Complete Lost City Trek Packing List

If you’re looking for a complete Lost City trek packing list, you’ve come to the right place!  This trek has been one of Kendall and I’s favorite multi-day hikes.  There’s nothing quite like walking through the Tayrona National Park jungle.

Apart from doing your research on the trek itself and making sure that you are physically prepared, you’ll want to make sure you pack everything you need.  This trek doesn’t use porters, so you’ll be carrying all your own gear.  Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you have all the essentials while still keeping your pack load light.

In this article, we’ll cover what to pack and why, as well as a few of our other tips and tricks for the trek itself.   

What is the Lost City Trek?

The Lost City Trek is a 28-mile out-and-back route that goes from El Mamey near Santa Marta, Colombia, to an ancient site once used by the Tairona people.  

Unlike Machu Picchu, all that remains of this site are the terraces, but it’s still impressive. To get there, you’ll have to trek through the Tayrona National Park jungle. This Colombian jungle landscape is so cool and, in our opinion, is one of the best ways to really experience Tayrona National Park.

We’ve actually written a full article on our experience hiking to the Lost City, so if you’re interested in planning your own trip, be sure to check it out!  We went with Wiwa Tours and had a great experience with them, but there are other companies like Expotur and Magic Colombia that also have very good reviews. 

Unlike other treks we’ve done, this one requires a bit more thought into what you’ll pack as it involves a few river crossings, LOTS of mosquitos, and sometimes a very muddy trail (depending on the season).

overhead view of the Lost City Terraces in Colombia
Our view of the Lost City terraces

Where to Stay Before the Lost City Trek

You’ll want to stay in Santa Marta, Colombia, ideally near your Lost City Trek tour office.  This makes it easy to walk over to their office either the day before or the morning of your hike.

You’ll want to make sure you’ve paid your remaining balance, have time to ask any additional questions, and coordinate leaving your luggage.  Most tour companies will let you leave your luggage at their office.

We stayed at the Boutique Hotel Casa Carolina and loved it.  This hotel was just a five-minute walk from Wiwa’s office and was super stylish and comfortable.  The hotel has multiple swimming pools (one on the roof!), and the included breakfast was incredible.  We highly recommend this hotel, but any hotel near central Santa Marta will do just fine. 

The inside court of Hotel Casa Carolina in Santa Marta
The inside court of Hotel Casa Carolina in Santa Marta

Lost City Trek Packing List

Okay, let’s jump into our packing list for the Lost City Trek.  Again, because there are no porters, you’ll want to pack light while still bringing all the essentials. 

Backpack

We recommend fitting all of your gear for the next four days into a 20-liter or 30-liter day pack.  I brought a cheap 20-liter backpack, and it worked well.  If I were to do the trek again, I’d probably opt for a 30-liter bag just to not have to jam-pack everything quite so tightly.

We always like backpacks that have side pockets for water bottles and different zippered compartments to help keep your stuff organized.

Many people recommend bringing a waterproof backpack cover. We had very clear weather during our entire trek (we went in the middle of the dry season) and never got rained on. And, our guide had given each of us a large black trash bag that we could have used as a rain cover if needed.

a row of backpacks sitting on a bench
Kendall and I carried fairly small day packs (mine is the black backpack on the far right).

Clothing and Shoes

Hiking Boots/Shoes

I recommend a good pair of hiking boots for this trek, although Kendall wore his tennis shoes and did just fine.  

Depending on the season, this trek can have a LOT of mud.  While we waded through a few muddy sections, we were lucky, and the trail was mostly dry.  But there are quite a few steep inclines and loose dirt, and I always prefer hiking boots’ ankle, heel, and toe protection.

I also have recurring problems with Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendon Pain, and a solid pair of hiking boots tend to provide better support for my arch and ankle. 

a close-up view of a pair of brown Columbia hiking boots.
I wore this older pair of Columbia hiking boots on the Lost City trek.

Sandals for crossing rivers

This is one thing we did wrong.  I had brought a pair of cheap flip-flops for camp use, but if I were to do this trek again, I definitely would have gone for a more secure pair of sandals, like Tevas or Chacos.  

Because we were hiking in the middle of the dry season, we were able to cross all the rivers on rocks without getting our feet wet.  However, there are multiple rivers and water holes for swimming near the campsites, and I wished that I had something more sturdy to wear in the river to protect my feet.  

a flowing river with large rocks, surrounded by greenery.
We crossing a few rivers like this one. Because of the time of year, we were able to cross on the rocks and avoid getting our feet wet, but this is not always the case.

The flip-flops I brought would have fallen off in the river.  And, they got very slippery once wet and I found walking around camp in my bare feet was almost easier. 

Clean Socks and Underwear for Each Day

This hike is hot and humid, and you will get drenched in sweat very quickly.  You’ll want to pack a fresh pair of hiking socks and underwear for each of the four days.

We always recommend real hiking socks like these Dickies Dri-tech socks over regular cotton socks because they wick moisture and help prevent blisters. 

Three to Four Hiking Shirts

One thing to remember about trekking through the Colombian jungle is that, because of the humidity, your clothes will not dry out unless you lay them out in direct sunlight.  

So, people have differing opinions on how many sets of shirts and pants you should bring.  If you don’t mind putting on a wet shirt in the morning, you can get away with bringing two or three shirts.  

But, if you are like Kendall and me and would really prefer to have dry clothes for each morning, we recommend bringing at least three shirts.  

I brought my favorite long-sleeved hiking shirt, one short-sleeved T-shirt, and one tank top.  I was able to find in-the-sun clotheslines at a few of our campsites to dry out my clothes and did okay with just the three shirts. 

Hiker as seen from behind with a black tank top and a black backpack.
I brought three sets of shirts and three sets of leggings/shorts for our trek.

Two to Three Sets of Hiking Pants

The same goes for hiking pants. Bring at least three pairs if you want dry pants for each morning. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a sunny spot to dry out at least one wet pair during your hike, so you’ll have dry pants for each of the four days.

I brought two pairs of Capri-length leggings that could easily be rolled up into shorts during the hot parts of the day and one pair of shorts. 

Dedicated Sleeping Clothes

Having a dedicated set of sleeping clothes is very important; you’ll want to keep these clothes in a separate gallon ziplock bag to make sure they don’t get damp in your backpack.  

We did this trek at the end of February, and the nights were still fairly warm. I ended up wearing shorts and a tank top to bed with the thin blankets provided by Wiwa, and it was comfortable.  

However, if you are hiking during the rainy season, the weather can get chilly at night, and you’ll most likely want to wear sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt. 

We slept in bunk beds with mosquito nets, so we were not worried about getting bitten by mosquitoes at night.  Just be sure to make sure your mosquito net is tucked in well before going to sleep. 

bunk bed surrounded by a mosquito net
Each bed was surrounded by a mosquito net, and we were each given a pillow and a light flannel blanket.

Swimsuit

Remember to bring a swimsuit! On your first day of hiking, there is a fun water pool with a small waterfall and cliff-jumping spot, and the other campsites are right next to the river.

overhead view of a small swimming hole on the Lost City trek.
This first swimming hole had a place for cliff jumping and a small waterfall.

Skin Protection

Sunscreen and SPF chapstick

Sunscreen is a must on this hike!  Kendall and I each brought a travel-sized squeeze tube of sunscreen and used almost all of it.  And don’t forget to pack chapstick with SPF coverage to keep your lips from getting burned. 

Hat, Headband, or Sunglasses

I prefer wearing sunglasses and a headband to protect my eyes and the top of my head from the sun; Kendall prefers a hat.  Whichever you choose, you’ll want to bring something to keep the sun off your face and head.

Insect Repellent

Insect repellent is another must-have on this hike, as there are quite a few mosquitos.  Kendall and I actually DEET-treated our hiking clothes before starting our trip.  We also used mosquito repellent religiously each day and only ended up with a few mosquito bites each.

a travel tube of insect repellent with a full bottle in the background, one of the most important items on a Lost City trek packing list.
We brought two travel tubes of insect repellent, and used both of them completely.

Toiletries, First Aid, and Personal Items

Toiletries

  • Small Bar of Soap: neither the camp showers nor the bathrooms had soap, so you’ll want to bring a small bar. 
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste: be sure to use filtered water when brushing your teeth.  The water that comes from the campsite bathroom sinks is not treated and can make you sick. 
  • Hairbrush and Hair Elastics (for long hair): You’ll want to keep your hair out of your face. If you’re looking for ideas, I’ve written an entire article on great hiking hairstyles
  • Toilet Paper: The campsite bathrooms generally did not have toilet paper inside the stalls. Occasionally, there would be a shared roll of toilet paper hanging outside the bathrooms, but this often got used up quickly. We recommend keeping a small ziplock bag with toilet paper with you all the time. And remember, you don’t flush your toilet paper; it goes in the wastebasket in the bathroom.

Microfiber Towel

I brought a small microfiber cloth and was so glad I did.  There are no towels at any of the campsites, so having a small cloth is comfortable for drying yourself off after swimming in the river or after taking a shower at the campsite. 

Hand Sanitizer

Every campsite where we ate lunch had a sink for handwashing, but usually there was no soap. We found that having a small bottle of hand sanitizer was more convenient than digging the bar of soap out of our backpacks. 

Ear Plugs and Eye Mask

I always bring earplugs and an eye mask with me whenever I travel, and it makes a world of difference in my sleep quality.  Unless you’re a very heavy sleeper, you’ll especially want to have these on the Lost City Trek, as the sleeping arrangements consist of rows of bunk beds, all very close to each other.  

A row of bunk beds
These bunk beds are very close together, and it’s easy to hear the other campers at night.

Besides the noise of the other campers, there is also plenty of wildlife making noise all night.  A squawking bird kept Kendall up for a few hours on our first night. 

First Aid Essentials

We always pack the following in a small kit whenever we travel or hike

  • A tiny roll of Moleskin: just make sure to apply it before a blister fully develops.
  • A few Steri stips or butterfly bandages to close any bigger cuts
  • A tiny tube of antibacterial ointment
  • A few alcohol prep pads
  • Tape: we actually wrap the tape around our sunscreen travel bottles.  

Tiny Tube of Anti-Itch Gel

Even though we were careful about using repellent, we each still got a few mosquito bites and were glad we had packed a tiny travel container of anti-itch gel.  This stuff is cheap and you can find it at any grocery store pharmacy.

Medication

We recommend bringing Dramamine (for motion sickness on the van ride up to the trailhead), Ibuprofen (for injuries or pain relief), and Benadryl (for allergies or to use as an emergency sleep aid). 

Extras

Water Bottles

Your tour company will provide free, filtered water at each campsite. However, you should bring refillable water bottles and cash to purchase extra water bottles along the trail.  

On our first day of hiking, we hiked for three or four hours in the hot sun before reaching our first campsite, and there was no provided(free) water during this portion of the hike. There are plenty of small shops along the trail to purchase water; you’ll just need to have enough cash (we paid around 8.000 COP per large water bottle). 

We recommend carrying two liters of water with you, especially during the hot parts of the afternoon. 

a large blue jug with filtered water.
The jug of filtered water at our second campsite.

Headlamp or Flashlight

We didn’t end up hiking in the dark (we got up early each morning, but the sky was usually light by the time we had eaten breakfast and were on the trail).  However, having a headlamp comes in super handy for finding your way to the bathroom at night.

Extra Gallon Ziplock Bags

Wiwa Tours gave us a large black bag to use either as a rain cover or for our wet clothes.  During the trek, we kept our wet, gross clothes in the black bag at the bottom of our packs.  

However, we found that the humidity from our wet clothes could still seep out and dampen other things in our backpacks. This is where having extra gallon Ziploc bags is so helpful. We would organize our dry clothes in gallon Ziploc bags. This kept them extra separated from the wet stuff in our backpacks and helped keep everything dry. 

Portable Charger

A few of the campsites had power outlets, but these were almost always already taken.  We recommend bringing a portable charger for your phone, camera, etc.  I really like this power bank by Anker.  I can get three full charges out of it and it’s one of my favorite hiking gadgets that I always have with me.  

overhead view of an Anker power bank.
This is my favorite power bank, and I bring it with me everywhere.

Hiking Poles (Optional) 

We actually decided against bringing hiking poles for this trek, as we were already tight on space in our carry-on bag, but many other hikers were using them.  If you’ve got bad knees, we would definitely recommend bringing trekking poles.  I prefer collapsible-style poles that I can fold up and put in my backpack for any stretches of trail where I don’t want to use them. 

up-close view of a pair of Glymnis collapsible hiking poles.
This is my favorite pair of collapsible hiking poles (Glymnis brand).

Poncho (Optional)

We didn’t get rained on, but the weather can be unpredictable, and rain is always a possibility. One thing to remember is that you will most likely already be drenched from sweating in the humidity, but if you really don’t want to get wet (or you want to prevent your backpack from getting wet), bring a poncho. 

Lost City Trek FAQ: 

Do You Need Hiking Boots for The Lost City Trek?

Hiking boots are recommended for the Lost City Trek, although many hikers have gotten away with wearing trail runners or other athletic shoes. However, the steep inclines and often muddy trail conditions make sturdy, ankle-supporting footwear a much better choice.

Is the Lost City Trek Harder Than Machu Picchu?

Both treks are difficult for different reasons.  The Lost City Trek is much more hot and humid, has steeper sections, and often muddy trail conditions.  On the other hand, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu reaches a much higher altitude and involves much more stair-climbing.  Both treks have a similar total distance, with the Lost City Trek being 28 miles long and the Inca Trail trek being 25 miles long. 

Where Should I Leave My Luggage Before the Lost City Trek?

Most tour companies, including Wiwa, allow travelers to leave their luggage in their back office during the four-day Lost City trek.  You’ll want to keep in mind that these offices are often not air-conditioned, so you may not want to leave any temperature-sensitive electronics in your bag. 

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