.
2Carabiner CarabinerI used my carabiner to clip my baseball hat to my pack or to keep my pack cover in place. These are great to always have on hand because they will always find a use!
1WatchCasio Waterproof Sports WatchI used the stopwatch to time our hikes everyday, and it was also nice to have the time handy without pulling out my phone.
1HeadlampLED HeadlampAn absolute essential for nights at camp, especially for when you need to go the bathroom!
1Packing CubeBagail Packing CubesThis is optional, but I had it so I brought it. It's a nice way to keep your your things from flopping around in the duffel.
1FlipBeltFlipBeltThis is an essential everywhere I travel and I use it for everything (keeping my snacks, camera, sunglasses, etc.)
1PassportThis is straight up REQUIRED! They will not let you on the trail or into Machu Picchu without it.
1Camera In our case, this was an iPhone 7. It wasn't great, but it was fine. Bring a battery charger if you expect to use your phone very often as there is no electricity on the trail.
1BuffBuff HeadwearThese are great for wicking sweat, protecting your neck from the sun, or keeping bugs out of your mouth. For so many uses and such little space, it's always great to have.
1SunglassesI didn't actually wear mine, but I think they're good to have just in case.
1Toilet PaperOur tour provider had TP in the bathrooms at camp, but for the "Inca Toilettes" along the trail, you'll need to have your own.
1Day Pack New Outlander Packable DaypackThis bag has been so reliable and useful on our trip! It's the perfect size for what you'll need with you on this hike.


QuantityItemProduct ExamplePersonal Notes
3MedicationsAltitude sickness (diamox), Anti-Diarrheal, and pain relieverWe didn't need to take these, but we were glad we had them.
2Water WipesDUDE Quick Shower WipesMy mom got me something similar to these when I started trying to not shower, and I use them a lot. It's great to freshen up with around day 3.
1Toothbrush Collapsible Travel ToothbrushYou don't need to buy a special toothbrush for this trip, obviously, but I'm just sharing my favorite travel option.
1Toothpaste Travel Size ToothpasteBecause even dirty hikers gotta brush their teeth.
1BB CreamMaybelline Dream BB CreamMy luxury treat after washing my face in a bucket of warm water and hand soap.
1DeodorantAlmay Sensitive Skin DeodorantAnother essential, I'd say.
1HairbrushFolding Hair Brush I love my travel hair brush. It sounds unnecessary, but really saves quite a bit of space.
2Hair ties & bobby pins
Hair Accessory KitI don't actually have this fancy kit, but kind of feel like I need it now!

Have you hiked the Inca Trail? Is there anything you’d add to this list?