The Arizona Trail: To Gear or Not to Gear
You mean I need gear on the Arizona Trail?
First, it seems a requirement in the thru-hiker community to post a gear list. Some of you may not find interest in this so before turning away skip to the bottom where I add a brief update.
OK, I’ll readily admit it – I’m a life long gear head, totally unredeemable. And before we get any further, let me clarify one thing. All gear is very personal and what works for me may be terrible for you, and vice versa. Gear is not just a black and white decision, not for any of it or anyone. And then there’s different budgets. Get the picture? Oh, one more thing – I’m vegan, which for me mans no wool, no down, and no leather. That makes a huge difference in my choice of clothing, sleeping, and other gear.
Now with that behind us, back to that gear-head thing. All my life I’v been fascinated with technology. Years ago I was the first in my office to have a PC on their desk. Before that was photography, and gear for my boat, my truck, my motorcycle, camping, skiing, and of course, tools. All managed to dig deeply into my pockets. Yet I also learned that technology is not a replacement for experience, and virtually none of it is necessary. After all, Joshua Slocum sailed solo around the world in the late 1800’s with no technology beyond a wind-up alarm clock and a sextant. Bernard Moitessier pretty much did the same in the 1960’s. John Muir had no gps, Gortex, or water filter, nor did Lewis and Clarke.
We vastly over-exaggerate the ‘necessity’ of much of our gear. Still, at heart I’m a gear-head, as the following list will show. Besides, being older I can no longer carry the huge loads I’ve carried in the past, so I needed lighter gear. The latest ultralight gear. A necessity. Not sure on that logic but it worked at the time. 😉
Gear – The Big Stuff
This is not really different than may be found on many thru-hikers, regardless of the trail.
Pack – ZPacks Arc Blast 55L backpack, made from Dyneema® composite fabric. an incredibly strong and comfortable pack (on me) that only weighs 20oz.
Tent – ZPacks Duplex, also made from Dyneema® composite fabric and weighs only 19oz. A roomy two-person tent with vestibules on both sides. I seem to have a thing with tents and have at least six. This is my favorite by far for backpacking – simple, and roomy. Uses trekking poles for tent poles so it is not free standing. My next favorite is a Six Moons net-tent/tarp combo but that’s only a single person tent. The Duplex actually weighs less and has far more room, which is quite nice if stuck in a storm.
Quilt – Enlightened Equipment Enigma. Not a sleeping bag, primarily eliminating the bottom that gets crushed when you lie on it anyway. Quilts are actually quite easy to make yourself and I did so. However\ I didn’t add quite enough insulation and didn’t have time to make another. The one I made will be a great summer or car-camping quilt.
Sleeping pad – a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, 3/4 length. I’ve slept on the longer brother of this pad and it works well for me. I’m trying the shorter one to save a bit of weight but will have the longer in reserve if needed.
Pillow – A Trekology Ultralight camping inflatable pillow. I’m a side sleeper and also have arthritis in my neck, so this is a necessity. Much better than a stuff sack filled with clothes. There are many good options here, and I already had this one.
Footprint – I’m bringing a piece of Tyvek for a ground cloth when cowboy camping (under the stars without using the tent.). Some people just put their tent down but I’ve also heard of holes being poked into the tent when used this a way. The Tyvek only weighs a few ounces, and yes, you purists, I realize those ‘few ounces’ can quickly add up. However, considering what my Cuban Fiber tent cost, well worth it.
Puffy Jacket – Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex hooded jacket.
Shorts – Baleaf running shorts from Amazon.
Long Pants – Columbia Silver Ridge convertible, UPF 50+.
Undershorts – Patagonia Essential Boxer Briefs, 2 pair.
Shirt – Columbia Silver Ridge Lite long sleeve shirt.
Socks – Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Socks, three pair. Guaranteed for life.
Shoes – Altra Olympus 4. When these wear out (and they certainly will, around 500 miles) they will be replaced by Altra Timps. I’ve tried their Lone Peak but they don’t provide me with enough cushioning. These are trail running shoes, not boots. There has been a move away from traditional hiking boots among long distance hikers and mu experience supports that move.
Hat – My Tilley Airflo hat I’ve had forever. Though many wear the traditional ball cap, I believe you should use a full brimmed hat on the AZT. The sun can do a lot of damage Ask my dermatologist who seems determined to skin me alive, one nickel sized cut at a time!
Knit Hat – A TREK beanie, of course!
Rain Jacket – I have two and haven’t yet decided. One is a generic waterproof windbreaker from China, the other a Frogg Toggs. The former is lighter but less sure on the water resistance. Rains this week around Flagstaff have left me leaning towards the latter.
Rain Pants – Outdoor Research Helium rain pants.
Base Layer – Baleaf long sleeve hoodie, UPF 50+, from Amazon.
Leggings – Patagonia Capilene mid-weight long underwear bottoms.
Gloves – Outdoor Research sun gloves, plus REI glove liners.
Bandannas – Two generic cotton, extremely versatile!
Watch – I know this may be controversial, mostly because of its recharging requirement, but I’m taking my Apple Watch 4. I love it and will give it a try.
The Arizona trail presents significant challengers with water, and this has been an unusually dry fall. One must be prepared to carry as much as 10 liters to get safely between sources. That’s over 20 pounds! Hopefully I’ll never need to carry that much.
Filter – Sawyer Squeeze. Small, simple, reliable, and just works.
Water Storage – Three 2L CNOC bladders, one for dirty water and two for clean.
Water Bottles – Smart water bottles or Trader Joe’s equivalent, 4 – 1L bottles with sports caps.
Prefilter – A small muslin bag I made that fits into the CNOC bladders to catch most of the silt, twigs, and other big stuff when filling from a dirty water source. This should significantly extend the life of the Sawyer Squeeze between back-flushings.
Backup – a small pack of Aquatabs, enough for 30L.
Stove – As with tents, I have a thing for camping stoves. My first was a SVEA 123 that I obtained when I was 16. It would (and did) burn nearly anything. It disappeared only a few years ago. For this trip I simply can’t make up my mind so have an alcohol stove that has an Esbit holder, plus a windscreen that can double as a wood stove for cooking. Esbits are a type of fuel tablet that burn quite hot. A half tablet will bring a pint of water to boil.
Since I can use none of these in the two National Parks I will encounter, I will also have a tiny BRS ultralight titanium burner for a camping fuel cartridge. I’ll pick up a cartridge right before entering the park. Only stoves that can be shut off, such as a propane/butane or white gas (i.e. Coleman, MSR WhisperLite etc.,) are allowed in National Parks.
I’m cold soaking my meals so all this stove stuff would be irrelevant if I didn’t insist on hot coffee in the morning. This would all be much simpler if Starbucks could deliver via drone!
Pot – TOAKs 750oz titanium pot.
Mug – 16oz silicon Sea to Summit collapsible cup.
Spoon – A long handled generic titanium spoon from Amazon.
Cozy – Home made from a windshield sun reflector.
Soaking Jar – A 20oz plastic peanut butter jar. I’m cold soaking most of my food on this trip, which means rather than cooking I soak the meal for a few hours in cold water and eat it cold. An experiment for me and all of my meals can be heated.
Food Bag – Loksak oder proof bag, and a large Cuban fiber bag with a line for hanging. I’ve had the latter for a while and don’t recall the brand, but think I bought it through the Garage Grown Gear website.
Fire – Bic Mini-Lighter (2)
Simple – since I’m vegan. I have pre-made vegan meals for the entire trip, each vacuum packed, with lots of variety and calories, supplemented by various nutritional bars, including Lara Bars, Complete Cookies, Cliff Bars, Mixed Nuts packets (Kirkland,) Probars, and Greenbelly Meal2Go.
Other treats can readily be obtained along the way, such as Fritos or their equivalent. Trader Joe’s version, at just shy of 10oz, has 1500 calories. Two bags have enough calories for an entire day. Of course, not exactly a balanced diet! A weeks worth food at a timef will be mailed to me along the way.
Cameras – An IPhone X and an iPhone 7S, plus Moment lenses. Moment’s telephoto, wide angle, macro, and anamorphic lenses will be going. These are excellent lenses and in my mind make dslr’s obsolete for most photography. The cameras also double as my gps, compass, and trail maps.
Portable Charger – RAVPower USB C, QC 3.0, 20100mAh battery bank.
Wall Charger – Anker multiport QC charger.
Tracker – Garmin Inreach Mini – Satellite enabled with sos functions and limited email. It works virtually everywhere and does not need cell coverage.
Headlamp – UCO Air 150 lumen usb rechargeable headlamp.
Mini flashlight – ThruNite mini Cree AAA flashlight, 120 lumens max. Can be clipped to my hat brim, and surprisingly bright.
Trekking Poles – Trekology aluminum poles from Amazon. I checked out many but experience showed me I prefer cork grips. I looked at Carbon fiber but they really didn’t seem to be much lighter and were often heavier, and much more expensive. I’ve had these for some time and like them. Note, on the end of one I have a small iPhone selfie bracket, the white object on one in the photo.
Umbrella – A silver reflective umbrella from Six Moons Designs. Really an essential piece of gear for Arizona and anywhere sunny and warm.
First Aid – Simple, just a few bandaids, a tiny tube of Neosporin, some Lukotape for blisters, a few Benadryl and Naproxen, tweezers, and a course of Cipro.
Repair – Duct tape wrapped around one of the hiking poles, needle and dental floss (as thread,) repair tape for the tent, some safety pins, and and repair kit for the sleeping pad (a fancy air mattress.)
Hygiene – Ugh – a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, a tiny bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, Toilet paper, a Deuce of Spades potty trowel, a small package of wet wipes, hand sanitizer, SPF/Bug cream, lip balm, and anti-chafe. One more thing: a small battery powered razor. I had a full beard many years ago and never again. Worth the weight. A pair of AA batteries will last at least two weeks.
Seat Pad – generic from Amazon.
Camp Shoes – an Xeroshoes sandal kit.
Arizona Trail Specific
Very little is needed specifically for the AZT. It’s mostly greater capacity for water and sun protection. One thing not needed – a snake bite kit. DON’T EVER USE ONE – they’re dangerous and trying to suck the poison out is very counter productive. This is according to every reliable medical source. They shouldn’t even be marketed anymore.
Mini Multiple-Tool with pliers – Have carried this for some time hiking in Arizona. The best thing I’ve found for pulling out those tough, stubborn cactus thorns. The full sized ‘leatherman’ is just too heavy.
Hair Pick – I won’t have one but many have found these very useful for removing small pieces of cactus, particularly those ‘jumping’ cholla cactus.
This is it, all I will have to exist the next many weeks on the trail. I call it being homeless with class!
I can’t believe how busy I’ve been and also seemed to lose a week along the way. I realized last weekend, while making appointments with friends, that there was one less week until departure than I thought. Panic! Doctors and a few unplanned medical trips, including losing a crown and bursting an ear drum, have kept me running.
I immediately recovered the crown, well stuck to an unwise gummy bear, but the ear was much more problematic. After a thorough examination my ENT prescribed some medication, gave a stern warning not to to get water in the ear, and a pronouncement that it could heal itself in about three months. Finally, she said the altitudes I would encounter should not present a problem.
After that I made a quick trip to Flagstaff to drop off my resupply boxes. Food and a few other items fill each large USPS flat rate box. Another box has a new pair of shoes, shorts, socks, and undies that I’ll have sent when my shoes are on their last legs. By then the other clothing items will badly need replacement!
Now I’m just trying to wrap up everything at the home I’ve been housesitting in Tucson and winterizing my summer home on Show Low. Bills to pay, motorcycle and truck to store, fresh food to either eat, donate, or discard, all doors locked, and I can account for all the keys. Too much to do! Too much to do.
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