AZT Post-Hike Thoughts: Water

Water sources were abundant! An atypical year for sure though. Wayy more water than usual was flowing. My longest carry was probably 25 miles and up to 5-6L.

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I finished up my AZT thru-hike over a month ago now and I think I’m fully acclimated to “normal life” at this point.

Here’s a rundown of the water situation from my Fall 2018 sobo hike. The weather was much wetter than expected. It was the rainiest October on record in AZ! This meant water sources were fine and there were no droughts to worry about. I went into the hike very nervous about water! I had read that there could be long, waterless stretches and that the only way to make it was by caching water. I reached out to several trail angels in advance with the hopes that they could help me out with water caches – which was stressful in the planning stage but also successful in practice. I had successful help from a few trail angels listed on the AZT website as well as folks on the Arizona Trail Class of 2018 Facebook page. I lined up a few water caches – which were great – but I would have been completely fine without them. Once I realized how much water there was in reality, I stopped stressing and relied on natural water sources along the trail.

A few words of water advice to anyone planning to hike the AZT: don’t stress too far in advance. If you see the entire list of water sources in Guthook and have a mental meltdown, then break it into smaller chunks. One stretch at a time. Before getting on trail, focus on the first 50 miles. Don’t fret about the rest of the trail until you’re on the trail. Then just deal with it as it comes.

That said, I managed to hike the northernmost 100 miles of trail without having to filter water at all! I relied on existing caches, filling water in town, and personal caches. It wasn’t until I was in the bottom of the Grand Canyon that I had to use my Sawyer Squeeze for the first time!

My longest water carry was between Picket Post (leaving Superior) and the Gila River – a 21 mile carry. Another Long stretch was on the way into (north of) Roosevelt Lake between Shake Spring and town – a 20 mile carry. Each of these water carries was about 6L. Both of these sections – for me – were extra heavy because I chose to dry camp between the water sources (I carry an 1.5-2L of water for cooking). However, these – and other – “long”, dry stretches can easily be lightened by camping at the water sources and hiking the distance between in one day.

 

 

 

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AZT Post-Hike Thoughts: Terrain and Trail SOBO

The terrain was about as expected: easier in the north, more challenging in the south. Some portions are a little harder than the PCT but some are easier, I would say that in my experience, the overall difficulty is probably on par with the terrain of the PCT.

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The highest points on the AZT are over 9,000 feet. The lowest point around 1,700 feet. The Arizona Trail is divided into 43 passages (which can be somewhat confusing as they seem to be a tool designed for day and section hikers) which are numbered from low to high, south to north – or backwards if you’re SOBO. Southbound, the elevation gain is 110,683 feet and the elevation loss is 111,597 feet (total 222,000+ feet). A few overview maps can be found through the aztrail.org website. A profile can be found on the Guthook AZT app. I used the Guthook AZT app and carried the paper maps as a backup, but never once used them. If I did it again, instead of the paper maps, I would download the GPS track to my Garmin InReach as a backup to save weight.

Most trail descriptions are oriented for those hiking south to north, or NOBO. I’ll break down the trail for you north to south, or SOBO.

North to south, the AZT starts at the Utah-Arizona border on the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. You traverse across the Kaibab Plateau and reach a high point over 9000 feet on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Down and then up, you climb into and out of the giant gash in the earth that is the Grand Canyon. From the south rim of the Grand Canyon you traverse across the Coconino Plateau. North of Flagstaff you climb up onto and then down off of the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks then south across the San Francisco Plateau. South of Mormon Lake you will “come down off the rim”, the Mogollon Rim, and begin the transition from high desert to low desert. South of Pine, you alternate descents to rivers or low spots and climbs into mountains. Down to the East Verde River, up into the Mazatzal Wilderness, down again, then up into the Four Peaks Wilderness, down to Roosevelt Lake, up into the Superstitions, then down into Superior. South of Superior you will briefly climb near Picket Post, then descend to the low point of the AZT – around 1700 feet – at the Gila River. Continue across the Sonoran Desert from here and into the “sky island” terrain. First you’ll go up into the Santa Catalinas, northeast of Tucson. The next sky island is the Rincons, southeast of Tucson, where you will enter into Saguaro National Park. Then down into Rincon Valley near Colossal Cave Park. Up into the Santa Ritas and onto the flanks of Mount Wrightson. Then traverse south and east into and out of the Huachuca Mountains, then at last you’ll find yourself at the US-Mexico border! You did it!

The easiest parts of the trail tended to be in northern AZ, where the trail is flat. There were several harder parts of the trail. The Grand Canyon was challenging, especially since I did it in a quick 2 days. It would have been easier if I had camped first at Cottonwood Camp and then a second night at Bright Angel campground. Although either way, the uphill has to be tackled in one go so be prepared. The stretch south of Pine, getting into the Mazatzals and before the East Verde River was more difficult than expected, mostly because the footing was rocky, largely volcanic, and unstable. Hiking through the Four Peaks Wilderness was also hard because the trail is a lot of up and down as it hugs the steep mountainsides. I also found hiking up into the Rincons difficult as portions were very steep. The trail is quite steep on the stretch into the Huachucas, too. Some portions of trail are a bit overgrown with cats claw and other rough vegetation, but not totally impassable.

I’m happy I hiked the AZT SOBO because my body was able to get used to the miles on my feet before having to push my endurance levels up and down mountains. It’s also nice to be able to hike on the north side of mountains, often in shadow on the uphill – definitely a SOBO advantage. I felt that mostly the downside to SOBO was the decreasing light levels every day.

PS for pics see my Instagram

AZT Post-Hike Gear Review

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Going into the AZT thru-hike I managed to get all of my gear together beforehand, obviously, and a lot of it worked out really well. Some things didn’t quite work. And I changed up a few minor things along the way (if you want to see more details about my gear prep read this post AZT -4: Gear Prep).

I’ve assembled an official AZT gear list of all the items I carried – it only includes the gear that I finished with, not stuff I ditched or only had for a short time. Also I recently discovered lighterpack.com for keeping track of gear lists and have to say it’s really amazing and convenient.

So how did the gear work out? Let me tell you…


The AZT-specific items I added:

Reflective umbrella. I’m very happy I had this at the beginning as my pale PNW skin got accustomed to the constant sun. I realized I didn’t have much sunscreen at the start and so this was my sun protection. Without it I would have been burnt to a crisp. The umbrella provided much needed shelter from the rain in a few storms also. I loved having it hiking up the Grand Canyon in the afternoon. Hiking out of Superior I was glad I had it on a particularly blazing day. That said, I found that I only used it a handful of times – and it weighs 8 oz which is heavy, so good riddance. Once I felt that I had gotten used to the sun and there wasn’t any rain in the forecast – in Oracle – I sent it home. Overall: I’m glad I had it, but also glad I ditched it. Would I carry it again? If I was getting used to a harsh sunny environment or there is rain in the forecast – yes.

Tiny black light. I definitely used this to illuminate a scorpion and it was very cool! I never did use it for safety reasons personally, just entertainment, because my tent fully zipped up and scorpions could never crawl in. I did give one to Oklahoma, whose tent zipper was broken and he couldn’t zip up, and he was very happy to have it. Overall: very happy I brought these! One weighs 0.25 oz, which is well worth the entertainment and safety. Would I bring again? In AZ – yes!

– Panty hose prefilter. I carried this to filter algae goop out of the water prior to filtering. I think I used it once. Mostly it made filtering painfully slow. But at the same time it weighs less than 0.1 oz, hardly breaking the back. Overall: I barely noticed I had it, and mostly forgot that I did. Would I bring again? Maybe if I could find a more loosely woven pantyhose piece that would filter faster.

– Backup Aquamira. I never had to use my backup water treatment, and for that I am grateful. The Sawyer squeeze was great and fast, I never froze my filter, so I didn’t have to use the backup. Overall: a great safety net to have. Would I carry again? Definitely.

– Extra water bottles/bladders. I carried enough bottles and bladders for an 8L capacity, which is a ton. Specifically I could carry 4L dirty and 4L clean. I never carried more than 6L at a time, but I did at different points carry either 4L dirty or 4L clean, so I definitely made use of these bottles/bladders. At a few points I thought about ditching one of the 64oz capacity “dirty” bladders, but since each weighed only 1 oz each, I decided to keep both for safety. Overall: glad I had all the water containers. Would I carry again? On a trail where water sources are sparse or unknown, yes.

Garmin InReach Mini. I tracked my progress every 30 minutes while on-trail, every 4-hours at night, and every 10 minutes to 4 hours while in town depending on the situation. I was able to send messages to Jared when I didn’t have cell service. And I had the peace of mind that if I got into trouble, I could push the SOS button and help would be on the way. However, the downside was that this little guy sucked way more battery than expected/advertised – but I have a suspicion that I have a faulty beacon because I have literally tried everything to increase battery life. Overall: very happy that I brought this! I should have carried a backup battery from the start or exchanged it for a new one to save the hassle of figuring out battery power on the trail. Would I carry again? Yes, definitely. Especially if hiking solo. And even if not solo, the map tracking feature is really fun, too.

Pepper spray mace keychain. While I never used it, I’m very happy I had it. It gave me such peace of mind, especially on “Day 0” when I caught the sketchiest-hitch-ever with the biggest-creep-ever. I had it on hand whenever I hitched, whenever I encountered unknown hikers or strangers on the trail, and when sleeping nowhere near any other hikers. In fact, after hearing a story from Phantom about her encounter with sleezy hunters, I decided to up the ante and carry a full-on 11 oz can of bear spray. Heavy, but worth the weight for the peace of mind and safety. Overall: I’m very happy I had both the mace and the bear spray. Would I carry again: hell yeah!


Gear I added to my pack while hiking the AZT

Bear spray. (see above paragraph)

– A sit pad. I cut up a foam sleeping pad for a sit pad. The sit pad weighed 1.1 oz – which is hardly anything – and protected my butt against the cold ground while I ate dinner or sat near ants or scorpions. It cushioned my knees while I kneeled to rummage in my tent. Overall: happy about my new piece of gear! Carry again: yes, definitely!

Anker backup battery. Once my phone battery and Garmin InReach batteries began to run super low, and my solar charger failed to get enough juice (it only works when in solid sunlight, shade from a single tree will turn it on and off) I had to get something more powerful and more consistent. Jared so wonderfully ordered this battery for me and had it sent to Tusayan. It weighs just over 8 oz and costs just over $35 – reasonably priced with a good weight to power ratio. It provided enough power to charge my phone multiple times in addition to charging the InReach several times – plus my headlamp, although that didn’t need a ton of charging. I used it conservatively but found that I never used it up and always had plenty of power left whenever I got to town. Heads up: it needs around 8 hours to fully charge, so plan ahead. Overall: I loved it. Carry again: most definitely.

– Water scooper. After watching fellow hikers use a scooper, I made one for myself. It seems to be an essential tool for 9 out of 10 water sources. Unless it’s a rushing stream, a scooper is needed to fill a small-mouth water bag. I cut the bottom off a gatorade bottle and would use it to scoop water into the Sawyer water bags prior to filtering. Very, very useful. I could have changed my entire setup and used a bladder/pouch that could more easily be filled in a small pond or puddle, but I never had a problem with the Sawyer bags so kept them and picked up the scooper. Overall: essential and great. Carry again: yes!

– Vertigo pills. Well after getting a silly and frustrating bout of vertigo, I carried an anti-nausea and anti-motion sickness medication. After a few days I had no more need for the pills, but continued to carry them just in case. Overall: a good safety precaution. Carry again: probably not. Fingers crossed I’m past the vertigo…

– Advil PM. I had trouble sleeping several to many nights and picked Advil PM up to help me get more sound sleep. The ever-shortening days meant less daylight and with that came more dark hours spent in the tent, which I think meant more restless sleep. Plus the uncomfortable ground and less-than-stellar pillow led to interrupted sleep, too. Sometimes anxiety would keep me up as well. Given the conditions, I would sometimes take a single Advil PM to help with sleep. (Btw the active ingredient is the same ingredient in Benadryl.) Overall: helpful! I don’t think I’d take such sleeping meds in “real life” but found that on the trail it was useful. Take again? if I anticipated uneasy or restless sleep, probably yeah.

– Sharpie. I picked up a black sharpie on my way to the trail. I used it for writing on bottles of cached water that had my name written on them, cached by trail angels. Once I had my fill of the water and there was some left to share, I would write “Public” on the gallon – typical AZT protocol. Overall: I used it a few times. Take again? Only if I’m in a cached-water situation.


Gear ditched from my pack

Solar charger. The solar charger just didn’t work as fast as needed or as consistently as needed. I found it to be useful on the PCT. The rechargable by the sun part is cool. It just doesn’t work as well as I’d like it to. I sent this home in Tusayan. Overall: glad I ditched it. Carry again? I doubt it.

Collapsible Sea-to-Summit mug. I brought this as a “luxury item” thinking it would be luxurious to drink coffee while my breakfast rehydrated or hot chocolate while my dinner rehydrated. But then I decided to stick to the ol’ ziplock bag rehydration of meals (in a freezer bag) and realized I could just drink my coffee or hot chocolate straight outta the pot. Goodbye 2.7 oz. I sent this home in Flagstaff. Overall: glad I ditched it. Carry again? On a shorter backpacking trip, yes. On a longer thru-hike, nah.

Sports bra, pair of underwear, stuff sack, etc. While shaking down my gear in Flagstaff I got serious about ditching those extra non-imperative things. I was totally fine cutting a bra and pair of underwear – the single sports bra and 2 pairs of underwear were all I really needed. I also ditched an extra stuff sack which I can’t even remember what I used for anyway… Then I shaved few more grams from other places – e.g., I cut off the corners of my bandana, trimmed down my sit pad, and cut out some tags and labels, etc. Overall: happy to trim the excess grams.


Gear I changed on the hike

Sleeping pad. Unfortunately my sleeping pad was changed out of necessity. My Thermarest NeoAir XLite popped the night before I hit the trail while I slept on a gravel pad in an RV park. I picked up a thin foam pad (Thermarest Ridgerest) at the outfitter in Kenab, UT, thinking I’d try to make do, but if I hated it I would pick up another Neo-Air in Flagstaff. Well I immediately hated it and picked up an inflatable pad as soon as I could find one – which turned out to be the Thermarest Trekker which was at the store at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I cut off a chunk of the Ridgerest for a sit-pad then gave the rest of the pad to another backpacker in Mather Campground. The Trekker is a bit heavier than the Neo-Air and has a slightly lower R value, but I was happy to have 2.5 inches of mattress under me once again. In Flagstaff I trimmed down the pad to be a little shorter than my body length in order to shave off some ounces (bringing the pad down to 13.1 oz instead of 1 lb+). While still a few ounces heavier than I would have liked, the Trekker held up really well. I believe it’s also a made of slightly tougher material than the Neo-Air, was reassuring when setting up camp near cacti, on rocks, or atop pinecones. Overall: I’m happy with the trekker. I think Thermarest will repair my NeoAir if I’m unable, which will mean a backup sleeping pad. And it was a few $ less than the NeoAir too. Carry again? If I can get the NeoAir fixed, I’ll carry it (it’s lighter and longer), but in the meantime, the Trekker is a good option.

Pillow. While ordering a new headlamp from LiteSmith (because I thought the one I had was broken but later realized I was mistaken), I also ordered a super cheap $2.60, super lightweight 1 oz inflatable pillow. I ditched my old “heavy” airplane pillow (like the kind they sometimes give you on the plane) which weight at least a few ounces more while in Tucson and subbed for this uber ultralight one. While happy enough considering the weight and price, I kinda missed my old lump of cotton. Overall: happy I switched to something lighter, but it’s not the perfect pillow for me as a side sleeper. I’ll continue to search for the perfect camp pillow. Carry again? Yes, until I find a better inflatable pillow.

Normal socks swapped for toe socks. I started using normal hiking Darn Tough socks which led to annoying and neverending blisters on my toes. I was finally able to track down Injinji toe sock liners at SummitHut in Tucson. I would put a thin hiking sock over top the liner, and voila, instant blister protection (the socks rub each other and reduce toe to toe friction). These socks were more comfortable than I imagined, and it meant I didn’t have to tape my toes in order to prevent blisters (not only was it time consuming to apply, but the tape would inevitably slip and slide off). Overall: very happy with my new toe-sock-liner + thin wool sock combo. Wear again? Yes, definitely. Especially on long (multi-day) trips to avoid those blisters.

Shoes after 500 miles. Train runners typically last 500 miles, give or take. More if you don’t mind wearing a shoe that’s breaking down. The upper material can get holes and tears, the outsole will wear out and the tread will disappear, and the internal structure will break down – sometimes leading to shin splints or plantar fasciitis. I decided not to risk it, and after 500 ish miles I swapped my Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s for Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s. I went with the 3.5’s because they were on sale (the 4.0’s are out now) and I couldn’t find the 3.0’s in my size. I found that the 3.0’s were slightly bigger and fit a little better, but the 3.5’s were fine enough and my feet were happy. I really wanted the Hoka Speedgoats to work for me, but they didn’t feel that great on my feet – hence sticking with the Altras. Overall: Altra Lone Peaks are good shoes that fit my feet. Wear again? Yes! I’m quite happy with these shoes.

Baseball hat. In Tucson I tried to swap out my baseball cap for a sun hat, thinking that the neck protection would be better. I quickly discovered that the neck coverage also meant less air flow and I quickly overheated. I picked up a new baseball cap at the Mt Lemmon gift shop and was happy. Overall: I learned the lesson of if the hat aint broke, don’t fix it. I really wanted the sun hat to work for me, but ultimately I ended up sticking with an old, trusty, tried and true baseball hat for the remainder of the hike. Wear again? Definitely! I have another sun hat at home that I’d like to try (it doesn’t have a neck flap) but we’ll see how it goes…

Backflushing Method – from Sawyer plunger to cleaning coupling. I didn’t even know that the cleaning coupling existed until I found on in the hiker box in Flagstaff at Melody and Tim’s. What a game changer! The plunger is big and bulk and single use. The cleaning coupling is light, compact, and can be used while filtering and while cleaning. Overall: great! love it! Carry again? Definitely.

Gloves. I lost my thin fleece gloves as I was hiking into Flagstaff. When in town I picked up new gloves at REI – splurging on the fancy and relatively expensive Salomon Fast Wing Winter Glove. These gloves are great – they have a windproof flap that goes over the gloved fingers, turning it into a mitten. At last, temperature regulation in gloves. Overall: very happy with these gloves! Wear again? Absolutely.

Nyofume pack liner. While ordering other things from LiteSmith, I thought I’d try this cheap ($2.50) and lightweight (<1 oz) pack liner. I was using a trash compactor bag, but not everything could fit inside, just the most important stuff. I wanted a bag I could fit everything in my pack inside. Luckily, it wasn’t rainy after swapping out my pack liner in Tucson, so I never had to use it, but I look forward to trying it in the future. Overall: happy with the bag. Carry again? most definitely.

Pee Pot. (WARNING: You’re about to read an overshare. If you don’t want to know about pee, skip to the next paragraph). So I hate – often refuse – to leave my tent in the middle of the night to pee especially if I’m solo. But the problem is, I usually have to pee every night at least once. Especially after drinking a big ol’ mug of hot chocolate. I’ve heard of men carrying gatorade bottles or women peeing in ziplock bags (extreme ultralight!) to avoid confronting the cold, dark unknown at night. I refuse to pee in a ziplock bag (just think of the possible puncture danger!). Instead I was carrying a ziplock twist loc container with screw-top lid which I would just set out in my tent vestibule at night. Upon recommendation, I switched to the Uribag (I think the name says it all: the latest in geriatric/thru-hiker technology!) which is much more compact and even more spill-proof than the Ziploc container. Bonus: they make a male and female version so you too (no matter your gender) can have a compact and leak-free pee pot. Overall: quite happy with it! Carry again: of course!


Gear I’d like to change in the future

Tent. I carried the Big Agnes Fly Creek 2-person tent. (I did not carry my new hammock – it just did not work without trees!) This tent is the 2014 model and weighs nearly 3 pounds, which is “heavy” for a thru-hiking tent. At the same time, it’s a good tent and I haven’t yet been able to justify spending another $200-$550 on another tent. Yet. The Fly Creek has held up really well over thousands of miles, it’s spacious, and the muted green color means it’s easy to blend into the forest incognito style. If I do end up changing up my solo tent in the future, I would go for a fully enclosed tent (not a tarp). These are my top picks for a solo fully enclosed tent:

  • Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape + Serenity Net Tent. The combo would weigh 21 oz and also double as my raingear. Six Moon Designs gear is reasonably priced and the tarp/poncho plus net tent costs $208 (currently on sale)! A steal! And it can be set up as just the mesh or just the tarp. Well made gear from a family run business. Downside: the two pieces might be complex to set up? But not a bad option.
  • Z-packs Plexamid Tent. This fully enclosed single wall tent weighs a mere 14.8 oz! Unbelievable. However, it costs $549, which is not cheap. And it’s made of Dyneema Composites (formerly known as Cuben Fiber) which is extremely light but not very durable or abrasion resistant – which means that a tent like this is designed to only last about the length of a thru-hike. A spendy option from a good cottage manufacturer but just think of the weight savings…
  • Gossamer Gear The One. This single wall fully enclosed tent weighs in at 21.6 oz for $239 (currently on sale). About the same weight as the Six Moon Designs tarp+nettent and not much more expensive, also from a good cottage gear company.

Tent stakes. I carry the 6.5 inch ultralight titanium shepherds hook stakes. They’re very light, but are starting to bend. They are a bit flimsy in hard ground. A better option – and something I’ll likely switch to in the future – are the MSR Groundhog tent stakes. They weigh about same, around 0.3 oz each, but the MSR stakes are much stronger.

Trekking poles. I’m currently carrying a Black Diamond flick-lock style trekking pole (similar to these) that I picked up on sale on steepandcheap.com in 2013. They are my least favorite color – purple (I find it maddening that “jewel tones” are the only color options for women. Don’t even get me started…). But more importantly the poles are wearing out. I realized too late that the tips are replaceable…and now one is just a nub of plastic which I put a cap over. So they need replacing eventually. I don’t need a “women’s specific” trekking pole, but I suppose I’d like a lightweight pole designed for short people with adjustable height, flick-lock preferable. Black diamond makes an Alpine Carbon Cork Women’s trekking pole (cork allegedly feels better in the hand) for the steep price of $170. But Montem Life makes these ultralight carbon poles for only $80. Perhaps my next trekking purchase.

Sleep top. I carried and wore the Patagonia Capilene 4 (no longer made) which is a very warm baselayer and weighs 7.25 oz. If I had planned better I could have swapped it out for a lighter not-quite-as-warm shirt during the warmer AZT stretches. In the future I probably will carry and sleep in my Icebreaker 200 baselayer top which weighs 4.7 oz.


It’s not a completely exhaustive review of my gear, just exhausting 🙂 If anyone has any other gear-specific questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

As always, see my Instagram pics

AZT Day -4: Gear Prep

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As the day of departure draws closer, I keep thinking man I need to get my gear together! Tomorrow. Yeah. Tomorrow is the day I do this. Before it’s literally too late.

Sooo… I’ve kind of been putting this one off. I have my normal backpacking setup that I plan to bring, and figure I’ll tweak a few things at the last minute, add a few thangs, and call it a day.

A few gear items I plan to add for the AZT:

– Reflective umbrella. Gotta keep that blazing sun off my back. (I have an older version of this one)
– Tiny black light. For finding scorpions at night! I don’t want one of those stinging buggers hiding out in my tent
– Panty hose water prefilter. For getting any algae goop out of the water before filtering
Aquamira. Water treatment in tiny containers to use as post filter water treatment for any extra sketchy water sources
– Plenty of water bladders & bottles. For extra water carrying capacity
– Garmin inReach mini. Satellite tracking, satellite texting, emergency beacon, etc. Safety!
Pepper spray. To keep on hand when hitching a ride.

A few maybe gear items depending on conditions and situations:

– Down booties. If it’s really cold, I’ll pack ’em
– Sleeping bag liner. Same as above
– Bear spray. A recent bear attack in southern Arizona makes me think I might want to carry some…

Some thoughts: If I can set up my hammock like a tent, using trekking poles (aka on the ground in addition to normal tree setup), I will be bringing it instead of a tent. The only problem is, it is a bottom entry hammock, so I’m not really sure if that’s feasible… I may carry the Big Agnes Copper Spur 2-person tent, but it is a full pound heavier than the hammock. My shoes will likely wear out somewhere along the trail. After that happens I may try the Hoka Speedgoats. Hokas are incredibly comfortable. I have Hoka running shoes that I have been wearing for well over 2 years and they are still comfortable and haven’t worn out yet. I’m packing heavy baselayers. If the weather is warmer than expected, I can always switch out to something lighter. I’m still working on the perfect shirt-jacket combo (t-shirt+wind jacket+rain jacket or maybe long sleeved sun shirt+rain jacket?). I’m sure a few things will change along the way, but this should get me started.

And also, my normal gear list looks mostly something like this:

(Big 3+)
Sleeping bag
Feathered Friends Egret (20 degree)
Sleeping pad
Thermarest Neoair
Tent
Hennesy Hammock Asym Ultralight
Pack ULA Circuit
(Clothes worn)
Shoes
Brooks Cascadias
Socks Darn toughs
Short sleeved shirt Under armor
Shorts
Patagonia running shorts
Sports bra
Underware Exofficio
Sunglasses
hairband
(Clothes in pack)
Sleep pants
Patagonia capilene
rain jacket OR Helium II
wind jacket
Patagonia houdini
Camp jacket
Feathered friends Daybreak hoodie
Sleep top
Patagonia capilene 4
Bandana x 2
Thin warm hat
Gloves
Extra socks x 2 Darn toughs
Extra underware x 2
Exofficio/Patagonia
Extra sportsbra
Camp shoes flip flops Teva flip flops
Rain pants Silnylon
baseball hat/sun hat
pee bandana
(Cooking)
stove, windscreen, lighter Pocket rocket
Fuel
Pot
MSR titanium something
Spork
Long handled titanium
mug
Sea to summit collapsible
ursacks and opsacks
Knife or multi tool tiny leatherman
food
(Hydration)
Bottles tbd
bladder tbd
filter Sawyer squeeze
(First aid)
athletic tape KT tape
ibuprofen
immodium
benadryl
chamois butter
emergency blanket
(Personal items)
TP, trowel, hand sani
baby wipes
toothpaste
toothbrush
pillow
Trekking poles
(Electronics)
Cell phone Moto x4
Solar charger Suntactics
cord
Headlamp
Black Diamond reVolt
(Navigation)
map
compass

And that’s about it. Questions? Comments? Please feel free to add below.

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AZT Day -7: Mental Preparation

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How does one mentally prepare for an 800 mile solo thru hike through the Arizona desert? Mental preparation seems a little less straight forward than food prep – you can’t exactly send mental preparedness in a box to yourself further down trail. Most of this kind of prep is in advance and requires a bit of forethought and planning. Mainly, I’m considering what kinds of obstacles and challenges – and fears – I will encounter and how to handle them.

So what obstacles, challenges, and fears do I anticipate? In short – water shortages, running of food, a heavy pack, being tired and sore, blisters, anxiety and dangers associated with hitchhiking, anxiety and dangers associated with being a solo female hiker, excessive heat, excessive cold, rain or hail, critters like scorpions and javelinas and rattlesnakes and mountain lions, popping my sleeping pad with a cactus spine in the night, mysterious creatures of the night and the unknown, injury, timeline challenges, loneliness and boredom, technology and battery life challenges….

And how will prepare for these obstacles?

Water shortages: I’ll be aware of upcoming water sources. The Guthook app is very thorough and an excellent resource for the AZT. I may still have to carry a ton of water 6-7L+. I have my Sawyer squeeze water filter and will carry backup chemical treatment (aquamira) for those particularly sketchy cow ponds. I’ll reach out to trail angels and ask for their help in cacheing as much water as possible in advance.

Running of food: Luckily I’m not too worried about this one. They say you pack your fears, and apparently my fear is lack of food. I always have more than I need for any given stretch of trail. When the hiker hunger hits a few miles into the trail, I’ll pack some extra meals and hope it’s enough. Besides, the most realistic consequence of not enough food for a day or so is hanger, not starvation. I think I’ll be fine.

A heavy pack: Yep, it’s gonna be heavy. My baseweight will be 10-15 lbs. Add to that 15 lbs of food for a long stretch of trail. And 15 lbs of water for a dry section. That’s up to 45 lbs on my back. Yikes. I’ll minimize my gear as much as possible (my tent is on the heavy side unfortunately can’t cut too much in that department), cache water and siesta during the heat of the day to minimize water use and needs, and try not to pack too much food.

Being tired and sore: “If you get tired, pull over. If you get hungry, eat something”. If I’m tired, I’ll rest. Or hike. Or one and then the other. If I’m sore, I’ll rest. Or hike. Or one and then the other. I guess there’s not much preparedness to this other than accepting that being tired and sore is inevitable and I will push through it or rest, but eventually I will be neither tired nor sore.

Blisters: I’m not entirely sure how much sand I’ll be hiking through, but I do know that when it’s hot my feet sweat. A lot. Heat + friction from sand grains + moisture = gnarly blisters. I carry KT tape and find that it’s one of few tapes that stick to my feet, so if I get a hot spot or blister, I hope to have enough.

Anxiety and dangers associated with hitchhiking: Between a little pepper spray, taking/texting a pic of the license plate of any car I get into, and carrying a Garmin in-reach that updates my GPS location, I plan to use my wits and intuition to assess the safety of a ride. I’ll hike into towns when possible (e.g., Flagstaff has a detour on which to hike into town) and minimize hitches if I can. If I meet other hikers, we’ll hitch together to increase our safety in numbers.

Anxiety and dangers associated with being a solo female hiker: A lot of folks to whom I’ve mentioned my hiking plans have fears related to solo female-ness on the trail. Again, a small can of pepper spray and Garmin in-reach which updates my GPS location will be my first line of defense. Also wits and intuition here will come in handy. I hope to link up with other hikers that I may meet on the trail for more safety. Also general hope in humanity will keep any anxieties to a minimum. My last line of defense is the somehow reassuring knowledge that it can be more dangerous to be in a city or populated area than it is on a trail.

Excessive heat: A silver umbrella! And siestas. Try to time uphill climbs to cooler times of day. I’ll take advantage of early morning and late evening cooler temps as much as possible.

Excessive cold: A warm 20 degree Feathered Friend sleeping bag, hat, gloves, down jacket. Hot chocolate at night. Plenty of food in my belly for dinner. Warm long underwear (including a Patagonia Capilene 4 top) and maybe even my down booties if it’s impossibly frigid.

Rain or hail: My OR Helium II rain jacket and homemade silnylon rain pants should keep me pretty dry. My Big Agnes 2-person Copper Spur will keep me dry at night.

Critters like scorpions and javelinas and rattlesnakes and mountain lions: Keep an eye out for critters. Javelinas can be territorial, so I’ll give them some space. The protocol is similar to bears – they have a good sense of smell but poor eyesight. Don’t surprise them, keep your distance, and make plenty of noise. I’ll avoid night hiking in order to steer clear of any midnight encounters with mountain lions. But if I do see one, I’ll stand my ground, not run, and seem large and not like tasty prey. Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. Keep my shoes in my tent at night so scorpions don’t make them a home.

Popping my sleeping pad with a cactus spine in the night: I’ve heard that cactus spines can make quick work of any inflatable sleeping pad. I love my thermarest neoair. I plan to scour my camp spot each night before settling down to avoid any popped pads.

Mysterious creatures of the night and the unknown: For me one of the biggest things is solo tenting and fear of whatever lurks in the night. I’ve found that CBD oil is very helpful for reducing anxiety about Bigfoot or other such mythical creatures. If I can camp near other hikers that will be helpful, too.

Injury: I’m hoping that my physical prep will have me ready to handle the AZT. If I have a stress injury, I’ll RICE (rest, ice compress, elevate). For an acute injury, like an ankle roll, sprain, fall, etc. the Garmin in-reach will be a good means of communication in case of emergency.

Timeline challenges: The goal is to finish the entire AZT by mid-November. If slowed, delayed, or injured I plan to hike as much as possible and come back to finish any remaining trail at a later date. I’ll fly out of Tucson, so if anything slows me down, I can at least hike the 635 miles there and will still be happy.

Loneliness and boredom: Let’s face it, 40-50 days of walking in silence by myself will get kinda monotonous. Audiobooks and podcasts should break up any long stretches of boredom. Hopefully I’ll meet other thru-hikers out there to chat with, too.

Technology and battery life challenges: I plan to carry a solar charger to keep my phone (aka Guthook app, maps, water information, source of entertainment, and contact with the outside world) charged. Jared and I used a Suntactics solar charger on the PCT and that worked well for us, so I plan to do the same on the AZT. Backup paper maps which created from Caltopo will be helpful as well.

That about sums up my mental preparation. Between forethought and planning, many years of backpacking and hiking experience, and a previous wilderness first aid course I feel solidly prepared.

If you have any helpful tips or tricks regarding mental preparedness for thru-hiking, I’d love to hear it. Be sure to comment below and subscribe to my blog. If you want to support my hiking blogs, check out my Patreon. Thanks!

AZT Day -9: Physical Preparation

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Hiking to the top of Mt Constitution

In 9 days I’ll step foot on the AZT. It’s 800 miles long. It will take me 40-50 days to hike. That’s 20 miles per day, with a little slack. I figure it will take me a few days to get up to speed. And when I hit a town I will want to slow down or have at least a half-day or full-day to relax and rest. While on the PCT in 2014 I had a shin splint which was painful and horrifically annoying. Common long distance hiking overuse injuries that I really hope to avoid include (but are not limited to): shin splints, achilles tendonitis, IT band issues and knee pain, and plantar fasciitis.

Physically I am decently prepared. I have been “training” more or less for the past month or so. In an ideal world, I would have been training and hiking for the past several months so that I could hit the ground running. Realistically, once I made the decision to hike – which was about a month ago – I made a concerted effort to run, walk, and lift weights as frequently as seemed reasonable. The goal is to get my muscles, tendons, fascia, and all the parts ready and used to plenty of wear and tear as well as carrying weight.

I’m also making regular visits to a chiropractor and massage therapist to ensure that my body is in good working order. My body is a bit lopsided after a car accident 18 years ago that left me with a broken femur and fractured pelvis – which has led to some unevenness, more well developed right leg muscles, a weak left hip, and typical compensation. But on the plus side it has also meant that I am diligent about exercise and physical activity in order to keep any ailments at bay.

So here are my training specifics: Training hikes in early-mid August on WA PCT Section J 10-15+ miles per day carrying a pack. Since then, trail walking or trail running 3.5-7 miles per day, about 4 days per week. Lifting weights about 3 times per week – upper and lower body – plus a few physical therapy moves, core work, and some stretches for good measure. A few lower body exercises to target those pesky trail muscles include: split squats, goblet squats, cook hip lift, RDL and one-legged RDL (thank you Andrea, my favorite strength-and-conditioning coach friend for the tips!).

Hopefully this training has me in decent enough shape to hike the AZT. If for any reason I get behind schedule, I can always modify the plan as needed to hike as much of the trail as possible.

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AZT Day -11: Preparing for the Arizona Trail

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If you haven’t already read my post on the AZT page, check it out here for an overview.

Also, consider supporting me on Patreon! If you’re lucky, you might even be the first supporter! Hurry up!

So, I’m hiking the Arizona Trail (AZT) beginning late September 2018, finishing early-mid November 2018. The hike should take me 40-50 days. The schedule is aggressive and will mean hiking average 20 mile days, but I think I can do it.

The AZT stretches 800 miles from the Utah border to the Mexican border – if you’re hiking southbound (sobo), which I am. The AZT is an official “National Scenic Trail” like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Appalachian Trail (AT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT), etc. That means it has a little extra trail cred. It’s pretty well established, a bunch of folks have hiked it, there are great communities along the way that expect to see and accommodate hikers. And hopefully there will be some other hikers along the way.

Along the trail I expect to encounter a handful of other hikers, plenty of desert landscapes, the occasional rattlesnake and javelina, lots of heat and mid-day sunshine, cool night temps, ups and downs, maybe some rain and/or hail, cowponds to drink out of, the Grand Canyon (I’ve never hiked into it!), Flagstaff (I’m excited to see this lil’ city), Tucson (and Kofron family!), cacti, locust trees, expansive vistas, beautiful mountains, adventure, and solitude.

As of this post, I leave for the trail in 1 1/2 weeks. Yikes, the time has really crept up on me! I’m mostly thinking about food, scooping dried bits of food into ziplock bags, and stressing out. (Ahh, do I really leave so soon?!) I just sent myself my first food drop today, which will be plenty of time (as long it is going to the right place, haha…).

Our basement looks like a bunker for a disorganized prepper – dehydrated food scattered about in semi-organized heaps. I’m hoarding food from a few organic sources, Amazon, and the grocery store and combining them into hopefully tasty meals. I’ll then box up meals and other things I need (like toilet paper, baby wipes, and CBD oil) and send the boxes to myself (with Jared’s help most likely) at 6 spots along the way. At the northern terminus I’ll carry enough food for 100 miles, until the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. From there I will resupply and carry enough food for 120 days, until Flagstaff. Repeat.

I plan to reach out to trail angels (who generously provide their contact info on the AZT website) to see if they can help me with cacheing water. Fingers crossed. The goal is to have plenty of clean water so that I either don’t have to carry too much at any given time (water weighs 2.2 lbs per liter. it. is. heavy.) and have access to as much good quality water free of dead rodents or animal poo as possible.

I still have many more things to do in preparation – like: book a shuttle to the trail start, procure a Garmin In-reach, figure our precisely what I’m taking, download plenty of audio books and podcasts, etc – but I have solid footing, I’m physically prepared as much as I can be at this point, and I’m sure it’s gonna be great. Just remember, it’s one foot in front of the other…

What have I done to prepare thus far? I suppose my prep can be broken down into the following categories: physical, mental, strategy, gear, and food. If I can manage to find enough riveting things to say about each of these things, I’ll make a few more blog posts before I hit the trail.

If there’s anything you’re curious about, please ask! I’d be happy to answer any question or even blog about something that may be of interest.