Mandatory Equipment Checklist

Mandatory Gear:

1.    “Good” Trail Runner Shoes – By “good” I do not mean any certain brand or price I mean shoes that are good for your feet.  One bad blister will wreck your entire trek and prevent you from hiking on Day 2.   Get your trail shoes no less than 6 months before your hike.  Train in them.  If you get blisters, throw them away without hesitation.  Do not try to force any pair of shoes to work better for you – shop, shop again.

Get light weight trail shoes with good tread and not much mesh.  You will get dust and sand in your shoes.   Buy shoes either 1/2 or 1 size bigger than my normal, depending on toe box shape.  On the steep incline down your feet will swell and you will be knocking your toes into the end of the shoe, and you need the room or you will injure your feet and toes.

Take a completely different second pair of shoes with you.  I had trail runners in 2013 that were fine during training, but they wrecked both of my feet in the Canyon.  I can’t explain why the shoes failed, but I had no back-up second pair that I could wear on Day 2.  Lesson learned.

2.  “CamelBak”/Backpack:    – a backpack with hands-free water hydration.  I carry 3 liters of water plus 2 small regular bottles.

How should your backpack fit?:   Bottom strap should rest right above your hipbones so the weight of the water sits down on those bones, NOT on your shoulders.  Quick test:  put 15 pounds in pack, fasten the bottom, put arms through straps but don’t fasten the top buckle.  The bottom strap should be lower than your waist.  Now fasten the top strap buckle, the weight should still be down on your hipbones – if your pack rides up it might be too short.  The shoulder straps hold the pack close to your body, they should not carry all the weight.   Proper fit matters because if you carry the weight on your shoulders you will exhaust yourself on the inclines, you will have problems hiking out on Day 1, and you might be too sore to hike Day 2.

3.   Water Filtration System AND Water Purification System:    Clean, reliable water inside Canyon is never guaranteed.   You can not rely on the NPS Back Country Website for water information, they don’t always update it and/or water disruptions happen all the time without warning.  We have experienced pipeline breaks in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  You must have the capacity in your backpack to carry the 3 liters of water that you need at all times, and you must be ready to filter muddy creek water and then sterilize/purify the water.

Both systems are required:  Water Purification Pills AND Water Filtration Pump system.

In 2013, I realized my sterilizing UV pen and small bottle filter were totally inadequate.  The pen malfunctioned or did not work in a 3 liter bladder, and my filter-in-a-bottle was too small to efficiently handle the amount of water that I needed.   Get a pump system as your filter (Katadyn worked great), and take pills/drops to instantly purify (some pills take 5 minutes, some take 45 minutes – take the fast ones, or you lose too much time on the trail).  Practice with your system.  Do not try anything in the Canyon for the first time.

I took an empty bladder in my pack in 2013, in case any hikers had a problem along the way.  It turned out to be very handy to use as the sterilization bag we could pass around.

4.  Electrolyte Replacement Drink Mix and/or Replacement Pills.    Plain water is not enough.  The amount of exercise, high heat, low humidity, and prolonged activity on this hike will deplete you.  You need to consume electrolyte replacements (drink powder form or pills) all day long or you risk fatal  “water intoxication”  (hyponatremia) when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside safe limits by over-hydration.

5.    Head Lamps – Miner’s lights.  Hands-free flashlight on your forehead.  We start at 2:30 AM and hike in the dark for hours.  Sometimes we hike out after sunset.  We are on a narrow path in a single file line, and one wrong step in the dark means you fall 1,000 to 2,000 feet down a cliff to your death.  I love my Princeton Tec Apex with 200 lumens.

6.    Hiking Poles – Get two light weight, collapsing, metal poles with a sturdy locking device.  Poles will take 25% of pressure off your legs/knees, provide stability and safety, and prevent muscle soreness.  They help with trail conditions (strong winds, ice and snow, trail in disrepair and rock slides).   I buy external lock poles, not a twist lock.  All first time hikers need to have hiking poles.

Please read:

A.    Trekking-Poles Help Hikers Maintain Muscle Function While Reducing Soreness   AND

B.     Proper Use and Grip

7.    Convertible Pants – pants made of wicking fabric that zip off at the knees.  You will start in pants, unzip for shorts, and many times put the legs back on when you hit the snow and cooler temperatures at the higher elevations.  And if you get sick or hurt and hike out after dark, you will want your pant legs back and may need to fight hypothermia.

8.    Clothing:  It is important to buy light color clothes and layer your outfits for both cool and hot temperatures.

a.    Two pairs of socks for each day of the hike.
b.    Wicking fabric underwear.
c.    Loose fitting short sleeve or tank top.
d.    Long Sleeve Shirt.  You will be covered up in and layered in the cold hours, and in the warm hours you can wear it to keep the sun off your body.  We keep cool along the trail by dunking our shirts and hats in any water sources we find, and then putting them back on wet.  This helps lower your temperature, and at 120+ degrees will make a big difference in your day.
e.     A cooling towel, something like Frogg Toggs you can buy them cheap on Amazon or Walmart  ( that you can dunk in water and wrap around your neck that stays cold for hours.

**I have had personal trouble with wicking fabric on my torso actually overheating me and causing me a mini-heat stroke during GC training.  Beware of  headaches, fatigue, cramping, and repeated yawning – early warning signs of potentially life threatening situations in the Canyon due to your fabric.  When I practice hiked in high performance fabric I was cool and dry on the torso but I actually disrupted my natural cooling process.  You need to sweat and your sweat needs to evaporate off your skin or it does not cool you off in the way that your body and brain requires.  Be careful that you don’t have material that wicks too much/too fast because you will destroy your natural cooling mechanism.  We can’t always improve what nature has given us and like most things when we try to do things better or easier we actually screw things up. **

9.    Brimmed Hat – Get a hat with a brim to keep your head, neck, and shoulders out of the sun.  A strap is helpful, the wind can be strong in the Canyon.

10.  Food:  You hike in your own food for the day, and you hike out with all of your trash.  We do NOT eat food prepared by Phantom Ranch.  Phantom Ranch cooks meals for Phantom Ranch guests at certain times of the day – and this is not for us Rim to Rim hikers.

11.    Backpack Items: Moleskin (Dr. Scholl’s grocery store product – soft padding with adhesive to put on feet at the first sign of blisters or “hot spots”), Foot Glide (looks like deodorant stick, buy in grocery or sports stores – put all over your feet to fight sock friction and blisters) , sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, band-aids, Advil, Duct Tape (I put several strips around the top of my poles – use for repairs on the trail if needed), blistex/lip balm.  I also wear bicycle gloves (for sore hands after hours with the poles) and compression knee support (to protect knees on the downhill).  Take baggies to keep all items clean from sand and dirt, and to carry out your trash.

Remember – your water will weigh at least 10 pounds, and everything else in your pack will add weight.  After 24 miles and 10 hours, each extra pound will seem heavier and heavier.  Focus on food, water, and survival items.

Leave space in your pack for your headlamp, your water filtration and purification system, spare batteries for headlamp, spare socks, and pant legs after they are zipped off.

Hike smart, to hike safe.

© 2013.   Jean N.  All Rights Reserved.