The Incas were so very organised and constructed many paths in the Andes, a network they termed Qhapaq Ñan. Of this, the most famous section is Camino Inca – in English, the Inca Trail. 90 percent of people take four days to complete this trek, walking anything from six to nine hours a day on the first three days and about two hours on the last. The trek passes through damp, dense tropical jungle, sparse alpine meadows and freezing mountain passes, ending at the momentous Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. One minute you will be drenched in perspiration in some jungle then you will get caught in the rain and then you will find yourself braving a freak snowstorm. If ever you undertook this fantastical journey, just what clothes would you need?
The trick is to bring clothes for every condition you might encounter, be it the burning equatorial sun or chilly mountain nights, all the while keeping weight to a minimum. So you should make like an onion and wear layers instead of a single thick woolly pully. One example would be a T-shirt, a fleece jacket and zip-off trousers. Warm clothing is crucial for night-time. Most forms of clothing can be bought in most Peruvian cities that are touched by the tourist trade, and you may wish to avail yourself of the chance to buy wonderful, inexpensive alpaca jumpers. In Cuzco, you could pick up warm, cheap, hand-woven mitts that were made locally. A warm sleeping bag is also a must!
You will need a hat to shield you from the blazing sun by day and also when you are abed, so you lose less of that jealously-guarded bodily heat. It is best if the hat covers your neck. You are likely to find thermal underwear essential. You will require six T-shirts – one for every day and another two lest you become wet. Take a pair of pairs of long trousers that are lightweight, a short- and a long-sleeved shirt plus a pair of shorts. Should you wish to swim in the hot pools found at Aguas Calientes, bring a swimsuit. You can hire a towel. Then there is your underwear.
Walking to such an extent, footwear is crucial. It needs to be sturdy enough to make it to the end of the trek – you truly do not want to see it fall to pieces. Boots must be lightweight and comfortable with ankle support. This is not the time to rush forth to purchase a new pair of boots, because they will be more comfortable if they are worn in. Considering the near-certainty of rain, you might appreciate waterproofing. Somehow, porters manage with old and holed shoes that seem to offer not much support or grip, but you probably lack their endurance.
Cotton clothing is something to be shunned because it absorbs the moisture of perspiration, thus retarding evaporation and remaining wet. Cotton socks are an example of what you would prefer to avoid, but socks that contain Coolmax, a form of polyester, Merino wool or nylon will possess wicking properties, assisting evaporation. Consider liner socks.
There is generally rain in all seasons, and you have no wish to hike for ages in wet clothes. If only you can disregard the fact that you feel that you look silly, a poncho is most useful. A cagoule shields you from the rain, but it will not protect your daypack. In Cuzco, cheap, disposable ponchos that cover all, including daypack, can be purchased. There are people who wear waterproof trousers, however a poncho will mostly cover your legs.
Do not don brightly-coloured or logo-ridden clothes that brand you a tourist. While Cuzco and the Inca Trail are tourist-friendly, you would be better off without the kind of attention you would attract.
You are more likely to go to heaven if your clothing is so used as to almost be worn out and you donate it to the porters and guides. Much appreciated will be long underwear, tops and bottoms, pile clothing, sock, gloves and mittens, outerwear and even gaiters.
And of course, never forget the shades.
Here is a Machu Picchu Packing List.