The AZT is not the AT

A whole new animal.

So you’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail and live in the southwest. You might consider hiking the Arizona Trail. Perhaps you feel confident in your backpacking abilities and gear. I did. I knew getting water would be an issue, and of course desert heat and spiny things, but that didn’t seem so hard to deal with. I hiked sections 16 and 17 (about 40 miles) in the beginning of March with a friend. (For a full trip report check out my blogspot address in my links.) I brought enough containers to carry up to 8.5 liters of water, but didn’t expect to use all of them. I have been doing day hikes in the Utah and Arizona deserts, but no backpacking out here. I knew it would be different in the desert, but I figured I needed to learn desert backpacking anyway, for when I get to the PCT and CDT.

Water weight sucks!

I resented carrying so much water weight, so I carried only 5.5-6 liters at a time which wasn’t enough for me. I tend to drink a lot of water, especially in the heat, and even on the AT I drank up to 6 liters in one full hiking day. On the AZT with water sources uncertain and no current water reports I should have carried 8 liters and still been cautious. Instead all the seeps were dry, we got off trail, I got dehydrated, and then got heat stress. I was able to manage it enough that I didn’t get sicker, but it was not pleasant to endure the nausea, dizziness and chills of being overheated. I was actually sick for the whole week after returning home, which made me wonder if I’d contaminated my filtered water with cow pie water or dirty hands, but it went away on its own, so I’m guessing it was adverse affects from dehydration and heat stress, plus backpacking food.

I need new gear.

I know. It’s an addiction, but now my addiction has an excuse. I have to cut weight in my pack to make room to carry all that water. I may even upsize from my 50 liter pack, or add the brain back on for the additional space. I couldn’t have fit another liter of water in my pack, anyway. It was stuffed to the gills and the seams are already ripping from thru-hiking the AT with it. I love my Granite Gear Nimbus Trace pack, though, and it fits me perfectly, so I taped the tears with Tenacious Tape, and I’m hoping to downsize my other gear, particularly my sleeping bag. I love my Montbell Super Spiral 15 degree down bag. I thru-hiked with it, and sleep with it most nights at home. It’s my comfort and thinking of replacing its 2 pound 7 ounces with something else kind of makes me want to cry, but buying new gear is exciting, so I’m preparing myself to take the plunge.

Klymit sleeping pads gear review.

I just got a Klymit Inertia X Wave sleeping pad (purchased on a pro deal) and with this pad I need a sleeping bag that has insulation on the bottom. That is what makes their loft technology work, because these pads with the holes cut out aren’t especially insulating themselves. They’re meant to better use your sleeping bag insulation instead of compressing it under your body. This was my first torso length pad and it was also the first time I used it. I had no problems with the length. I just put my backpack under my legs which kept them insulated and elevated and that was fine while on my back. I did have some uncomfortable moments while sleeping on my side with some hip pressure.

I’m used to my Thermarest NeoAir All Season 2.5 inch thick air mattress, which survived my whole AT thru-hike and is still going strong. It’s a little heavy and I would rather have the width and not the length, but I need a thicker pad than the Klymit Inertia X Wave. I think I’ll bring a closed cell foam section just to put under my hips next time. Other than that I liked how easy it was to inflate my Klymit pad, and I loved the weight and size savings over the Thermarest. By the third and fourth nights I was so tired I passed out and slept great.

My hiking partner, Susan, used the Klymit Inertia O Zone with built in pillow and had this to say:

“It was surprisingly comfortable for its size and weight. I’m 5′ 9” and the integrated pillow made for a perfect fit; it anchored my head which seemed to keep me centered on the pad. The nights were mild, only dropping to 45-50°F at night, so I didn’t get to seriously test the insulation properties, but as it was the temperatures were quite comfortable with the Ozone and my SD Backcountry Bed (which lacks fill on about 25% of its bottom where the sleeve accommodates the pad).

It took me only a few seconds to inflate and deflate the pad, and it folded up handily in the morning. The Ozone is so compact I had no problem storing it with my sleeping bag. I had been warned that the pad might be particularly vulnerable to puncture by evil cactus spines, but fortunately we didn’t have any issues, though I laid it out over just a ground cloth to sleep. Overall and so far, I would choose the Ozone over the inflatable mattress I’ve been using. To my own surprise, I had better rest with the Klymit pad.”


What I learned-the quick and dirty.

Carry more water. Cut other weight. Collect water when it’s available, even from mud puddles. Learn navigation. Get up earlier to hike in the cooler air. Join the AZTA to get the GPS data points, maps, and other trail info they have available as well as to support the trail.

And don’t expect this trail to be anything like the Appalachian Trail. I have a lot to learn.

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