Inca Trail: What I Brought, What You Need

Packing for the Inca Trail is a bit weird. You’re really cold at night, sweaty during the day and the conditions can be all kinds of extremes.

How do you deal with all these conditions? By being prepared for everything, but just enough.

Look ma! Everything matches!

Here’s what I packed in the photo above, starting from the top row, left to right:

  • 1 down sweater
  • 1 waterproof rain jacket
  • 1 yoga bra
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 1 zip up fleece sweater
  • 1 regular sweater
  • 1 pair hiking pants
  • 3 ladies-specific sport tank tops with built in bras (Lululemon + Old Navy)
  • 1 dressy black top
  • 1 pair thin grey pants
  • 1 pair of base layer pants
  • 1 long sleeve moisture-wicking shirt (blue)
  • 1 merino wool long sleeve shirt (green)
  • 1 long-sleeve base layer shirt
  • 1 pair wool socks
  • 2 pairs hiking socks
  • 3 pairs sock liners
  • 2 sport ankle socks

Other stuff:

  • 1 LeSportSac purse (light AND easily washable)
  • 1 Chawel
  • 1 Contigo water bottle
  • Basic toiletries, including deodorant and contacts
  • 1 Platypus water bag (never used)
  • 2 Moleskine journals
  • One water-resistant bag
  • Rock climbing tape
  • Headlamp
  • 4 non-climbing carabiners
  • 1 combination lock with cable
  • 1 extensive first-aid kit
  • 1 heavy-duty pack cover (50-70L)
  • 2 bandanas
  • 1 knock-off Buff
  • 1 roll Tenacious tape
  • Travel pillow
  • Ladystuff
  • 1 lightweight pack cover (daypack)
  • 3 lip-balms, 2 of them with SPF 15 or higher
  • 1 pair of flip flops (old Crocs)
  • Travel medications
  • 1 heavy-duty poncho (Universal Studios)
  • 1 reusable shopping bag (black)
  • Travel vaccination certificate
  • Wallet
  • Camera charger and spare battery
  • 2 packs of tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Money-belt
  • Clif bar
  • 2 pairs of glasses
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • Extra memory cards
  • Plug adapter
  • Duct-tape wrapped pen
  • 5 pairs of earplugs in a mini-Altoids container

Not shown:

  • 1 pair fleece pants (very old)
  • 2 swimsuits
  • 1 sarong
  • 1 pair Gore-Tex Merrill hiking shoes
  • 10 black pens
  • 1 voice recorder
  • 1 pack spare batteries
  • 1 Gosling sleeping bag
  • 1 baseball cap
  • Lots of Ziplock and regular plastic bags
  • 5 key things I would fight to keep
  • Dr. Bronner’s all-purpose soap
  • travel hairbrush and hairties
  • Giant bottle of SPF 45 sunscreen

Why so much cold-weather clothing?

Temperatures drop to around freezing at night. Lots of warm layers allows you to adjust how warm you’ll be, while allowing you to maximize use during the day and when you’re off the mountain.

Why so many pairs of socks?

I have hyperhydrosis, so wearing liners prevented my feet from developing blisters even though I was wearing an additional layer. A staff member at MEC recommended the extra wool socks for bedtime because he said putting the warm, dry pair on after hiking all day would feel incredibly good. He was right.

Did you really use everything?

The only thing I didn’t use in the photos above during my Inca Trail trip was the cable that came with my lock. Most of the other backpackers I encountered were impressed by how prepared I was. My bag weighed a total of 17kg when I left Toronto.

Notable gear:

  • I found athletic tank tops with built-in bras from Lululemon and Old Navy were great because they didn’t smell after repeated wearings and almost completely eliminated the need for me to bring any traditional bras. They were also easy to wash, quick-drying and durable, showing little signs of wear after four months of near continuous use. I recommend buying one size larger than normal.
  • My down sweater from Patagonia was incredibly warm, yet light and compact. I was able to compress into a space about the size of a large fist. The only downside was it had to be kept dry at all times.
  • My Gore-Tex hiking shoes took longer to break in, but were better suited for rain and hail without looking clunky when I wore them out sightseeing on an everyday basis. The Vibram rubber helped on slick hiking routes, but didn’t eliminate slips or falls from heavy moisture or loose dirt.
  • Earplugs. Bring as many pairs as you can of the highest noise reduction rating you can find.
  • Travel pillow. I brought one I had made, but you can bring inflatable ones or a small case you stuff with clothes. Definitely helps you sleep better.
  • Quality fleece insulates well for relatively little weight. It’s worth buying a decent, mid-range brand like Columbia.
  • MEC pack covers: Protects your stuff from water, dirt, damage and carless bus drivers. Additional theft deterrent. Worth investment.
  • Medications: A decent supply of Vitamin C, echinacea, Tylenol Cold, Advil Liquid-Gels, anti-histamines, Gravol, diarrhea stoppers and fever reducers like extra strength Tylenol are good to have on hand at all times.
  • My ultralight water-resistant compression sack by Outdoor Research helped me fit an entire down sleeping bag and plenty of clothes into the bottom of my backpack with relative ease, while ensuring my Gosling was always kept dry.
  • All of my favourite multi-purpose travel items.

Have any other questions? Think I forgot anything? Let me know in the comments.

Related:
25 Essential Tips for Hiking the Inca Trail
How to Make the Most of Your Backpacking Gear Before You Go.

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