Essential Gear for Hiking in Canyon Country, Utah

Essential Gear for Hiking in Canyon Country, UtahThe southern half of Utah is a dream of twisted, tortured shapes in a spectrum of earth tones. The distinctive impacts of the towering spires, deep-slot canyons and improbable beehive and goblin-shaped rocks are somehow amplified by a penetrating dry heat. The quiet is sheer; the isolation and the power of the raw sun are critical elements in planning and making decisions for your hike. Hiking or backpacking in this kind of country requires some special precautions, protections and essential gear. Many of the roads require high-clearance vehicles.


There is no hiking in Utah's canyon country without water. You must carry large amounts or know that there are water sources or seeps you can count on. As in most places, found water should be purified. A day in the red rock heat desiccates your body, often without symptoms, and drinking 4 liters a day is not an inflated goal.

Sun Protection

Sunscreen that is rated 30 SPF provides almost 97 percent protection from that pesky ultraviolet radiation; higher SPFs aren't substantially more effective. The trick is to cover all exposed surfaces and to reapply often. Some frequently forgotten spots are (1) feet (if you're wearing sandals), (2) under chin, (3) ears and (4) hands. Your lips should be smeared with at least 30 SPF lip balm. Polarized sunglasses protect eyes and reduce glare, and an amply brimmed hat keeps sun off your face and reduces body heating. Always carry a long-sleeved shirt and long pants that block the sun's access to your body.


Footwear in canyon country depends on your particular hike. Sneakers or water sandals are great for walking down washes or streams through canyons and may be used on slickrock surfaces, but when the going gets rocky, brushy or steep, a good pair of ankle-high boots with friction-pattern soles is necessary.

First Aid Kit

On these trails, you may very well need to treat cuts and bruises or even broken limbs, so a high-end kit is advisable. It's also a good idea to be conversant in treatment for heat exhaustion and to carry a snake-bite kit.

Maps and Knowledge

This country is complicated. That's why names like the "Labyrinth" and the "Maze" pop up when you Google "Utah." The canyon systems branch and loop incessantly, so a well-understood map might save you. Canyon waters can rise rapidly during flash floods, so it's judicious to know your route and its escape valves.

Climbing Equipment

If you have done your homework, you'll know whether you need to be packing ropes, harnesses, carabiners or other climbing gear. There is a good bit of technical climbing in the canyons, especially entering and exiting.


Should you need to be rescued, you will want every possible means of reaching other people. Cell phones are great, but service may disappear in canyons. Walkie-talkies between team members who are not within voice distance are useful, and a whistle can be heard for long distances.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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