Due to regulations on the Inca Trail, if you are using a porter, each hiker is only allowed to bring 6kg (about 12 lbs) worth of stuff (or course, if you carry your own stuff, you can bring as much as you want (to carry)). This includes the weight of the sleeping bag (about 1.5kg) and the bag provided (.5, in my case). Everyone gets a mat free of charge, but if you rent an air mattress, that is another 1kg so you either have 4kg or 3kg worth of space to fill. When we first heard that, most of the girls in my group groaned. I just rolled my eyes. What did they even want to pack? We were going to be camping and hiking everyday with no showers or proper bathrooms. I have no idea what they expected.
We were given a list of recommended items and I’ll make a note of what I brought that was not on the list as well as things I forgot that would have been helpful.
-Daypack: I used my trusty old Jansport backpack and it was fine.
-Hat: I brought a wide-brimmed hat that was super helpful as I hate having the sun in my face or eyes. Everyone made good fun of me, that you could spot me a mile away, but I just shrugged. That is a good thing! I’ll never get lost!
-Bandana: I didn’t bring and was fine.
-Zipoff pants: YES! Super helpful when switching from hot to cold on the trail and happens really fast.
-T-Shirts: I brought one for everyday of the hike and was fine, plus one to sleep in though thermals probably would have been better.
-Thermal underwear/Long Johns: Didn’t bring, but probably should have as I was cold every night.
-Long pants: I am going to call these “pants you change into at the campsite”. They can be anything from jeans, work out pants, yoga pants or what I brought, my sleep pants. You are pretty sweaty at the end of the day and the first thing I did at every campsite was change my clothes into what I was going to sleep in. Yes, we still had to get through dinner, but I didn’t care.
-Sweater/Fleece: 1 or 2, for day and night, if you can spare the space (or just carry your day one in your pack to save space).
-Long Shirt: I guess, I didn’t bring one and was fine. I don’t like long sleeve shirts anyway. (See T-Shirts)
-Trekking shoes or hiking boats: I went with just my sneakers and I was okay. If you have hiking boats, please bring them, but I didn’t have a pair and didn’t want to spend the money on something I was probably not going to use again. Not the best idea, but I don’t regret my decision.
-Rain Poncho: I guess my group got lucky, because it didn’t rain a lick for 4 days. I did bring a beanie for cold nights. Hell, I am from LA. I don’t know how to dress for rain anyway.
-Sleeping Bag: You can rent these on arrival and they are appropriate for bag packing. I somewhat regret not bringing my own, if only because the ones provided by Gap annoyed the hell out of me by not being able to zip all the way down the side.
–Flashlight: A MUST!!!!! Bring 2 if you can. It gets so dark at night, it’s unbelievable. I had never brought a flashlight on my travels before, but I brought one to Peru and it was a lifesaver!!
-Water bottle: I drink water like a camel and brought two 2lt bottles with me. Don’t forget to get the porters to help you fill them every morning before you start off, because that is it for the day!
-Bug repellent: didn’t bring, didn’t have issues. See Rain Poncho.
-Warm socks: The item everyone in our group bought in Ollantaytambo was a pair of socks from the locals for s/10 (US$3). I brought mine on the trek and when putting them on with my after hike (aka sleep) clothes, I put on the socks, over my own fresh ones. They were super helpful when sleeping.
-Personal Medical kit: my group included a male doctor and a female nurse, so we were pretty set on medical supplies (and random medical questions to some issues some of us had at being at such a high altitude.) I brought some band aids and I was fine.
-Gloves: I forgot mine and wish I had brought them! It got so cold at night, these would have helped.
-Scarf: I bought one at one of the shops we stopped at as a gift for my mother, but wore it at night along the trail to get some authentic dust on it.
-Sun block/sun glasses: Yes. Though I only put block on the first day, because of my huge hat, it didn’t effect me the other days.
-Bathing suit: N/A for our group. We were so beat, I have no idea where those hot springs in Agues Caliente even are.
-Cash: there is all sorts of shit to buy along the route the first day and a half, until you get to Dead Woman’s Pass. But there is little need for any of it. I didn’t buy a thing as the farther up you get, the more expensive things get (obviously). You may need money at the end of the hike for anything you may want to Agues though and of course, do not leave your wallet or passport in your left luggage in Cusco. You need your passport for the trail!
The biggest things I can’t believe they don’t require you to bring:
–Wet wipes: These things were a daily life saver! Since there are no showers on the hike (until the last day, but they are super gross and worthless except to the porters) I wiped myself off every single day with these. I would arrive at camp, climb into my tent, strip down, wet wipe up and put on my sleep clothes. After a day of sweating, this was a highlight. They are a MUST!!!!
-Sandals (camp shoes): These were on my list and very helpful. Except for the sandal part. If you can spare the space, I highly recommend bringing a pair of CLOSED TOED SHOES for walking around camp and the bathroom because the last thing you want to do is put your gross hiking shoes back on after you have taken them off for the day. And the bathrooms are pretty gross (think squatting and what happens when you pee like that). I brought sandals and they were fine, I survived, but if I had known, I would have brought a cheap, crappy pair of old shoes.
And that is my packing list! Anything you want to add?
Moral: I think I did a really good job packing. I used everything I brought (including my blowup airplane pillow) and came back with 100% dirty clothes, which to me is always a sign of a successful trip.