Arizona Trail Gear List 2019
Treeline Review staff is hiking 800-miles across Arizona to test gear.
This Arizona Trail (AZT) gear list shows the gear we are testing to measure long-term durability with 6-weeks of day-to-day use. This AZT thru-hiking gear list is made of Treeline Review’s current recommended gear and also gear we have identified that could unseat our current winners. This ultralight gear system for an Arizona Trail works for one or two hikers. Our two gear testers bring over 30,000 miles of gear testing experience including three completions of the Triple Crown of Thru-Hiking (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail).
In April and May, our gear testers will backpack through the Santa Catalina Mountains, Mogollon Rim, San Francisco Peaks, and Grand Canyon. The highpoint of the hiking version of the trail is 9,600 feet in the Santa Catalina Mountains and low point is 1,700 feet at the Gila River. Temperature lows are in the 30s with highs in the 90s. The extreme ends of these conditions means our gear must be versatile, lightweight, durable, and able to protect us from the sun.
Shelter/Tent: Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp with Haven Bug Net
The Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp is a spacious and affordable ultralight shelter that we are testing for an upcoming ultralight tent guide. We typically hike with a fully-enclosed one-piece all-included single-wall tent, like the Z-Packs Duomid. To get a similar design on the Haven for a fraction of the price, we added the optional Haven Bug Net to the inside of the shelter. The Bug Net is an extra defense against scorpions, snakes, and whatever else the desert wants to throw at us. By adding the net tent, the tarp functions more like a traditional backpacking tent like those featured in our Best Backpacking Tent Guide, but at a fraction of the weight.
The Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp is available in the lightweight and abrasion-proof Dyneema Composite Fabric (aka DCF, previously known as cuben fiber), but we tested the more affordable silnylon fabric version.
To stake the tent in place, we carried 8 of the MSR Groundhog tent stakes. We appreciate having a beefier (but still lightweight) tent stake for the rocky soil of the Arizona Trail. For more tent stake reviews, see the Trail Show.
The Six Moon Designs Haven is held up at night with the Black Diamond Trail Ergo trekking poles, which are our Overall Pick in our Best Hiking Poles story. These lightweight, reasonably priced poles are noted for their durability--something we want to test on the rugged Arizona Trail.
If you’re looking for more information about backpacking tents, check out our Best Backpacking Tents guide
Buy the Six Moon Designs Haven Tarp
Backpack: Katabatic Onni 50 L in Liteskin fabric
We are long-term testing the Katabatic Onni backpack in two fabric types: the 70-denier nylon ripstop version and in Liteskin fabric.
The Katabatic Onni 50 L in Liteskin fabric is currently our Upgrade Pick in our Best Backpacking Backpacks story. There’s been a lot of questions about how the Liteskin fabric holds up compared to a tougher fabric like a 70-denier ripstop. We’ll let you know how the two fabrics perform side-by-side on the same trail, on the same days, in the same conditions, over the same length of time.
More than other thru-hikes, the Arizona Trail is notorious for having rocks, spiky plants, and other items that can cause abrasion and punctures. We are looking to test how both fabrics hold up to the rigors of day-in-day-out use in rough conditions.
For more on backpacking backpacks, check out our Best Backpacking Backpack guide
Buy the Katabatic Onni Backpack in Liteskin
Sleeping System: Thermarest Z-Lite Pad, Sea to Summit Ultralight Pad, and Katabatic Gear Palisade Quilt
To update our Best Sleeping Pads guide, we are testing the Sea to Summit Ultralight Pad, which could be a new addition to our line-up of picks. In our research for that guide, we thought Sea to Summit looked like they had promising sleeping pads for side sleepers. But the outdoor media we reviewed were conflicted about which of their pads is the best model for backpackers. Because we’re a meta-review site, we analyze already-existing data. For the Sea to Summit sleeping pads, that data wasn’t conclusive. Here’s why Sea to Summit didn’t make it in our initial Best Sleeping Bags guide.
Now, we’re testing the Sea to Summit Ultralight pad because even if professional outdoor media won’t agree that it is the best pad for backpackers, we thought it looked promising. Of the myriad of Sea to Summit sleeping pads, we think it’s the best model for backpacking because of its price, size, and weight.
Still, we had confusion in deciding which size and width of the Sea to Summit Ultralight pad to purchase to test on the Arizona Trail. We bought the Sea to Summit Ultralight Full Length, but later noticed the women’s version of Sea to Summit Ultralight Pad is less expensive, has better insulation and weighs almost the same as our current Overall Pick, the NeoAir X-Lite.
Between the two sizes, for the Arizona Trail thru-hike, we opted to carry the lighter, less expensive, and better insulated Women’s Sea to Summit Ultralight pad.
We are also testing the long-term durability of our Budget Pick from our Best Sleeping Pads guide, the Thermarest Z-Lite Sol Pad. We have many nights on this pad in various climates and find that it’s the most durable bet when hiking in the desert where spiky plants can puncture an inflatable pad.
To supplement the comfort of the Theramrest Z-Lite Sol, we are adding the self-inflating Thermarest Prolite. This sleeping pad didn’t make Our Best Sleeping Pads guide but could be a promising addition for an update to the story.
The Prolite is more durable than our Overall Pick, the Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite. The Sea to Summit Ultralight also doesn’t have the tall 2.5” height of the NeoAir, so works well for folks who are concerned about rolling off their sleeping pad.
Both our testers are using the lightweight Katabatic Gear Palisade 30° F sleeping quilts, which will be discussed in our upcoming Best Sleeping Quilt guide.
For more on sleeping pads, check out our Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads story.
Buy the Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad
Buy the Thermarest Prolite Sleeping Pad
Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Ergo and Leki Jannu
We’re long-term testing the Black Diamond Trail Ergo, our Overall Pick in our Best Hiking Poles guide. These rugged poles are lightweight, affordable, and are noted for being able to take a hiker’s full weight even on rocky terrain. We think they will do well on the Arizona Trail.
The Leki Jannu are a lightweight women’s hiking poles currently on clearance at various outdoor retailers. These affordable aluminum poles are priced competitively with our Budget Pick, the less-reliable Cascade Designs Carbon Fiber.
For more information on hiking poles, check out our Best Hiking Poles story.
Buy the Black Diamond Trail Ergo
Buy the Leki Jannu
Hiking Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 3.5 and Altra Lone Peak 4.0
Readers requested that we test the Altra Lone Peaks to update our Best Hiking Shoes story. We tested the newest model, the Altra Lone Peak 4.0 (men’s and women’s) and the previous model (currently on sale) of the Altra Lone Peak 3.5s (men’s and women’s). We intend to write a full single-product review of our experience with these models of Altra Lone Peaks, but here’s a sneak peak:
On the Arizona Trail, we ran a side-by-side comparison of:
Each pair of hiking shoes started the Arizona Trail on the same day and ended on the same day, 460 miles later.
Same trail. Same number of miles. Same conditions. Same shoe in different models. The Altra Lone Peak 4.0s were in notably better condition than its predecessors on both the sole and mesh upper fabric.
It’s worth noting that the Arizona Trail is among the rockiest, roughest, loosest trails that any of our testers have ever hiked (and these are people who have multiple thru-hikes of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trail under their belts). Our testers (so far) are impressed by the durability and support of the Altra Lone Peak 4.0s , especially when paired with the Columbia Enduro Soles, footbeds that we’ve found fit the Altra wider footbox that are considered the best footbeds for trail running shoes.
For more on hiking shoes, check out our Best Hiking Shoes guide comparing the top 10 most popular pairs of hiking shoes .
Buy the Altra Lone Peak 4.0 - Men’s
Buy the Altra Lone Peak 4.0 - Women’s
Personal Locator Beacon and Satellite Messenger: Garmin InReach Mini
For the Arizona Trail, we’re testing the Garmin inReach Mini, our Overall Pick for in our Best Personal Locator Beacon and Emergency Satellite Device guide.
We’ve used our Upgrade Pick from that guide, the inReach Explorer+ for thousands of miles of backpacking. However, we chose the Garmin inReach Mini as our Overall Pick because it is about half the weight of the Explorer and two-thirds the price. On the Arizona Trail, we will discover whether that shorter battery life of the Mini is annoying enough to unseat it from our Top Pick.
For more on Personal Locator Beacons and Two-Way Emergency Satellite Messengers, check out our guide comparing the six most popular models.
Buy the Garmin inReach Mini
Hiking Watch with GPS, Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass:
We have thousands of miles of testing on each of the recommended watches in our Guide to the Best Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass and GPS Watch Guide including three thru-hikes across the Canadian Rockies on the Great Divide Trail, the 1,200-mile long Pacific Northwest Trail, the Grand Enchantment route from Phoenix to Santa Fe, and the rugged GR20 in Corsica, France.
The Garmin Instinct has GPS capability and tracks data like elevation gain and distance to give you a better idea of how you performed each day of your hike.
The Garmin Instinct pairs with your phone, music, can send messages, and even initiate an SOS. When we’re finished with the Arizona Trail we’re looking forward to the Garmin Instinct’s ability to map daily tracks over five weeks of backpacking across Arizona. The watch connects to a Garmin app, which can make fly-by visualizations to relive the epic days of your hike and share with your friends.
We’ll also be testing our pick for non-GPS Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass watch, the Suunto Core. This model has seen thousands of miles of Treeline Review testing already, but we like it so much, we’ll continue to use it on the Arizona Trail.
To read our comparison of the most popular four models of GPS watches, read our Guide to the Best Altimeter, Barometer, and Compass and GPS Watch Guide
Buy the Garmin Instinct GPS Watch
Wireless Headphones: Aftershokz Trekz Air
Like many thru-hikers, we enjoy listening to music and podcasts at night, while hiking roadwalks, or to keep morale up in the late afternoon. We are long-term testing two pairs of the Aftershokz Trekz Air, which is our Best Headphones for Situational Awareness in our Best Wireless Earbuds story.
The reason why we chose to more thoroughly test the Aftershokz Trekz Air on the Arizona Trail because that is a backpacking trip that really requires being situational aware. The trail is open to mountain bikes, so it’s important to be able to hear a bike coming in different directions. Wildlife like rattlesnakes and even mountain lions call the Arizona Trail home, so we want to be able to hear when other animals are nearby. The Aftershokz Trekz Air wireless headphones work without blocking your ear drums, so you can still hear other sounds that are happening around you, even while listening to tunes.
Like all the picks in our Best Wireless Earbuds story, the Aftershokz Trekz Air is water resistant and designed to be used for rigorous exercise. As the Budget Pick, one concern we had about using the Aftershokz Trekz Air on a thru-hike is battery life. For day hikes and normal exercise, we’ve found the Trekz Air battery life to be more than enough. But we want to test the Trekz Air on a thru-hike, where we can go seven days without access to a power outlet. We also wanted to test to ensure that the Aftershokz Trekz Air (and its USB ports) can hold up to daily use on a rugged trail.
We’ll let you know how the Aftershokz Trekz Air performed after 5 weeks of daily on-trail use and whether we indeed could hear rattlesnakes even when we had our headphones on.
Read our comparison of the 8 most popular wireless earbuds in our Best Wireless Earbuds story.
Aftershokz Trekz Air Wireless Earbuds
I-Phone for Photos and Navigation: iPhone XR
Love it or hate it, a smartphone has become near-to an essential item for outdoor adventures. We brought the iPhone XR, our Overall Pick in our Best iPhone for Outdoorspeople. It’s excellent photo-taking capability make it well-suited to carry instead of a camera. Plus, it’s high waterproof and dustproof rating make it rugged enough to carry on the trail.
We had mixed opinions about the screen size of the iPhone XR: it’s big, but that also makes it easier to see maps and navigate using our favorite mapping app, Gaia. On bigger phones, you can zoom into maps on Gaia to better see the distance between topo lines, obscure trails, or seasonal creeks. (Note that regardless of your phone size, that’s one leg-up that Gaia’s mapping app has over paper maps, which you should still always carry as back-up).
For more on what phone features you should look for if you’re using your phone for a camera and navigation, read our Best iPhone for Outdoorspeople story.
External Battery Powerbank
Backcountry adventurers who use electronics now have a way to charge devices even when far from a power outlet. We our testing the Anker PowerCore 10000 Redux, our Overall Pick in our upcoming guide, the Best External Batteries and Powerbanks for Outdoor Adventurers.
iPhone XR (for photos and GPS navigation)
Garmin inReach Mini (two way satellite transmitter)
Garmin Instinct GPS Watch (for GPS navigation, compass, altimeter, and barometer)
Aftershokz Trekz Air Wireless Earbuds (for listening to music and podcasts)
That’s a lot of electronics to charge, especially since the Anker PowerCore has to hold enough charge for all those items for 5-7 days at a time in some cases during remote sections of the Arizona Trail.
We’ll report back on how the Anker PowerCore 10000 Redux performed on the Arizona Trail and whether its USB outlets could handle the harsh dust of hiking in the desert.
Anker PowerCore Redux 10000
Hiking Socks and Gaiters
We’re testing two models of hiking socks on the Arizona Trail thru-hike: the Darn Tough Hiker Microcrew (men’s and women’s) and the Darn Tough Hiker Quarter (men’s and women’s). Both socks are made of merino wool and are tightly knitted to reduce dust that can contribute to blisters. They also breathe well, so reduce moisture from foot sweat that can also contribute to blisters.
The Arizona Trail is rocky and we are curious how the two models will perform on a thru-hike across such rough and rugged terrain. We’re pairing the socks with Dirty Girl gaiters, lightweight breathable gaiters that can keep small items out of your shoes. We’ll report back on how our socks performed.
Buy Darn Tough Hiking Socks-Men’s
Buy Darn Tough Hiking Socks-Women’s
Hiking Clothing for the Arizona Trail
Hiking Pants: Patagonia Quandary Pants and Patagonia Fall River Comfort Stretch Pants
On the Arizona Trail, we’re testing the Patagonia Quandary Pants (men’s) and Patagonia Fall River Comfort Stretch Pants (women’s). In thousands of miles of backpacking, it’s difficult to find hiking pants that are stretchy and lightweight while still feeling breathable. These two models look promising, so we’re putting them to the test.
These two models looked promising for desert travel offering breathable fabric and UPF sun protection. They’re both in Patagonia’s fishing line, not their hiking line. Fishing gear is designed for extended sun exposure while also being breathable, which led us to believe they would work well for our trek across the desert. We’ll report back on how they performed in 800 miles of Arizona hiking.
Buy the Patagonia Quandary Pants (Men’s)
Buy the Patagonia Fall River Pants (Women’s)
Buy the Patagonia Sun STretch Shirt (Women’s)
Buy the Patagonia Sun Stretch Shirt (Men’s)
Rain Jackets, Windshirts, and Rain Pants
We’re testing new gear items for an update of our Best Rain Jackets guide and an upcoming guide on the Best Rain Pants. Frogg Toggs has long been a favorite budget pick for rain gear. We’ll also testing the lightweight Goretex three-layer Montbell Torrent Flier rain jacket.
Yeah, yeah. We hear you. Rain gear testing in Arizona? For one thing, no hiker should ever go out anywhere without rain gear. Weather can change quickly. We’ve already had some heavy downpours on the Arizona Trail.
It can be tricky to find a good pair of rain pants. We’re testing the Montbell Versalite Pants and the Z-Packs Cuben Fiber Ultralight Rain Kilt (ok, they aren’t really pants). Both are breathable, lightweight, and well-suited for those cold, rainy situations when one may want to protect their lower half from weather.
Windshirt/ Wind Jacket
We have extensive experience (including at least a dozen thru-hikes) with what we believe is the Houdini’s main competitor, the Montbell Tachyon Windshirt. We’ll be testing the two windshirts head-to-head to see how they perform in extended backpacking conditions.
Patagonia Houdini Women’s
Patagonia Houdini Men’s
Puffy Jackets and Cold Weather Clothing
The Montbell ExLight Down Anorak is 6.2 oz with 900-fill down and a hood. Compared to other down jackets we’ve reviewed, its puffier, warmer, and lighter in weight--especially for a jacket with a hood. It’s also one of the most affordable down jackets we’ve seen.
The Patagonia MicroPuff jacket (men’s and women’s) is an ultralight synthetic jacket that won Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Year award in 2018. The MicroPuff’s synthetic material convincingly replicates the weight and compactness of down while also staying warm when wet (like all synthetic materials).
We’ll report back on how these two jackets performed on cool desert nights.
Patagonia Micropuff Jacket -Men’s
Patagonia Micropuff Jacket- Women’s
Sunhat and Other Sun Protection for Hiking
When hiking across Arizona, we knew that sun protection would be especially important. We’re testing two sunhats for our upcoming Best Sun Protection Gear guide.
We’re trying a newly-redesigned model of sunhat, the Sunday Afternoons Wahoo Cap. Sunday Afternoons has long been considered the top maker of sunhats. With the Wahoo Cap, they created a lightweight long-brimmed hat that offers 360 degree sun protection. What we like about this hat is that it has 4” of protection in the front and 4.25” of neck protection in the back (a spot where many hikers burn). The Wahoo Cap is made of breathable lightweight UPF 50+ sun protective fabric. We’re looking forward to testing the Sunday Afternoons the new Wahoo cap on the Arizona Trail.
We’ll also be testing the Outdoor Research Sun Runner hat. This convertible hat can be worn as a ballcap with an attachable sun skirt that goes around the outside to protect the neck and side of your face. The Sun Runner has long-been one of Outdoor Research’s bestselling sunhats. We’re looking forward to test its versatility, ease of use, and performance in wind on the Arizona Trail.
To protect our hands from the desert sun, we’ll be testing the Outdoor Research Active Ice Chroma Sun Gloves. These sun gloves cool quickly and wick moisture while providing UPF sun protection on your hands, where skin is the thinnest and can easily get burnt.
Outdoor Research Sun Runner Hat
Sunday Afternoons Wahoo Cap
In addition to sunhats, we’re also carrying sun umbrellas on the Arizona Trail. These mylar umbrellas provide sun protection and can even be used hands-free when attached to your pack.
We like the Gossamer Gear Liteflex Sun Umbrella, which comes in extended widths for extra protection and claims to reduce temperatures by 15 degrees. We also like the Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Sun Umbrella, which is similar in weight and less expensive.
We’ll also be using a Synthetic Quick Dry UPF Sun Protecting Buff, which can double as sun and neck protection. For cool-weather gloves, we’re carrying the Montbell Climaplus 200 mittens and the Z-Packs Fleece mittens (discontinued).
Gossamer Gear LiteFlex Umbrella
Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Umbrella
Water Filter and Water Storage: Sawyer Squeeze
We’re carrying the Sawyer Squeeze, the Overall Pick in our Best Water Filter guide. The Squeeze is lightweight, time-efficient, and easy to field clean. It doesn’t require manually pumping and is good for one million gallons (or until you accidentally leave it out in freezing temperatures--whichever comes first).
The Sawyer Squeeze has long been our top pick for water filters. But the desert water of the Arizona Trail is notoriously bad. Several of the water sources are frequented by cows. While we’re confident the Sawyer can handle mountain streams, we’ll find out how the Sawyer Squeeze performs in drier climates.
We’re pairing the Sawyer Squeeze with a new water storage bag, the Cnoc Outdooors 2L water bag. The Cnoc is made of a rugged silicone-like material that we believe may be able to handle the desert better than other plastic waterbags. Like all water bags, their advantage compared to a bottle is compression. When empty, they squish down. Water bags are the least bulky option when you want to have the option of extra water capacity, but know you won’t always have to be carrying full water capacity.
And to tie it all together, we used Nite Ize Gear ties (12” length) to attach the entire system to just about about anything: a tree branch, hiking poles, or a fence post. While gravity does its magic and filters the water, we can relax and eat a snack!
Sawyer Squeeze Filter
Cnoc 2L Water Bag
Backpacking Stove: Soto MicroRegulator
The Soto MicroRegulator stove is lightweight, efficient, and more windproof than any of the backpacking stoves we considered. It’s becoming harder to find as Soto promotes the Windmaster. We were impressed by how the Windmaster performed side-by-side against other stoves in high winds. But it comes with a learning curve, so be prepared to read the instructions and practice at home before you take this stove out.
We compared the 11 most popular backpacking stoves in our Best Backpacking Stoves. Check it out for more information about backpacking stoves.
Soto MicroRegulator Backpacking Stove
For the Arizona Trail, we carried the Evernew Titanium Cookpot that is our runner up in our Best Cookpot Guide. For two people, we preferred the 1.3 L size of the pot. The Evernew is a well-designed pot with thoughtfully placed insulating features and convenient handles. The main reason the Evernew Titanium Cookpot didn’t make our overall pick is because the Evernew has cut back their U.S. distribution. We are finding it increasingly difficult to locate Evernew gear except at speciality gear stores or via Amazon. Customer reviews report some difficulty with shipping and managing returns.
To learn more about cooking pots for backpacking, check out our Best Cookpot Guide.
Evernew Titanium Cook Pot
First Aid and Potty Trowel
We think every backpacker should carry a potty trowel---so much so that our Editor-in-Chief wrote a Think Piece about it.
We’re testing the Deuce of Spades Potty Trowel. Aside from having a pun-filled name, the Deuce is the widest and easiest to use of the lightweight trowels we’ve seen.
Although we don’t intend to write a guide about it, it’s worth noting that we carry a home-made first-aid kit and hygiene kit.
Here’s what that includes:
Blister Protection and Anti Chafe: Trail Toes Anti-Friction Cream
Blister Protection: Leukotape Sports tape
Biodegradable Soap in Small Bottle: Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap
Toothbrush (cut off at handle) and Toothpaste
That’s it! We’ll keep you up-to-date on how the gear we are testing performs on the Arizona Trail.