Equipment Needed for Hiking Down the Grand Canyon

Equipment Needed for Hiking Down the Grand Canyon
When your goal is to hike the Grand Canyon, the difference between a heavenly and a deadly trip may be the equipment and supplies that you carry. During the summer months, the 7000- to more than 8000-foot elevation means cool temperatures. As you hike downhill, the temperature rises one to one and a quarter degrees per 100 feet of elevation loss. During the winter months, it can be extremely cold. In spring and fall, you should be prepared either for heat or cold. The monsoon season runs from about the beginning of July through mid-August, bringing late afternoon thunderstorms. It is important to carry equipment appropriate to the conditions.

Year-Round Equipment

A detailed map and compass are first as GPS systems may not work inside the Canyon. Next come sturdy, well-fitting, broken-in hiking boots with traction soles. A backpack, not too large, with which you are familiar, is your portable home. Many summer hikers take no tent, but all need a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground cloth and bivvy sack or tarp.

You may not build a fire in the backcountry. Take a lightweight stove, adequate fuel and waterproof matches. One good pan, utensils, a cup, a plate or bowl, an all-purpose knife and toolset complete your kitchen equipment. Choose food with space, weight and a larger than normal appetite in mind.

For sanitary purposes, pack a trowel, biodegradable toilet paper, non-residue soap, paper towels and a small towel. Don't forget a few Ziploc bags to carry used toilet paper and camp trash.

Sturdy water containers that add little more weight than the water they carry, yet will not rupture, are critically important. Nalgene bottles and flexible bladders with or without a drinking tube are the most common. Add a good water filter or chemicals to purify the water you collect, and possibly a pre-filter or folding bucket to deal with sediment. Some hikers use a SteriPEN and pre-filter combination. Some also carry, as backup, a filtering straw.

The layered approach is best for clothing. Tuck in rain gear and a head lamp or flashlight. Bug netting or repellent help with seasonal insect hatches. Don't forget spare batteries for everything that needs them. Trekking poles make both downward and uphill trails easier, especially when carrying a heavy pack.

Duct tape is handy for a myriad of repairs. Keep food safe in rodent-proof food storage containers, like the reasonably lightweight bag, Ratsack. Thirty feet of nylon cord aids tarp pitching, pack hanging and boulder scrambles. Your medical kit should contain blister, cut and scrape, splinter, sprain and analgesic supplies. Also, consider renting a satellite phone, in case of flood, injury or illness.


Summer Equipment

A good summer hat provides shade to head and face. Sunblock clothing, which is a specialized item, is desirable. Take and use an excellent sunblock lotion, at least SPF 30, even though some studies suggest lotions may not protect from skin cancer.

Winter Equipment

Take more clothing, including gloves and headgear, and add an ice axe to negotiate slick boulders. Carry a four-season tent.


Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at or at

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