Inca Trail Recommendations
Inca Trail Recommendations is for traveller interested to trek the Classsic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, at any time of the year. The Inca Trail offers some of the most extraordinary scenery in the Andes, and is one of the most interesting and rewarding ways to arrive to Machu Picchu. Along the route there grand and impressionable Inca ruins hidden amongst the thick jungle vegetation, which are often obscured by the constantly moving low lying clouds.
We constantly get reports from our customers after their tours and we are pleasure to set up the Inca Trail Recommendations for your Classic Inca Trail. The Weather conditions and the time of the year will largely affect what type of clothes you will need to use. Whatever time of year you trek you will need to be prepared with wet weather clothing. Obviously there is much more chance of rain during the wet season (November – April) than during the dry season, but the weather on the Inca Trail can be unpredictable, and it is best to be prepared than wet.
Remember that the long light clothing will protect you against biting mosquitos and insects on the Classic Inca Trail, but short clothing can be more comfortable especially if the sun is very hot. Should you choose short clothing make sure you apply plenty of insect repellent. It’s Important that always have a jumper or something warm with you. High passes (like: Dead woman’s pass – 4,200masl) can often be cold, and when you stop for a break or lunch you can find or windy that you get cold quite quickly.
The best time to visit is May through October. Sure, it’s the busy season (especially June to August), but it’s also the dry season. The Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is closed on February; we use alternative routes. We highly recommended to make your Classic Inca Trail reservations several months in advance – up to a year if you’re going during high tourist season. You can only visit with a licensed agency, and spots book up quickly.
Choose your trekking agency carefully. Shop around and ask lots of questions: what you’ll have to carry, how many people to a tent, how many porters for the group, if there are arrangements for special diets. It’s worth paying more for a reputable agency that treats its porters well and respects the environment.
No matter what time of year, the trail gets cold at night. Bring a warm sleeping bag and layer your clothes.
If you can’t get an Inca Trail reservation, don’t despair. There are alternative routes like: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu or , Lares trek to Machu Picchu.
Things that you need to pack – Inca Trail Recommendations
Remember that if you are carrying your own equipment you must pack as light as possible. Ask yourself if you really need to take each item, and if the answer is no, then leave it behind. You also have an option to hire extra porter. Below are My Inca Trail recommendations:
SHOES, BOOTS AND SOCKS
- Light Hiking Boots. If you have a pair of heavy bulletproof leather boots, leave them at home. Remember what I said about becoming obsessed with weight? Boots are the first place to start. Everything will feel so much heavier up high, so stick with the lightest boots you can get that still provide enough ankle support if you need it. They should also be highly water repellant or better yet waterproof with a Gore Tex (or similar) membrane. We may easily encounter rain on the lower elevation portions of the trek and snow at the higher.
- Running Shoes or Sneakers. We will have several sightseeing days on the trip where we will not be doing any serious hiking. Light running shoes can mean sweet relief for your feet on these casual days.
Sandals (Optional). Cusco city will be hot, and personally I really like having my pair of Chaco sandals for wearing around Thamel and sightseeing.
- Socks. Bring several pairs of socks. I suggest a couple of pairs of sturdy wool socks and a couple of pairs of synthetic. Variety is the spice of life, right? Nice cushioning on the soles is…nice. Just be aware that as we get up to high altitude you may get some very mild edema (swelling) in your feet. Make sure your socks aren’t all overly thick so if you do experience some edema you won’t feel like your feet are in a vice. I like Smart Wool and Thorlo when it comes to sock brands.
- Down Booties (Optional). I’m the type of person that always seems to have cold feet after the sun goes down. I like to bring a pair of down booties to hang out in at night. Very comfortable to wear in the evening after dinner while we’re all hanging out in the dark in the tea house. Plus, their weight is negligible and they can compress down small enough to fit in a large zip-lock bag. Lowe Alpine and Sierra Designs make nice booties.
CLOTHING & OUTERWEAR
- Underwear. It may seem silly that I’ve included underwear on this gear list. The thing is, it’s pretty important to talk about. While cotton might be your friend when it comes to underwear back home, on a long-distance hike it can turn into your worst enemy! We may be wearing many of our base layers (such as underwear) non-stop for a good portion of the trip. You may think that you’ll change your drawers every single day, but that just isn’t realistic. What you’ll find is that when you do have an opportunity to strip down and change your underwear…it will be cold out. And you’ll be exhausted from the day’s activities or hiking. Did I already mention it would be cold out? Synthetic underwear is more, well, “robust” and will stand up to extended wearing better than cotton. Finally, cotton easily absorbs sweat and when hiking long distances that will lead to extreme chafing. Just say no to extreme chafing. Synthetic underwear will wick moisture away from your skin and keep you happy. Bring several pairs of synthetic underwear.
- Long Underwear. Having some nice synthetic long underwear tops and bottoms is going to be very important for those of us that chill easily. It will get colder as we get higher and you may just end up living in your long underwear. I recommend some lightweight tops and bottoms since it is always easier to add more layers of clothing to warm up if you’re too cold, but more difficult to cool down if you’re too warm and your base layer is too much insulation. Patagonia and REI are some of my favorite brands to look for.
- Fleece Layers. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ll be experiencing some wild temperature fluctuations throughout each day. It will be crucial to dress in layers and be able to throw layers on when it gets cold, yet peel layers off when it gets hot. I suggest that everyone have a nice pair of fleece pants and a nice fleece shirt with a zip turtleneck. You can get fleece pants with a “performance” cut that are tapered from your thigh to your ankle so they can be easily worn under pants and not get all bunched up. Expedition weight long underwear tops can work really well as a shirt and don’t have to be worn as a base layer. Almost every outdoor clothing manufacturer has ample options for fleece layers.
- Trekking Pants. Think synthetic for pants that you’ll want to wear while hiking. The reason for synthetic materials here are the same ones I listed above. Plus, they’ll simply dry so much faster. I would also recommend bringing pants with a bunch of cargo pockets for carrying odds & ends in. We’ll be presented with so many photo opportunities that you’ll soon tire of stopping, taking off your pack and rifling through it for a lens cleaning cloth, or a media card, etc. The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia, Ex Officio, Mountain Khakis, REI and EMS all have great options for pants.
- T-Shirts. Bring along several short-sleeve shirts for warmer trekking conditions and an option for a base layer. Coolmax is a great synthetic material to look for. Again, while trekking, cotton should be avoided as much as possible as a base layer.
- Shell Jacket. A nice water- and wind-proof jacket/parka will be crucial. Make sure it has a hood for rain or windy/cold conditions. Personally, I like Marmot and Mountain Hardwear for this type of jacket, but REI or EMS house brands are great options that are less expensive.
- Waterproof/Windproof Pants. Since we may get rained on, you’ll want to have some rain pants with you. Again, Gore Tex is king here. The pants can also come into play as we get into snow. With Gore tex pants, you can sit down in the snow without soaking your behind. These don’t need to be insulated, they can be a shell.
- Fleece Coat/Vest. Again, having insulation options will be important. A nice fleece coat and/or vest can really make you more comfortable and can also double as a nice sleeping pillow when folded. A windproof fleece is more versatile. Quite honestly I tend to live in this type of garment. Consider also finding one with a zippered breast pocket (my favorite). Mountain Hardwear and Patagonia have great windproof fleece lines.
- Down Coat/Vest. For me, this is key. It is shocking how fast the ambient air temperature can drop to below freezing once the sun goes down. You will be so much warmer and comfy if you have a down coat or vest to throw on for dinner and for hanging out afterwards. Up high I’m sure I’ll be wearing a fleece vest, then a fleece coat and then my down coat all at the same time.
- Down Pants (Optional). If you’re very susceptible to the cold, this may be a good option for you.
- Fleece Gloves. Bring a lightweight pair of fleece gloves for wearing up high. These are also good to have when it’s cool but not cold since they’ll provide sun protection to your hands.
- Sun Hat. Definitely bring a baseball cap or other kind of hat with a brim on it to keep the sun off of your face. The UV radiation up there will be intense.
- Insulated Hat. I tend to bring 2 insulated winter hats with me on these trips since they are so important and don’t take up much room. You’ll be wearing one at night, and possibly even for sleeping.
- Neck Warmer. If it’s windy and cold, it’s great to throw on a fleece neck warmer to seal out the cold air. I occasionally sleep with my neck warmer pulled over my face for warmth and to moisten the air for breathing. There is little to no humidity up high, and it’s easy to wake up in the middle of the night with your mouth bone-dry and your tongue feeling like tanned leather. It’s unreal. Turtle Fur makes nice fleece neck warmers and Buff makes great fabric ones.
- Headlamps. LED headlamps will be very important. You’ll want a nice headlamp for your sleeping tent/teahouse room and potty trips to the communal toilets. I like to bring two headlamps since they’re so important. I bring a hefty one with an external battery pack that uses AA batteries for wearing while hiking in the dark or simply hanging out in the evening, and then have a smaller headlamp with an internal battery for wearing in my tent/room for reading. The Petzl Tikka is awesome for reading by, and Petzl, Black Diamond Equipment and Princeton Tech make great all-around headlamps.
- Headlamp Batteries. I think this one is self explanatory.
- Sunglasses. Sunglasses are mission critical. Again, the UV radiation at altitude is unreal. Bring a nice pair of sunglasses that also have good side protection. You don’t necessarily need glacier glasses with leather blinders on the sides, but a wrap-around style of some sort will do the trick. Also bring a neck strap such as a Croakie so you can keep track of your glasses as you take them off frequently to shoot stills and video. I wear my sunglasses with a strap every single day of my life out here in Colorado. It’s my signature style. Tres cool.
- Sleeping Bag. We will have beds while at the tea houses and sleeping pads while camping, but you will need to bring your own sleeping bag. You’ll need to consider the trek as a winter camping trip so bring a very warm bag–the warmest you can afford. In 2003 I slept for 54 nights in a zero degree F synthetic bag and was cold every damn night. I vowed never to do that again! I now have a -30 down mummy bag and have been comfy ever since. You may think that a -30F or -40F bag would be too warm, but it’s not. At altitude you have less oxygen available to your body to keep warm. So, a lower temerature-rated bag is really important. Bags this warm are expensive, though. I picked up my -30F Mountain Hardwear bag used for $180. That was less than half the retail price at the time. Check out Craig’s List for one if buying new is too much for you. Stick to a well-known brand such as Mountian Hardwear, Marmot or The North Face. Synthetic will be less expensive than down, but will not compress down as small.
- Compression Sack. Since you’ll be limited on how much room you’ll have to pack all of your clothes and gear, get a compression sack for your sleeping bag so you’ll be able to crunch that bulk waaaaay down in volume. Granite Gear makes great compression sacks.
- Travel Pillow (Optional). I bring a small pillow with me that has it’s own compression sack so it takes up very little room in my bag. Just a little nicety that makes me more comfortable.
LUGGAGE & BACKPACKS
- Daypack. There will be no need for a large internal frame backpack on the trek. The bulk of your luggage will be carried for you so you’ll only need a daypack large enough for some food, water, warm clothing and the camera gear you want to use that day. Remember, everything weighs more at altitude so don’t bring a large backpack because you may fill it up with unnecessary gear. Also keep in mind that backpacks made specifically for camera gear are not a great option as they tend to be too limiting on space for everything else. You will invariably find yourself packing less and less camera gear in your daypack as the trek progresses because lenses are heavy! I strongly urge you to bring a standard backpack and not a specialty pack for camera gear.
- Large Garbage Bags. Bring 2 or 3 large garbage bags to cover your duffel bag and daypack in case of rain.
- Trekking Poles (Optional). Many of our team members really like to have a pair of trekking poles when hiking up high. They can actually make you more efficient as you walk since you’ll be using both arms to move forward in addition to your legs. Also, they can help steady you as you walk over the loose rock we’ll encounter below base camp. Look for poles with 3 telescoping segments since they will collapse down smaller than 2 segment poles. There are also trekking poles that have an integrated threaded bolt on top that you can use as a monopod for your camera. Leki is a good brand name to look for.
- Sunscreen & Lip Balm. The sun is so intense when you’re at high altitudes that you’ll want to constantly wear sunscreen on all exposed skin. This includes the back of your hands if you will be using trekking poles. Bring a generous tube of 30+ SPF sunblock.
- Hydration System. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you’ll want to do as we trek. The thing is, there’s more to staying well hydrated than having a lot of bottles of water in your pack. You’ll want to take sips of water almost every few minutes and you won’t do that if your water isn’t easily accessible while you keep walking. A water bladder is very convenient as it will have a hose that you can attach to your day pack’s shoulder straps to keep it near your mouth. You can also clip a water bottle to the outside of your pack in a spot that is easy to reach without removing the pack. Nalgene makes great bomb-proof water bottles and Camelback make great bladder systems. Your daypack may even have an integrated bladder pocket and conduit for the water hose.
- Water Bottles. Bring 2 or 3 water bottles of at least 1 liter each.
- Pee Bottle & Funnel. As I’ve mentioned, it will be very cold at night and it can be a real drag to have to leave your warm tent/room when nature calls. Bring an additional bottle for peeing in during the night. Just make sure the pee bottle is a different color plastic than the water bottles, or wrap some duct tape around it so it’s easily distinguishable from your water bottles! Personally, I use transparent bottles for water and a translucent white bottle for peeing. Wide mouth Nalgene bottles are preferable to narrow mouth bottles. Now, pee bottles are much easier to use for men than for women, but a pee funnel can help to even things out. A pee funnel can also come in handy for women when you’re faced with truly gnarly outhouses. Sani-Fem makes a great funnel. The women on the trip should truly consider bringing a funnel. I mean it.
- Medications. It will be really important to have a strong, broad-spectrum antibiotic prescription such as Cipro at the ready if you develop diarrhea or a chest infection. You should also consider bringing a prescription of Diamox with you as well. Diamox will help to alleviate mild altitude sickness and can help you to acclimate faster. Talk to your doctor about both of these medications.
- Immunizations. Also talk to your doctor or local health department about which immunizations are recommended for a trip to Nepal.
Water Purification Tablets. Most of our water will be boiled and sterilized by our cooks, but it’s still a good idea to bring a bottle of purification tablets as backup. Portable Aqua makes these tablets.
- Antacid Tablets. In my experience, heartburn seems to happen more regularly at altitude. Antacid tablets are an easy way to prevent it from ruining your afternoon in the most amazing scenery on Earth.
- Anti-Gas Pills/Tablets. The higher we trek, the more the air and gas in your belly will expand causing frequent burping and farting. It will happen to all of us. The yaks, too. Simethicone can reduce or eliminate this phenomenon. I’ll thank you in advance here.
- Anti-Diarrhea Pills. Traveller’s Diarrhea happens. Maybe not to everyone all the time, but the threat is always there. Loperamide pills can save the day if you are one of the lucky team members to get the shits. Another rite of passage.
In addition to this list of Inca Trail Recommendations, you’ll need to bring traveling clothes, toiletries and first aid items like band-aids, etc and personal medications if you take any. I’ll leave these kinds of personal items up to you. Just remember the airline weight restrictions for checked luggage so you don’t bring too much.