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Essential Gear for the Arizona TrailDecember 29, 2016
Now that I’ve finally finished adding photos from the Arizona Trail to my website, I can now focus on other tasks. One such task is this blog post, a list of gear that I found invaluable and/or highly useful on the trail. Note that some links may be affiliate links, but I was not approached by any company to write anything below. They are my honest opinions about the gear that got me through the trail.
Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Voltaic Systems Solar Panel
Choosing a solar panel for a long-distance trail can be tricky. There are literally dozens of options, with everyone swearing by their favorite brand. In the end, I went a little more obscure with an Arc 10W Solar Kit from Voltaic Systems. I started off liking this solar panel. Within a week I absolutely loved it. And that’s what you want from your gear over long distances. You don’t want it to be good enough to do the job, you want to love it.
My Voltaic solar panel was lightweight, and incredibly durable. Hiking through Arizona put it up against some brutal tests and challenges, but it performed marvelously nonetheless. I scraped it up, dropped it, beat it, and even put it under clouds (gasp!). Throughout each day, despite my best efforts to inadvertently make it fail, it did its job perfectly.
Unlike other solar panels, its outer surface is more fabric than glass, so it can take a beating. This helps keep the weight down to 0.68 lbs (306 g) and also improves its durability. On top of that, it kept everything charged: camera batteries; rechargeable AA batteries; headlamp; its own battery pack; and of course, my cell phone. I’d drain my cell phone down to nearly nothing every day, but thanks to the panel and the battery pack, it never died. At minimum, I was using a GPS app on my phone, logging my route every day, and even writing every blog post from the trail you see on this site. And still, my phone never died.
Would I buy another Voltaic product? In a heartbeat. There’s a reason I listed it first.
Klymit Inertia X-Frame
At only 9.1oz, the Klymit Inertia X-Frame was a sleeping dream. While it can be odd-looking to those used to a more standard sleeping pad, the X-Frame adds support where it’s needed, and leaves out support where it’s not. This makes it the ideal lightweight sleeping option.
While the pad is strong and durable, it will puncture, especially if you were foolish enough not to bring some kind of padding to go underneath, like I failed to do. Fortunately, the patch kit that comes with it is easy to use, and works perfectly.
Prefer to do your shopping from REI? While they don’t carry the X-Frame specifically, they do have another that’s only one pound and one that I would trust just as much. The Klymit Static V2 looks like a great alternative to the X-Frame, while also giving you your REI points.
Osprey Volt 60
When you’re carrying everything on your back, a comfortable pack is a necessity. Fortunately, Osprey knows how to make a backpack comfortable. I went with the Volt 60 and was comfortable throughout my changing weight (due to varying food/water amounts). My shoulders never complained, nor did my hips. This pack was built for the long haul and it was obvious. It also had the perfect amount of room for everything I needed, with the top portion of the main pack having the ability to increase its height as needed.
Coming in at just under 3lbs these days, the Volt can be considered a bit on the heavy side. Fortunately for thru-hikers, there are some ways of reducing that. The Osprey Volt comes with a plethora of straps that, upon closer inspection for your needs, can be cut off to begin dropping ounces. You may also find you won’t use the bungee attachments, which will get rid of that and the plastic associated with it. Point being, there are ways of bringing down the weight.
Osprey has established themselves as one of the preferred packs of thru-hikers, and there’s a good reason for it. Despite what could be a lighter weight, the packs are still extraordinarily comfortable. That makes a world of difference.
REI Igneo Sleeping Bag
In my opinion, the REI Igneo can’t be beat. It’s the perfect sleeping bag for the Arizona Trail, coming in at just under 2lbs.
The Igneo will keep you warm down to 19 degrees and comfortable each and every night. On warmer nights, I simply left the bag unzipped and used it as a comforter and was totally snug and cozy. On colder nights, I was still perfectly warm and comfortable, even when I woke up to fresh snow on the ground.
It packs away well and tight, it’s warm, and it’s lightweight. I couldn’t have been happier with this bag.
MSR Hubba NX Tent
Shelters come in all different varieties and many people will swear by their preferred choice. If you’re used to a tent and don’t want to learn a new system, then stick with a tent. That was what I did, and I went with the MSR Hubba NX Tent. At a mere 2.5lbs, it’s very lightweight for a tent.
In terms of durability, this tent held up beautifully. Despite sleeping on many different rocky grounds, there was never a hole in the bottom. (I don’t recommend testing your luck though.) It held up to fierce winds, rain, snow, and rocks (on the ground, not falling from the sky).
I plan on using this tent for all my backcountry excursions and hopefully any future thru-hikes I might do as well.
Going along with a special someone? The MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent has enough room for two and only adds on a pound at most.
Another great feature to save weight with the Hubba series of tents is that if you’re not worried about critters at night, you can leave the tent at home. By using the rain-fly and the footprint (sold separately), it nearly cuts the weight in half! It saves plenty of weight and eases you into cowboy-camping if you’re wanting to give that a shot. Plus, on those nice nights in the desert, you’re not going to want the whole tent anyway. (Just make sure you always have some kind of rain-fly since weather can change rapidly.)
German Sausage Company
Not so much gear, but this very essential food is from an authentic German meat company in Phoenix. The German Sausage Company has a few different types of sausages that don’t require refrigeration, which is invaluable for mail drops and trail food. It adds a necessary amount of protein to your diet and is, of course, absolutely delicious. For those considering going stoveless, this is your must-have protein source. For those with a stove, this is your must-have protein addition (assuming you’re not vegetarian).
Had I not bought any meats from them, I would have suffered a massive protein deficiency. They are well worth the visit.