So, you’re interested in climbing a mountain. Good for you!

Hiking to Everest Base Camp, trekking to Machu Picchu, or making your way to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro are true bucket list activities.

The most important element of any hiking adventure is having an experienced trekking leader, guide, and a team of porters. Without them, ticking that great achievement off your list will be next to impossible. The tourism industries in places like Nepal, Tanzania and Peru rely on guides and porters to get travellers safely from A to B. Here’s what Intrepid are doing to ensure the safety and training of our guides and porters along the way.

Trekking guides and senior staff

On each trekking trip you’ll be accompanied by one of our trek leaders and a group of porters to help carry equipment and supplies. The majority of our trek leaders have worked their way up from being a porter at some stage, so they understand the daily challenges porters face more than anybody else. Our leaders have all been trained in porter welfare and fair treatment.

Trek leaders are under clear instruction to:

  • Respect and treat porters in a dignified way.
  • Give porters the same priority they give to passengers if they get sick.
  • Never load porters with baggage beyond the stipulated weight limit.
  • Give porters the opportunity to enhance their language skills by enabling interaction with passengers.
  • Pay them the exact wage allocated in the tour budget.
  • Allow them to receive tips directly from passengers.

Intrepid values the welfare of its porters as much as its leaders and customers, and will action any reports about trek leaders who fail to adhere to Intrepid’s policies regarding porter treatment and welfare.

Respecting the wellbeing of our porters

Intrepid Travel believes in traveling responsibly, and is committed to ensuring respectful and fair working conditions for all trekking porters and leaders. Out on the wild trails of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea and the Himalayas, they look after us – so we need to look after them too.

We’ve partnered up with local mountaineering organisations and are working with them to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our porters. In our key climbing areas of Nepal and Tanzania, we work with the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC). This US-based not-for-profit organisation promotes responsible and sustainable connections between travellers and locals in developing mountain regions around the world. In Peru, our counterparts run a highly regulated operation, in which porters are registered each year with the local government and required to provide a medical certificate.

Recruitment of porters

The porters we work with are between 18-55 years of age, physically healthy and active, and have a transparent background (we check their references to ascertain their trustworthiness). Once selected, porters are trained in what they’ll be doing out on the trails, such as packing and safely handling their loads, setting up tents and maintaining trekking gear.

Intrepid pays all porters, cooks and guides a wage in compliance with legal requirements. We also provide porters with allowances for meals and transport often well beyond government regulations.

Medical care of porters

In the event that a porter becomes ill or is injured on a trip, Intrepid covers all medical expenses.

Education and training

The IMEC’s Porter Assistance Project seeks to improve the working conditions of porters by:

  • Providing a stockpile of technical clothing that is required when trekking in high-altitude conditions.  This includes water and wind-resistant jackets and pants, gloves, base layers, socks, hats, sunglasses and proper footwear. This equipment is also available for mountain crew and tour operators to borrow.
  • Offering English language lessons, first aid training, HIV/AIDS Awareness and money management classes, in order to motivate and empower porters.
  • Educating tourists about acceptable standards of porter treatment.

Out on the trail

Our porters are given access to tents or provided with sleeping quarters, sleeping bags, mats and cooking equipment. The maximum weight a porter can carry varies depending on the trek and region. Intrepid strictly enforces this weight limit and includes a personal allowance for items such as sleeping bag and clothes. At the pre-tour briefing, our leaders ask passengers to pack only what is necessary for the trek in order to make things easier for their porters. Each porter and their load is weighed at the start of the trail.

Porters and passengers are introduced to each other at the beginning of the hike. As our leaders will explain, when recruiting porters we give priority to those from local regions and disadvantaged communities. This is in keeping with Intrepid’s responsible travel policies. Because of this, many haven’t had access to an adequate education and their language skills are limited. The best way for them to learn is to have as much practice on the job as possible. Many of our porters will eventually become trek leaders, so we ask you to support them by interacting as much as possible. Sure, it might feel a little awkward at first, but after you work through any initial shyness and get to know each other, you’re likely to learn as much from them as they will from you. They’ve got some pretty awesome stories!

Pay it forward

If, when you finish your trek, you’ve found the services of your porter invaluable, we suggest you tip them. If you’re not sure how much you should give, check your trip notes or speak to your leader; they’ll be able to recommend an appropriate amount, depending on the region you’re in.

If you’ve got any good-quality gear – trekking poles, sleeping bag, a warm jacket – that you never want to see again after your time in the mountains, feel free to pass it onto your porter so they can use it on their next trek.

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