Physical preparation for hiking the Inca Trail is not just cardio and leg strength, it also includes gear prep. Confused? Let me explain.
First, your Inca Trail porter can only carry 6 kg (about 13 lbs) of gear for you. This 6 kg includes your sleeping bag and pad, leaving 2.5 kg (about 5.5 pounds) for your gear. Anything over this 2.5 kg you have to carry. I was able to get all of the clothing items I was not wearing in the porter bag. Everything else making the 26-mile trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu I had to carry.
Second, unless you are seasoned hiker you will need to break-in all of the new gear you will be buying. This means practice hikes using the exact gear you plan to us on the Inca Trail. Everything needs to be tested, all the way down to your underwear (better to find out they chafe before you hit the trail!). You may feel weird hiking your local trails looking like you are about to take on Everest, but it will be worth it. Heather and I bought our hiking boots first then our packs giving us plenty of time to break them in.
Shane’s Comprehensive Gear List For Hiking the Inca Trail
I spent quite a bit of time on the G Adventures website researching the gear we needed. (Check out the Watering Hole for another great resource provided by G Adventures.) The hard part is balancing being prepared with having to carry everything you bring. Here is the list of gear I took on the Inca Trail:
- Heavy, waterProof outer layer
- T-shirts (4)
- Hiking pants that convert to shorts (2)
- Track pants
- Underwear (4)
- Socks (5 pair)
- Hat & gloves
- Camping pillow
- Sleeping bag liner
- Camping towel
- Head lamp & extra batteries
- Hydration bladder for pack
- Portable phone chargers (3)
- Clif Builder Bars (3)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Bug wipes
- Body wipes
- Butt wipes
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
What should I have left behind? There is only one thing on my list I would not take if I were hiking the Inca Trail again, the heavy outer layer. As the description denotes, it is heavy, takes up a good amount of room in the pack, and I ended up not using it.
What should I have taken more of? Clif Bars & bug wipes. G adventures gave us a snack pack the first day of the hike. This lasted most of the first day! I had to ration my Clif Bars the rest of the time. The bug wipes became very popular within our group. I’d plan for plenty of sharing next time.
A quick word about mosquitos. We were told, “Oh you will not see any mosquitos because you are too high up.” This was not a lie. I never saw a single mosquito. This is because Peru has ninja mosquitos. You never see them, but you get the bites proving they were there.
Boots and Pack
Yes, you can use “boots & pack” to learn to beatbox, but I digress. I strongly recommend that you seek out an REI or similar outdoorsy store for these items. This way you will get the help of someone trained to make sure you get the right thing. Don’t feel stupid for asking a ton of questions. Your feet and back will thank you later.
I have a weak left ankle so knew I needed hiking boots with heavy ankle support. For my pack, Heather and I both chose the 40 Liter REI Trail. The important thing for us was the waist strap. It needed to comfortably take the weight of the pack off of our shoulders. This pack did this perfectly, and was just the right size for our gear.