Even though we here at Tripping Over the World love to be spontaneous, there are certain trips that just require some basic advanced planning. Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of those trips. Here are three things you should do at least one month before you leave for your Inca Trail backpacking trip:
1. Visit your doctor to update your vaccines
Vaccines can take a few days or even weeks to become effective, so it’s important you give yourself enough time to update your vaccinations before you begin your trip. Some people will go to a special travel clinic for their vaccines, but my insurance didn’t cover that. So instead, I just got all the information I needed off the CDC website and scheduled a regular doctor’s visit with my primary care physician. I got a DTaP shot in the arm, which was covered by my insurance because it is a routine vaccination, and a prescription for a typhoid vaccine taken orally that was just under $100 out of pocket.
2. Figure out what shoes you’re going to wear (and break them in if needed)
Having well-worn shoes is important for any hike, but doubly so for a multi-day trek. If you are going to buy a new pair of shoes, give yourself at least one month to break them in. To break in a pair of shoes or boots wear them for short distances at first. The trick is to avoid getting any blisters as you’re breaking them in. As soon as you feel a hot spot coming on, swap out of your new shoes for an old pair before a blister is born. Give your feet a rest for a day or two, then start over again.
3. Figure out and test gear you’re going to bring on your trek
Even when you’re going with a hired guide and porters, you will still be in charge of procuring some of your own gear for the Inca Trail. Your tour group should give you a comprehensive list, but it’ll generally include things like a sleeping bag and pad, water bottle/bladder, trekking poles, etc. There are three main options for your gear: either you already own it, you can rent it once you’re down there, or you can buy it before you leave.
Bringing gear you already own is the cheapest option, plus you already know its condition. Luckily, I already have a great sleeping bag that I’ve tested out a ton of times. It’s clean, warm, and ultra light weight, which is important for me because I won’t be hiring a porter for my personal stuff.
If you don’t own it, renting gear can be a great option, especially if you don’t typically do a lot of outdoor travel. I’m considering this option for trekking poles, which I’ve never used on previous hiking trips. Some of the pros of renting: you don’t have to worry about airline baggage restrictions and it’s cheaper than buying it. Cons to renting: you don’t know the quality or condition of the gear in advance. According to my research, trekking gear is available to rent in Cusco (I look into this option first hand when I arrive).
The final option is to buy your gear. Hiking gear can be expensive, so thinking about your packing list at least one month in advance can help you plan for some of these big ticket items. I decided to buy a light weight backpacking sleeping pad. I go often enough that it’ll be worth the expense for me. And because I gave myself at least a month to get it, I was able to keep an eye out for sales and got a great deal on a high quality pad for 25% off.
Buying gear in advance also gives you plenty of time to try things out, as I did last weekend in the Sierras.
— Laura Rowley