Are you ready to hike the entire width of the Grand Canyon? Looking for a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon packing list?
Look no further! Congratulations to you for deciding to undertake this 24 mile trip into the most magnificent and grandest of canyons.
Hiking in the vastness of the Grand Canyon is a privilege and desire that only a few have. While others are content at the rim, some of us crave the exploration, solitude, and curiosity that only the Canyon can bring. In the backcountry office at the Grand Canyon, a mounted plaque has a quote that so keenly describes backpacking the Canyon:
“After your first experience backpacking in the Grand Canyon, you will be left with one of two reactions: either you will never hike again in your life, or you will find that your life up to this moment has been meaningless, and you will be forever enslaved by thoughts of returning to this torturous paradise.”
Since I’ve just returned from my second (and amazing!) rim to rim hike, (North to South), I figured I’d share my Grand Canyon packing list with those heading out to experience the entire canyon, for the first time.
A Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon Packing List
These clothing recommendations are for hikes of 4 days and 3 nights in the canyon, including one extra night at the North Rim(assuming you are trekking north to south). Keep in mind that temperatures are cooler on the North Rim than the South, so pack accordingly for your time there. Also, depending on how long you’re within the canyon, you may have time to “wash” out some of your socks and clothes in the Colorado River or various creeks. Note the NPS doesn’t want people using biodegradable soap anywhere within the canyon. Washing with water will suffice.
Hat, base layers, and gloves for North Rim (temperature dependent) – If you stay on the North Rim in the summer, you can get away with not bringing these items for one night. The temperature can get down into the upper 40’s but as you’ll be in your sleeping bag at night, you can make do without carrying the extra clothes. Plan on bring the cold weather gear during spring and fall nights at the North Rim.
2 shirts – Surprisingly, cotton shirts are recommended when hiking during the hot summer months. Cotton is preferred by some because you can simply soak the cotton shirt in water, and it will take a long time to dry, thus keeping you cooler longer. Moisture-wicking fabrics are also good, but if you’re hot and you try cooling yourself down with a wet moisture-wicking shirt, it’ll dry faster and you won’t be as cool for long.
2 pants, capris, or shorts– As a female, I prefer to hike in lightweight capris. Others choose shorts, pants, or pants with zip off legs.
2 sets of liners socks and hiking socks – I hike in two socks: one liner sock and one hiking sock. (Click the links for examples of each.) I like the liner because it absorbs moisture, helping to keep your feet dry and reduce blisters and irritation. So I brought a total of 4 socks in my backpack, two liners and two hiking socks.
Hiking boots – Make sure these are properly fitted! Your feet will swell after hours of hiking. Make sure you have enough room in your boots for the double pair of socks and to accommodate any swelling that may occur.
Water shoes– Also known as “camp shoes,” I chose Keen sandals since they can get wet and are a supportive sandal on my feet. They are great for walking in the Colorado River, wading in Bright Angel Creek, and wearing after a long day in boots. Some bring flip-flops since they’re lighter, but I prefer to keep my feet better protected.
3-4 pairs of underwear and 2 sport bras – I’m a firm believer in clean underwear. Others bring two pair and wash them out when they can. I did that with my sport bras – rotating them and cleaning them whenever possible.
Hat– Protection from the sun is super important in the summer, and helpful during other times of the year. As it can get quite windy in the canyon, be sure it has a strap or is a tight fitting ball cap.
Sunglasses– Self-explanatory. Protect your eyes from the glaring sun!
A properly fitted backpack– A backpack is one of the most important items you wear. If your backpack isn’t proper sized or fitted for you, it can ruin a trip. Make sure you head to a retailer like REI to get properly sized for a pack. It’s always better to buy one in person (versus online) so you can try the packs on, see how they feel on you, and determine their comfort. A good pack will have a lot of support, be lightweight, have a strong waist belt and supportive chest strap, plenty of pockets, room for a water bladder, and extra features for clipping and storage.
Tent– This includes the rain fly, poles, stakes and footprint. Be sure to bring tent stakes because the canyon can get very windy. Your shelter could also be a camping hammock. Be sure to have a pad under you while in your hammock to keep you warm and insulated. Check out my previous post on hammocks.
Sleeping bag – Choose a bag that’s appropriate for the climate you’ll be in. The canyon is usually warm, but nights on the North Rim and sometimes in the canyon, can get rather cold.
Pad– You’ll be much more comfortable with some cushion under you at night.
This is the cookware that I brought with on our rim to rim hike. Note that all food (or anything that has a scent) will have to be placed in metal storage containers that are at all of the campsites. Squirrels, ringtails, and ravens are found in the park and have been known to attack backpacks, tents, and people for food.
Camp stove, fuel, and a fire source to light stove – Don’t bring the stove and fuel and forget the fire source! Bring a lighter, striker, or matches.
Spoons, forks, and any other necessary cutlery – We only used our large spoons, despite bringing forks.
Camp mug – A mug is handy to have if you plan on making oatmeal and/or coffee.
Large water bottle with lid/cap – Fortunately, some of the North Kaibab and all of the Bright Angel Trails have water. Currently (July 2019), the North Kaibab trail has water at the trailhead, but nothing until the Manzanita day use area. The rest of the fresh water locations are providing water at this time. To see the current water conditions within the Grand Canyon corridor, click here.
Electrolytes (gel cubes or powder/tablets) – Electrolytes are especially important if you’re hiking the canyon in the summer. Sweating will drain you of sodium, chloride, and potassium.
Dehydrated meals – Cooking can’t get much easier than simply adding boiling hot water to your meal! There are many companies offering fabulous meals, even for vegetarians.
Snacks – Pack foods with a lot of nutritional value for size. Trail mix, nuts, dried fruits, fruit leather, oatmeal, peanut butter, and tortillas are popular choices.
Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
An up-to-date first aid kit – This would also include medications for common illnesses and symptoms like pain, indigestion, headache, etc. Also pack bandaids, tape, gauze, antibacterial cream, and anti-itch cream.
Foot care– Having your feet properly cared for while hiking is key. Your feet are what’s carrying you the 24 miles through the giant crack in the earth so you must take care of them! Be sure to pack blister care bandages, moleskin, bandaids, and maybe some foot powder. Also, during your hiking breaks, sit for a bit and air out your feet and socks. Your feet will thank you.
Eye care – For those that wear contact lenses, be sure to bring your lenses in their case, solution, and eye drops. If you wear glasses, make sure you bring a case to protect them from being banged around when not being worn.
Feminine care products – This is not something women want to deal with when backpacking, but hey, it happens. The good news is that most (but possibly all) of the compost toilets have a trash container that’s labeled specifically for feminine products. This is incredibly nice of the park since it avoids having to carry your products out of the canyon after using.
Anti-chafe cream– I brought this as a “just in case” and fortunately never had to use it. But nothing burns like a bad chafe. I’d err on the side of bringing just a small tube to be safe.
Hair brush, hair ties, and/or bandana – If it’s incredibly sunny in the canyon, you’ll likely be wearing a hat. Nevertheless, you’ll be going about 4 days without a shower so pulling your hair out of your face is a must. Try to keep it brushed and away from your face to keep it from getting into knots.
Wet wipes to clean face and body – Most of the time we spent in the Grand Canyon, we cleaned off in streams or the Colorado River. If you want more than a fresh water rinse, you can use wet wipes or even some dry shampoo. Keep in mind that even if your wipes are biodegradable, the park wants you to pack them out.
Hand sanitizer – Be sure to clean your hands before eating!
Camera or iPhone for photos
Backcountry permit – Per the National Park Service, you have to display the permit in the designated box at each camp site you stay at. There is a semi-transparent box marking each campsite’s number, and a lid where you can place the permit in the box, with the permit information facing outwards. Be sure to take it out when you leave camp and display it at each new camp site.
Hiking poles – Poles are not absolutely necessary to hike the Grand Canyon, but when you’re carrying a 30 lb. pack, being able to take some weight off your knees and feet can prove worthy. I’d definitely recommend them.
Headlamp with a few extra batteries – Before you leave, add new batteries to your headlamp and carry a few spare batteries, just in case.
Water treatment– Even though the canyon corridor has water supply locations, you can never be too prepared when it comes to water! I carried my Lifestraw with me since it’s relatively lightweight. You should at least pack iodine tablets so that you have something to clean the water if you plan on going off the path. The creeks running through the canyon appear clean, but don’t take your chances when you’re a mile below the rim!
Duct tape – This is always a good idea to bring with in case something rips or breaks and you have nothing to fix it. A little duct tape can go a long way.
Clothesline and clips– Keep in mind the National Park Service doesn’t want people hanging clothes on trees or bushes, but only man-made structures.
Lightweight shovel and extra toilet paper – Clean compost toilets are present on the trails and in the campgrounds. (There are flush toilets at the Bright Angel Campground!) However, if nature calls when you’re on a trail, it’s recommended to dig a hole far from the trail and any fresh water and to cover up the hole when finished.
Water bladder– Carrying a water bottle won’t be enough to hike the canyon, especially hiking from Cottonwood Campground to Bright Angel Campground (no fresh water source). The water bladder is convenient as it goes inside your backpack. The attached tube should be diverted out of your pack through the designated hole (most packs have these holes). I usually clip the straw end on one of my straps so the water is accessible when I need it.
Map of the Grand Canyon – It’s always a good idea to bring a compass or map of your trail or park that you’re hiking in.
Extra carabiners and straps with buckles – Bring a couple of these with in case you need to clip something onto your backpack. I always use the buckled straps or carabiners to secure camp shoes, mugs, or water bottles onto my pack.
Battery pack/power bank for iPhone – Some people will disagree with this and say you shouldn’t have your iPhone on you while in the Grand Canyon. After all, what’s the point since there is no service anywhere! However, as I was taking a lot of videos and photos with my phone, I needed to have it charged. Plus, some people bring them to be able to listen to music or play games.
Extra bag– This can be a stuff bag or a large plastic bag. (You can never have too many bags while backpacking!) This bag can be used for carrying out all of your trash or even hauling your terribly dirty and smelly clothes. Don’t worry, you’ll find some use for it.
Entertainment– You’ll have downtime at camp, so bring things to entertain yourself. Whether it’s headphones to listen to music, a deck of cards, a small ball, or a book, bring something to help pass the time with your fellow hikers.
Spray bottle– I brought one of these into the corridor for only one purpose – air conditioning! After spraying your skin, the water on your skin evaporates, taking some of the heat with it, thus cooling you down. Since we were hiking into the canyon in July, I knew about the heat and the risks it can bring when you’re hiking in it. In addition to hiking very early in the day, we stayed cool by using the spray bottle to cool off in the 120 degree temps at Phantom Ranch. It was a lifesaver for myself and my daughter. You can also keep cool by wetting your hat or a bandana and placing it around your neck.
You may have noticed that my Grand Canyon packing list did not include a rain coat nor insect repellent. I left these items at home. I’m glad I passed because I would have had no need for them. Fortunately, we had no issues with rain or biting insects.
YES, with all of the items listed above, it does seem like A LOT to pack. However, I managed to pack most of these items in my pack and my pack weighed a little over 30 pounds. Just be smart about how much of something you pack and decide if it’s something that you will really use or need. You don’t want to be carrying something with you for four days that you’ll never use or need. If you’re hiking with someone, one person usually carries the tent and the other carries the food and stove. Divide the weight equally between hikers so that everyone is comfortable.
Granted, the Grand Canyon packing list above works for me and everyone’s list will be a bit different; however, most of the items should be the same or similar. Remember, if you are hiking during cooler months, you will need different supplies, including over-the-shoe ice traction devices (ie. crampons/ice cleats) and gaiters.
All in all, we had a wonderful and uneventful journey across the canyon. I’m already dying to go back!
I hope you’ll find this Grand Canyon packing list useful. Did I forget anything? What’s on your Grand Canyon packing list? Feel free to reach out in the comments.
If you’re interested in any of my other Grand Canyon posts, you can see them here: