Superior to Lake Roosevelt

***DISCLAIMER*** I type these entries into my phone each night in my tent. I understand there are issues with typos, grammar, punctuation, etc. I am normally half asleep when typing these so please bear with me!

Superior Zero Day 1 (0 miles)

I slept pretty good last night having my sleeping pad inflated with my quilt on the hotel floor and one of the hotel pillows. I woke once around midnight but was able to fall back to sleep until 06:30 this morning. It felt great being able to take a morning shower. When I got out of the shower Wayback came back to the room with coffee! The hotel room didn’t have a coffee pot, microwave or fridge so the coffee tasted amazing to me. I haven’t had a large cup like that since Tucson.

A view of the motel

At 9am we walked the half mile to a local grocery store Save Money Market so I could get flour tortillas, some snack bars and coffee. Then on the way back we stopped at Family Dollar to get a couple gallons of water to refill our water bottles with fresh water. Once back at the hotel we took all our gear out, cleaned it up, shook out the bags, and put everything back. Then I worked on the blog for a few hours and watched tv while having a beer. At noon we walked down the street to try out a Mexican place Casa Dona Lola. Luckily we could sit down and eat it there. Guess what I had… a bean burrito with rice and guacamole! From there we walked down to the Circle K gas station as I was looking for a specific size bottle I can carry on my left shoulder strap and ended up finding one finally.

Local yard decor. Creepy red eyes!

Along the way, we made a pit stop to the “Worlds Smallest Museum” so of course we just had to check out that little gem! I was able to walk into this small building maybe 10’ long and 3’ wide with miscellaneous items filling shelves behind plexiglass on both sides.

Yep it’s so small it fits in the photo!

I ended up spending most of the day though relaxing in the hotel vegging out, relaxing the body, working on the blog and making some planning preparations for future trail sections. All in all it was a good day!

Superior Zero Day 2 (0 miles)

There must be a sugar monster in this town!

From my lack of doing anything yesterday I didn’t fall asleep until after midnight. I was wide awake and couldn’t get comfortable. This morning Wayback was again very kind and walked down to buy coffees around 07:00 and then we sat in the hotel and watched morning news and relaxed. Around noon we walked “downtown” Superior to a cafe for lunch. On the way we ran into Tweety and Joe Dirt whom we haven’t seen since the morning after climbing Saguaro National Park. They were there with a few other thru-hikers I haven’t met before. We caught up for a few minutes then continued to the cafe. This town is so surprising because at first glance it seems like a very poor and uncared for town but when walking around I can see the art displayed, the amazingly fresh foods they create and the friendly atmosphere. I hope they continue in their growth! I ate a veggie sandwich with iced tea, chips, and…shhhh… a freshly made delicious cinnamon roll!

After lunch we walked the street of their downtown looking at the art and murals painted on the buildings and the interesting architecture before heading back to the hotel when it started to lightly rain. Once back we again sat and watched tv (I can’t remember watching so much tv in my life right now!) until we were both nodding off. Suddenly Wayback asked if I wanted coffee-umm YES! So we fired up his small stove with my gas canister and tested out some coffee packets he bought at the Family Dollar. While Tasters Choice could be good in an outdoor pinch, Folgers beans is better but not as good as my Cafe Bustello!

For the rest of the afternoon I alternated between watching tv, reading a book, downloading some podcasts and internet browsing. I hand washed a few items of clothes for tomorrow’s hike and hung them to dry. What a print day right?! I felt like I was wasting time that could have been spent out on the trail but I also knew my body and joints needed the rest and stretching. I was also able to talk to family on the phone. Near 6pm we walked next door to an Italian restaurant and I had Angel hair spaghetti with olive oil, broccoli and garlic. It was delicious! Then when we came back I sat outside the room and watched the sun set while sipping cheap wine out of my cooking pot, listening to music while watching the sunset and feeling a sense of peace. Tomorrow Afterburner returns to pick us up and to start hiking towards Lake Roosevelt and Payson.

Even sleeping on the floor, I’m happy to be inside!

Superior to Mile 317.3 (17 miles)

This morning I woke up at 06:30 and took one last shower before having some coffee and breakfast. Wayback and I packed our things and sat around until Afterburner came to pick us up at the hotel. We arrived at the Picketpost trailhead and headed out on the trail at 10:30. It felt good to be back on the trail as I was getting bored and anxious sitting at the hotel for so long. The day was warm for a change and since we had a late start we planned on going about 10 miles to a campsite (the same one I camped at during my previous test trial).

Slowly getting to Utah

We ended up going 7 miles in only 2.5 hours but I didn’t even feel it. We stopped at 1pm to eat some lunch in the shade of a giant rock wall along a dry riverbed then took off again. We leap frogged a few thru-hikers we haven’t met before during the day and most of them were friendly. At 3pm we arrived at the mile 310 water source, once a flowing river back in February, now just small pools of stagnant water. At least it didn’t look or taste gross! I filled up 1.5 liters to give me a total of 2.5 to last for another 10-ish miles. Since we arrived at our campsite so early we decided to push forward after much debate.

Originally we were going to wake at the campsite (elevation 2,927) tomorrow at 04:30 and head up Montana Mountain (elevation 5,400) but then decided to get ahead of the hiker rush behind us and push on and climb the mountain in the evening. I mean we climbed up and over Saugaro (Mica Mountain) in one day so why not this? So we hiked on and up and up and up over so many false summits it was getting ridiculous! The trail was so steep in places I couldn’t even use my hiking poles to dig in because they would just slide down past me and not catch. From bottom to top it was a 5.5 mile climb and I arrived on top at the saddle after 6pm. The entire time I was sweating in the heat even with a breeze and my stomach was growling from hunger. I kept debating on whether to stop and eat or to push on and get the climb over with. I chose the latter. My calves were screaming!! I felt like I just did the Grand Canyon north rim.

Looking back towards Picketpost trailhead

Once at the top I finally took the time to relieve myself, catch my breath and get some water before continuing on to find a campsite. The sun was already starting to set and at that elevation the temperature was dropping quickly. I found some comments in the Guthooks App that said there were a few nice campsites just north of mile 317.3 (elevation 5,263) another mile North of the saddle so we hurried along the bumpy forest road that led us to it. I could tell we were all exhausted and sore from the climb by the way we were all walking.

A wonderful evening!

It didn’t take long and before I knew it we were setting up our tents under some foliage protecting us from the wind. We sat in a circle on the cold ground and made our dinners under headlamps. I decided to have my soy ramen noodles to replace all the sodium I had lost during the climb. What better food for that than ramen noodles!? I had that with a side of Oreos 😊. After my belly was warm and full I brushed my teeth, cleaned up with a baby wipe, changed into my sleeping gear and got comfy! It’s almost a full moon tonight so I’m curious as to what the night brings other than a spotlight on my tent! Tomorrow we wake at 05:30 and plan on hiking around 20 miles so we can get to Lake Roosevelt earlier the following day.

Mile 317.3 to Mile 335.5 (18 miles)

Last night I slept maybe three hours. Between the full moon, wind, people walking by or driving by in their ATV’s and cramping in my legs I fell asleep near 03:00 and the alarm went off at 05:30. At least it didn’t get cold or damp! However my shirt was still somehow damp from yesterday’s sweat. Yuck. With no other choice I pulled it on and started packing up inside the tent while making hot coffee. While I was sitting there eating my fig bar and drinking the coffee a hiker we ran into yesterday (Trooper) was walking by and said they camped on the first saddle we had to climb to yesterday (elevation 5,400’) but the wind was so bad it knocked over Ghost Hikers tent and so at midnight she packed up and hiked on to find a better spot. That explained the random person walking at night. And Trooper pulled the plug at 04:00 and packed up to get out of the wind. SOO glad we didn’t try to camp there with them!

At 06:40 we started our day. It was nice this morning, mostly downhill first along a forest road then a pretty path through the woods. I took lead and next time I turned around to check on people they were nowhere to be seen. I decided they stopped to filter some water so I did the same. I only took 1 liter since there were several opportunities along the trail today and we had another hefty climb coming up soon. By the time I finished and put my pack back on, Wayback and Afterburner came around the corner.

Beauty in a burned environment

At 3.5 miles into the hike the trail began to climb up three miles and 1.000’ in elevation. I guess my coffee and light pack kicked into gear because I made it to the top in an hour and actually waited on the guys! The terrain was nice and not too steep so I could settle in. Once at the top I had a snack and the three of us sat there talking to a group of 6 women who were section hiking and then Trooper and Ghost Hiker arrived. After almost an hour we took off descending through beautiful pine trees and a small stream. This was about the time I hit my wall.

Everything was uncomfortable. Everything hurt. Everything seemed to take a massive amount of energy even though I was now walking on flat-ish ground. I’m not sure if the hike was so easy my mind focused on everything else to torment me or if I really did feel this way. Even my left trap was screaming in pain and I had to keep taking my pack off. I only had a quarter of a liter left so by mile 326 I found a cute little stream with cloves growing in it so I stopped and grabbed 2 liters but because I had taken so much time with all my stops I chose to wait until we stopped for lunch to filter it. What a dumb move.

Sore but loving the change of scenery

By this time the sun was out and heating the trail up. We went from cool pine trees to open fields with the sun beating down on us and the trail climbed steeply for a mile and I was out of filtered water at this point. Luckily when I got to the top of the hill I saw Afterburner pulling off in a shady spot! I took the time to filter all the water, reorganize the things in my bag because the weight balance was off then eat some lunch. I ended up having a cup of cold mashed potato’s, a protein cookie and some nuts.

At 12:45 we took off again knowing we had two more climbs in the day and we were trying to get to 18 miles. At lunch we were only sitting at 10. We followed the trail down a very rocky trail until we hit a small water source 2.7 miles away. The water looked a rusted color and smelled funny but water is water and can easily be filtered water! I took a total of 2.5 liters out of there after chugging some beforehand and even having a small cold coffee while I was there. I needed the energy! From there we followed the trail across a lot of open fields and eventually we reached the top of the last big canyons to climb down then up. On the app it didn’t look TOO bad but as soon as I was looking down at the trail, my stomach dropped.

Look at this monster!!

All I could think of was if the trail was covered in snow I’d be skiing a black diamond. The tread in my shoes is almost completely gone and so for the next mile descent, I would gently take a tiny step down and slide on the scree then catch myself with my hiking poles. I did this over and over and over. By the time I got to the bottom, the guys looked just as exhausted and in pain as I felt. We took a ten minute break to relax our muscles and hydrate then we loaded up for the exact same thing but going up. It took me about an hour to climb the 1.5 mile ascent with the sun beating down. I could feel my clothes and hair drenched with sweat. I had to keep stopping every couple of feet to catch my breath as the trail almost went straight up the mountain.

Great views from up high

Finally near 4pm we all made it to the top and wow did it feel great to have that behind us. I could see Lake Roosevelt off in the distance and the Four Peaks in front of us. We took a quick break there before continuing on three more miles to get to our campsite. Those three miles took forever! Up and down, up and down. My legs felt like rubber. Finally at 6pm we made it! The damp site was pretty neat, it had several little levels to choose from with some privacy at each. I chose my site and just sat down not moving for several minutes. Wayback asked if I was okay and I said yes I’m just done I have no more today.

I got my tent set up as Ghost Hiker and Trooper arrived. They set their tents up and climbed inside and we didn’t see them again in the evening. We were able to sit on. I’ve rocks to heat up our dinners and chat about random things as the sun went down. I ended up having more random stuff including half a refried bean burrito, Cheetos, Oreos and a fig bar. I didn’t want to use all my water for the mashed potatoes because I need water for several miles tomorrow until we can get more. I think that’s my favorite part of the day is dinner time and being able to forget the hard parts of the day and to climb into my tent to finally relax surrounded by peace and quiet. Tomorrow we arrive at Lake Roosevelt where I will have to haul 5 days of food in my bag and then climb up the mountains.

Mile 335.5 to Mile 352.5 (17 miles)

I fell asleep as soon as my eyes closed last night and I slept great! I woke to the alarm at 05:30, packed up and started the trail by 06:20. After three minutes of walking the trail climbed 900’ in a mile and definitely gave my body a good warm up first thing in the morning.

Welcome to the mountains!

We stopped three miles in by a spring and filtered some wonderful water that was clear and cool. I took 2.5 liters and had a snack. We descended into a nice canyon that cut back and forth over a river (some areas bone dry, others flowing nicely). Of course today as we are now less than 5 miles into Lake Roosevelt there are water sources everywhere! The last three miles were waking along a dirt forest road that seemed to snake down then up and around all while the sun was heating up. Finally we found the cutoff trail that led down into the Roosevelt Marina.

Those darn forest roads!
A quick snack by a cow tank

I took my pack off and went inside to purchase a V8 and to grab my resupply box I had mailed there. With box in hand I found a couple picnic tables underneath a large shady area by a small shack that held all the hiker box things that people either don’t want need or have room for. I opened my box and exploded everything onto the table to organize and pack away to include 5 days worth of food, some hygiene items and a brand new pair of shoes! I took my old shoes off and saw both of my socks had holes in them from the plastic in the heel rubbing on them. I ended up putting leukotape on both heels to protect my skin from rubbing.

New shoes… yay!

As soon as I packed my food up Afterburner and Wayback came over and said they were going to eat at the restaurant out back and he ordered me some fries. So I gathered my things, threw out all my trash and went to meet them. There were a few other hikers there too but we sat at our own table to wait. I bought a beer to go with my fries and both seemed to fill me up.

After lunch we filled our water bottles (3 liters for me) and decided to walk the road 2.5 miles down to the trail instead of going back the way we came. We saved about and hour an half by doing this. The road was hot under our feet as we creeped along with our heavy bags. Mine was squeaking and I couldn’t get it to stop! Finally we made it to the trailhead alongside the road and took a few minutes to cool down in the small shade area we could find. Wayback reserved a ride for two days from now into the town of Payson and then we started up the climb out of Roosevelt.

Crossing Lake Roosevelt bridge

While this was a hard climb because of the heat it definitely wasn’t my hardest one. I put my podcast on and listened to that until I reached the top over an hour later. The top was windy and sparse due to the wildfire. I finally had cell reception so I was able to call Jen for a few minutes. We still had a few miles left until we got to the campsite so we took off and hiked until we found said campsite.

Looking down on Canyon Lake

It was located on a saddle between two larger mountains and had the BEST views all around! It was open with no trees. It had a few prickly pear cactus around. This would have been a perfect campsite if it wasn’t for the tiny black bugs. They. Were. Everywhere. I set my tent up then I shooed the bugs away and quickly threw my things inside and repeated for each item. I decided to eat dinner first and then to make my bed afterwards so I didn’t have to open the tent more than necessary. It was a beautiful sunset and so glad I did things backwards otherwise I would have missed it!

Bug central

Mile 352 to Mile 372 (20 miles)

Today started dark and early at 04:30 by packing up camp, having coffee and two breakfasts since I knew we were climbing up to 6,000’ today and then we start out on the trail. And then my headlamp dies. Well it started flickering like a strobe light and started getting dimmer and dimmer so I just shut it off. Thanks to the full moon I was able to see the path pretty well and I actually enjoyed it and it felt easier to walk. It didn’t last too long though as we were hiking along a ridge and the sun came up earlier. I could see Lake Roosevelt behind me, the Four Peaks in front of me and Canyon Lake to my left.

Hiking at dawn with the full moon in front

At 2.5 miles in we came to Mills Ridge Trailhead and found a stash of water. I took 2.5 liters to last 9.4 miles and with over 2,000’ of elevation gain. I was mentally prepared to be hiking up all day so I just settled in to low gear and slowly went up the mountain. Surprisingly I lasted over a mile before running out of steam and I found Afterburner taking a break too so we waited for Wayback to catch up shortly after and all of us tore into some snacks. My stomach was growling halfway up so it was pleased to be fed again!

I’ve been so excited to make it to Four Peaks!
A backside view of the peaks

A few more miles up we came to the most amazing view of the Four Peaks! I couldn’t believe I was getting to see this and I couldn’t help but to smile for the next two miles. That is until we started the long creeping trail alongside of them that never seemed to end. Afterburner is terrified of heights and he was going very slowly as to not slip because it was straight down on our right. We had to plow through brushes and downed trees, over multiple sections of rock slides that moved every step we took, and even had to hoist ourselves up with our hands in some sections. It was the most beautifully scary part of the trail we’ve had yet. I just wish I could have seen it before the big wildfire this last year.

Crazy rock slides
Miles and miles of this terrain

By the time we found ourselves off the side of the mountain we were all pretty tired and thirsty. There was a spring (Shake Spring) that flowed through the trail so we stopped and quickly filtered some water and continued on as it was already past noon and we only had 11 miles in. Two miles later we ran into our last opportunity to filter some water at a nice cold stream (Pigeon Spring) that had a tiny little waterfall so I ended up leaving there with a total of 3 liters. It seemed like my bag was just getting heavier and heavier rather than lighter without some food. After this I put my headphones on and listened to a podcast to turn my brain away from body pains and to finish off the evening with 20 miles.

Hello Apache Junction below!

Pretty soon I hiked out into a dirt road and the three of us walked this road for 4 miles! It was the nicest dirt forest road I’ve seen in Arizona. We did take a side road then and it became bumpy but still in great condition. Along the way we hit Mile 20 and almost right away we found a campsite just off to the side. It was not the best campsite as it had a lot of rocks and surrounded by some burned areas and it was on a saddle at 5,890’ elevation, but it was a campsite and my feet screamed YES! After 12 hours of hiking we took our time setting up camp then sat in our little triangle and cooked up some dinner. I selected the top of the line Soy Ramen as I needed the extra sodium and something warm in my belly before a cold night.

Saddle sleeping

Tomorrow we descend 14 miles to get to highway 87 where a guy named Jerry will pick us up and drive us into Payson where Afterburner and Wayback have packages at the Post Office. I am super excited to have a shower after 5 days of sweat and dirt! I’m at that point now where I am highly offensive to myself. I also need to pick up new socks because mine have holes in them from my old shoes rubbing.

Mile 372 to Mile 386

The wind started at 03:00 this morning and Afterburner and I didn’t hear Waybacks alarm for once. We woke to him saying “it’s 04:45 are you guys gonna get up?” Well I suppose if I have to! The wind made it difficult to pack but I did and I wasn’t even I. The mood for food or coffee so we pushed on at 05:25. We continued along the forest road climbing higher to over 6,000’. By the time we reached the top we could see the sun barely starting to rise looking back at Lake Roosevelt. We followed the road twisting down the mountain for two miles as the cold air and wind ripped at us. After mile 3, we found a calm area alongside the forest road in a wildfire burned area.

We heated up some water for coffee and I had a fig bar for breakfast. While it wasn’t the most comfortable or scenic place I’ve stopped at, it got the job done. Afterwards we continued the road until it climbed up and over a small mountain and eventually after 7 miles of rod walking over the previous night and morning we reached the turnoff for the trail. Somehow I ended up as the lead and descended the trail down into a valley off in my own zen world. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I looked back and saw two hikers but not the people I’d been hiking with! They caught up to me and introduced themselves as Erica and Tanner who looked about as calm and comfortable as if they were in a magazine. Super nice people out thru-hiking. After chit chatting for a few minutes they took off and I didn’t see them again after that.

We followed the trail through the canyon, plowing through thick bushes and through other burned areas. At times it felt like we were hiking though a cow valley area but inhabited only by birds and large ants everywhere. It was near noon when I started to slow my pace and vegan tripping and stumbling (normal for me around this time) so I pulled off to the side and sat on a rock. Wayback and Afterburner continued on but I didn’t feel bad about sitting for a few minutes. When I finally took off and caught them, they told me no sooner did I sit down and they rounded the corner they stumbled onto a large snake crossing the path! I felt so good about my choice to sit! I probably would have screamed so loud the snake would have jumped!

A rare sight- flat ground on the AZT!
The most random thing I’ve seen here- old cars in the middle of nowhere!
Time for different insoles. Ouch!

At 12:30 we made it to Sycamore Canyon where we found a nice stream to collect water. This was the first one of the day as the rest were dry. I took my shoes and socks off and noticed a bad patch on my right foot from rubbing against the insole- no wonder it’s been hurting so bad. I ended up filtering only 1 liter as Wayback had been trying to find a ride for us from the trail and into the town of Payson (a 30 mile drive) and the guy Jerry said he could be there in 30-40 minutes. Well great, we are still two miles out plus a climb in between so how will this work? We packed dip very fast and hiked the fastest hike we could hike and when we came out into a gravel road 2.5 miles later it felt great knowing we had a ride soon that would take us to a shower and clean clothes!

The driver, Jerry picked us up at 1:30 and talked the entire time into Payson and dropped us off at the hotel. What a nice hotel too! We checked into the Comfort Inn in a suite so we each had a bed to sleep on. I haven’t slept in a bed since Kearny so I was thrilled to have this! Afterburner and I walked a half mile to a runners store and I bought new insoles and a pair of socks to replace the old ones. Then I walked to Walgreens to refill some food supplies. When I got back to the hotel they had already showered and started to relax so I jumped in the shower. What a heavenly feeling! I just watched the dirt stream off my body and down the drain. By the time I got out of the shower the guys were gone so I took the time to call my mom and Jen and go through my bag to clean, trash, reorganize and restock. The guys came back two hours later with our clean laundry and their own food resupply. Once we all finished up loose ends we walked next door to El Rancho for some Mexican food for dinner. Yum! We plan on Jerry picking us up at 08:00 to head back to the trail and onward and WAY upwards towards Pine.

AZT 300 Mile Gear Review

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!

Big Agnes Copper UL1 with 3mm drop cloth Here

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.

Tent Stakes

Zpacks Titanium Ti Shepherd Hooks Here / Gossamer Gear Aluminum Stakes

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.

Sleeping Mat

Thermarest Z-Lite Here

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.

Hiking Poles

Gossamer Gear Hiking poles Here

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).

Food Bag

Opsak large odor proof bag Here

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.

Cook System

Toaks long handle spoon Here, Toaks 550ml pot Here, BRS 3000t stove Here

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.

Hydration System

Evernew 2L Here, Sawyer Mini filter Here

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!

HydraPak 2L

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.

Down Booties

Nature hike down booties Here

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.


Garmin In-Reach Mini Here

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!

Power Bank

Aukey 20,000 mah Here

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.


UCO headlamp Here

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.

Sleeping Quilt

Enlightened Equipment Revelation Here

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.

Puffy Coat

Men’s Enlightened Equipment Torrid 10D Here

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.