We get asked all the time, “What should I pack or plan on bringing with me on the Inca Trail?”
We’ve created a comprehensive list in order of importance on what you should be bringing below. Note that this is all based on opinion and experience except for things marked with an asterisk, those are 100% required. Let’s dig in.
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Inca Trail Packing List Necessities
That’s right. You can’t get onto the Inca Trail without a passport. NO questions asked you MUST bring your passport.
Cash is king, right? On the Inca Trail, there are no credit card machines and while you might not want a Cusquena after your first day of hiking, you may want some candy along the trail or a soda. These require cash. Also, it’s important to carry cash for a final tip to your porters, cooks, and guides.
- Hiking Boots/Shoes
We highly recommend you bring hiking boots/shoes that are broken in. Whether they’re boots or shoes is entirely up to you and your preference. I personally like hiking shoes but wore boots on my first hike. Boots offer better ankle support, so if you have bad ankles I would highly recommend them on your Inca Trail packing list.
- Hydration Pack (CamelBak)
Water isn’t necessarily in short supply when on the Inca Trail. Most companies, including ours, will provide you with about 2L of water daily. That said, you’ll need a bladder in your bag to out that water. Some folks bring a water bottle but if you’re someone who likes to stay hydrated, most people, bring a bladder that can go into your backpack and fill that puppy up daily. Also remember, drink lots of water.
- Rain Jacket
The weather changes a lot on the Inca Trail and rain is highly apart of those changes. Thus, bring a nice rain jacket. Make sure it’s a rain jacket with vents in the arms because while hiking, rain jackets tend to boost up that internal temperature.
This one goes without stating but a solid backpack or hiking bag is going to be important. It depends on what company you’re doing the trail with if you need a 60L vs a 20/30L light day pack. Truly, if you want to enjoy the experience fully we recommend getting a half porter or booking with a company that offers them. Booking a porter will help you carry more luxurious items that you want to bring on your Inca Trail Packing List. Typically companies offer them as an added expense, where we build in the cost of extra porters into your final bill. The reason for this is not only to further employ more locals in the community but make sure you have a pleasurable experience. We’ve all wanted to test our strength, but I promise you, don’t be a hero. Go and enjoy the beauty, don’t struggle in it.
- Hiking Poles (Rubber Tips*)
We’ve talked a bit about hiking poles in our podcast, why you should bring them vs buying in Peru, and why rubber tips are needed. But if you haven’t been following along on Peru Travels #1 Podcast, we’ll sum it up. Hiking poles in Peru are typically wood and they are made from the Amazon rainforest. We’re pretty big on supporting the local economy but not at the cost of deforestation of the rainforest. That said, we recommend buying them at home and bringing them. As for the rubber tips, this is a requirement to help keep the trail last longer. We’re talking about ancient stones paving the way to Machu Picchu here, so it’s important to make sure we don’t break them with our metal tips. The last part is that if you have never used hiking poles, take some time before heading out to Peru and practice on some trails at home. They are a serious knee saver and help take a lot of weight off your body. I can’t recommend poles enough, but if you don’t know how to use them, they’re a pain in the rear.
Facial wipes, baby wipes, etc. It’s your only way of taking somewhat of a shower. If you’re cool with stinking it up and having dirty skin for 4 days, by all means, go right ahead. However, if you have a tent partner, they will thank you for trying to stay clean.
Protein bars, beef jerky, fruit pouches, etc. There is plenty of food provided while on the Inca Trail and it’s delicious, however, food times are placed at strategic checkpoints and times, thus if you’re hungry at a time that food isn’t available, it’s good to have some backups in your bag.
Yes, a camera. Capture all those memories, and bring them home. You’ll be disappointed if you leave it off your Inca Trail Packing List. It goes without saying but you’ll want to look back on this trip for years to come. You can’t take enough photos of this amazing journey.
So that’s the Peru Inca Trail Packing List. 10 things you’ll want to make sure are in your bag when you’re hiking. Let us know if you have any recommendations to leave off your Inca Trail packing list below.
Peru Travel Podcast: Top 5 Things You Should Bring to the Inca Trail
TOP 5 INCA TRAIL PACKING LIST ITEMS
Today, we have our gear junkie on and we’re talking everything gear that you need for the Inca Trail or any of the other Peru treks.
Kevin discusses the gear that you need to keep you dry depending on the season. This can include anything from boots, shoes, or rain jackets.
The guys then cover the items you are going to need to stay warm. Is a synthetic or down puffy jacket the better option while you are hiking in Peru?
Next, if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and want to avoid ghosts, they discuss your lighting options.
After this, they discuss how to save your knees while hiking over 26 miles with extensive elevation changes. They once again discuss why you should avoid buying wooden poles in Peru if you want to help save the Peruvian rainforest.
Finally, find out why you need hydration but should avoid a 12 liter Camelbak and just stick to a 3-liter hydration pack.
Below is a transcript which has been modified for your reading pleasure.
David Kosloski: 00:03 Hello and welcome back to the Peru Travel Podcast. I’m your host, David Kosloski and alongside me, Charlie Thompson. Today we’ve got Kevin Groh on the line. And we’re going to be digging in into the top five things you should be bringing to the Inca Trail.
Charlie Thompson: 00:16 Dave, I just don’t think you introduced that very well. This is the first time, Kevin, our very good friend and partner with us on the phone with us for this episode. This is exciting. Kevin, what’s going on my man?
Kevin Groh: 00:29 Definitely have to say I’m a little nervous. This first time I’ve ever done a podcast on the radio, so it’s definitely a new experience for me, but I’m excited.
Charlie Thompson: 00:36 Well, you sound fantastic. Kevin’s on the phone right now, but he is coming down here to be in the studio very soon. He’ll be in the studio pretty soon.
David Kosloski: 00:44 Stating the obvious. Kevin will break right into the norm.
Charlie Thompson: 00:50 You cut me off. He didn’t let my lead come in. I was saying he’s moving here to Nashville.
David Kosloski: 00:55 I think he really wanted to be a radio DJ back in the nineties when it was a really cool thing to do and now everybody’s doing a podcast and we talked normally. Charlie’s on the phone right now. I’m being an ass. Welcome guys to the Peru Travel Podcast. Again, as I said, we’re gonna break down the top five things to bring on the Inca Trail. And Kevin, our partner is on the phone with us. Really excited about that. Kevin, you’re our gear junkie, right? You’re the guy who knows everything about equipment. He would say probably not, right? I assumed Kevin would be like, well, I don’t know everything.
Charlie Thompson: 01:27 Yeah, he’s a humble man.
David Kosloski: 01:28 But he does know a lot about equipment. Kevin, give me some of your background real quick about some climbs you’ve done. I know you’re big into mountaineering and you’re big into rock climbing. Give me some of the kind of things that you’ve done in the past that really kind of establish why it is you’re the guy that should be talking about gear.
Kevin Groh: 01:43 I guess like you were saying, I don’t know everything that’s out there. But about five years ago, I lived in California, one of my best friends got me into rock climbing and we were doing some pretty gnarly stuff. We started with some small climbs, some one pitch climbs and then eventually just got into doing some overnight stuff. Got into the Eastern Sierras which requires a lot of gear. You gotta have all your camping stuff, all your overnight backpacking stuff. In addition to all your climbing stuff.
David Kosloski: 02:24 So what does that look like?
Kevin Groh: 02:25 Stuff that will keep you safe on the trail.
David Kosloski: 02:27 What does that look like in a sense? You said like essentials, and you talk about the Eastern Sierra and what about people who don’t know that? Give me some kind of an understanding of how big that is of doing those things.
Kevin Groh: 02:39 Well, I guess in regards to how big that is.. Eastern Sierras is basically the pinnacle for alpine climbing. If you’re going to be an alpine climber, which is where you’re going up and you’re climbing mountains rather than just kind of playing around in your backyard doing climbing some small boulders. If you’re doing alpine stuff then the Eastern Sierras is world class climbing. So you need have all the best gear that you have and you gotta know what you’re doing.
David Kosloski: 03:09 So you’d say you’re a pro.
Kevin Groh: 03:12 I wouldn’t say I’m a pro no.
David Kosloski: 03:14 Are you above intermediate?
Kevin Groh: 03:17 I am above intermediate.
Charlie Thompson: 03:20 I would call you a pro Kevin in my eyes. You’re a pro.
David Kosloski: 03:24 Yeah, he’s above the average human when it comes to gear and topics of that. Real quick, before we do get into the first one, Kev. You’ve told me some stories in relation to your backpacking days. Has there ever been a time where you failed, where you were like, man, I wish we would have brought more gear? Or I wish we would have brought this or less of this.
Kevin Groh: 03:48 Actually usually the opposite. When it comes gear where we’ve usually gone the other direction. Where we say, “I wish we wouldn’t have brought so much stuff because you’re slogging through a climb, or slogging through a through hike and you’re just tired and miserable.
David Kosloski: 04:09 It’s kind of funny because it kind of sounds like our first Inca Trail experience or Waimanu Valley experience where I told you it was a great idea to bring a bunch of film equipment and then the whole time there was complaining and anger and frustration between everybody that was there.
Kevin Groh: 04:29 Every pound counts.
Charlie Thompson: 04:30 This last trip we took to Peru, those of you that have listened, that know that we went to Peru not that long ago. When we got back, I was telling Dave, “Dude, I carried this Gimbal, which is a thing that holds the camera. It’s not that heavy, like five to ten pounds. And I told David, “I carried this thing around the whole time and we used it once.” We only used it once, but it was good to have.
David Kosloski: 04:54 Yeah, me and created some good footage for the Rayan video that everybody seems to love even though videos like that don’t typically do well on social media, but I’m not gonna talk about that right now because it breaks my heart. Art is not appreciated anymore.
Kevin Groh: 05:07 Dave’s a little butt hurt about it.
Charlie Thompson: 05:08 Yeah, he is. Did you guys hear him at the beginning of the episode? I mean, he was just peanut butter and jealous.
David Kosloski: 05:13 That’s right. Peanut butter and jealous. All right Kev. So let’s talk about the first thing that you can think of that you’re like, hey, this is for sure something that you got to bring on the Inca Trail.
Kevin Groh: 05:23 I would definitely say some waterproof hiking boots. You’re going to be out there on the trail for four days, three nights hiking down the Inca Trail. And, you know, if you get your shoes and your socks soaking wet on that first day, you’re just going to be miserable. You’re going to be cold the rest of the hike.
David Kosloski: 05:44 That’s good to know. So something that I got to ask is when you say waterproof, does that mean they got to go above the ankle? Can it be hiking shoes? Does that really matter?
Kevin Groh: 05:56 It can definitely be hiking shoes. It could be hiking boots, whatever you’re more comfortable with. There’s definitely been a little bit of a trend in the last five years or so in a move more towards hiking shoes. But I would say if you’re someone with, with weak ankles and you need a little bit more support than I tend towards more the boots.
David Kosloski: 06:14 I know a guy with weak ankles.
Charlie Thompson: 06:15 That’s for all you tall guys out there like me. Living the dream with your bad joints, bad knees, bad ankles. Get the tall boots if you’re tall.
David Kosloski: 06:28 We got the rain boots. We got the boots or the hiking shoes that are waterproof. We don’t want to get her socks or our feet wet. What’s number two on your list, my man?
Kevin Groh: 06:36 I would say number two on my list depends on what time of the year that you’re going to Peru or you’re going to do the Inca Trail. If you’re going a little bit closer to the rainy season, you’re definitely going to be wanting to a rain jacket. Same concept. You don’t want to get wet you don’t want to get cold. You don’t want to be miserable if you want to have fun.
David Kosloski: 06:57 Sure, sure. That makes sense. You said you don’t want to get cold. Is there an alternative, something that can get wet that can still keep you warm and in the sense that maybe it’s not the rainy season, but if it rains you want to stay warm. Is there something that you can recommend?
Kevin Groh: 07:13 Well, there’s a few different options if it’s not the rainy season. There’s a couple of other routes you can go. Either way, whether you go in the rainy season or the dry season you’re gonna want a puffy jacket. Generally, a down jacket is a little bit better. You can go ahead and get a synthetic which does keep you a little bit warmer if it gets wet. Whereas, down is not going to keep you warm if it gets wet. But, nowadays they’re trying to put a water resistant down into sleeping bags into the jacket. So you could still get wet and keep it warm.
David Kosloski: 07:56 Sure. That sounds good to know. Alright, so we got the first two, what is the third, and before you answer this, I’m sure this is transferable if you will. So, what you bring on the Inca Trail, you can also bring on the Salkantay Trek as well.
Kevin Groh: 08:12 Oh, absolutely. It’s going to be very similar scenarios. I mean, you’re going to be hiking multi-day, multi-night treks. So it’s gonna be very similar.
Charlie Thompson: 08:21 Well, and I want to remind people to even though you’re going to South America and Peru. Parts of Peru is really close to the equator. You’re hiking 14, 15, 16, 17,000 feet. So it gets cold up there. Whether it’s middle of the summer or not.
David Kosloski: 08:37 I like how you called it, the equator. He really emphasized the E on that. I think I’d do that for Vegas. I say Vegas weird. Everyone’s like it’s Vegas or something like that.
Charlie Thompson: 08:52 Yeah, Vegas, Equator.
David Kosloski: 08:54 Alright. Third, what do you got, Kev?
Kevin Groh: 08:55 I’d say a third thing is a headlamp. You got to get up in the middle of the night and use the bathroom. You got to be able to see where you’re going. You don’t want to stop and step wrong, roll your ankle. You gotta be able to see where you’re going. So headlamp is definitely going to be high on the list. You could bring a flashlight, but I then you’re taking up one hand. If you got a headlamp, just throw it on the head and you got both hands free to use them as you need.
David Kosloski: 09:26 Sure. Sure. So with that being said, on the headlamp part, I gotta do a quick plug because we talked about the bathrooms and we know what happens on that third night. Kev, here you’re hiking into the second night? I think it’s the second night. The location where the things are underneath the bathroom they say they give you this haunted story about people potentially going to be pulling your leg in the middle of the night. And we were all terrified to go in the bathroom. So you actually went into another companies bathroom that they brought a port-a-bathroom. When we started Cachi we had said we are making sure that our guests have a porta-potty bathroom that is brought with us every hiking trip. So if you are on tour with us or you’re one of our travelers, you will get a bathroom that is a popup tent, if you will, for your comfortableness in the wilderness to go the bathroom. Which is actually really nice. It sounds silly, but when you’re out hiking for four or five days, it definitely is a blessing to have a nice John to sit on.
Kevin Groh: 10:28 It also prevents brings any ghosts home with you.
David Kosloski: 10:30 That’s right. Ghosts are bad, you don’t want ghosts.
Charlie Thompson: 10:31 So the headlamp important at the top of the list. Going to need some batteries too. With that, Kevin, what is the fourth thing that you would bring on the Inca Trail?
Kevin Groh: 10:44 You’re going to want some hiking poles. You’re doing tons and tons of elevation gain and going down in elevation on the trail. You’re looking at 26 miles, in addition to carrying your pack. Over at Cachi, you’re still going to carry some of your own personal items. But, once again, here’s another plug for Cachi but we, we’re gonna we’re gonna give you a half-porter to carry a lot of the weight off your shoulders. But either way, you’re going to be really putting a lot of weight and pressure on your knees and hiking poles takes about 40 percent of the weight off your knees. So that saves you over the long run over those four days.
David Kosloski: 11:33 Yeah, definitely. We still saw we went and visited again, that people continually buy the wooden poles. I mean off your research Kev. I know we’ve talked about this and I’m not an expert on this, but, it sounds like those poles are typically from the rainforest and it definitely is part of the deforestation process. Would you agree or disagree?
Kevin Groh: 11:57 Oh, definitely. I mean, if you’re buying from Peru, you’re probably buying something that was taken from the rainforest. In addition, for you out there that it is your very first backpack or hike ever. You’re absolutely going to want hiking poles. My first ever backpack, I made it quarter mile the way in and it was an eight-mile hike and about a mile up in elevation gain and I didn’t think I would make it. And if I didn’t have the poles, there’s absolutely no way I would’ve made.
David Kosloski: 12:32 That’s crazy. That’s funny. I feel like my first hike I had poles and I was still miserable.
Charlie Thompson: 12:39 My first hike I had to borrow Kevin’s poles.
David Kosloski: 12:41 Your first hike you had to borrow a horse.
Charlie Thompson: 12:44 Yeah. I got on a horse. Look, I made it over halfway. We talked about this.
David Kosloski: 12:49 “My first hike I had to take poles. No, you bought a horse?
Charlie Thompson: 12:52 No, I borrowed Kevin’s poles. I did borrow Kevin’s polls until I got a horse. That’s awesome. Last one on the list man.
Kevin Groh: 13:01 Charlie also like a lot of rocks on that hike.
David Kosloski: 13:05 Yeah. Great stuff, Kev. So we’re coming up to the end of the episode here, which means we got to hit that final one. What is the fifth item on your list that you are for sure someone needs to bring on the Inca Trail?
Kevin Groh: 13:17 You’re gonna want some sort of hydration system. I’d say the gold standard is a Camelbak and if you’re going to go the Camelbak route, which makes everything really nice and easy. Just throw the water in your backpack and it’s got a nice little straw for you to sip out of. You don’t have to take it in and out of your pack. But if you’re going to go that route, definitely go with the biggest liter or size that you can get.
David Kosloski: 13:42 So 12 liters.
Kevin Groh: 13:46 Let’s say three liters. You’re gonna want to go with three liters because you don’t have to maximize the amount of water in the pack. And you can always put one liter in, you can put two liters in, you don’t have to put the whole thing. It’s always easier to go down. You can’t ever add anything.
Charlie Thompson: 14:11 We’re still laughing over her because of the 12 liter Camelbak. I’m picturing in my mind somebody carrying 12 liters.
David Kosloski: 14:17 Kevin Groh told me to get the biggest pack. So I did. And the best part about it is I remember before we went to Peru with Charlie. Charlie was, “Well, I’m a pretty big guy. I can carry more than you.” And Kevin’s, “No, don’t.”
Charlie Thompson: 14:29 I never said more. I just said, you know, “I’m still a horse or camel. I made it. So all you out there, who think you can’t make it, you can.
David Kosloski: 14:41 That’s right. We went the fun route.
Charlie Thompson: 14:45 Anytime we talk about the Inca Trail, the gear is important. Very, very important. But anytime we talk about Inca Trail, I want to mention… Kevin, I know you can back me up on this, Dave, you as well. Anytime we see people talking about the Inca Trail, they always talk about, well, I’m just going to go and I’m going to wait until I get to Peru to book it or I want to go next month. The most important thing about the Inca Trail is that this thing sells out six months in advance and it’s heavily regulated by the government. So keep that in mind when you’re looking to book the Inca Trail. We hope you go with us Cachi, cachilife.com, but even if you don’t, anybody you go with, it has to be at least six months in advance because this thing has always sold out.
David Kosloski: 15:22 That’s right. Look at you, man. Coming in hot. I’m proud of it. I’m gonna give him a high five. That’s a high five right there for people listening. Thank you guys so much for hanging out with this, Kevin, for calling, man. I can’t wait to get you here and in person on the podcast. Again. I’m your host, David Kosloski, Charlie Thompso, and Kevin Groh on the phone. We are Cachi. Thank,s guys so much for listening. I can’t wait to talk to you next week.