Rebecca is a Global Basecamps MVP traveler who has trekked all over the world and back again. Having gained knowledge and experience packing for her various treks, she was kind enough to offer her tips for future travelers! In our "Packing for Treks" series, Rebecca will give general tips, as well as destination-specific tips for Nepal, Tanzania and Peru!
Poles in Peru?
Whether you are hiking in the Andes, retracing the steps of the Incas, or exploring the depths of Colca Canyon, the common denominator, apart from the stunning scenery, is often the steep, slippery and treacherous terrain. So it is important to discuss trekking poles. While you may usually prefer the hands-free approach, given the Inca Trail’s affinity for steps (and steps and steps), it seems that save for one steep section, the entire Inca Trail is somehow uphill. Steps are the predominant feature of Inca architecture, so you will appreciate taking some of the weight off your legs as you navigate the endless terracing. When you do encounter any downhill, there will be a vertiginous drop-off. The descent from Dead Woman’s Pass in a hail storm comes to mind...
Trekking poles are lightweight, retractable and will assist with balance and load bearing, helping preserve your knees for the next crazy adventure. In Colca in particular, where the paths are littered with rock fall, trekking poles offer purchase on the path that threatens to crumble beneath your feet and cause you to slide down the canyon or at least to the Sangalle. Modern poles (such as Leki or Black Diamond) offer ergonomic grips for comfort and have a speedlock adjustment system that is simple to use and holds its position.
Dressing For Inca Weather
If you are trekking in the Andes mountains, you should beware of the weather’s fickleness. It can change from sunny, to cold, to rainy with hail within minutes. I have already mentioned rain gear, and this might be key for the Inca Trail. One additional item to help regulate temperature along the mountainous trail is a pair of gloves. For the Inca trail, something lightweight (eg Icebreaker wool liner gloves or Northface polartec stretch gloves) will protect against sun and help keep your hands at a comfortable temperature while allowing dexterity, so you can use your poles and rummage through your pack for your rainpants.
Hiking Socks? Hiking Socks.
No discussion about trekking gear, particularly in Peru, would be complete without discussing socks, particularly sock liners. I am a fan of wool socks for trekking (particularly Icebreaker and Smartwool). Socks are essential, not only because they are so stylish (no argyle in sight) but also because socks help keep your feet warm, dry, clean and of course protect your foot from your heavy duty boots. Wool socks accomplish all this and dry quickly (wool is warm when wet), and are naturally wicking and odor-resistant. This is something to consider when weight/space is restricted as it is for porters on the Inca Trail. Under your wool socks, go the wool liners. Liners help prevent any friction or “hotspots”, protect your outer sock to keep it reusable and offer additional insulation. Indeed, it is entirely possible to hike all these trails and remain blissfully blister-free with the appropriate sock combination. In fact, I am such an advocate of the sock liner, I will divulge that the only time I did not use liners resulted in a trip to the emergency room to “address” the whole foot situation, and resulted in heavily bandaged feet and my having to limp, gimp-like, around the airport. Happy feet make happy trekkers!
Did you enjoy this post? Check out our free guide to hiking the Inca Trail by clicking below! It has all the information you'll need to get the most out of your trek.