We did backpack camping when we hiked the Narrows in Zion a couple years ago, but we only stayed one night in the narrows, so we didn’t need to figure out multiple meals – only dinner and oatmeal for breakfast. Packing for this trip – especially figuring out the food part was a little more challenging. Needless to say, my packing list changed a few times; even on the morning of I took out a couple more things. With that said, I thought it might be helpful for others a similar position. Note this is for a 3 day/2 night trip, adjust accordingly.
Securing a Permit
Getting a permit might be harder than the actual hike – at least mentally and emotionally, lol. You need to have your preferred dates (including second and third choice backups) ready before the reservation system opens up. Also, make sure you have your account created in advance. Log on at 8AM Arizona Time (check your time zones!) and get to it as quickly as possible.
Be conscious of monsoon season when planning. The spring time is obviously the best time of the year to go, but if you go in the summer, make sure you check the weather the days leading up to and after your trip. If there is any precipitation in the nearby area, pay extra attention – you don’t want to be stuck in the canyon with flash flooding. It’s extremely dangerous. Last year, not even a week after we got back, a major flash flood came through and all the campers had to be evacuated via helicopter. The waterfall at Havasu Falls, looked like a waterfall of mud.
Pro-Tips: You’ll have better chances of securing a permit if you go during the week versus a weekend. If you aren’t able to get a permit, but you do have flexibility to go at a moment’s notice, call during the week, often there are cancellations. We were able to score an extra permit the week of because of a cancellation.
- Hiking Poles – We bought some really cheap ones from Wal-Mart, they were perfect.
- Water bladder – I opted out of the Osprey because it was too hard to pack with the backbone; instead went with the Cotopaxi 18L Luzon Del Dia. It had plenty of room for all my supplies and my water bladder, but folded up nicely.
- Hydroflask – Yes it adds a little weight, but when its +100 degrees and your water stays cold ALL day, you’ll be thankful for those day hikes.
- Hiking boots/shoes – for the hike in and out; doing this in sandals would be SUPER uncomfortable. I’m more prone to ankle sprains so I like the boots more than shoes.
- NUUN for electrolytes; Gu, Cliff Bar Chomp Blocks or Stingers for added energy (and when you are tired of Cliff Bars).
- Shorts/tank top/socks for hiking (yes, I wore socks with my Chacos in a couple of areas where there was a lot of gravel)
- Swim Suit – I brought one, it was so hot, the suit dried within half an hour or less
- Chacos or Tevas – I recommend the ones that don’t have the toe loop, it might rub on long hikes (tied these to the outside of backpack during the hike so they wouldn’t take up space).
- Hat – I hate trucker hats, but the mesh was breathable and kept my head cool. Otherwise a wide brimmed hat is also great.
- Quick Dry Towel – This one is my favorite for camping
- Toiletries/Body Wipes/Face Wipes – I love these wipes to freshen up, they were prefer at the end of the day.
- SUNSCREEN – Cannot stress this enough
- Camera (if you want something besides your phone – esp for night time shooting)
- Portable battery charging pack
- Ear plugs (if you are a light sleeper)
- Rope – You’ll want this to hang your clothes, towels, shoes (so spiders don’t get in them) and your food to keep away from the critters. No joke, a gopher went through one of our backpacks while we were napping and we found the contents of the backpack all over our site.
- Trash bags
- Jet Boil (1 per two people)
- Collapsable water jug – this is great for cooking, washing dishes, etc. otherwise you’ll be making several trips to the fresh water spring.
- Sink, soap and small sponge to clean dishes
- Mess kit – plate, bowl, utensils, coffee cup and mesh bag (so you can hang dry)
- Inflatable lantern
- Bug Spray
- Sleeping Pad
- Sleeping Bag – Optional, in July I didn’t use mine at all; if anything I slept on top of it, it was too hot. If I had a do-over, I’d leave it at home and ditch the extra weight.
- Inflatable pillow
- Floatie or Raft
Just because you are camping doesn’t mean you have to eat Top Ramen or MREs. Things to note, you are camping on an Indian reservation, alcohol is not permitted and the campsites are regularly patrolled. Here are some easy cooking ideas:
- Pancakes – these were AWESOME and they were super filling. We got some syrup and honey packets from McDonalds to put on top.
- Instant oatmeal – this was for the hiking days
- One Minute Grits + Trader Joe’s dried kale chips
- In general Trader Joe’s is amazing for camping food and essentials; we got the small travel packets of coconut oil to cook the pancakes and dinner.
- Instant coffee
- PB & Honey/Jelly Sandwiches
- Cliff Bars
- Trail Mix
- Dried Fruit
- Apples, Clementines – they add some weight, but you might get tired of all of the nuts and grains
- GOOD TO-GO Mexican Quinoa Bowl – we paired this with some tortilla bread and avocado on night one.
- Mac & Cheese with Santa Fe Style Rice & Beans with Chicken (GF)
- Hot Apple Cobbler
- Raspberry Crumble
- Don’t forget the hot cocoa (it tastes good even when its 80 degrees outside).
Depending on what kind of shape you are in, it never hurts to train a little bit to prep for this trip. Some walk around with weighted backpacks to get used to carrying the extra weight. I run a few times a week anyways, so I mainly just started taking the stairs at work (I work on the 19th floor and always have a backpack). It didn’t save me from not being tired the day of the hike, but, I’d like to think, it was better than doing zero prep.
So…now you are all packed up and ready to go, LET’S DO THIS.