I thought I'd pass on some packing advice in case you're heading out to the Inca Trail any time soon. Some things I packed ended up being a total waste of space, and other things were complete life savers.
So here's what came on the trail with me:
2 breathable short sleeve running tops
2 long sleeve tops
2 running shorts
2 running half tights (capris)
2 sports bras
6 pairs socks
Patagonia Release Trail Running shoes
Waterproof rain jacket
Cheap plastic poncho
Lightweight, huge beach cover up
Homemade sleeping bag liner and small pillow (12x16 inches)
Fleece pants to wear around camp in the evenings
Icebreaker long sleeve wool top for sleeping
Fleece turtle fur (neck warmer)
Compression socks (to wear to bed for recovery)
Hand warmer packs (sold in ski shops everywhere - Little Hotties brand)
Plastic trash bags to keep everything dry inside my pack in case it rained
High altitude herbal tablets
Flip flops for the shower
Basic first aid - neosporin, band-aids, witch hazel for cuts, cotton balls, etc.
Rented sleeping bag from Llamapath - was great. Good quality, clean, and warm.
And the least useful award goes to:
That full size bath towel I packed.
It took up way to much space and I ended up not using it. The beach cover-up I brought ended up being perfect for that. Since its so lightweight, it dried completely overnight, which I know my towel wouldn't have. I know it could also have been a great extra sheet or scarf if I was cold in the middle of the night. I also didn't end up needing the hats, gloves, turtle fur, or handwarmers - it just wasn't that cold. But I'd still recommend packing things like that, especially if you're hiking in the colder months of June or July.
Wish I packed more of:
Short sleeves, shorts, and more sports bras. We hiked in October, and had what seemed to be unseasonably warm weather with very little rain, which was a stroke of good luck. Because it was warm, I used shorts and short sleeves more than I expected to. I wore the same things twice, which wasn't the end of the world, but it really would have been nice to have a fresh shirt to wear each day. They aren't heavy and don't take up too much space, so it would have been better.
Things I didn't think of, but you should:
Luckily for me my friend is an experienced multi day hiker and came really prepared. She packed a few things that I never would have thought of, and lots of people in our group ended up needing.
Here are some of those things:
Cold medicine in tablet form
Needle and thread for blisters (sterilize and thread the needle, pierce the blister on one end, push the needle through to the other end, and let the thread absorb the fluid. Then pull the thread out the far end, clean the blister and cover with a band-aid. Genius!)
Zambuk (many clever uses, the most important of which was bug bite itch relief)
The Great Debate: Hiking Boots or Trail Runners?
I chose to hike in my faithful, well broken-in Patagonia Release Trail Runners. They worked perfectly well, and I had no ankle trouble. Still, now that I've hiked the trail, I'd choose differently next time. I think something like the Salewa Alp Trainer Mid would have been perfect. Lightweight, comfortable, and with a bit more ankle support. The downhills are steep, the trail is uneven, and it can be slippery. Particularly if you're carrying your own pack, I'd recommend going with a little more ankle support if you can.
Lastly, if you're thinking about hiking the Inca trail and you're not sure - do it.
You won't regret it.