The hot Arizona desert can be challenging to hike in as the heat beats down on your body and your body fatigues from a heavy pack. The general rule of thumb is to hike with no more than 20% of your body weight so hikers can maintain a good rhythm in every step. This allows for efficiency for the hikes, as heavy packs can be gruesome in the hot desert and incline in terrain. Now that you know your pack weight, try to be a minimalist and carry only things that are a must. The hike out, you’ll feel every ounce of extra weight, as the last 2 miles climb is 2000 feet elevation incline to Hualapai Hilltop.
Here’s what we brought and split between four people:
• Food & Water – We bought freeze-dried food for every meal. For snack, bars, jerky and nuts did the trick. Hiking in to the campground is easier than hiking out as it is mostly downhill. 3 liters of water for each person was just the right amount. Hikers will utilize more water hiking out of the canyon so be prepared to carry extra water bottle. During the hikes we used a lot of electrolyte Gatorade GU packets. These packets help reenergize body during the hike with all the caffeine and amino acids packed into them.
• Tent – After much research, a typical 2-3-person lightweight tent was roughly over 5 lbs. We use an REI half dome tent and it worked well. The tent was big enough for 2 people and their backpacks. The tent stakes were a mistake to bring along and only added more weight. The backpacks were heavy enough to serve as this purpose. There are lots of people sleeping in hammocks instead of tents, which, is a lighter option. We would recommend a mosquito net above. If you sleep in a hammock, you can save 5 lbs.
• Backpack – Greggory and REI make some nice hiking packs with a hydration slot. Don’t skimp out on this gear. This is one of the most important pieces of your gear and you’ll spend majority of the hikes with a pack on.
• Daypack – Once you setup camp you’ll need a daypack to hike down to Mooney Falls and to Beaver Falls. Mooney is at the end of the campground and Beaver is another 3 miles pass Mooney. A good daypack with a hydration slot seems to work better than a string type of backpack. Hikers should always have a lot of water ready and keep hydrating before it’s too late. This will keep you in good spirits for the remainder of the hikes. Some of the hiking backpack comes with a built in daypack so these are nice features for the better hiking packs and is recommended.
• Clothing – Aside from your typical shorts, shirts and swim trunks, it was key to have comfortable pair of hiking shoes, fresh hiking socks and underwear for the long trek. This will help keep your feet from blistering and reduce any chafing from occurring. The nights are pretty warm in May so the need of a jacket wasn’t necessary.
• Blister and chafing equipment – At any point of time blister(s) are starting to develop, take care of them with some moleskin, band aids, ointment and/or ankle tape. Since you’re putting a lot of miles on your feet, take good care of them before it’s too late. Baby powder is great for reducing the friction between your thighs known as chafing. These items shouldn’t be overlooked because this will help keep you comfortable during hikes.
• Money – There are vendor carts at the beginning of the campground so bring lots of cash. Even though it’s over price food, it’s nice to eat a hot meal other than freeze-dried food. Meals range from $8 to $14 depending on the meal and drinks are $3 to $5 (soda and Gatorade).
• Sleeping gear – The Thermarest Z-Pad at only 11 ounces is light. You can fold the foam on top of each other for a thicker pad more comfortable sleep. In the summer, a sleeping bag might be over kill cause of the heat so you can get away with a thin lightweight blanket.
• Water packs – Osprey and Geigerrig hydration packs were selected choice for this trip. We ran out of water coming back out at 3 and 2 Liters. However, we pack an extra bladder for hiking out. We bought a 2-gallon collapsible water container for cooking. It was light weight and work wonders. The fresh spring in camp is free but is towards the front of the 1-mile campsite.
• Cooking supplies – MSR makes a really good lightweight burner and the small propane tanks are easy to pack. When it came to a camping pot, we used GSI camp stove. It is lightweight and comes with 2 bowls, which fit right inside of the pot making it easily packable without a hassle. As far as utensils, we packed some plastic forks and spoons and washed them with a very small sponge and biodegradable soap.
• Lighting – Get a good headlamp and make sure it works before the trip. I used a Black Diamond Storm. It was a good thing I brought an extra pair of batteries because the Goal Zero rechargeable batteries doesn’t work with this headlamp. This was a fail. We also had a Petzel Actik Core, which comes with a rechargeable lithium battery pack that worked well but, not as comfortable as the Black Diamond. Since there are no fire or fire pits allowed in the campground, a good lantern is a necessity. All the lanterns we had were bulky or heavy so we ended up using a battery powered string lights. The one we used was only about 1.6 ounces and emits just enough light in main part of the campground with 50 LED lights.
• Facemask – Mules run up and down the trail all day long kicking up dust. You end up drinking or breathing the dirt in the air. Find a lightweight cool facemask you can use as a mask or cooling towel.
• Rodent Proof Bag – Protect your food. Squirrels and other varmints can be aggressive chewing through tents or other plastic bags. The last thing you want is to hike 2 miles to the village to buy expensive food.
Yes, there are people who have completed the hike without any type of conditioning or training but, it makes for an easier adventure if you train your legs and core before heading to the Hilltop to start your descend into the canyon. We trained for about a month and never had an issue with legs getting too tired. Here’s how we trained:
• Monday (cardio) – 5 to 10 minute stretch. 25 minutes on the treadmill with half the time jogging and the other half walking uphill. 20 minutes on the bike at a good pace.
• Tuesday (cardio) – 5 to 10 minute stretch. 25 minutes on the elliptical and 20 minutes on the bike at a good pace.
• Wednesday – Go for a light hike with pack on.
• Thursday – Yoga exercise to stretch shoulder, back and legs.
• Friday – 5 to 10 minute stretch. Squats, lunges, calf raises and a couple of core exercises with 4 intervals and 20 reps
• Sunday – Go for a hike and increase weight in your pack
3. Mental State of Mind
It’s easy to lose sight of your goal when the going gets tough but, focusing on what the goal is and refocusing yourself on matter at hand will keep your mind positive moving you forward.
Take Breaks – The hike is long so take breaks when needed to help keep you focus on getting to your next destination. Also, breaks are a good time to take some energy booster electrolyte packets to keep your energy up and therefore, keeping you positive.
Group/Team – We found having a good group of people who you can talk to and rely on makes for completing the hike and time go by faster.
Water – Keep your body hydrated even when you’re not thirsty. Often times it’s a little too late by the time your body is dehydrated and your body starts to cramp up or experience heat exhaustion. Make a conscious effort to continuously drink water. This will help keep you from your breaking point.
4. Hiking Techniques
• Backpack adjustment – I really had no idea there was a technique to sitting your pack on your back until this trip. Adjust the waist buckle tight so there is less weight on your shoulders. This will allow for more weight on your legs then shoulders. Trust me, you would rather have more weight on your legs then shoulders for 4 to 6 hours.
• Hiking uphill – The last 2 miles on the way back is uphill. Take smaller steps so you don’t fatigue as easy. Remember you’re in it for the long haul so find a good uphill pace so you can complete the hike.
• Keep your pack balanced – As you take more and more breaks it’s better to keep your pack well balanced so you’re not tipping over when resting or taking breaks. It’ll be more comfortable in the long run.
• Don’t use the mules. They look malnourish and dehydrated. The helicopter is a better option.
• Pack accordingly and bring only what you really need. You don’t need soda or candy bars for a short period of time.
• Get a roto cooler like a Pelican, Yeti or Rtic so ice will last in your car and you’ll have cold drinks when you reach your vehicles to hydrate.
• Hike out all the trash you bring in or learn how to be a minimalist for a few days so you don’t have to hike out much trash.
• Don’t bring floaties. There is a ton of floaties lying around and people don’t hike them out. Don’t be those people.