Packing for the Arizona Trail

Writing out the details of my bikepacking gear is just as much an exercise in thoroughness as it is an opportunity to share knowledge. Plus, I’ve always wanted to take one of those pre-bikepacking, OCD-esque gear layout photos. Readers, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you see that I’m missing something!



Bike For transportation along the AZT I’ll be peddling my trusty steel Surly Krampus. It’s a fully rigid mountain bike with “plus size” 29” wheels. The rims are 45mm WTB Scrapers mounted tubeless with 3” WTB Ranger tires – built ‘em up myself. The 1x drivetrain is geared with a 11/42 cassette and a 28T chainring. I have great confidence in this bike’s ability to endure the rugged AZT terrain, however, its heartiness comes at a price – its heavy. Hopefully that 28T chainring will make up the difference. Oh yeah, it’s red.

Bags I have a full set of well-loved Revelate Designs bags that performed flawlessly on the Tour Divide. They’ll keep me company again on the AZT. The harness and pocket will carry my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent poles, and other quick-access gear. The frame bag will hold my bike repair kit, first aid kit, bathroom kit, and pump. The gas tank will hold snacks. The mountain feed bags will carry water bottles. I’ll load up my nano panniers with food and electronics, draped over my Old Man Mountain rear rack. On top of the rack I’ll have a lightweight Seal Line dry bag containing my tent, extra cloths, cook set and stove, all strapped down with two Surly Junk Straps. In a Salsa Anything Cage on the fork I’ll strap an Anything Bag stuffed with my rain gear and wool jersey. And finally, I’ll wear a JanSport fanny pack for my GoPro, phone, glasses, and sunscreen (Yes, the family is having lots of fun ribbing me about the fanny pack).

Sleep System and Shelter I’m going vintage on the sleeping bag this time around and digging out my purple, synthetic North Face 30 degree bag. I used it on the AT a bunch of years ago so it’s probably no longer good down to 30 degrees, but it’s pretty light and very compressible. It also comes loaded with a nasty smell – something you can’t buy from REI. My Ridgerest pad is also from my AT days, but I’ve chopped it down to 3/4 length. It will double as something to sit on while I’m cooking. And my shelter is a solo Big Agnes Fly Creek UL tent. It was bomb proof on the Tour Divide.

Water and Filtration Getting the water system right is paramount on the AZT. I’ve opted to go with water bottles, as I’ve never warmed to bladders and hoses. I’ll have four bottles strapped to my bike (one on the underside of the downtube, one on my fork, and two in my mountain feed bags). That gives me almost three liters. I’ll also carry a two-liter Platypus bladder in reserve. This system worked well on the Tour Divide, but I’m anticipating needing to fill the Platypus more than I did then – it just means extra weight. For filtration, I’m trying out the MSR Trailshot. It’s just “so hot right now” in the bikepacking crowd that I couldn’t pass it up. This is a switch from my Polar Pure iodine mixture, but I understand AZT water primarily comes in the form of mud pools and cow troughs, so, yeah.

Clothing I will have two lightweight Smartwool t-shirts, two pairs of Pearl Izumi bike shorts, two pairs of wool socks, one pair of Patagonia capeline boxers (for sleeping), one pair of cool weather bike pants, one long sleeve Ibex wool jersey, two pairs of bike gloves, one bike cap, one bike helmet, and one pair of prescription sunglasses. My rain gear will consist of a pair of lightweight GoreTex Patagonia pants and a lightweight Marmot Jacket. My shoes are Shimano XM7’s – also all the rage with the bikepacking crowd these days. They’re rugged and flexible enough to serve as my Grand Canyon hiking shoes as well.

Electronics Honestly, dealing with electronics in the wilderness is kind of a pain. Back on the AT I had a cell phone but hardly ever any service. My parents and I had a scheduled Thursday evening phone call each week, if I recall, and all I had to do was give the phone a charge at a restaurant here and there and everything would work. My camera was a Kodak with regular film and I’d just mail home the exposed rolls. Today, on the other hand, some serious thought has to go into these things! I’ll bring my iPhone which I will use for calls, texts and the occasional photo. My GoPro (with mini tripod) will serve as my primary video and still camera (three SD cards and three rechargeable batteries in tow). My bike headlight, a Scalfano special, is accompanied by two lithium ion batteries and a charger. My Garmin eTrex 30x needs spare lithium AA’s and my Spot Tracker needs spare AAA’s – and I’ll be carrying several of each. Finally, I will bring an Anker PowerCore 20100 which will serve as my on-the-trail charger for everything. It’s fairly high capacity (and therefore heavy) and so I’ll likely have to charge it just a couple times during the trip. Unlike my ride on the Tour Divide, I will not be using a generator hub. I anticipate slow, uneven speeds on the AZT, which makes a generator hub fairly inefficient. Plus, I didn’t want to drop another $200 on a boost-size generator hub!

Cooking and Food My cook set, also a repeat traveler from the Tour Divide, is a GSI Soloist, and my stove is an MSR Pocket Rocket. I have a purple titanium spork as well. I plan to fire up the stove for breakfast and dinner, as I’ve always enjoyed taking the time to cook meals when I can. It’s a reminder to slow down and take things in. Breakfast staples will be rolled oats, brown sugar, walnuts, and coffee (Starbucks Vias). Dinners will generally consist of pasta, tuna, mac and cheese, and other quick prep meals with high calorie counts. I’ll be snacking throughout the day on various energy bars and goo shots, salty chips, and candy. I plan on supplementing my trail food with the occasional restaurant stop whenever I go through town. As always, I’ll be on the lookout for the ubiquitous gas station fried pie. At 1500 calories per pie, those things are bikepacking gold.

Bike Repair Kit Aside from the standard two tubes, pre-glued patches, chain scrubber (toothbrush), chain lube, zip-ties, multi-tool, rag, spare cleat/bolts, and quick links, I always bring along a set of quick link pliers as well – a little heavy for the road, but always come in handy when you have a chain problem. #beenthere

First Aid Well, I’m still a certified NOLS Wilderness First Responder, so I’ll take my brain with me – and maybe my certificate to inspire some confidence. (o: Aside from that, I have some band-aids, gauze, moleskin, Neosporin, a bunch of ibuprofen, and some athletic tape. I’m counting on my knees acting up around day three, so I’ll need to get tape underneath my kneecap and work out that IT band. My Spot Tracker SOS button is always with me as well, albeit a last resort.

Bathroom Kit TP, hand sanitizer, chamois cream, Dr. Bronner’s (for washing clothes and dishes), and a stylish orange titanium cat hole shovel. ‘Nuff said.

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