The Incas constructed an elaborate network of almost 25,000 miles of trails in order to to connect their mammoth empire that reaches from Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile and Mendoza in Argentina. You can travel along a 26-mile stretch which is widely regarded as one of the best treks in the world and encompasses the important Incan archaeological sites of not only Machu Picchu but also Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna. This trek has grown increasingly popular in the last 30 years. Access to it is strictly controlled – the number of permits available has been limited to around 200 a day for tourists since 2001. If you attempt this venture, there are some less well-known items you should bring.
Sleeping in the company of others, you may well find yourself reminded that some people snore, in which case you would rather have earplugs, particularly if you are a light sleeper. A blow-up pillow will increase your comfort in return for little packing space. Sleeping with a hat on will prevent your body from losing heat.
Some cash will be required for pay-to-use toilets, to tip the porters and guides and purchase snacks. The need for snacks will arise due to your burning much more in the way of calories than usual and the opportunity to satisfy it will present itself as you pass small villages. You will surely feel the need to tip – those people carry and set up tents, amongst other things, and cook three meals a day and prepare a snack. Porters should be awarded $15 per day. Bills larger than $20 will not be accepted. There are ATMs in Cuzco and Aguas Calientes, but precious few, so it would be wise to obtain cash before arriving to begin your trek.
With soap and water not readily to hand, you should take hand sanitiser. A travel-sized pack can be clipped to your backpack. You will already have become aware of the need to always have toilet paper, even for restaurants, and the consideration is even more important given that you will often be using the “Inca toilet” – the bushes. It is pretty much expected that you will take some from the last hotel or hostel in which you stay.
Many people do not consider it until it comes to pass, but a blister on your foot can drastically curtail your joy. Unaddressed, this issue will only get worse. Hence you should take some form of blister treatment. You might be able to prevent this situation if you break in your shoes before hiking.
You will find many uses for a smartphone – as an alarm clock, to take pictures and to provide music, which works wonders against tiredness. One use you will certainly not have for your phone is phoning, as there’s no reception. Bear in mind that you will have no electricity for at least four days.
Your knees are generally asked to cope with flat surfaces. This will not be the case on the Inca Trail, where you also have increased pack weight and may be active for longer than you are used to. People often suffer discomfort in this area. Knee supports – either an athletic support or just a bandage around the knee – can be useful. They should only be employed if you need them, because otherwise, the knee grows accustomed to external support and can be weakened.
You will make use of a good torch to locate your belongings in your tent and to make potentially perilous trips to the toilet after dark, which will involved walking on steps or uneven, muddy banks. Chemical toilets tend to be perched precariously on slopes.
Finally, some brief points: you will need plastic bags for rubbish and to protect your belongings. At midday, the sun can be harsh, so you should have good quality sunscreen – cheaper variants get cakey. At high altitudes, the sun can be strong even if it does not feel very hot. Bring something to read in the evenings. You will most assuredly not be gathering around the campfire, as fires are not permitted.
Here is a complete Inca Trail Packing List.