My Pre-AT Gear Testing Adventure
Upon walking into my apartment right now, people might either guess I’m thru-hiking the AT or I’m a doomsday prepper. Either way, things are close to being all squared away on the gear and supplies front. Last weekend a friend and I escaped from our mountain-less Indiana home, to the Grand Canyon for some hiking and gear testing. Here was our weekend itinerary:
Day 1: South Rim to the Bright Angel Campground via the South Kaibab Trail (4,780’ descent in 7 miles). Nighttime Temp: Low 30sF
Day 2: Bright Angel Campground to Indian Garden Campground via the Bright Angel Trail (1,320’ ascent in 4.7 miles). We also hiked and additional 3 miles roundtrip (sans packs) to Plateau Point on a flat trail. Nighttime Temp: Mid 20sF
Day 3: Indian Garden Campground to the South Rim via Bright Angel Trail (3,060’ ascent in 4.8 miles).
It was my plan to “earn” my official trail name out on the AT, but given the pretty strenuous nature of the Grand Canyon hike I feel I sufficiently earned my name this week: Switchback. There. were. a. million. of. them. Here is the short list of the essentials I tested on the trip:
Pack: Osprey Ariel 65
Tent: REI Quarter Dome 2 (I like the extra space, to me it’s worth the weight)
Sleeping Pad: Big Agnes Insulated Air Core
Sleeping Bag: High Peak Alpine Pack 20 degree
Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket
Water Reservoir: 3L Platypus (usually only fill to 2L)
Water Purification: SteriPen Ultra (rechargeable)
Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech – Quick Lock
Hiking Shoes: Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Mid
Crampons/Ice & Snow Grips: Snow Trax
As far as clothes, I’m a sweaty beast so I’m constantly shedding/adding layers throughout the day. Some of my favorite items are:
- Reebok moisture-wicking leggings
- HEAD running gloves
- REI down jacket
- Paradox waterproof shell (cheap and much better quality than Frogg Toggs)
The rest of my apparel is some variety of wool or moisture-wicking material. So there you have it. I am really happy with all of my gear thus far. I was glad we had our Snow Trax because the trail was steep and icy near the rim, similar conditions for my mid-March AT start.
The only drawback I would say is that I was cold in my mummy bag. I believe the temperature rating on those this is the “you probably won’t die at this temperature” rating, not the “you’ll be warm at this temperature” rating. I’m sure this could be helped with a sleeping bag liner, but I just bundled up and it wasn’t too shab. With all of that equipment, plus the other essentials I haven’t listed (food, toiletries, luxury items, etc.) and a near full reservoir and water bottle, I’m looking at a combined weight of *drumroll, please* 35lbs. I’ve hiked with this weight several times and feel quite comfortable with it so far. The ultimate test of course will be during the first few weeks of life on the trail.
I’ve also started hoarding food from Costco like it’s my job. Although I don’t plan on having all of my food mailed to me, I got nearly a month’s worth of food for only about $100; you can’t beat that. I also think with my REI Member Refund this year—which should be a pretty penny after all the gear I’ve gotten from them—I’m going to buy a ton of freeze dried food. The weight and the ability to switch up flavors is right up my alley.
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My son and I are starting at about the same time, and we have the same gear preferences as you. Although we are sharing a tent at the start and switching to hammocks further up the trail. You probably won’t need crampons. But what do I know? I live in Georgia and we blocked up two interstates during an ice storm last year.