If I Could Re-pack to Conquer the Inca Trail Hike
U30X Alum, Emily Eskew, shares what she would pack if she were to hike the Inca Trail all over again...
The Inca Trail hike was an utterly astounding experience that challenged me, both physically and mentally, with the most rewarding outcomes. As I spent those four days and three nights out on the ancient trail, I really took into account all of the recommended travel items I read about to ensure an epic and safe journey.
Prior to the trip, I assumed I had researched enough on which essentials I would need to bring for conquering the Inca Trail Hike. However, after completing the Inca Trail Hike, I realized that there were many items I overlooked or under-credited that I wish I would have packed with me. I’m here to share some essentials I never thought of bringing that would have made the trek a smoother transition for this city-girl adventuring into the Peruvian Sacred Valley.
Items I Would Re-pack to Conquer the Inca Trail Hike
The list below consists of essential items you may want to re-think about leaving behind. If you can, I encourage you to squeeze them into your packs!
Two Pairs of Breathable Waterproof Hiking Pants:
Not one, but two pairs of waterproof, breathable hiking pants. I only packed one along with two other yoga/fitness pants and I ended up over-wearing my original pair of Eddie Brower’s during the 4-day trek. Each day you are hiking in various elements and temperatures, eating on the go, sweating, and using bathrooms all along the trail. The last thing I wanted to do was put on the same, gross, pair of pants the next day. However, because the weather was unpredictable and my efforts on the trail resulted in much sweat, I wanted this particular pair. Really wish I would have had another pair to alternate with.
Comfortable Pants for Sleeping:
On the note of pants and clean slacks—I would recommend a looser pair of pants for the evening sleep time that is specific to your tent relaxation. All three nights, we felt variations from freezing cold, humidly hot, and down-pour rain, so ensure your sleep gear can be versatile.
My friend and I skimped on just your standard flashlight and immediately regretted it the first night on the trail. You are in a dark, unfamiliar wilderness without campfires, city-scapes, or other means of outside light. When you need to use the bathroom, brush your teeth, or just walk from tent to tent, a handheld light just makes life harder. Invest in the headlamp. I promise you will not be disappointed.
With all the temperature changes, my skin was so thirsty for moisture. I did not pack enough lotion, and my baby wipe showers made the situation worse. I have never craved lotion more in my entire life.
Water Bottle With Enclosed Mouthpiece:
My Camelback water bottle had an exposed mouthpiece and let’s just say that after dropping it in the airport, on the muddy trail and even in one of the villages bathrooms, I did not want my mouth to touch it. Get a bottle with a covering.
Bathrooms along the trail require payment. Make sure you have cash in small bills. Since I only had large bills, I was owing five different people ‘bathroom paybacks'.
A Blanket of Your Own:
I DID pack this and I was so happy because most everyone else WISHED they had it. It doubled as a better pillow and extra warmth in the tents.
BRING THEM. They will be used in so many ways—carrying your dirty clothes, rain covers, and actual trash bags for things in your tent and when you go to the bathroom. Things get real grimy quick out there. Bring the bags.
One gal on our trip SAVED us during the early morning before reaching the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu. She was brilliant and bought individual packets of instant coffee in a multitude of flavors—I had chai latte! I mean, come on! This was a game-changer and she totally won VIP of the group that day (porters will provide hot water).
These would have been great for layers you throw off, towels, water bottles, anti-bacterial gel, etc. If you have them, just clip them on your packs—you will totally use them. I never would have thought to bring these.
Inflatable Sleeping Pad:
Your guide will ask you the day before the trek if you want. Say, ‘yes.’ Just say, ‘yes.’
Since I am a big runner and very active in normal life, I did not want to be bogged down by two poles, so I opted for just one. WRONG! Get two. Your body is working all day long and on the down slopes with rocks, steps, branches, etc. it truly would have been better for safer travel and ease on the knees.
Sleeping Bag Liners:
Yes, your provided sleeping bags, but a liner makes you feel cozier in your own body. If you have your own bag and have space to pack (I did not, but others did), then that works too!
Sweatshirt or Cozy Sweater for Sleep:
Again, similar to the pants situation. My jacket layers were not what I wanted to be in before bed, but because I only had simple long sleeves and big jackets I had to work with those. I recommend a pullover that is cozy before bed and something you are not sweating in during the day.
Waterproof Pack Cover:
My OSPREY did not come with one (I know, right!?). Granted, it is a water-resistant pack, but still, in a downpour, I would have felt safer with a pack cover.
Neck Strap for Sunglasses:
No one wants to lose their sunglasses when most of your days are spent outside. Your sunglasses are going on and off frequently throughout the day while admiring the views, removing clothing layers, and taking pictures. I set my sunglasses down so many times or shoved them into various pockets, and it would have been so much easier to just hang them around my neck. A rookie mistake for me.
Biodegradable Toilet Paper:
Buy toilet paper at the vendor stops. We ran out, and I was hoarding dinner napkins with me. It was a struggle and far from glamorous.
I can’t emphasis this one enough! The story is a long one, but basically, we had no clippers and after trekking for 4 days—your nails and toenails grow and plainly, get grimy and dirty. I would have spent $100 just to clip my nails. Get a travel pair, and thank me later.
Earplugs saved me from hearing outside noises and side tent convos. When you’re spending long hours being physical, sleep is crucial.
A pair of close-toed shoes for when you are off the trail. I only had my hiking boots overall, and after we got off the Trail, I did not want to go back in those things. (I actually went out to Cusco to buy to some new flats!)
I had this small, low-powered, cheap one and it gave me one charge. Pretty worthless. Invest in a good brand with long life and multiple charges.
Although I think camping adventures are a blast, it’s not my regular go-to weekend activity. This trip taught me so much, and I hope I can help you prepare for one heck of a life-changing experience. I know these items would have been a massive game-changer during my trip. The Inca Trail Hike will be an unbelievable experience REGARDLESS of what you pack, but make sure you don’t overlook the camp luxuries while you’re packing for your trip to Peru!