To Hike Havasu Canyon you will need quite a few items of equipment. To have the best experience with backpacking you may need to splurge more on certain items and go cheap on others. Here is a list of what I brought to Havasupai and why.
This is one of the most important things you will be bringing on your trip. There are tons of companies out there offering hiking packs of all shapes and sizes. I chose Osprey for their lifetime guarantee and having quite a few friends that swear by their equipment even for airline travel. My pack was an Osprey Aura AG 50. The male version of this pack is the Osprey Atmos. They both come in a 50 liter size and a 65 liter size. The size will depend on how much stuff you are taking and weather or not you are hiking alone. Two people can split equipment more effectively than one person hauling everything for camp. I chose the 50 liter size because I never go on solo hikes and I typically go on shorter trips. My cousin who joined me carries the Osprey Ariel AG 65 because she goes on solo hikes frequently. If you go on long excursions regularly you should opt for the larger pack. Be sure to get fitted in an actual brick and mortar store before choosing your size. You will also want to see how the pack fits and feels on your back before you make a decision. A place like REI will allow you to try on any pack and walk around the store with it fully loaded. DO NOT SKIP THIS. The male and female packs have physical differences not just color ones. Each is made to fit that particular sex which is nice. The women’s packs distribute the weight to the hips which is the strongest point on a woman. The male pack distributes the weight to the back and shoulders which is typically their strongest point. Your pack may or may not come with a detachable day pack so you may need to bring a collapsible one for day hikes like this Flash 22 day pack from REI.
Your boots are one of your most important pieces of equipment for the entire trip. Your feet need to be as comfortable and supported as possible. If you are buying a new pair of boots before the hike BREAK THEM IN FIRST! Hike in them whenever you can up until the trip because if you throw on a new pair on the trail you are going to get blisters most likely. When buying a pair try them on in the store and wear them around for a good ten to twenty minutes. Make sure they aren’t rubbing anywhere on the toes, heel, or ankle. Go up and down stairs if you can and if they have a loaded pack for you to wear EVEN BETTER! I went boot shopping at least four times. I spent countless hours searching online for models I thought would work best for my feet. You may need to bring insoles or opt for trail runners and gaiters instead! You have to choose what you think will work best for you. The trail is very dusty, and has lots of loose rock and gravel, but it is dry so waterproofing isn’t necessary. When you do creek crossings I recommend bringing some water shoes or sandals to switch into. Tevas work well or these cheap look alikes from Amazon.
You will want a tent that is light, packable, and large enough for you and your equipment. For two people the REI co-op Half Dome 2 Plus tent was great. We had room for two tall women, our inflatable sleeping pads, and our packs. The rain fly also provided a little foyer area to keep our boots. There was also a door on each side of the tent which was awesome for keeping us from bothering each other when we had to get up in the middle of the night. It weighs 4 lbs 14 oz and measures 7 x 20.5 inches. I personally have a Nemo 3P Dagger that is lighter and packs smaller than the dome but it was also more expensive. Both I can recommend highly!
If you want a good night’s sleep I recommend you do not skimp on you sleeping gear. A loud crinkly sleeping bag that isn’t warm enough is going to ruin your night. I am a side sleeper so I chose a sleeping bag and pad that fit my needs. I also made sure the r-value on both would keep me warm in freezing weather. I went with the Nemo Rave 30 Long sleeping bag. It has a unique spoon shape that allows you to move your legs and sleep on your side easily. The fabric was insanely soft and quiet. The down kept me really nice and warm and the flip out/ tuck in comforter piece near the neck made it feel like real covers and not a sleeping bag. I am 5’7″ so I went with the long size. I would have barely fit in the regular length. Keep the length in mind when you are buying a sleeping bag. My cousin brought her Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z Spark Sleeping Bag – Women’s Long. If you already have a sleeping bag that isn’t warm enough you should consider getting a liner which will help. My cousin’s bag was only rated to 35 degrees so she used a liner for November’s 30 degree temps.
For my sleeping pad I chose the Nemo tensor 25L insulated sleeping pad It has an r-value of 25 keeping your back warm and off of the cold ground. Being inflatable it allowed me to sleep on my side without my hip and shoulder digging into the ground. It was nice and quiet so I wasn’t waking up my cousin when I was turning over at night.
My pillow was a Nemo Luxury Fillo Pillow. It fit perfectly inside my Nemo sleeping bag so that I didn’t lose it in the middle of the night. It is a heavier pillow so if you are trying to cut weight you might not bother bringing one and just stuffing clothes in the hood of your sleeping bag.
You will need a lot of water while hiking in Arizona (even in the winter) so make sure your bladders or water bottles hold enough for your needs. My thought on the matter was I will buy the biggest bladder available for my pack and only fill it half way if I don’t need that much. I bought the Platypus Hoser 3 liter water bladder This method worked wonders for me. It made hauling water easier from the spring at the beginning of camp which I used for cooking and cleaning. I also brought a Platypus gravity works water filtration system which allowed me 4 liters of water at a time and came with a great handle which allowed easy carrying from the water source and allowed me to hang it on a tree at camp. The water is just fine at the spring so it didn’t need filtering, but the extra water “on tap” at camp was awesome!
My trekking poles were highly rated on Outdoor Gear Lab‘s website for being good starter poles. I have to say for $20 these BAFX Trekking Poles did the job! My only complaint is they could have better hand grips. After miles and miles of hiking with these they did start rubbing my palms and felt like eventually they would cause a blister. If you are looking for something lighter maybe opt for a carbon fiber model, and if you want something more packable maybe get a collapsible version. These did fit in my pack with all of my gear flying from Charleston to Arizona.
For clothing I recommend bringing layers. Even in summer temperatures at night can drop into the 50’s so you will need warm and cool clothes. Since you’re layering you can strip them as you hike once things warm up in the day and put them back on later. This was the same story in winter. We had 70 degree days in November and 30 degree nights. I really love wool clothing for hikes because they don’t hold odor the way synthetic fibers do. You won’t feel gross wearing them multiple days in a row.
- A light jacket, or puffer jacket, or both depending on weather (I brought a half zip Icebreaker pullover and a puffer jacket in November)
- Long Hiking pants (zip off kind might work best if you don’t want to bring shorts too)
- Running shorts for creek crossing while hiking and for warmer temperature hikes
- Bathing suit
- At least three pairs of wool socks (one pair is dedicated for sleeping until the last day) I prefer Darn Tough socks
- Wool Leggings (in winter) great for sleeping in and cold mornings
- Three shirts (a tank and two tees worked great for me)
- A pair of underwear a day (I wouldn’t suggest trying to wash them in the creek) I really like the Icebreaker kind or exofficio
- A sports bra (if you need it)
- Hat (for the sun and/or beanie)
- Gloves (for winter)
- Microfiber towel for drying off after swimming, for use around camp, cooling off during hikes as a wet neck wrap, and for drying off after creek crossings.
- Your water shoes or sandals work great for camp shoes. They’ll give your feet a break from your boots. They also are easier to put on in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
- Boots or Trail runners
A headlamp is a must for camping at the Havasupai campground! At the very least you will use it for middle of the night bathroom breaks, but it is useful for much more. If you get an early start on your hike like in the summer to get ahead of the heat you will want a good headlamp to light your way. When you are breaking down your tent early in the morning a headlamp is a God send. You can even use it to light up your tent at night by putting it in a pocket or hanging it from your ceiling. Either way get one and make sure it fits well.
A small battery powered lantern would also be great to have if you plan on staying up later with friends at camp. There are picnic tables at each site for playing cards or eating. It gets dark in the canyon earlier than somewhere in the open so keep that in mind. It might be worth the extra weight for you. This is a luxury item though.
Food is a bit of a tricky category. You want items that are light, very packable, and calorie dense. Since you will be carrying every food item on your back (unless you head to the shop in Supai) you want the most bang for your buck. Canned items are incredibly heavy compared to ramen noodles. You will also need about double what you normally eat. I thought I was going to have one pack of ramen for dinner every night and I was totally wrong! I am so glad I brought extra just in case. I was so ravenous by dinner two packs was just enough to satisfy me. You are burning so many calories during your hike you don’t have to feel guilty about eating more than normal! Here are some great options for dry meals that work well on the trail:
- Top Ramen noodles
- Instant oatmeal or overnight oats (if you want to leave them in a plastic jar overnight)
- Protein bars
- Pop tarts
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Knorr Sides (rice sides, pasta sides, etc.)
- *Tuna packets if you don’t mind dealing with very smelly trash (remember NO TRASHCANS)
You may want some extra caffeine supplements in the form of energy bars, gummies, gels, or drink powders. I happened to bring caffeinated Clif bars, energy gummies, and instant coffee of course. Here are some great snack items:
- Granola bars
- Trail mix
- Veggie Pops (my absolute favorite)
- Protein bars
- Dried Fruit
- Freeze dried veggies
- Nut butter packs
- Pretzels (mine were chocolate covered!)
You could opt out of bringing a camp stove if you want to save weight. For those that just want to go the cold food route that’s totally fine and may even be preferable in the summer heat. I just really enjoyed having something warm to start and end my day. Lunch was always a casual affair of snacks and bars.
Please please please don’t forget to pack plastic zip lock bags to keep your trash in! You are not supposed to dump your camp trash in the village’s trash cans and the ones in the bathrooms are for very specific kinds of trash not your Pringles cans! Remember you are a guest in the Havasupai Tribe’s home. All of their trash has to be hauled out by horses or a helicopter. You are perfectly capable of being responsible for your garbage for a few days!
These are more luxury items but they will make your trip better and more comfortable. Here’s what I recommend:
- Baby wipes – perfect for keeping yourself clean since you can’t shower. You will want to have at least two per day for a “tent bath” and more if you want them for cleaning your hands.
- Hot hands – if you’re hiking in the cold these really make you feel a million times better. Nobody is happy when their fingers or toes are freezing.
- Plastic zip lock bags – You have to have these to keep trash compacted and odor free. I brought one for my used wet wipes and one for the food wrappers.
- Deodorant – Your friends and the other hikers will thank you
- Sunscreen – The last thing you want to be is sunburnt while hiking. If your shoulders got burnt where your pack straps go…. I can only imagine the pain. Try to use zinc based sunscreen if you are going swimming.
- Makeup – definitely a luxury but if you came here for the instagram shots of a lifetime I understand. Just keep it to the absolute bare minimum. Mine was eyeliner, and an under eye concealer. Sunglasses work great though.
- A compact hairbrush preferably with a small mirror. The mirror isn’t just for vanity. You may get something in your eye, or need to signal for help with it.
- Nail clippers – I never leave home without them.
- Extra toilet paper – You never know when you’ll need it and you shouldn’t count on the bathrooms always being stocked.
- Packing cubes – This helped me stay organized with all of my stuff. My clothes were easy to find even when I didn’t have much light or when I was rifling through my pack. They also compact your clothes.
- Cooking gear:
- Camp stove with fuel
- Cooking pot
- External battery – You will want to keep your phone charged to take pictures. You won’t get much reception though, so don’t plan on sharing them until you get back to the city.
- Cellphone and Charger – For emergencies and for pictures of course
- Camera – If you are an actual photography buff and don’t mind the weight a camera is an excellent idea. These are some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve seen in my life and my phone camera just couldn’t do it justice.
- Cash – If you want to eat at the fry bread stands or buy stuff from the store
- Hammock – You may want to lounge around camp a bit and there are plenty of trees to set up. You may even want to just sleep in a hammock instead of the typical tent set up. It would save you quite a bit of space and weight if you went this route!
I hope this helps you figure out what you need, and don’t need for your hike in the Havasu Canyon. Have an amazing time and be safe!