The Arizona Trail Gear List

The Trek (September 14, 2022) by J. Taylor Bell

Oh, those halcyon days of knowing exactly what was necessary on a thru-hike and what was absolutely frivolous and decadent. Simpler times they were, friends. But they seem to be well behind us these days. And if you don’t believe me, then strap in for this very toasty ride.

Many things that might be considered essential on other trails become (a bit) more optional on the AZT. Along with very reliable resupply options and town stops, mostly predictable weather makes it easy to know what to bring and what to leave behind. This gear list is a testament to how the Arizona Trail allows you to push the lower limits of your base weight.

Regardless of your prior hiking experience, this packing list will help you figure out some of the specific gear you will or won’t need to thru-hike the Arizona Trail—including multiple examples in different budget ranges. And in the ongoing public interest of spreading the joy of frugality, I, as always, recommend checking out /r/ULGeartrade and REI’s used gear section before endeavoring to buy anything new.

Arizona Trail Gear List: Quick Navigation

Sleep System

  • Sleeping Bag/Quilt
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag Liner


  • Hiking Shoes
  • Camp Shoes (Optional)
  • Gaiters


Sun Protection

  • Sunglasses
  • Sun Shirt or Hoodie
  • Umbrella (Optional)


  • Pot (Optional)
  • Stove/Fuel (Optional)
  • Spoon
  • Lighter


  • Filter
  • Water Bottles


  • Headlamp
  • Battery Bank
  • GPS device (Optional)
  • Earbuds (Optional)
  • Charger

First Aid / Toiletries

  • First Aid Kit
  • Toiletries
  • Trowel and TP


  • Stuff Sacks and/or Odor Proof Bags

Trekking Poles
Common Luxury Items

AZT-Specific Gear

Your general setup won’t change that much on the AZT, but some items are more essential in Arizona while other items and other standard gear is a bit more optional. For example, they call Flagstaff the cataract capital of the USA for a reason. Sunglasses are pretty much mandatory on this trail, unlike, say, in the Appalachians or the Pacific Northwest. Here are a few other items you definitely shouldn’t forget, and some you might want to leave at home.

Definitely Bring:

Sun protection: The lion’s share of this 800-mile trail is intensely sunny. Sunglasses, high-SPF sunscreen, and UV-resistant long-sleeves are essential. I also encountered multiple people hard chilling with sweet-looking sun umbrellas. Personally, I didn’t carry one because I knew I would just end up getting pissed off at the wind instead of mercifully thanking it. And that’s a concession I just wasn’t ready to make. You might be stronger than me, though. And the AZT isn’t usually as windy as, say, the CT.Three-season Layers: Oftentimes, one of the biggest shocks for first-time hikers in the desert is the temperature swings. I think that a puffy and at least a ~20˚ sleeping bag/quilt are essential. Yes, you will be brutally hot during the day, but you will also be very cold at night—especially due to the lack of humidity. It’s not unusual to see temperatures go from the upper 80s down to the 30s overnight—and you should plan on encountering temperatures well outside that range at least a few times.

Consider Not Bringing:

Bug Spray: Mosquitoes and ticks don’t seem to be huge fans of the desert and are almost non-existent along nearly all portions of the trail. Unless I just got incredibly lucky two years running, you can pretty much count on a mostly bug-free hike.Bear Resistant Food Storage: Although there are a few small areas of the trail that bears still inhabit, they are exceedingly rare and skittish. If you’re lucky enough to see one, it will probably just run away when it sees you.A Shelter and a Rain Jacket: This is terrible advice, and any prudent hiker probably shouldn’t take it… but hear me out. It’s very possible to cowboy camp the entire AZT if you know what you’re doing. I walked with two people who did it this year. And the rest of us only pitched our tents maybe a handful of times.You might get one or two small storms, but you’ll probably know they’re coming because the weather is very consistent, and almost all of the AZT has phone reception. So you can either avoid them by posting up in a town for a night or just burrito into your Tyvek sheet like a true ultralight freak. At the very least, it’s worth considering a scaled-down shelter such as a minimalist pocket tarp.And likewise, in both years that I’ve hiked the AZT, I left my rain jacket at home and conceded to carrying a 1.5-ounce emergency rain poncho just in case. In those two years, I used it twice. Once was in a blizzard where my puffy would’ve done just as well, and the other was overkill during a five-minute squall. You be the judge.A Stove and Fuel: This trail can be a great intro to cold-soaking your meals because there are so many sweltering days when the last thing you’ll want is a hot meal. Swap out the Jetboil for a Talenti jar and never look back <3.

Arizona Trail Gear List

If everything I rattled off until now doesn’t seem too farfetched, then consider this the definitive AZT packing list. All items are broken down into some more affordable and some more expensive options. But it’s worth noting that, like Kelly mentioned in the Colorado Trail Gear List, expensive doesn’t always mean better. And cheaper doesn’t always mean worse. Many cheap options are staples in the backpacking community (Talenti jars, Tyvek sheets, Smart Water/Essentia Bottles) because they are a great combination of quality AND affordability.


To read the entire article online with details about each category of essential gear, click here.