Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Prepare for the Inca Trail: Important facts and things to bring

A street in Ollantaytambo
How to Prepare for the Inca Trail

Hiking the Inca Trail is an experience of a lifetime, and preparing is part of the adventure. This program includes three days of pre-hikes to help you acclimatize to the altitude and terrain of the trail, and the following information will help you get ready before your departure.

*** Break in your boots well in advance of your departure. Wear your boots on the flight or pack them in your carry-on bag in case luggage is lost or delayed.***

• Incorporate some form of cardio exercise, 45 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week for at least 8 to 12 weeks prior to your trip. We suggest running, walking, or biking or a StairMaster.
• Prepare for the extreme ups and downs of the hike by training across a variety of terrains such as hills or using a treadmill incline.
• Practice yoga or some form of core strengthening exercise.


• Small day pack to carry your rain gear, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, water bottles or CamelBak 
• Hiking boots that are well worn in 

• Hiking poles are provided by our operator for the entire program
• A pair of comfortable shoes, sandals or crocs to wear around the camp
• A couple of quick-dry tops and pants, socks, and underwear. Some have

   suggested only 2 pair of zip-off hiking pants  
• Fleece and down jacket
• Gloves and a warm hat
• Warm fleece pants for evening
• Personal toiletries, including baby wipes, and medications
• Camera gear with enough charged batteries for the entire hike
• Flashlight and batteries or solar equipment 

Depending on the operator that you book with, you will be limited to no more than 8 kg/17.6 lbs (minus the weight of the sleeping bag - approx. 1.6 lb) on the Inca Trail. The site coordinator in Peru will supply large duffel bags to pack your clothes and gear in for the hike. Professional porters will carry the bags during the Inca Trail hikes and the remaining luggage will be stored at the hotel in Cuzco, if you make such arrangements. You will not be able to access this duffel bag until you reach the evening camp so be sure that you have all that need for the day in your day pack each morning before heading out.


Day 1: Chillca - Huayllabamba Total distance: 7.8 miles
Estimated walking time: 7 hours
Maximum altitude point: 9,842 feet

Day 2: Huayllabamba - Pacaymayo Total distance: 5.5 miles
Estimated walking time: 7 hours
Maximum altitude point: 13,779 feet

Day 3: Pacaymayo - Phuyupatamarka Total distance: 5 miles
Estimated walking time: 7 hours
Maximum altitude point: 12,795 feet

Day 4: Phuyupatamarka - Machu Picchu Total distance: 7 miles
Estimated walking time: 5 hours
Maximum altitude point: 11,811 feet


Altitude at the Inca Trail ranges from 7,790 feet to 13,780 feet.
Upon arrival at altitudes above 3,000 meters or 10,000 feet, shortness of breath and a pounding heart are normal responses to the lack of oxygen in the air. However, for some visitors, these symptoms can deteriorate into a condition known as Soroche or acute mountain sickness. Headache, extreme tiredness, nausea and loss of appetite are standard symptoms. Take it easy upon arrival and drink the coca tea provided. Oxygen is readily available for more severe reactions and is also available on the Inca Trail.
Staying hydrated and well rested is important to adjusting to the altitude. Avoiding heavy, fatty foods and alcohol in the days before arriving to altitude can also help and is highly recommended. It’s also advisable to avoid sleep medications, as they can slow breathing and respiration, which aid in getting the blood oxygenated during sleeping.


Months                       Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. Max Temp ºF  68  70  70   72   70   70  70  70   72   72  73  72
Avg. Min Temp ºF   45  45  45   40   36   34  30  34   40   43  43  45
Wet days / month  18  13  11   8     3     2    2    2    7     8    12  16

OK, it's time to start thinking about packing; waterproof jacket and pants, yes, it's going to rain (but this time of year will surely be very green!) 
North Face gortex jacket, waterproof pants.
***This year I invested in a Marmot and I love this rain jacket!!! It is lightweight with pitzips, inner mesh pockets, gasket covered zippers and a bill on the hood that extends out over your face a bit, love that!
Water proof hiking boots; I've chosen Merrell, low profile, waterproof hiking boots. I tried on so many Trail shoes, Cross Trainers and hiking shoes but when I put these babies on they felt like they were made for my feet! In the shape of my feet! It was an amazing difference from anything I tried and I knew at once these were the ones for me. A lot of people might choose a higher shoe and one that supports your ankle. I have high top hiking boots and I wanted to go with lower ones for more flexibility. We'll see if I made the right choice but they are definitely comfy! Of course, I've broken them in first and they feel just great.
Socks - very important! For years I've used Smartwool that my husband turned me on to. They are amazingly warm, non scratchy wool socks that really hold up but they are pricey! Got some for Christmas, perfect! also purchased some Thorlo hiking socks. Just make sure you have one pair for each day. your feet will love the fresh, new socks each day!
Loose fitting hiking pants, wicking shirts, T-shirts, fleece, hat and gloves, long underwear to sleep in or something warm, plenty of underwear and of course, sunglasses. Oh, and don't forget a water bottle or two.

The next thing to concentrate on is my DOPP kit or survival kit or whatever you want to call it with all of the necessary things you'll need for basic bodily comfort and care.

- Sunscreen 
- Wipes, towelettes, etc (and a bag to pack out the used ones)
- Bug spray - I'm not a big fan of Deet. I like Natrapel made with Picaridin.  I      live in Florida and in the summer in my backyard I feel like the main course in    a West Nile buffet line! This stuff works for me and doesn't smell too bad.
- Wipes and hand sanitizer 
- Headlamp: ever try to use the restroom with a flashlight? think about it! plus,     you'll have hands free around the camp when the sun goes down.
Toothpaste (I like Tom's of Maine).
Q-tips, band-aids, vitamins, aspirin, Imodium, CIPRO?
Deodorant,... or not. You are gonna sweat and then likely land at the campsite    and be wet. Many operators supply hot water "Catwash" bowls put out              for each individual hiker before each meal by the porters along with some         biodegradable soap to wash up. Those wicking shirts for sports/running are     great for hiking.

***Some may consider water purifying tablets but you will not need them. The porters boil glacial melt water from nearby streams and purify the water with tablets. It tastes really good and is very safe, not to worry. 

Remember to bring zip-lock plastic bags and enough for your trash. You know the credo, "Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints".


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    1. My pleasure! and I'm glad that you enjoyed it!


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  3. and thank you for the comments! Please share with all, the Inca Trail is one of my favorite treks, beautiful ruins and fantastic glacial views!!!

    1. Yes, this has been one of my favorite treks as well, outstanding ruins and the campsites are well placed! We cannot forget the guides and porters, they make the trip!!!

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  5. Salkantay trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.

    1. Yes, I completed the Salkantay Trek in Nov. 2014 with Mountain Lodges and it was amazing! All of the different biozones experienced on this trek, Humantay Lake, Salkantay Glacier, it was fantastic!

  6. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is rated among the best trekking trips in the world because of the exquisite beauty of its natural surroundings; these include different ecological areas from high deserts to Andean Tropical rain forests.