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Desert Hiking Gear List


by Carol Crooker | 2004-05-04 03:00:00-06

Desert Cactus, by Connie Gannon Seasons: Spring, Early Summer, Fall

Length of Trip: 3-Day Weekend

Context: The desert hiking gear list provided below is one example of how a lightweight backpacking enthusiast might select equipment for a 3-day weekend outing in benign desert conditions in the spring through fall. Deep summer conditions (the monsoon season), when torrential rains threaten and temperatures exceed 105°F (41°C), are excluded.

The list is designed for the southwest United States desert. Vegetation is of the prickly variety, and trails are generally rocky. Trees, if any, are normally small and thorny. Water is available, but scarce. Three-season temperatures range from about 25 to 105°F (-4 to 41°C) and can be quite variable. A single trip into the Grand Canyon in May can see temperatures from freezing to the 90's (low 30's C), with intense sun in the inner canyon and snow, rain and hail near the rim.

This list is aimed at the cooler end of the above range. For a trip where the expected low is 60°F (16°C), both insulation layers, the warm hat, and the sleeping bag could be left at home. For a trip at the very lowest end of the range, a warmer sleeping bag, such as a Bozeman Mountain Works Quantum Arc X, and gloves (see the PossumDown Gloves) might be added.

It is assumed that water is not available along the trail, and that campsites are located near reliable water sources. (A water sack could be added if a dry camp is planned.) Rain is possible, but not expected

An inflatable mattress was selected since it provides some extra cushion on the sometimes rock hard ground. Although there is some danger of the vegetation pricking a hole in an inflatable, the Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite Inflatable Sleeping Pad offers a tougher cover than other ultralight sleeping pads. A repair kit can be added to the pack for an extended trip.

Bear bagging rope was not included since suitable trees for hanging are rare.

Crew length socks were chosen to provide some protection from ankle attacking vegetation.

A wide-brimmed hat protects the face and neck from desert sun; the airy mesh panels in the Rail Riders Adventure shirt provide excellent ventilation in the heat. The Salomon Tech Amphibian shoes were selected for the versatility needed for hiking in the heat as well as wading canyons.

Some examples of brands and models/styles are listed below for reference only. They neither represent an endorsement of that particular product nor a suggestion that the product listed is the best choice in the context of any particular situation.

Clothing Worn
hat with brim wide-brimmed hat Tilley LT3 3.0 oz (85 g)
hiking shirt long sleeved sun protection shirt Rail Riders Adventure shirt 6.1 oz (173 g)
sport top minimal, breathable Patagonia Mesh Sport Top 2.1 oz (60 g)
underwear synthetic briefs Moving Comfort Microbrief 1.3 oz (37 g)
hiking pants lightweight sun protection pants Solumbra Active pants 6.3 oz (179 g)
hiking socks lightweight merino wool blend, crew SmartWool Light Hiker 2.7 oz (77 g)
hiking shoes breathable synthetic trail running shoes Salomon Tech Amphibians 24.2 oz (686 g)
Other Items Worn/Carried
trekking poles one piece, carbon fiber Stix X1 Trekking Poles 6.0 oz (170 g)
watch thermometer watch Casio Women's Pathfinder with band removed on Bozeman Mountain Works UrsaLite Micro Carabiner 0.9 oz (26 g)
Other Clothing
wind shirt thin, breathable wind shirt Montane Aero Smock 2.9 oz (82 g)
insulation layer lightweight merino wool long sleeve crew Icebreaker Superfine Merino crew 7.5 oz (213 g)
insulation layer lightweight down long sleeve top Mont Bell Ultra Lite Down Inner Jacket 7.2 oz (204 g)
rain jacket lightweight poncho/tarp see overhead shelter below 0.0 oz (0 g)
warm hat fleece beanie TurtleFur Fleece Beanie 1.2 oz (34 g)
Sleep System
overhead shelter one person poncho/tarp Bozeman Mountain Works SpinPoncho 6.5 oz (184 g)
tent stakes native rocks 0.0 oz (0 g)
guylines 50 feet, thin cord able to hold a tautline hitch Kelty Triptease 1.0 oz (28 g)
bivy sack waterproof bottom, breathable top Bozeman Mountain Works Vapr Bivy 6.5 oz (184 g)
sleeping bag variable girth down bag Nunatak Arc Edge 11.0 oz (312 g)
sleeping pad torso sized inflatable mattress Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite 10.0 oz (283 g)
backpack lightweight frameless pack GVP Gear G5 gossamer with padded harness 7.6 oz (215 g)
stuff sack 250 ci for clothing Bozeman Mountain Works SpinSack S 0.25 oz (7 g)
stuff sack 500 ci for sleeping gear Bozeman Mountain Works SpinSack M 0.35 oz (10 g)
Cooking and Water
stove esbit solid fuel bottom quarter inch of V-8 juice can 0.1 oz (3 g)
cook pot 21 fl oz titanium mug/pot Snow Peak 600 Mug 2.8 oz (79 g)
cook pot lid foil to fit mug 0.1 oz (3 g)
wind screen wind screen/pot support cut down Vienna Sausage can with vents 0.4 oz (11 g)
utensil spoon GSI Lexan Soup spoon 0.4 oz (11 g)
lighting lighter Scripto 0.6 oz (17 g)
water bottles 2L soft sided bladders Platypus 2 L Zip Hoser (2) with caps and 1 hose 5.3 oz (150 g)
water treatment chlorine dioxide Aqua Mira Kit repackaged in dropper bottles 1.1 oz (31 g)
food storage odor proof bag 12" x 15" Aloksak 1.0 oz (28 g)
Other Essentials
maps trail map Superstition Mountains trail map 2.0 oz (57 g)
light LED Princeton Tec Scout without headband 1.0 oz (28 g)
ditty bag medical, emergency, and miscellaneous waterproof sunblock, 100% DEET, compass, UV blocking lip balm, aspirin, paper cutter, duct tape, whistle in mesh bag 2.8 oz (79 g)
firestarting emergency firestarting, waterproof no-blow out birthday candles (3), storm matches (3) and striker in 4" x 7" Aloksak 1.1 oz (31 g)
sunglasses clip on Clip on sunglasses in flat leather case 0.6 oz (17 g)
insect netting mosquito headnet Adventure 16 0.8 oz (23 g)
personal hygiene toilet kit toilet paper, alcohol hand gel, zip bag for used tp, antibiotic cream with pain relief in 4"x7" Aloksak 2.0 oz (57 g)
personal hygiene teeth cleaning kit toothbrush, floss, baking soda in tiny zip bag, in zip bag 1.1 oz (31 g)
fuel solid fuel Esbit tablets, one 0.5 oz tablet for each dinner 1.0 oz (28 g)
food 2.5 days 20 oz / day 50.0 oz (1417 g)
water average carried 3 quarts 96.0 oz (2722 g)

Weight Summary
(1) Total Weight Worn or Carried 3.29 lb (1.49 kg)
(2) Total Base Weight in Pack 5.33 lb (2.42 kg)
(3) Total Weight of Consumables 9.19 lb (4.17 kg)
(4) Total Initial Pack Weight (2) + (3) 14.52 lb (6.59 kg)
(5) Full Skin Out Weight (1) + (2) + (3) 17.81 lb (8.08 kg)

Stay Tuned...

...for Carol's approach to desert hiking in the heat of mid-summer, as she presents a gear list in a few months that outlines her approach to tackling intense heat and lack of water.

About the Author

Carol Crooker joined the Backpacking Light Magazine staff as the Editor-in-Chief in April, 2004. She moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996 where she immediately fell in love with the desert trails. When her first backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon required an initial load of 24 pounds of water, she understood the importance of pack weight reduction. She began a tradition of research, experimentation, and fiddling with pack weight that continues still. Carol further sharpened her minimalist approach to desert travel during the Boulder Outdoor Survival School’s (BOSS) 27-day Field Course in southern Utah in 1999. She enjoys lightweight backpacking in the desert most months of the year.


"Desert Hiking Gear List," by Carol Crooker. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2004-05-04 03:00:00-06.