Hiking Skills – Is this trail or trip for me? Can I be successful? Will I be the weak link?

How many times have you wondered if you can do a hike based on the description? Many subjective terms are used to describe a hike such as easy, moderate, challenging or difficult. How helpful is it to know the elevation change or beginning and ending elevations?

Would you say YES or NO to this hike?

  • Rating:   Easy, Family Friendly
  • Beginning Elevation:  2,300′
  • Ending Elevation:       2,650′
  • Elevation Change:        350′

Here’s the actual hiking profile, and while it matches the statistical description would your answer be the same?

The below photo details my experience and how all these rolling hills add up to a lot of elevation gain and loss. Spreading nearly 5,000′ of climbing over 15 miles and 7.5 hours is much different than ascending 1,000′ in a mile, especially when it’s on snowy terrain unsuitable for snowshoes or microspikes.

These were both challenging hikes for me, the first for length and cumulative elevation changes, the second for trail conditions and steep ascension. Does this make you think differently about a 3.5 mile hike?

Most hikers are not hiking for competition or necessarily to improve performance like other athletes who meticulously record miles per hour, personal bests, split times, or reps per mile. But in reality, maintaining a log would help us better gauge our abilities and trail suitability.

Below are a few factors you might want to include in your log and/or thought process as you access your condition, abilities and the trail or trip you’re considering.

Factor 1: Hiking Pace

  • What is your average hiking pace?
    • Calculation: mileage hiked divided by time hiked equals pace
    • Example: 4 miles hiked over 2 hours = 2 mph pace
  • How is your pace affected by other conditions?

Factor 2: Elevation Changes

  • Do you need extra time to climb or descend hills?
  • Will there be short or long climbs?
  • Will you be hiking at altitude?

Factor 3: Terrain and Conditions

  • Do you anticipate steep grade?
  • Will there be scrambling or off-trail hiking?
  • Is the tread smooth or rocky?
  • Do you anticipate obstacles on trail such as down trees?
  • Will you need extra time for navigation?
  • How about snow or ice on sections of the trail?
  • Will you be hiking at altitude?
  • How is your pace in extreme temperatures?

Factor 3: Break Time 

  • What is the frequency of your breaks?
  • How long are your breaks?

Factor 4: Lollygagging Time

  • Do you stop frequently to enjoy views?
  • Are you a photographer?
  • Will a swimming hole tempt you?

Factor 5: Pack Weight

  • Will you be carrying a daypack? or multi-day pack?
  • Will this hike require that you carry more water than you’d normally carry?
  • Will you be carrying other items such as bear canister, ice axe or snowshoes?

Factor 6: Length of Hike

  • Will the mileage be a stretch for you?
  • Will you need to maintain this mileage daily?
  • Does your hiking pace change over longer distances?

Factor 7: Solo or Group Hike

  •  Will your pace be determined by a companion?

As a cyclist I kept meticulous records, but somehow that never transferred to hiking. Maybe because of the variables, or infrequent repeated trails or conditions. This knowledge would have helped me set better goals on day hikes or shorter backpack trips. Tracking and recording personal experiences has become more important as I prepare for long-distance pursuits requiring advance food preparation to be mailed to resupply locations.

There are many tools to track your performance. I use the Trimble Outdoors app on my phone. It works well on airplane mode thereby conserving my battery, and I like it’s mapping and tracking GPS functions. I have my app set to pause when I’m not hiking so that I get a better estimate of actual time hiked. At the end of each hike, I take screen shots of the elevation profile and the stats, then maintain those with my hiking photos of the trip making future reference a bit easier.

Do you have other tips?

Link to my other posts on Hiking and Backpacking Skills

South Fork National Recreation Trail, Yolla Bolla Wilderness (04/22/15)

My fall foliage hike along the South Fork of the Trinity River beckoned a return to discover spring seasonal differences.

In 2013, we were surprised to find this well-aged sign. Nearly two years later it remains planted prominently near the long and slightly rickety suspension bridge. The forest service web site does not indicate closure of this trail, nor was there any other evidence indicating that the trail or the bridge is considered off limits. 

If the closed sign and rickety welcome suspension bridge don’t dissuade you, the twisty long drive along Highway 36 may, or possibly the isolated trail passing occasionally through private property, the rattlesnakes or prevalent poison oak.

Still interested? The gentle rolling grade, soft surface trail will delight your senses. There is plenty of river and stream access, three quaint wooden bridges to cross, one steel bridge plus this suspension bridge, many trees, plants, birds, bugs and animals to enjoy, as well as historical artifacts to explore.

Ever wonder what it takes to become a National Recreation Trail???

My exciting find of the day – Fairyslipper  (aka Deer’s Head Orchid)



I believe Slimleaf or Paper Onion

Dogwood tree blooms

Gorgeous Madrone trees

One of three very quaint yet sturdy, log bridges

No rattlesnakes today, just this fat slug

Old ranger station being reclaimed by nature

Most of the signage has seen better days

I’ve saved the best story for last. In 2013, one of the highlights of our trip was spotting a bald eagle perched on a bare tree limb over the river, many hundreds of feet below the trail. I’d forgotten about that sighting until . . .  I happen to glance to my right taking in the beauty of the river when something catches my eye, I back up and sure enough, there sits a bald eagle. The same place where we’d seen one in October 2013.

My current camera does not have a very good telephoto lens so sadly I couldn’t get a clear shot, but if you look closely at the below photo, you’ll spot the black body and white head. A few minutes after leaving our spot, this magnificent creature flew overhead gracing us with it’s beauty before disappearing into parts unknown. As we retraced our steps on the return trip, it still had not returned to it’s perch. Can you believe the timing? For us to happen to look at the right time and for it to be there just then was truly unbelievable and a very special moment.

Bald Eagle sighting

This next photo gives you an idea of how far away we actually were. 

My friend was able to capture our special moment.

Some days are luckier than others. On our drive home, we witnessed not only this beautiful double rainbow but a fit of fury by mother nature with thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour.

One of the most difficult skills to learn as a hiker is how to gauge our personal fitness level against trail conditions such as elevation gain and loss. For example, this trail was rated “family friendly with gentle grades.” When you look at the profile and notice a low elevation of around 2,300′ and a high around 2,700′, it’s easy to presume only 400′ of climbing over 7.5 miles. But when you take a trail like this that has many ups and downs, the true climbing elevation becomes a much different story.

My legs agree with the stats of 5,000′ of climbing over those 15 miles. For me, breaking up the climbs over this terrain is much much easier than doing one or two continuous climbs equaling 5,000′. Either tracking or journaling your trips is a good way to learn about your personal parameters. It’s also a great way to compare growth over time, and is especially helpful when hiking with others. I use the Trimble Outdoors app with my phone on airplane mode.


There is not a lot of information available on the internet about this trail. Here is a link to a USFS pdf you can download with some details. It’s an easy trail to follow, and is shown on most topographical maps.

Here’s the link to my fall foliage trip on this trail.

Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Myths, Perceptions & Realities Unveiled

I lived in the Phoenix area for about 5 years, back in the late 80’s. I didn’t like anything about Arizona at that time in my life, except maybe the novelty of mild winter temperatures. Yes, it was fun to wear shorts on Christmas and share cactus-themed holiday cards. For about a year, I traveled to many rural areas around Arizona and clearly remember describing to others the barren ugliness of it all. I wasn’t a hiker back then, but always appreciated scenic landscapes and was extremely homesick for mountains, big beautiful west coast mountains.

It’s been from this perspective that I’ve described Arizona and desert environments. Certainly not a place I had any interest in revisiting, except maybe Sedona, although much too touristy, and the Grand Canyon where I’d previously enjoyed day trips. So thanks to Sirena and Joan, I had an opportunity to reconsider my perceptions of this harsh landscape by hiking 300 miles of the Arizona Trail in March 2015.

Myth 1: It never rains in Arizona (except during Monsoon season)

We had rain at least 4 out of 24 days, plus the day before we started the trail. It’s March, not July or August when monsoons can be expected. It rained hard one night and for a short period one day while hiking. We were glad to have our double-duty umbrellas and rainproof outerwear and shelters.

Myth 2: It’s a “dry heat”

With all this rain, we definitely experienced humidity (and mud).

Myth 3: It’s always at least 100 degrees

We experienced wide ranging temperature variations, from freezing to HOT! It’s important to come prepared for both extremes.

Myth 4: There are no trees or streams in Arizona

There are REAL mountains in Arizona with REAL trees, vegetation such as ferns and natural waterways.

Myth 5: There are no REAL mountains in Arizona

During this 300 mile segment, the low spot was about 2,500′ and the high 9,400′. We spent most days either ascending or descending REAL mountains. This trail is not for out-of-shape hikers, nor those looking for flat easy fast terrain.

Myth 6: There are no flowers in Arizona wilderness (except cactus)

I was astonished by the number and diversity of wildflowers we found. We were a bit earlier for cactus blooms and only got to see one, but friends who were a couple weeks later have seen both wildflowers and lots of cactus flowers. There are many wildflower photos within my Passage 1-17 posts.

Myth 7: Illegals and drug runners are everywhere

The only evidence we saw was Border Patrol, and one small pile of debris obviously discarded by illegals.

Reality 1: Only a small portion of Saguaro NP has wall-to-wall saguaros

I was expecting Saguaro National Park to be packed with a fantastic display of saguaros, but within the 17.5 mile segment of trail which passes through the park, only a couple miles include wide-sweeping views of saguaros, the rest is either forest at high elevation and desert at lower elevation. This was the first saguaro we saw, 11-12 miles from the northern boundary.

Reality 2: Water can be disgusting and sparsely available

The water report was key and even more important was learning how to use both the report and the resources. Cattle troughs and tanks all require special skills. I included some tips in my Passage 14 post. Joan wrote a very helpful and detailed blog post.

Reality 3: The vegetation is not human friendly

Everything was stickery and prickery. I was glad to be wearing full coverage snag resistant clothing, and even so experienced several painful pokes and pricks.

Reality 4: Navigation can be challenging

The Arizona Trail is still considered young when compared to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or Appalachian Trail (AT). As such, signage is inconsistent, sometime confusing and non existent. By joining the Arizona Trail Association we’d downloaded the trail track and waypoints to our GPS phone apps which was extremely helpful. Additionally we had the databook, which we used extensively, and paper maps. Joan wrote a detailed post about navigating the AZT.

Reality 5: It can be a lonely trail

There were days when we saw no one, others when we might see a few comrades. The number of annual thru-hikers is still small, most likely totaling less than 25. This is a shared trail, with plenty of day and section users, especially bikers and equestrians but you’re likely to see more cows or ATV’ers than our friends on two feet carrying small backpacks.

YES, my perceptions have been changed forever! I will never again describe Arizona and desert environments as barren ugliness. In fact, I look forward to completing the remaining 500 miles of the Arizona Trail. I’m also reconsidering my previous decision to skip the first 800 miles of the PCT. This trail opened my mind to so many other possibilities such as the Grand Enchantment Trail, the Hayduke Trail, the Continental Divide Trail which all contain long stretches of desert.

Relevant Links:

Tips and Resources:

Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Food, it’s a Balancing Act

Overall, I was extremely happy with my food choices and my decision to go stoveless. Comments about my experience are in italics.


  • Granola, cold (Nature’s Path Pumkin Flax and Hemp Plus varieties held up well)
    • VERY happy with this option, especially once I added a little of my cold coffee to moisten the granola
    • Dry cereal took much too long to eat
  • Coffee, instant (Nescafe Vanilla is my preference)
    • Found I quite liked cold coffee

Snack/Meal Options:

I packaged these mostly dehydrated meals in snack-sized ziplocks and ate 4-6 per day (more variety would be preferable). *For recipes & dehydrating tips see this link

  • Hummus* and Doctor Krackers
  • Sweet Potato/Black Bean/Quinoa Salad*
    • My personal favorite
  • Chili*
    • My least favorite option cold
  • Turkey/Rice/Vege Teriyaki*
  • Fiesta Chicken Salad*
  • Pasta with Sauce*
  • Trader Joe’s Superfood Pilaf
  • Trader Joe’s Spelt Risotto
  • Trader Joe’s Quinoa Duo with Vegetable Melange
  • Sweet Potato Mash*
    • Extremely refreshing and filling
  • Pudding with Nido and Chia Seeds (made these into mini-meals and ate a couple servings per day)
    • Oreo pudding was an on-trail favorite (least favorite off trail)
    • Nestle dark chocolate was good, but would have been better with a little mint
    • Greek yogurt pudding was a surprise find at Walmart

Town food options included items such as:

  • Tortillas, flat bread, or fresh baked bread
  • Cheese
  • Avocado (repackage without peel & seed)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Tangerines (repackage without peel)

I usually kept my pack pocket full of munchies such as these and packed out enough for about 1-2 cups per day.

  • Bars
    • Really liked the Pro Bars, I’d break them into bite size pieces
  • Sweet
    • Nibs Butter Rum hard candies
    • Dried tangerines
    • Sweet Potato Leather*
    • Mixed Berry Leather*
  • Salty
    • Pretzel bites
    • Veggie chips (I was surprised at their durability)
  • Sweet & Salty
    • Pretzel M&M’s
  • Pizzazz
    • Wasabi Peas

To help with not so tasty water, I used a variety of flavor additives such as these and depending on water conditions figured on 2-6 liters of flavored water daily.

  • NUUN tablets (electrolytes)
    • These didn’t really agree with me
  • Crystal Light, etc
    • I’m not much of a sweet drink person, so I used 1/4 to 1/3 package per liter of water
  • Coffee
    • I much preferred slightly sweetened cold coffee to the artificially sweetened drink additives


For people like me who’d rather not carry more weight than absolutely necessary, it’s important to evaluate the additions of town food.

A sweet treat is a morale booster

I’d NEVER say NO to pizza

or ice cream . . .

or leftover smoked chicken and parmesan from a Caesar salad

But giving up all my dehydrated options for heavy town food before a long steep climb was tasty but not worth the weight penalty. (P.S. this is food for Jan and Joan)

A welcome relief to dehydrated food

Moderation is a much better option for me

When in town, it’s time to EAT, EAT, EAT just like drinking (aka cameling up) at water sources. This is not the time to diet!!! I use town to make up for calories I didn’t want to carry and obtain nutritional I’ve been missing. Yogurt, fruits, vegetables and especially salads are high on my list, plus calorie dense foods such as ice cream of course.

My new favorite!

Tips and Resources:

Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Learning to be a Long Distance Hiker

As a newbie to long-distance hiking, I learned many helpful tips from my much more experienced comrade, Joan.


  • I already covered information on our planning in my introductory post, so I’m not going to repeat it here.
  • Basics – maps, data book, GPS track and way points, water report with the knowledge base and experience to use them.

Goal Setting:

  • Establish your start and end dates
  • Determine your daily/section mileage
  • Map out your plan (using a calendar worked best for me)
    1. Record start and end dates
    2. Determine resupply locations and mileage between them
    3. Determine whether resupply locations will be NERO or ZERO stops

Action Plan:

  • Mail resupply and/or bounce box packages (see below for tips)
  • Make motel/camping/transportation reservations and/or obtain permits (revise later as needed)
  • Deliver water to caches (include your name and ETA, add date available for public use, take out all empties)
  • Check weather reports
  • Check water reports

Daily Hiking Strategy:

  • Review profile (I’m slower on long climbs and drink more on climbs and in heat)
    • Tip: Keep a log of elevation per mile hiked and water consumed per mile until you know your requirements
  • Locate water sources
    • Tip: The AZT uses a scale of 0-4, with 0 being unreliable and 4 being reliable; you’ll learn what part of scale is applicable depending on time of year and recent weather
  • Determine mileage between water sources
    • Tip: Keep a log of miles hiked and water consumed per mile to determine your personal needs. The goal is to carry just a little more than you need, but not to be wasting energy by carrying excessive amounts.
    • Tip: Plan to drink a liter at the water source.
  • Review maps and estimate camping location
  • Schedule routine breaks (for us it was every 2-3 hours)
    • Sit and rest
    • Stretch
    • Shoes/socks off, feet inspection and maintenance, soak if possible
    • Eat, drink, hydrate next meal, filter water, etc.
    • Watch clock to manage break time and miles
    • Best to break in shade, better near water
    • Laundry
    • Water gathering

Town Strategy:

  • Retrieve resupply package
  • Shopping (make list while on trail)
  • Laundry
  • EAT!!!! and DRINK!!!!
  • Body & foot care
  • REST!!! (if taking a ZERO)
  • Recharge electronics
  • Check for water report updates
  • Check weather report

Resupply Tips:

Although I don’t care for planning in advance, I’ve found I prefer the weight and taste of my own food; although I’d love to learn to resupply from a mini market. I supplement my resupply with fresh food and snacks purchased locally. I use a flat rate box (regional is best rate) and recommend shipping to a local business (i.e. motel – call first) vs post office (with restrictive hours).

What’s in my box?

  • Breakfast (cereal, coffee and vitamins)
  • Dehydrated meals (packaged in snack size bags, I figure 4-6 per day)
  • Drink additives, including electrolytes
  • Refill items such as ibuprofen, lotion, feet ointment, wet wipes, dry wipes, eyeglass wipes,
  • Plastic bags to repackage town purchases
  • For town stops:
    • Oxiclean (unscented) for presoaking and washing laundry
    • Personal care items such as Q-tips and fingernail cleaner
    • Denture tables (for cleaning water vessels, water filter, toothbrush, etc.)

Bounce Box:

I might send in addition to my resupply box or bounce ahead every couple weeks. I use a flat rate box (regional is best rate), and if it’s not opened it can be forwarded to next stop at no charge. I recommend shipping to a local business (i.e. motel – call first) vs post office (with restrictive hours).

What’s in my box?

  • Batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • Medications
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Plastic baggies
  • Repair items (i.e. for air mattress)
  • First aid kit resupply items
  • Emergency preparedness resupply items
  • Toiletry resupply items (i.e. floss)
  • Items that may be needed in near future (i.e. mosquito head net, mosquito repellent)

Tip: many items can be ordered online (i.e. Amazon) and delivered timely to your next town stop. It may be cheaper than shipping forward in a bounce box (i.e. shoes). Amazon Prime is a great investment for long-distance hikers with their two-day free shipping on most items. When we need something, we need it now!

Helpful Links:

Tips and Resources:

Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Partnership Commitments, Compatibilities & Compromises

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new adventure, and forget the realities of a 24×7 relationship. This can be especially true for those who primarily hike solo and/or live a more solitary lifestyle, and can be even more problematic for those in long-term relationships who take for granted that their on-trail life will be similar to their off-trail life.

Joan and I tested our compatibilities earlier in the year when we spent a week together exploring Utah. We’d met briefly last summer while Joan was on the PCT, and reunited in January at a Gossamer Gear Ambassador event in Moab (which coincidentally is where we were introduced to the Arizona Trail by fellow ambassador, Sirena, who works for the Arizona Trail Association). Joan and I are both analytical and spent time evaluating and discussing our hiking strengths and weaknesses. As the Arizona Trail concept became more of a reality, we talked in more depth about commitments, compatibilities and compromises.


Neither of us wanted to solo the Arizona Trail. Therefore, we made a conscious partnership commitment. We did not discuss what if this didn’t work . . . we were both committed to making it work. If either of us had been miserable, we would have devised a Plan B.

Compatibilities and Compromises:

Beyond personality, here are a few considerations.

  • Daily mileage
    • 10? 15? 20? 30?
    • It’s fairly easy to compromise between a 5 mile difference, 10 miles becomes more difficult.
  • Miles per hour
    • 1? 1.5? 2? 3?
    • For the hiker at either end of the spectrum, it can be challenging to compromise.
  • Daily start and end time
    • Early morning starters will have a hard time waiting on later morning risers.
    • Hikers who want to hike until they drop will need to compromise with hikers who want to spend more time camping.
  • Daily Breaks
    • Some hikers like to break up their day with regular breaks; others feel it breaks their rhythm and never take breaks.
  • Separate or Together
    • Some hikers will never want to hike independent; others will want to hike solo meeting up only for breaks and camp.
  • NERO and ZERO Days
    • Some will want to take a ZERO day at every town, others may only want NERO days.
    • When in town, do you plan to share a room? share chores? share meals?
  • Technology
    • Some will want to stop frequently to take photos; others have no interest and will get irritated.
    • Some will want to stop on ridges or peaks to check for cell signal; others have no interest and will get irritated.
    • Some will rely on electronics for navigation; others will rely on maps and compass or a combination.
  • Navigation
    • Some hikers fly by the seat of their pants while others follow topographic maps carefully.
    • Some hikers put 100% trust in their partner’s navigation skills while others want a 50/50 relationship.

Compromise Tips:

  • Daily mileage
    • Have the person with lesser mileage goals, set the calendar based on total agreed upon miles. The higher mileage hiker will then have realistic expectations and can adjust accordingly.
    • The higher mileage hiker can take side trips (i.e. summit a nearby peak) and master the art of lollygagging (spend more time focused on taking photos, enjoying nature, napping).
  • Miles per hour
    • Have the slower person hike in front of the faster person
    • Have the faster person hike ahead and wait at agreed upon time or location
  • Daily start and end times
    • Agree in advance to start time, set the alarm and be firm about departure time
    • Start at separate times and meet later in day at agreed upon time or location
  • Daily breaks
    • Agree in advance to approximate time intervals and length of breaks
    • Otherwise, the hiker who wants to skip breaks can meet the breaker later at agreed upon time or location
  • Separate or together
    • If hiking together is preferred, give each other some space and some quiet time. Hiking within sight of each other is a good compromise.
    • If hiking separate at times is acceptable, communicate clearly when and where to meet.
  • NERO and ZERO days
    • Know in advance where and when these are planned.
    • If sharing a room, discuss in advance expectations such as:
      • TV – some like the noise, others don’t
      • Quiet Time – some may want to chit chat, while others may want to sleep or be tied to electronics
      • Bed Time – some may want to party or stay up late, while others will stick to their on-trail schedule
      • Awake Time – some will want to sleep as long as possible, wile others will stick to their on-trail schedule
    • If sharing chores, have a plan for efficiency. What are priorities of town? It may be different for each town so discuss on your way into town.
      • Eating – is the plan to eat at restaurants or combine with purchased food?
      • Shopping and Laundry – together or separate? when? where?
  • Technology
    • Knowledge is power. Be mindful and respectful of your differences.
  • Navigation
    • Know in advance how this very important task will be handled. Will it be shared? What methods will be used? How will disagreements be handled?

Bonus Tips:

  1. Agree to discuss disagreements, forgive and forget. Move on!
  2. Be flexible to Plan B options. Partners get sick, injured, or just want to be done. Shit Happens!
  3. Hiking is hard work, take time to giggle.

Tips and Resources:

Arizona Trail – Post Trip Report – Gear Gone Right, Gear Gone Wrong!

Overall, I was extremely happy with my gear choices used March 3-24, 2015 on Passages 1-17 hiked SOBO. I’ve noted my changes in pink below. Comments about my experience are in italics. Link to my original gear post for the Arizona Trail.


  • Gossamer Gear Mariposa
    • The pack easily had capacity for 8+ liters of water.
    • My body was not without complaint about carrying 37 pounds (Gossamer Gear recommends a maximum of 35 pounds).
    • I was extremely happy when water became more plentiful and I could reduce my weight to something much more appropriate.
  • Gossamer Gear Pack Liner Bags x2
    • We had several days of rain and my liner bags kept the contents dry

Sleep System:

  • ZPacks 10-Degree Sleeping Bag
    • Our trip included elevations from 2,500′ to 9,000′
    • We had heavy frost and freezing temperatures several nights. 
    • On warmer nights, I self regulated by unzipping my bag or using it as a quilt
  • Gossamer Gear 1/8″ Thinlight Pad
    • On cold nights I used this on top of my Air Beam mattress; on warm nights underneath.
    • During breaks I sat on this pad; however, I quickly learned with all the stickery prickeries it was best to use my ground sheet as the base layer
    • This pad is also part of my pack, replacing the sitpad against my back.
  • Gossamer Gear Air Beam Mattress
    • The ground of the desert is rocky and hard. I’m a side sleeper and was completely comfortable on this pad.
    • I’ve used this pad for about a year and am still leak free, even after the stickery prickeries of this trip.
    • Tip: mattress will be more comfortable if you under inflate
    • Tip: use the Thinlight pad on top of the mattress for additional warm
    • Tip: use the Thinlight pad underneath the mattress for slippage on unlevel ground


  • Tarptent Rainbow, Solo
    • I’ve had this tent for about five years and love the side-entry, ease of set up and most important roominess of this tent.
    • One of the reasons I bought this tent was the option to set it up without ground stakes (using hiking poles on the ends). With the hard ground and rocky surface, I used the hiking pole option every night on the Arizona Trail.
    • During the night of heavy rain, I noticed my tent was not shedding water like it use to. Henry Shires, owner of Tarptent, recommended that I reapply Atsko Silicone Water-Guard.
      • Instructions: Set up the tent and get it nice and taut. Wipe it thoroughly with a wet towel to remove dust/grime and let dry before proceeding. Then pour/spray on the solution and thoroughly wet the surface, about 1/4 panel at a time. Rub/wipe in well with a paper towel to evenly distribute the solution. Let dry for an hour or so until it’s at least no longer wet to the touch. Repeat process so that you have applied two coatings. That will really help restore repellency and ability to bead water which makes it much easier to shake and be pretty much dry.
  • Gossamer Gear Polycro Ground Cloth
    • This stuff is tough!!!
    • Joan and I both used this as our first layer when taking breaks. 
    • I also used under my tent.
    • I was surprised that even with all the stickery prickeries it hardly showed any wear after a lot of abuse on this trail.

Water & Filtration:

  • Platypus Platy Bottle 2-Litre x3
    • I had some thread incompatibility issues with the Sawyer Mini (Platypus updated their threads but I don’t know how to tell which ones have been updated).
    • I marked one “dirty” and one “clean” as we were obtaining water from both dirty sources and clean water caches and since I don’t prefilter my water in these containers, it was extremely important to prevent cross contamination especially since we had so much cow feces water.
    • I liked the Platy bottles better than my previous Sawyer bottles
    • I eliminated one of the containers once we could carry less water (i.e. Summerhaven to Mexico Border)
  • Smartwater Bottle, 700mL
    • This bottle always had clean or filtered water
    • This was my gulping water, used primarily at breaks
    • I preferred the 700mL over the 1 liter size
    • I used the blue cap for flushing my filter (vs the syringe) (see below for instructions)
  • Sawyer Mini Filter
    • I use the Sawyer Mini as an inline filter 90% of the time, squeezing only to fill my Smartwater Bottle and to hydrate food.
    • I pre-filtered the water before using my Mini 80% of the time (see below for options)
    • I was not pleased with the performance of this filter. It was slow and needed maintenance more frequently than Joan’s Sawyer Squeeze. It also seemed the washer was worn out and wouldn’t hold a seal with the platypus bladders even after flipping the washer over. I switched to the Mini last year and had performance issues even when filtering watering from “perfect” backcountry sources. I contacted Sawyer but did not receive a satisfactory explanation and was not offered worthwhile options.
    • I switched to my back-up Sawyer Mini about half way through the trip and my experience was exactly the same
    • I do not have a lot of strength in my hands which can affect the pressure with which I’m able to squeeze water through and/or flush the system
    • For flushing, I’ve switched to using the blue flip cap found on the 700mL Smartwater bottles. Mount it on a clean water bag, stick the drinking tip side of the filter into the blue cap and squeeze vigorously through the filter. Now you can eliminate carrying the syringe.
    • I’ll be replacing my Sawyer Mini with a Sawyer Squeeze
  • AquaMira Drops
    • I’d say I double treated my water about 50-60% of the time due to the cow infested and/or green slime sources.
    • I first used the drops and then the filter. 
  • Scoop & PreFilter (bottom 1/3rd of a 1 liter Smart Water bottle for scoop and a knee high nylon as the filter)
    • I used this combination at probably 80% of water sources
    • It worked great but was not as efficient as Joan’s solution, to which I’ll be switching.
      • Small water container with the bottom cut off (i.e. .5 liter Platypus)
      • Push/Pull type lid (some platypus containers come with them, many water bottles have them, also dishwashing soap, etc.)
      • SteriPen Replacement Cartridge (glued inside the ring of the scoop container with the push/pull lid of the cartridge pointed toward the cut end of the container)



  • For Sleeping: Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Tights, Smartwool NTS Long-Sleeve Shirt, Merino Socks, Buff
    • Wore every night
  • For Rotation: Smartwool Toe Socks x1, Smartwool Lightweight Socks x1, underwear x1
    • With water a luxury in many places, rotated every few days and only got to wash occasionally
    • Recommend baby diaper pins for hanging drying laundry from pack
  • For Layering: Polar Fleece Beanie, Smartwool Glove Liners, Visor, Buff
  • For Hiking:
    • Pants (Mountain Hardwear, style no longer available)
      • I like these because they have a gusseted crotch lined with a soft fabric, same soft fabric around waistband.
      • I turn the pants into crop length by rolling the legs when hot or when I’m cooling feet in a creek.
      • These were great as a defense against stickery prickeries.
    • Shirts
    • Sports Bra
      • Looking for a better option as this one stretched out after a couple of days
    • Underwear (Jockey seamless)
      • Looking forward to fitting back into my Patagonia ones
    • Socks (Smartwool Toe Socks layered with Smartwool Lightweight Socks)
      • No blisters, no complaints
    • Gaiters (Dirty Girl Gaiters)
      • Kept the debris out of my shoes
    • Shoes (Altra Lone Peak 2.0)
      • No blisters, no complaints
      • Tip: cut off the mud flap before wearing to prevent the sole from separating from the shoe
      • Tip: cut off the velcro cover if you are planning to wear Dirty Girls regularly
      • Tip: keep the laces loosely tied. I had started getting a tiny blood blister at the tip of my long toe so on my last day I tightened my laces considerably as we had a long steep downhill section. As a result I got a severe irritation along my upper arch. I’m not sure how I would have hiked the next day.


  • Camera (Sony Cybershot DSC RX-100) with ez Share WiFi Card
    • I’d planned to blog live using the WiFi card to transfer photos to my camera, but it was too time consuming, wasting batteries on both my camera and phone.
  • DeLorme InReach SE
    • I’m on the $12 per month basic plan which allows me to send 3 customized preset messages with unlimited frequencies to unlimited recipients, plus it posts these messages and track points on an internet map I can share with others. This plan includes 5 free on-the-fly messages, incoming or outcoming; additional messages at a very reasonable price. We used this option when arranging rendezvous times and points with Joan’s parents.
  • Phone (Motorola Droid Maxx)
    • Used the Trimble Outdoors app with the AZT track and way points for navigation
  • Suntactics 5 Solar Charger
    • This was extra weight I could have skipped as I primarily used the external battery; however, I consider it insurance.
    • With little tree cover and lots of sun, this trail is a perfect one for solar chargers
    • Tip: many electronics will not accept trickle charge thus wasting recharging efforts; it’s better to charge an external battery and then recharge your other electronics from that source. I’m still in search of a lightweight external option for this purpose.
  • New Trent External Battery
    • Heavy but reliable
  • USB Cable, Wall Charger & Ear Buds


  • Lotion
    • I used Eucerin Original Healing 1oz container which seemed to have a nice balance of being sufficiently liquid and lubricating.
    • I replaced at every resupply.
    • I only use unscented product on and off trail.
  • Sunscreen
    • I used Dermatone with Z-cote 36SPF 1 oz container
    • I needed a LOT more than I’ve ever used and was happy for Amazon as I ordered more for my resupply boxes.
    • I’m happy to report this was a sunburn free trip
  • Foot care lubricant (Aquaphor)
    • I’m sure this saved me from blisters and other problems (thanks Joan)
    • I used this every morning and night before putting on my socks; I recommend during the day for problems.
    • Also good for hands, especially cuticles.
    • I used one vial every few days and replaced at every resupply.
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste & Floss
    • I make a tooth powder out of baking soda and sweetener
  • Stainless Steel Deodorant Bar
    • I can’t say how much I love this option
    • I don’t like underarm odor and this solves the problem
    • I wiped my pits and the bar with wet wipes (tip: both must be wet)
  • Medications & Vitamins
  • Eyeglass Cleaner (1/day)
  • Daily facial/body wipes, dried (1/day)
    • Would replace these with wet wipes in future areas with few water resources
  • Wet Anti-Bacterial Wipes (1-2/day)
    • Essential in the desert when lack of water is a reality
    • Really important to keep feet clean
    • Also need to get the grime and sweat off to prevent abrasions (i.e. from pack rub)
  • Poo Bag (Trowel, Bidet Bottle, Dr. Bonner soap, disposable glove & dried wipe x1/day)
    • I’m going to trial replacing the glove with a doggie poo bag and/or reusing a food baggie

Emergency Preparedness:

  • First Aid Kit (including Leukotape, gauze, needle, tweezers, etc)
    • Joan used the Leukotape for blister care (she was having to wear compromise shoes)
    • The tweezers for cactus spine and bee stinger removal incidents
    • The needle was used for releasing an impedded cactus spine
    • Tip: Transfer Leukotape onto unwaxed parchment paper or tape backing paper (i.e. postage tape); it’s not like duck tape that can be rolled onto itself.
  • Medications (including Benadryl, antibiotics for bacterial infections, etc.)
    • Benadryl was used for bee sting and heat rash
    • Neosporin was used for cactus spine incidents and a knife cut 
    • Ibuprofen was needed in much larger quantities than I’d planned due to the water weight caused aches and pains
  • Comb
    • An absolute necessity for jumping cholla removal
    • We used it several times. One day I had four cholla attacks!
  • Mosquito Repellent & Net 
    • Our timing was such we experienced NO bugs
  • Emergency Blanket  
    • Decided to save the weight and space
  • Rain Skirt (trash bag)
    • Never used but good insurance
    • May replace with zPacks rain pants
  • Mini Bic Lighter & Fire Starter
    • We never made any fires, but it’s always good to have these in case of hypothermia or other injury.
  • Maps, Compass, with Data Book, Water Report and Profile info printed on the back of each applicable map page
    • The data pages I’d put together were invaluable. We used them to plan our daily mileage, water carries, food resupplies, camp locations, etc.


  • Chrome Dome Umbrella
    • With the intense direct sun, a life saver in my opinion. I got near heat exhaustion a couple of times when I couldn’t use the umbrella.
    • Had used Joan’s method of attaching to my pack last year, but it was in the rain for a short period and it was not working with my fully loaded pack.
    • Spent the day we slack-packed devising a new hands-free solution, but once again with a fully loaded pack it was a failure.
    • Dru had devised her own solution which worked for me! She added a carabiner to a loop near the top of her shoulder strap. The shaft of the umbrella can be popped into the carabiner, then the bottom of the shaft can be wrapped around the sternum strap before it’s snapped in place. I have a 1″ piece of plumbing foam inserted on the shaft which I place near my collarbone.
  • Petzl Zipka Plus Headlamp
    • Didn’t know that AAA batteries were available as Lithiums. Highly recommend!
  • Leatherman Multi-Tool
    • Used the knife, scissors and tweezers
  • Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
    • I’ve used these as my 3rd and 4th legs for the past 5 years. They are a bit heavier than some, but I prefer cork handles and I need the adjustability for my tent.

Disclaimer: as a Gossamer Gear Ambassador, I was given the Mariposa pack (and would not use if it wasn’t my preference). I purchased all other gear.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please give me a shout. Use either the comment section or send me an email at jansjaunts-wordpress@yahoo.com.

Tips and Resources: