Anyone who enjoys outdoor adventures, from weeklong treks to out-and-back day hikes, knows the basics for what you need on the trail: good boots, plenty of water, and tasty snacks. You don’t need to carry much, but each thing you bring serves an important purpose. And sometimes we forget to really appreciate for the value they add to the hiking experience.
In Peru, we spent four days on the Inca Trail. It was my first backpacking trek, so I did my best to soak it all in. And after a few days, a few unsung heroes really began to shine.
Here’s my list of the most unexpected and invaluable additions to trail:
5. The All-Mighty Headband
Perfect for making your four-days-zero-showers hair look totally okay in pictures that you’ll be showing to your friends, family and coworkers. Tragically, I lost mine on the last night (RIP) but I was sure glad I had it when I climbed that 13,700ft mountain!
4. Trekking Poles
Annoying to carry, but critical when you need them. They pulled me up mountains and then steadied me as I hobbled back down again. Particularly useful when your body is so sore, you’re certain you may never be able to take the stairs at the office again. And they’ll save your knees in the long run! All the more reason to rent them for cheap on the trek.
3. Squat Potties
They may be the hero you need, but not the one you want… (In case you’re not familiar.) Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve been splashed in the face by your own urine in the middle of the night with nothing but a headlamp to see what’s going on. Did I mention that there’s nowhere to dispose of toilet paper? Because guess what! You get to carry that with you when you’re done. But hey, at least it has a door that locks, right?
2. High School Spanish Classes
Not everyone speaks English on the trail (I mean, it is Peru) so being able to have a basic conversations and say “Thank you” or “Pardon me” in Spanish is invaluable. Everyone was patient with me as I tried to get my point across in my self-described toddler-level Spanish, but I could tell they appreciated my efforts. Hand gestures helped too!
Your true saviors on the trail. Seriously, these guys carry everything. Food, shelter, all the junk you packed but don’t want to carry — all of it. Easily identified as the men in matching bright colored uniforms with 30lb+ packs RUNNING up the mountains in sandals — it’s these guys that help many travelers survive the grueling trek. They not only made the weight I carried every day more tolerable, but their care at our campsite, setting everything up and feeding us, AND waking us up each morning with hot coca tea brought right to the tent door… these guys need to be recognized over and over for the value they bring to the experience. Don’t forget to hug your porter (and tip them too).