Hiking Boots ($125): Garmont. I actually bought these hiking boots around three years ago in hopes of doing a Grand Canyon trip. I only wore them a few times each year and didn't seriously break them in until about six months before the trip. They are above average boots, but I've always gotten a few blisters down in the canyon. That's what they make mole skin for. It's just part of the trip for me; whereas Richard picked up a nice pair of Timberlines from Academy and didn't get blister one. In fact, he really didn't even break them in. . I'll keep looking for the perfect boot for the next trek. Be sure to get a good pair of smartwool or coolmax socks and try your boots on with them. Note: You definitely need to check out this lacing technique for your boots. It saved my toes from the force on the downhill sections of the trail.
Backpack ($100): I have a basic Kely's external frame 4,000 cubic inch pack. My pack is the middle one in the banner photo. Notice that everything is compact. This is the same one I used on the 1997 trip and I didn't see spending another $100 plus for a newer one. I did notice from Tom and Richard's newer packs that Kelty has made a lot of improvements. We were one of the few folks on the trail that had external frames so I'm not sure what the big attraction is for internal frames. One guy I spoke to said he had both and didn't noticed a big difference except for the internal had a greater degree of mobility. He actually said he wished he had brought his external because it was great for hanging accessories on (I agree). Seems like he commented that 2 guys in his party paid the mule train $50 to carry their backpacks out of the canyon and that they only accepted internal frame packs - I guess that's one reason to buy internal? I really like the split access of these packs; whereas, you can unzip the lower section to help organize like items. Note: I rigged a small camera bag across the left side of my shoulder strap to have frontal access to my digital camera equipment. This kept me from stopping to take out my camera. Carrying the camera strap around my neck was a big mistake on my 97' trip (Canon AE1 35mm). The only drawback was that I could not soak down my shirt or bandana in those cool streams for fear of getting my equipment wet. Oh well, it's not a perfect world.
Sleeping Bag ($100): Kelty's 45 degree compact. Worked like a champ - even in the warmer temps. If one could afford it, it would be nice to have a summer and winter bag, but with my budget I have an all weather one. Note: I carried a small pillow that fit between my back and the backpack beneath one of the mesh back straps. I stuffed it in a large ziplock to keep the sweat from soaking in to the pillow case. Back cushion and pillow in one. This photo was taken at Horn Creek and you can see how we set up our bags on the tarp. It took us one night to figure out not to use our stakes for the tarp, but to use the local rocks around the campground.
Air Mattress ($34): Insul Mat - Max Compact mummy type. Worked great! I ditched the bag and rolled it up in my sleeping bag, which all fit in the sleeping bag stuff sack (notice the photo above). Tom was amazed at how flat I slept on my back - some folks may have a problem staying on the air mattress if they move around a lot Note; I did something a little different - I slept with ear plugs. They drown out the sounds of crickets, frogs, air mattress shifts, and Richard snoring. Richard tells me he is going to make me a pair of custom ones.
Camp Stove ($79): Jet Boil is the crown jewel of camp stoves especially if you are going to cook dehydrated / freeze dried meals and if you don't like to wait on your coffee in the morning (see note below on coffee). It will boil 2 cups of water in less than two minutes. Backpackers' Magazine awarded it their product of the year a year or so back. It tested tried and true and I cooked on one small fuel canister for well over 40 cups of boiling water. The Jet Boil cooked for both Richard and I. Tom opted to use the popular, but slower, pocket rocket. I boiled him a few cups for coffee on the side. I even thought about traveling throughout the canyon working for Jet Boil and giving demonstrations (not really...well maybe...). Note: I used one 19 oz cup for both cup and bowl. I drank my coffee in it and then ate my oatmeal and later used it to serve my dinner in (think light and compact). I'm serious about coffee and the Melitta filter cone was the perfect way to prepare a cup of fresh java on the trail. The Jet Boil and Melitta filter cone made a great couple.
Hydration Supplements ($18): I researched a few and passed on the traditional Gatorade for eFuel. It comes in an easy to mix liquid package. I really like the idea that it was in liquid form because the powders never really seem to mix well and I knew that I didn't want to deal with powders on the trail The taste isn't like a Gatorade, but it is specially designed to hydrate marathon runners. Their web site has all the particulars - it worked for me. Each pack makes 24 oz so you will need several depending on how long your trip it. Richard was able to pick up a pretty good hydration powder at the gift shop in Bright Angel Lodge. Note: One nice thing about using water bottles vs. a camelback system that you can better regulate your water intake especially if you need to pace your water until the next refill.
Trekking Poles ($40): I bought two used Leki trekking poles on eBay for $40. I let Tom use one and I used the other. I didn't like hiking with 2 poles since I did a lot of photography. Also, I used a workout glove to keep from getting blisters on my hand. I don't really think a person needs to spend a ton on trekking poles with the shock absorption systems and all. The main idea is to spread some of the load to your arms and have another level of balance for creek hopping. New Leki poles range from $100-240. For more information on trekking poles check out Pete's Poles Page.
Flash Light ($15): I found a compact Princeton Tec Impulse LED light that clips on to your hat. The photo doesn't show the hat clip, but it comes with the light. It was great for hands free functionality - helped me fire up the Jet Boil for morning coffee that much quicker. Also, easy to use for looking through the backpack after dark. For me, headlamps are too bulky so this little gem did me right.
Camp Bucket ($6): REI offers a nice collapsible bucket that holds about 2-1/2 gallons of water and stands on its own. Best six dollars spent for the entire trip. I used it to soak my tired feet, wash my cloths, splash water in my face, rinse my hands, rinse my cup, and of course take a bucket over the head shower.
That's about it folks.
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