Hiking the Grand Canyon, Part One: Eat All the Things

The following is part of a three part series on Hiking the Grand Canyon.
Part Two: Whose Dumb Idea Was This?
Part Three: Up is Mandatory

Food As Packaged

On the assumption that trail mix sold at the top of the Grand Canyon would be $50 a bag, my sister and I opted to do all our food shopping in Las Vegas. Buying snacks for our hike was one of the strangest grocery experiences I’ve had. We read on the canyon website that we should bring a lot of food, enough to eat 300-500 calories per hour. It also said to bring salty snacks to make up for the salt your body loses in sweat, and junk food items like candy and chips because they will be calorie dense and (emotionally) satisfying. Nikki had been training for a half-marathon and on a fairly strict diet, and I’d been doing my best to keep my junk food in check knowing the lure of the road side convenience store. But there we were, standing in the Fremont Street Walgreens, looking at labels to find the most fattening, high calorie, salty junk foods possible.

There was beef jerky, Oreos, trail mix, peanut butter crackers, Swedish Fish, Chewy bars, Gatorade, and so much more. We also tried to factor in what I already had in my car (raisins, dried fruit, etc.) We had pre-ordered a dinner, breakfast, and to-go lunch from the kitchen at Phantom Ranch (the lodge at the base of the Grand Canyon), but without knowing what would be in the lunch we planned as though we wouldn’t have it. I got out a calculator and Nikki and I got to practice our mental math skills trying to add up the total calorie counts for what we had in our basket. It was plenty. More than plenty.

Food for two DaysBack in our hotel room we grabbed a box of plastic sandwich bags and got to work separating out the food. The goal was to make individual bags that would hold about 400 calories worth of a particular snack. That way it would be easy to compare how many bags you’d finished with how many hours you’d hiked to ensure you were staying within the 300-500 calorie recommendation. Once it was all bagged up, we compared the number of bags with our predictions for how long the hike would take. We had way too much food.

Next came the packing. We opted to get duffle service, which allows you to pack a bag of stuff that you don’t need on the hike itself and have it sent down on one of the daily mule trains. We compared lists we’d made, adding to them as we thought of things. We figured out what could go in the duffle (sleeping bags, tent, Gatorade for the second day, etc), and started to divvy up the rest. We had shared items like a pair of binoculars or a tube of Neosporin. Other things we doubled up on for obvious reasons, like rain jackets and flashlights. For those who enjoy this sort of thing (like me), here’s the lists I made to help us pack:

In the Duffle:

  • tent
  • sleeping bags
  • Day Two food
  • change of underwear/shirt
  • flip-flops
  • books

Nikki’s Pack:

  • water bottles
  • gatorade
  • rain jacket
  • flashlight
  • extra socks
  • ankle wraps
  • stingeaze
  • sunscreen
  • snacks
  • toilet paper
  • water purification tablets
  • Neosporin
  • hand sanitizer
  • signal mirror
  • ibuprofen
  • camping permit
  • map
  • writing pad
  • phone
  • ID/credit car/cash
  • toiletries (extra contacts, glasses, toothbrush, etc)

Katrina’s Pack:

  • ankle wraps
  • water bottles
  • gatorade
  • rain jacket
  • flashlight/batteries
  • extra socks
  • lipbalm
  • phone
  • camera
  • car key
  • ID/credit car/cash
  • journal
  • snacks
  • spray bottle
  • mole skin
  • bandaids
  • gauze
  • binoculars
  • swiss army knife
  • trowel
  • hand sanitizer
  • toiletries (extra contacts, glasses, toothbrush, etc)

Attire:

  • sunglasses
  • hat
  • underwear
  • sports-bra
  • hiking shoes
  • socks
  • long-sleeve button-up
  • tanktop
  • pants
  • bandana
  • trekking poles

Looking back now, our packing was generally good. With the possible exception of buying and bringing too much food, we hit the sweet spot between having enough without carrying too much. Anything we didn’t use was the kind of thing you bring hoping you won’t need it (first aid, signal mirror). A few things stand out as being really handy:

Non-FoodFlip-flops – We had these in the duffle so that when we got to the base we could give our feet a break from the hiking shoes. It was Nikki’s idea, and I’m very glad she thought of it.

Bandana and Long-Sleeve Shirt – Both of these were recommended by the park website. It’s the desert, so even through it’s hot you’re better off covering up your skin to avoid sun exposure (think about how people dress in middle eastern deserts). The added bonus of these two items is that you can easily remove them and soak them with water in a stream or at the water pump. Known officially as evaporative cooling, you’re essentially doing what your body does when it sweats: getting moisture on your skin so the evaporation process can cool you off. It’s so dry in the desert most sweat evaporates instantly, so your body needs a little help.

Trekking Poles – Nikki was worried that trekking poles would be more of a nuisance than an asset, and I was worried about how many we should get if we got them (one each? two? three to alternate between us?) We asked a ranger at the backcountry office who told us without hesitation to rent two poles each. I noticed the benefit within the first two hours down the trail, and Nikki soon agreed. The poles take pressure off your knees and leg muscles, as well as allowing you to stay balanced while using less energy. Easily the best $12 I spent.

So we were ready. We were scared, but we were ready.

Hopefully.

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3 thoughts on “Hiking the Grand Canyon, Part One: Eat All the Things

  1. Pingback: Hiking the Grand Canyon, Part Three: Up is Mandatory | Better Than I Thought

  2. Pingback: Hiking the Grand Canyon, Part Two: Who’s Dumb Idea Was This? | Better Than I Thought

  3. Pingback: Listed of Suggested New Year’s Resolutions | Better Than I Thought

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