The Grand Canyon is a 277-mile-long chasm on the Colorado River that goes through Arizona. It has a width between 4 and 18 miles and it can even reach a depth of more than a mile. Most people usually stop at the South Rim to take some photos and that is all the hiking they do. However, the Grand Canyon has much more to offer. Today we are going to learn more about how to prepare to hike the Grand Canyon and what you need to take with you.
How to Prepare to Hike the Grand Canyon – Physical Preparation Tips
Long before you set out on this adventure, you need to have a training schedule to hike Grand Canyon. Here you have a couple of useful tips about your physical preparation:
You need to do as much cardio as you can. This hiking trip is much harder than you can imagine. A rough equivalent would be climbing the Empire State Building 4-5 times each day. Remember that you can’t prepare too much for this hike, but you can prepare too little. Even if you are a marathoner, for instance, this doesn’t mean you’re in a perfect shape for climbing, so don’t be superficial with this aspect.
2. Heat Resistance
In the depth of the Canyon, you will find dry heat combined with low humidity. This translates to 110 degrees in the shade feeling like 130 degrees. Moreover, the sun and black rocks that surround you offer a microwave effect. Think about your own reactions to heat. Do you usually need plenty of water and salt? Do you have sugar or salt cravings? If you’re not sure, test yourself in various conditions of heat or ask a doctor.
Constant hydration is the key when you are training to hike. One mistake many people do when thinking how to prepare to hike the Grand Canyon is not training themselves to drink water. Every hour you will be losing plenty of water through sweat. Because of this, you need to drink more than water. Add salt and electrolytes. Some good options are packets of salt and pill or powder electrolytes. Also, don’t drink too much water at once, however much you may feel you need it. Drinking too much when dehydrated can cause nausea and, in worst cases, vomiting.
As previously mentioned, the humidity in the Grand Canyon is very low. Most likely, you come from an area with 50-90% humidity at any given time, while there you will find it at 10%. Ideally, you should train in a climate with low humidity, to let your body adjust to the conditions. And if you think this is not important, imagine that you will be hiking for hours and you won’t be sweating, since your sweat will evaporate immediately.
5. Elevation Change
If you choose to go for a Rim-to-Rim hike, the elevation change varies around 10,000 feet each day. This can strongly affect your cardiovascular system, knees, and legs. If you want to know how to prepare to hike the Grand Canyon correctly, don’t overlook doing lunges, stairs, and treadmills. Use the treadmill at the highest incline. Remember to do it all with a 15-pound backpack and wear your trail-running shoes.
How to Prepare to Hike the Grand Canyon – Mental Preparation Tips
1. Imagine Harder Conditions
Think about the hardest conditions you can and double that. The climate, the terrain, the humidity, everything will be different than you imagine it to be. Consider the most extreme conditions. High expectations can bring you down mentally, so keep that in mind. Hiking down and up the Grand Canyon in one day can be too big of a goal for some underprepared people.
2. Realistic Goals
If you can hike 20 miles in just one day, on flat terrain and at an approximate temperature of 70 degrees, don’t think it’s going to be the same. You will have a huge backpack; the elevation will be higher and so will the temperatures. Think about it and don’t set unrealistic goals. This will only wear you off and make you frustrated.
3. Don’t Compete
This is not a competition. You don’t need to meet a certain deadline and reach a fixed spot at a certain hour. One important thing that should be on your Grand Canyon hiking checklist is safety. Always check if it’s safe to do it, to continue, to stop, etc. There are plenty of things you can’t control and nature can be unpredictable sometimes. That’s why you shouldn’t be too sure of yourself and get arrogant in front of nature.
What to Pack
Here you have some Grand Canyon backpacking tips, ranging from your gear list to your hiking clothes.
- Tent with repair sleeve and guy lines;
- Rain cover;
- Sleeping bag (adequate to the season);
- Signaling mirror;
- Sleeping pad;
- Multifunction watch;
- GPS or map (include water source details);
- Fuel, repair kit, stove;
- Food storage;
- LED headlamp;
- Gear repair kits;
- Duct tape;
- Fire starter;
- Cook set.
2. Clothing List
- Wicking, quick-drying T-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, underwear, sports bra, long underwear;
- Quick-drying pants/shorts;
- Fleece pants, jacket or vest/ insulated vest or jacket;
- Waterproof/breathable rain pants and jacket;
- Hat or ball cap for sun-shielding;
- Gloves, mittens, winter hat;
- Hiking boots/shoes;
- Watersport sandals (for in camp relaxing and fording streams);
- Socks and spares (wool or synthetic);
- Swimwear (optional).
3. Other Personal Items
- Water bottles or hydration reservoirs;
- Lip balm;
- Biodegradable soap;
- Toothbrush (include a cover for it and a biodegradable toothpaste);
- Sanitation trowel;
- Toilet paper;
- Women hygiene items;
- Zip-top bags;
- Personal wipes;
- First-aid kit;
- Insect repellent;
- Cell phone;
- Camera and extra memory cards (optional);
- Portable power device;
- Backcountry permit;
- Credit card and cash;
- Trip itinerary;
- National Parks pass.
- Supply of food for one extra day;
- Electrolyte replacement drink mix;
- Energy bars;
- Energy gels;
- Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, cookies, jerky, etc.);
- Breakfast (freeze-dried breakfast, granola, oatmeal, etc.);
- Lunch (bagels, cheese, smoked salmon, sausage, etc.);
- Dinner (couscous, rice, pasta, freeze-dried, etc.).
If you want to know how to prepare to hike the Grand Canyon, you need to do some thorough research. The indications above cover the main aspects, but there are lots of other details you should know. Read what other people recommend and, if possible, talk to somebody who did it before. Remember not to overestimate yourself and to take any preparation seriously.