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

Cook Set: Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Cook Set, Aluminum Plate, Sea to Summit Outdoor Utensil Set, GSI Outdoors Pack Kitchen 8

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:

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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Comments 2

  • jasonhcook : Jan 24th

    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.

    • Markie Rexroat : Feb 3rd

      Awesome! I’ve thought about a hammock, but have never tried one. If you guys still with that plan please let me know how you like it!


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