I’ve been on the Arizona Trail 300 miles so far and during that time I’ve been able to determine what gear works the best and what may lack in some areas. Prior to starting this trip I did endless research on gear and what might work the best for me during my time in the desert and mountains and so far I think I’ve nailed it! The only piece of equipment I have not needed and sent forward on the trail is a pair of microspikes I picked up in Tucson during a snow storm. I used them on the trail and didn’t want to carry the extra pound through the desert portion. Other than that all my gear has been used for some reason or another.
Since the time I first posted my Final Gear List I have made several changes including a different tent, quilt, bag and sleeping pad. This is why practice runs are essential prior to a long distance backpacking trip! No one should want to buy everything and set out on an adventure only to be unhappy or uncomfortable with their equipment. So listed below are a few items I want to share with you and the pros/ cons I have experienced so far.
First item: My Tent!
Originally I had a Gossamer Gear The One and I did not feel confident with it after it blew away in a windstorm in my backyard. Instead I found the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 and so far I LOVE it! It weighs about 1 lb. more but is more durable. The drop cloth is super light and so far has done a great job at protecting the tent floor.
PROS: I have not yet had condensation inside and withstands crazy windstorms, rain, snow/sleet and even cacti! It has great vented overhead pockets that allows me to store clothing and equipment and I can even fit my backpack in it sideways under my feet (only when it rains I do this). It is super easy to set up and take down and extremely packable in its stuff sack.
CONS: I noticed in the mornings when it’s cold I have a difficult time popping the snaps off the cross bar on the roof. They are similar to a ball and socket joint. Second con is the rainfly door. It has two zippers, one on each side and in order to keep it up I have to roll it all the way up and attach it with two small toggle and loops. What can’t I sweep it to the side and only unzip one side? And last, I have a tear in the stuff sack already but it’s not a huge deal. I’m hiking around a LOT of cacti and thorns so it’s bound to happen to most of my gear! I just slapped some tape on it so it doesn’t rip further.
I was unsure which stakes would work best in the Arizona soil so I decided to bring two different kinds and I use all 8 of them every night. t
PROS: The Gossamer Gear stakes came with my previous tent and I found them to be easier getting them into the different types of soil and rocks and easy to pull out with the strings. The Zpacks stakes are super lightweight and pack up very well.
CONS: I have no cons yet with Gossamer Gear stakes. I found the Zpacks stakes are harder to get in to most soil I’ve set up camp in. I did have one bend slightly already. Once in the ground I also noticed if it’s windy at night the wind will spin them around and the rainfly will pop off of it and start flapping in the wind. I’ve had this happen three times so far.
I’ve had this for several years now and really enjoy it’s flexibility for use. On the AZT I use it every couple of hours and during the night.
PROS: It is lightweight, versatile and a great cactus catcher! I use it during my breaks and when I stand up I normally find cactus sticking to it instead of me. I pick it off and inspect it each time for more thorns. At night I use it underneath my inflatable Thermarest Neoair Xlite as extra protection and warmth.
CONS: Although it is lightweight, it is bulky and I had a hard time finding a place to put it on my pack. I moved it around several times over the past few weeks trying to find its home.
PROS: I love these poles! They are so lightweight and easy to use and the cork grip is very comfortable. easy to lengthen and collapse. I use both of them all day because they help with balance, putting less joint stress on descents and I can use them to pull myself up the mountains too!
CONS: They are very expensive for hiking poles. Wayback used a pair from Costco for $30 and loves them but I wanted a solid lightweight set. At times I need to double check they are tightened because I have a tendency to turn my wrist as I use them causing them to loosen and collapse when I put weight on it (normally my right one).
For food storage I decided on the Opsak large odor proof bag. Since it’s cooler weather right now there aren’t a lot of critters out at night. The first night out I was paranoid and strung it up with someone’s Bear bag but that was too much work for every night and kind of pointless. Now I just make sure it’s closed and set it right outside my tent and under the rain fly. If a critter comes in I’ll be able to hear it and scare it away but so far that hasn’t happened yet.
PROS: It’s held up pretty good so far. It holds up to 5 days of food for me. The size of the bag allows me to slide it right in the backpack near my back so during lunch I can open my bag and reach right in for the food. It is see-through so I can view what I’m grabbing without having to dig around. It is lightweight, waterproof and the cost is cheaper than bear bags.
CONS: The zipper part can be difficult to zip together but once secured it will stay shut. I made the mistake of putting my spoon inside if it and the edge cut a slit in it so I just threw a piece of duct tape on it and it’s good to go.
After much research I decided on this set up. I wanted to be able to have coffee in the mornings and dinner for one in the evening so I only needed a smaller pot and stove.
PROS: They are all pretty cheap to buy. The BRS 3000t stove is extremely lightweight but sturdy enough to boil 2 cups of water on it. The Toaks 550 ml pot holds 2 cups and boils fast. It comes with a lid that also helps it to boil fast. The Toaks long handle spoon is able to get into those hard to reach areas, is lightweight, comfortable to use. And has a hole I can use to hang on my bag with a clip.
CONS: When collapsing the stove I found I have to turn the fuel adjusting knob I order to get the arm all the way down. Not a big deal but I learned to turn the knob back after losing some fuel once when connecting it with it turned on. During cold nights I sleep with the stove in my pocket to keep the tiny O-ring from cracking. With the Toaks 550 ml pot, I have only boiled 2 cups a handful of times because I just don’t need that much hot water for my meals. When I have brought 2 cups to a full boil I noticed the pot starts to shake and the lid rattles. If I don’t catch it in time I’m afraid it will fall off the stove. The spoon has surprisingly sharp edges in the handle. I used to keep it in my food bag until the end of it sliced through and created a hole. Not I keep it in my waist pouch.
Originally I was planning on using the BeFree Katadyn filter and the HydraPak 2L shown below but on further research on the Arizona Trail I found out the water is typically too dirty for that filter to handle it and normally stop working quickly. That made me decide to go with the Sawyer filtration system. I purchased the Sawyer Mini and the Evernew reservoir that fits together. In the photo I also have a half plastic cup I use to scoop water out of tanks without stirring up silt, to reach the hard to get to drips of water, and to fill the bag completely full of water without submerging it. Additionally I have a section of panty hose I cut off that I put between the Sawyer filter and Evernew bag. This helps to catch the smaller particles before they would get to the filter to keep the filter cleaner and last longer (a little tip I found on YouTube!).
PROS: The Sawyer filter is lightweight, small enough to pack into anything (including my pocket on cold nights. I’ll explain below), easily screws onto the Evernew bag or one of my liter Smartwater bottles. I have used it in to filter some pretty nasty water and the water has come out clear and quite tasty! The Evernew bag is also lightweight and I can roll it up when I’m not using it. It’s compatible with the Sawyer, holds 2 liters and I can even pack it full into my backpack.
CONS: Had I known the difference before this trip I would have purchased the Sawyer Squeeze instead of Sawyer Mini. The mini takes twice as long to filter the same amount of water as the squeeze (Afterburner uses the Squeeze). So I sit there holding the bag upside down and drip drip drip until it finally fills the water bottle then I need to sit longer to fill the next. It’s not a bad product in my mind but when your out trying to beat the heat on the trail you don’t want to take up more time filtering water than needed. As I mentioned previously, I often sleep with the filter in my puffy coat because there is an O-ring inside that is notorious among users for cracking if it gets too cold. I take no chances! The Evernew bag seems like cheap plastic that could easily puncture (hasn’t happened yet though). I wish there was a handle on it or an easier way to roll it down as the water level goes down. I get tired of sitting there trying to keep it upright while it drip drip drips! When it is full of dirty water I have to put it into my pack like that because there is no other way to transport it so I hope it keeps its integrity inside my bag. All in all they are both great products and the system works for me aside from the nitpicking!
I brought this along with me because I wasn’t sure how much water I’d need to carry and so glad that I did! I use it only for fresh water or filtered water, never dirty water.
PROS: This bag is light (just not as light as the Evernew) and durable. I love the tabs on the side of it allowing me to hang it from clips on the outside of my bag rather than shoving it inside the bag. It easily holds 2 liters.
CONS: This is a charcoal color bag I clip to the outside of my bag in Arizona sun. It gets hot fast! Since I hang it from its side, I hear it sloshing around unless it’s completely full. I wish the screw-on lid had an attachment to the bag so I don’t have to worry about losing it. It can be difficult to pour water from the opening into the smaller opening of my Smartwater bottle. Again, I am nitpicking and overall it has worked wonders for me when I need it.
PROS: When it’s cold at night I slip these on over my socks and my feet never get cold! They are packable and super lightweight for all the warmth they provide. I did have to wait almost two months before they arrived in the mail from China but worth the wait!
CONS: The bottom of the booties supposedly are made for walking around but I refuse to wear them outside as the material seems like it would easily rip.
If you love adventure I’d recommend getting one of these. What a life saver!
PROS: Even when I don’t have cell service, I can send/receive messages on this. There are three preset messages (quick text) that are free to send after setting it up on the website and updating on the gps. It can connect to my iPhone via Bluetooth and I can easily type out messages (for a small fee) to send to phone numbers pre-downloaded. I can even receive weather updates. It tracks my movement that others can view via a website so they can locate me on a map and if worse comes to worse I can send out an S.O.S. I even take this on road trips in case I break down and have no cell service. It’s user friendly, the battery lasts me two full days and nights and notifies you when messages are sent and received.
CONS: Hmm.. well it IS a little pricey at 350.00 plus a monthly fee (when your using it). You can cancel at any time. For sending preset messages and other messages, the phone numbers or emails have to be loaded onto the gps prior to using it by connecting it to the laptop. Other than that I have nothing bad to say about it!
I had a very hard time trying to decide what power bank to use. From what I read online, most people used 10,000mah (not sure exactly what that means) but I wanted one that would last for long sections of the trail without worry.
PROS: This lasts me 5-6 days after charging my iPhone nightly, gps every other day, headphones twice and headlamp twice. It takes about 6 hours to full charge which was better than many of the other brands I reviewed. It can charge 3 USB cords at the same time. It was relatively cheap at less than $40 and it even survived the cold and damp nights in the mountains.
CONS: It is rather heavy at just shy of 1 lb.
I received this product in a monthly subscription of Cairn Here and it arrived with a big adjustable Velcro strap. I replaced it with a bungee cord to lighten it to 1 oz.
PROS: This little thing is super lightweight, with an adjustable knob to brighten the lumens and features a red light I use at night so it’s easier on my eyes. It charges via cable and does not require batteries. In 3 weeks I’ve only had to charge it once and I use it every night and morning.
CONS: I do not yet have any!
Not pictured: Thermarest Neoair Xlite Here
I decided to purchase the inflatable mattress because I’m often a side sleeper and sleeping on the Z-Lite by itself is not comfortable to me.
PROS: It weighs in at around 1lb., had insulation to help keep me warm in colder temperatures, easy to inflate and deflate. I find it very comfortable no matter how I lay on it. I do put it overtop of my other sleeping pad to help reinforce it from punctures and so far it has worked.
CONS: It was pricey at $140 but worth the price tag for all the features. It has a reputation to easily get punctures.
I purchased the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 degree quilt. I was hesitant to purchase a quilt over traditional sleeping bag but so far have found it enjoyable so far!
PROS: This quilt is very warm and comfortable! It buckles underneath the sleeping pad to keep the cold out and warmth in. I can sleep on my side comfortably and it has a drawstring near the neck I can pull on to cinch it down keeping it even warmer inside!
CONS: Again this product was very expensive (but worth it). I have to be careful not to put my face underneath it at night or condensation forms on top making the quilt damp quite quickly. The material is not made to be wet due to the grey duck down insulation. Once wet, it can be difficult to dry.
Made by the same company, the Enlightened Equipment Torrid grey duck down puffy coat is simply amazing! So far I use it once I get to camp, I’ve have slept in it all but one night, and I wear it around camp in the morning and sometimes for the first cold hour of hiking.
PROS: While it feels too light to be effective, it is ridiculously warm! There are two zippered pockets that are big enough to keep my iPhone, water filter and a pair of gloves in them. The hood easily cinches down to keep the hood up and the heat in. While it comes with a price, there are numerous coats either much higher prices so I am very happy with what I paid for this!
CONS: Similar to the quilt, the jacket does not do well when wet. This is why I normally don’t hike in it unless it’s very cold outside because I don’t want to get sweaty in it! It does not come with a stuff sack so I normally shove it in my bag, stuffing it in and around my gear.