How to Go Ultralight for Backpacking the Grand Canyon

For me, it only took one backpacking trip with my standard gear to make me switch to ultralight gear.

Curated by Matthew Eaton

I’ve been that guy struggling on the trail with 60+lbs and seeing others cruise who are enjoying the hike, not just the destination. Here is my standard kit of gear for overnights these days, and I hope you find it helpful. The total weight for these items comes to 16.7lbs, and given that I normally start my hike with 7 liters of water (more on that later, which adds another 15.4lbs, you can hike with this kit for right about 32lbs. Much better! I hope it’s helpful.

Food is always my favorite item to talk about and there are such great options out there! Obviously the total weight will depend on how much of each item you take, but I’ve listed the weight out here for your reference.

One more note before diving into the gear: pack a ziplock for trash. Always be mindful of those Leave No Trace principles, and your 10 Essentials. You don’t often need those items, until you do, at which point you’ll be grateful that you brought them along. Ziplock trail weight: 32oz

Happy backpacking friends! Feel free to message me if you have any questions about any of this. Cheers!

Primus

Primus Primetech Stove Set

I cannot rave enough about this stove. It’s crazy lightweight and seriously boils water in about 2 minutes. Perfect to speed up your happy hour queso from Packit Gourmet and get on to relaxing after hiking. Trail weight: 30oz

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Snow Peak

Snow Peak Titanium Double Wall Cup 600

FACT: Everything tastes better in a camp mug. Use it for your coffee or whatever cold beverage of your choice and I promise you’ll enjoy it. Trail weight: 2.9oz

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Snow Peak

Snow Peak Titanium Fork and Spoon Set

Gotta have the long handle to get down into those backpacking food bags and dig out every bite of delicious goodness. Trail weight: 1.4oz

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Nuun

Nuun Active Drink Tablets

To hammer home the importance of proper diet and hydration, I like to carry Nuun tablets as well. I drop two in a nalgene and enjoy a little flavored water with my meal to prepare for the next day’s miles. Trail weight: 1.9oz

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REI

Armored Outdoor Gear Ratsack Cache Food Storage Bag

Available online, at REI, or in the Grand Canyon National Park gear store, this rat sack is HIGHLY recommended as mice, rats, and squirrels WILL flock to your backpacks. Pro Tip: leave your backpack unzipped at night as these critters will crawl around them in search of food, even if there is nothing in there. Trust me, you’d rather have them get in through the unzipped seam versus chewing their way in. Trail weight: 10oz

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Platypus

Platypus GravityWorks 2.0L Filter System - Reservoir Kit

And when you’ve been hiking all day, the last thing you want to do is sit and pump water at your source. I highly recommend this gravity system by Platypus so you can let the gear do the work while you relax. Bonus points for this particular system, you can fill up your Platypus bottles (listed below), directly instead of having to pour the water without a funnel on the trail. Trail weight: 10.9oz

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Platypus

Platypus Platy Plus Bottle

You’ll need to carry several liters of water on the trail. I always carry extra (mom always makes me promise). I’ve had to give these reserves to other parties that were in trouble before…and it was nice to be able to help them out without putting my group in danger. Trail weight: 1.2oz (x3)

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Osprey Packs

Osprey Packs Exos 58 Backpack - 3356-3722cu in

Osprey Packs today makes the best of the best. This lightweight beauty is big enough to fit this kit, while still being ultralight. The shoulder straps are outright luxurious compared to some of my packs from even just a few years ago! Trail weight: 40oz

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NEMO Equipment Inc.

NEMO Equipment Inc. Nocturne 15 Sleeping Bag: 15 Degree Down

Stay warm with enough room to move around in this sweet sleeping bag! Trail weight: 37oz

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Icebreaker

Icebreaker Multisport Cushion Micro Sock - Women's

I love everything about these socks except for the tan line on my ankle! Lightweight with enough cushion for my ultralight backpacking use. (no weight listed, on body)

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Rab

Rab Scree Gaiter

Do yourself (and your hiking buddies) a favor and wear these to prevent rocks from getting into your shoes, causing blisters and other issues, and adding in superfluous breaks to get them out! (no weight listed, on body)

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Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap

Keep cool with this awesome hat. I have the white color which reflects light and heat energy wonderfully! You don’t want to get that face (or anything else) sunburned. Have to protect the money maker! (no weight listed, on body)

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Icebreaker

Icebreaker Aero Tank Top - Men's

You may notice a trend here…lightweight, hydration and staying cool. Those are the three tenets for my backpacking mantra and this tank is a great way to stay cool out on the trail. (no weight listed, on body)

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Rab

Rab Positron Down Jacket - Men's

Instead of a pillow, I pack my puffy coat and put it in a small stuff sack that I can then use as a pillow over night. I tend to get cold at night after backpacking in the sun all day, so it’s great to have a warm jacket while hanging at camp before bed. Anything that can have dual usage is a bonus in my book. Trail weight: 26oz

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Black Diamond Equipment

Black Diamond Ion Headlamp

Goes without saying, but always pack a headlamp. I love this little guy as it’s super bright for the size, and of course for the weight. Trail weight: 10oz

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Oakley

Oakley Radar EV Path Sunglasses

Eyewear is so so so so important! That desert sun is awfully unforgiving. Make sure you have those eyes protected. (no weight listed, on body)

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Packit Gourmet

Austintacious Tortilla Soup

Choice of trail food is extremely important in the outdoors, but especially when entering extreme environments like the Grand Canyon. Packit Gourmet is a family owned business from Austin, TX that is your one-stop shop for adventure sustenance! You can choose from pre-packaged meals and snacks, or create your own meals with their dehydrated ingredients. Packit Gourmet creates top notch quality meals that are balanced and will keep you nourished on your adventure. There are multiple options for all meals, as well as snacks, but the Austintacious Tortilla Soup is my personal favorite. Flavorful, and an easy way to help rehydrate at the end of a sweaty desert day. This soup’s trail weight: 5oz.

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Packit Gourmet

Smoked Cheddar Jack Cheese Spread

Of all the tasty trail snacks I’ve had, this has to be one of the best…when selecting trail snacks for the Canyon, just be sure to have a nice mix of salty vs sweet. I try to keep my choices at ⅔ salty/savory as it is important when drinking lots of water to keep enough salt in your body. Lack of salt in your trail diet can leave you disoriented, nauseous, fatigued and in extreme circumstances can be very severe, but with proper food selection, you can avoid this. This snack’s trail weight: 3.5oz for the spread, another 10oz for a few probars.

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Packit Gourmet

Berry Berry Smoothie

Great smoothie to have for breakfast and helps hydrate. Quick and easy is the name of the game when you are starting super early to beat the heat! Trail weight: 4oz.

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