I love packing. The thrill of making many items fit into a small container, the stress of figuring out what the bring, the panic that sets in when you wonder if you’ve brought enough…it all makes me giddy. But I understand that I am an anomaly, and that most people find packing tedious. Which is why I am going to tell you exactly what to bring on the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. I’ll let Darren cover the actual hike in a separate post, but in order to survive the hike, you’ll want to read my list closely. Onwards!
This is the duffel that Wayki Treks provides for a shared 2-person porter (15kg)
1. Waterproof Hiking Shoes– I wavered for a long time between hiking boots and hiking shoes, and ultimately decided on these Columbia hybrids (sorry, forget the model number) because they were a) waterproof; b) lightweight; and c) $24.99. I stuck my running insoles in them prior to departing and they served me well throughout the hike – after 8 hours of hiking, your feet are going to be tired no matter what. That being said, I would recommend considering the following factors when debating whether to go for a hiking shoe/hybrid or a hiking boot. First, how agile are you with your feet? I tend to forget to pick up my feet sometimes, and as a result did roll my ankle a few times throughout (no injuries though!). Ankle support would have been useful in those instances, but of course the tradeoff is weight. Second, how much time do you have to break in the shoes? If it’s a matter of brand new versus well worn, choose the latter. Third, make sure the shoes are waterproof, even if you go in dry season as we did. Weather in the Andes is highly unpredictable, and blisters are no fun! I did see a few others doing the hike in trail running sneakers, but hiking shoes (examples here, here, and here) and lightweight boots (like these and these) were the trail norm.
2. Flip Flops– Although it got cold by the time we entered camp each day, I was grateful to slip into my flip flops for a few minutes and give my feet a break from my shoes. Others also brought old running shoes, which probably function better especially when using the toilets (watch where you step!).
3. Hat, Scarf, and Gloves– We hiked the trail in August, and temperatures plummeted to just below freezing at night. Night 2 was particularly cold. Preserving body heat is essential especially during the evening and early morning.
4. Waterproof Duffel– I’ve blogged about packable duffels before, and this waterproof Oakley duffel that we brought along was the perfect size for the hike. Although Wayki Treks (our tour operator) gives you a duffel to store your belongings for the porters to carry (see picture above), their duffels aren’t waterproof. If it rains…yup, you’re screwed! In fact, on the last evening we experienced a torrential thunderstorm that left a few fellow hikers with damp clothing even though their things were inside of the tent. Store all of your goodies in plastic bags or a waterproof duffel, folks. Darren and I stashed our belongings in my Oakley duffel, which we then put into the trek operator duffels.
5. Underwear– You’re not showering for four days, but that’s no excuse for swamp ass.
6. Raincoat– Darren and I both own The North Face Varius Guide Jacket (women’s version here). Waterproof factor aside, it’s awesome because it’s zip-in compatible with the TNF system, has pit vents to help you air out, and is significantly warmer than some of TNF’s other rain jackets. However, I do frequently err on the cold side, so if you are warmer blooded than me and prefer a lighter weight option, some options for the gents include this, this, and this; options for the ladies can be found here, here, and here.
7. Fleece– I brought my Khumbu fleece, while Darren wore the Windwall (note that his is not zip-in compatible). I wore mine over a long sleeve shirt at night while sleeping, and it kept me quite cozy. I also kept my fleece tied to my backpack throughout the day to layer it as the temperature rose and fell.
8. Mid-weight Hiking Socks– 4 pairs, plus an extra pair for sleeping at night. I bought these SmartWool socks during a Sierra Trading Post sale, and they ended up costing about $4/pair. Hiking socks are expensive! Smaller-footed ladies may also want to check the kid’s section for a steeper discount. Don’t skimp on this. Your feet need the padding on the hike, and again…blisters are a pain.
9. Poncho– Yes, I told you to bring a rain jacket, so what is this for? Everyone layering a poncho over our daypacks and bodies in the event of rain. It cost us 3.5 soles (just over a dollar) in Cusco to buy, and brought some peace of mind on Day 3 when thunder started rumbling post-lunch. It stows away to practically nothing, so just buy this and share the love.
10. Hiking/Athletic Pants– Let me preface this by noting that I hate wearing pants. At 4’10”, it rarely works out in my favor. That being said, every other person in our group rocked hiking pants and looked pretty darn good wearing them. Things to look for? Waterproof and breathability factor. Ability to convert to shorts if you want (although you’ll never catch me in those…some things in life are just not meant to be). Darren bought these because they came in a small waist and inseam size. I bought these Zella pants from Nordstrom for $44 during their anniversary sale but never had to break into them, so they will be returned. If you are not going to wear hiking pants, make sure your pants/leggings are sweat-wicking. I brought 2 pairs of workout pants, 1 pair of Cold Gear leggings to layer under my pajama pants at night, and the Zella pants which went unworn. Stylish (hah!) places for the ladies to find hiking pants: Athleta has some decent options if you are not midget sized and Lucy’s Walkabout pant looks promising (beware the granny waist). Pint sized? I tried these Columbia girls pants on with good results, but didn’t care for the color or elastic waist.
11. Long Sleeve Tech Tee/Half-Zip– Repeat after me: I will not wear cotton. Unless you’re talking about a synthetic charged cotton fabric, the second you start sweating, cotton will stick to you like Gorilla glue and leave you cold the minute you begin to dry. Stick to tech materials that are breathable and sweat-wicking. I brought 3 long sleeve shirts which I layered over tank tops, plus an extra shirt to sleep in. Tank + long sleeve + fleece was my staple throughout the hike. At night, add the outer shell, hat, and scarf. Sadly, Darren did not get the memo about no cotton. Guess who shared a tent with his smelly garments?
12. Tech Tanks/Short Sleeves– See #11 if you didn’t already read my anti-cotton manifesto. I brought a few Lululemon tanks which have built in shelf bras, which means less undergarments to worry about packing.
13. Water Bottle– In addition to a hydration pack which I’ll cover later, I brought this water bottle, which is useful for mixing electrolyte tablets in and for drinking from whenever you’re not on the move.
14. Toiletries– I had read about showers at the Day 3 campsite, but those turned out to be fictitious. Up until two years ago, there were hot showers and a bar at Wiñay Wayna, but they closed those due to noise issues. Dry ‘poo only. Also pack: moist wipes (what shower?), paper soap, face wash, face wipes, toilet paper, SPF, bug repellent wipes, hand sanitizer, a good moisturizer (the air is REALLY dry), and lip balm w/ SPF. To the ladies: thinking about makeup? No worries, I get it: you’re going on a once-in-a-lifetime trek, you need to look good in photos! Sadly, putting on makeup in the dark at 5 AM lies somewhere between difficult and impossible. I slapped on some BB cream and called it a day. If you find a way to apply makeup in the dark, please share your technique with me!
15. Tripod– We brought this in the duffel bag, but in hindsight should have just left it at home. This would have been useful the day we were in Machu Picchu (overcast lighting) and at night to take pictures of the stars (which are amazing, by the way), but I was just too lazy to bother. If you have something like a Gorillapod that requires less setup, that might be the better way to go.
16. Packing Cube– All my clothing went into one packing cube, which then went into the duffel that Darren and I shared. Bonus points: it doubles as a pillow at night!
17. Snacks– On a regular day, I consume anywhere between 4-6 meals a day. Snacks are a must on the Inca Trail, where you’ll be burning tons of energy. Although Wayki Treks provided us with some snacks (fruit and crackers/cookies), I opted for our high energy bars and goo. Electrolyte tablets like Nuun were also a welcome change from water and helped replenish salt lost to sweat. On an average day I consumed 1 energy bar, 1 Gu, and a few mouthfuls of various other yummies.
18. Camping Towel– This didn’t get much use since our porters gave us paper towels every time we washed up. Our ‘towel’ was basically a glorified shamwow for $5. *shrug *
19. Camera/Extra Batteries/Extra Memory Card– Don’t be the idiot that ignores the advice of all others and only brings one memory card. Oh wait, that’s me. I had some reformatting issues with my one card and was forced to shoot in JPEG w/limited working memory. Epic fail.
20. Headlamp– Opt for this instead of a regular flashlight. It leaves your hands free to use your walking poles and other productive tasks. Bring extra batteries.
21. Medical Supplies– Immodium, Pepto Bismol, Aleve, ibuprofen, Kinesio Tex & sports tape tape (for your knees/feet), bandaids for blisters, Neosporin. We used them all in the course of 4 days. As a sidenote, if you have runner’s knee or plain achey joints, preemptively tape your knees and pop an Aleve on days 2 & 3. You can thank me later.
The following items are not pictured
22. Daypack– I carried the Dakine Amp 18L (new model here), and Darren carried the Jansport Odyssey 39L. In my pack: snacks for the day, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, water bottle, hydration reservoir, camera, passport/wallet, outer shell, and fleece (tied to the outside). Darren carried the same, along with our medical supplies.
23. Hydration reservoir– Both of us had hydration reservoirs, which were super handy during the hike- my pack comes with one, and D purchased this for his pack. We each carried a .5 L water bottle and 1.5 L of water in the reservoir. If you are an H20 guzzler like me, you might want to consider carrying 2 liters in the reservoir; I ran out of water halfway through the day 2 hike- not a pleasant feeling. We were responsible for our own water on Day 1 (it can be purchased throughout the hike); Wayki provided boiled water for the remaining three days.
24. iPhone/pocket camera– Sometimes it’s just too exhausting to pull out your clunky camera. A phone or point and shoot is useful in these instances.
25. Music & headphones– I may be the world’s biggest introvert. When working out or hiking, I enjoy being enveloped in my own thoughts. Darren, on the other hand, is a huge chatterbox while hiking: it helps distract him and pass time (Strangely enough, he is also introverted. Probably just less so than I am…we’ll just attribute this to workout preferences). More than a few times on the trail I found myself shushing him as he rambled on about who knows what. Clearly I enjoy wallowing in the silence of my suffering. If you find that more bass and less talk keeps you going during the hike, bring a shuffle or mp3 player of your choice! Just make sure you ration the battery life. Oh, and if you haven’t read Jonathan Rauch’s piece on “Caring for your Introvert” in the Atlantic, I highly recommend it 🙂
More on our travels in Peru can be found here: