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..the no longer carries any unaccompanied luggage between the rims
as of 2019 at the North Rim Lodge no longer provides morning shuttle service to the N Kaibab trailhead

The Grand Canyon ponies-up the most severe hiking conditions that we experience. We may have a 60°F temperature fluctuation and 5000-6000’ of elevation gain while taking advantage of the several opportunities to do 20-mile-long day hikes. The wickedly steep trails into the inner canyon show no mercy on knees and toe nails. The details matter, so we are always refining our gear and training to safely and comfortably meet the conditions and to keep smiling while we do it. We emphasize reducing the weight of items carried, increasing our comfort, and increasing the simplicity of use of gear, which is particularly important when weary.

All weights are given in grams because I find metric numbers easier to calculate and compare; total weights are also given in pounds because they are more meaningful to me—transitions are ugly!

Midland X-Talker T10 Two Way Radios (Walkie-Talkies)
We bought these 2-way radios specifically for use in the Grand Canyon in the fall of 2021 when we presumed Bill would be ahead of me the entire way on our Rim-2-Rim crossing, which he was. We didn’t have and didn’t expect continuous contact but we had contact often enough to be assured that we were both doing well.

We are still experimenting with battery performance in these devices. As of October 2021, we recommend using non-rechargeable lithium batteries. We are running side-by-side comparisons with high quality alkaline, nickel metal hydride, and non-rechargeable and rechargeable lithium batteries. So far, the alkaline (non-rechargeable) and the nickel metal hydride (rechargeable) have similar performance and don’t last as long as the non-rechargeable lithium batteries. We are awaiting delivery of rechargeable lithium batteries for the last phase of our testing. We anticipate using rechargeable lithium and always carrying lithium non-rechargeables for back-up. The lithium batteries also have an important advantage for us in that they are not sensitive to cold, unlike the others.

The product review company at rated these Midland devices as middle performers out of 9 tested with them being the 2nd lightest—the sweet spot for us, especially for only $30 for a pair. The only model lighter weight was the worst performer. The Midlands weigh 112 grams with batteries and removable belt clip.

If you must have contact 100% all of the time, spring for two Garmin inReach Mini’s for $350 each, a total of $700 for pair, plus a monthly service fee for each device. These satellite devices are as small as the walkie-talkies, vastly superior for connection, but much, much more difficult and tedious to use.

October 2022 Update
The jury is in: we LOVE the lithium-ion, rechargeable AAA batteries for our Midland walkie-talkies. Bill bought them with the USB pigtail recharging cable option from Pownergy, which can charge 4 batteries at once. They are, as claimed on their label, fast charging. One huge advantage of using rechargeables is that when you start a hike, they are always fully charged. Single use batteries on the other hand, may have a partial charge from a previous hike, which leaves you uncertain how long they will last.

I shut my radio off for a few hours of our 14-16 hour days in the Inner Canyon of the Grand Canyon when I knew there was no possibility of reaching Bill, though he didn't bother shutting his off. Both radios indicated that the batteries were still fully charged at the end of each day. We each easily made 50-80 attempts per day to reach each other while refining our understanding of where in the canyon we were likely to be able to connect and had several conversations.

With the radios, I was able to give Bill a head's up that I was bringing a failing trail runner in with me to a rest area where we had planned to meet after hiking alone for 8 hours. Luckily, Bill was able to locate a ranger, whom I was able to brief minutes before the runner arrived. It was like she had an appointment, which expedited a difficult situation in which she was already a bit defensive about her difficulties. The radios made for a smooth and seamless transition to her having a planning session with the ranger to decide upon her options. I can imagine that both she and the ranger were pleased to already have had the introductions made by us with the help of the radios.

On this same day on the Kaibab trails, we experimented with using our Garmin inReach Mini’s for exchanging messages. They need a line-of-sight to the satellites, which wasn't always available. Experimenting with the Garmins the day before allowed Bill to eliminate the hour delay built-in to the device for receiving messages but, in narrow portions of the canyon, our send-receive exchange could still take 15 minutes each way. Do practice with this messaging function before your event. Even using the Earthmate app on my phone rather than keying messages on the device, I still found plenty of ways to fumble it.

Fenix Headlamp HM65R Trail Running LED, $80
Headlamp: 142 grams, extra battery: 60 grams
New for us in 2021; we love these easy to use, bright lights for beginning Rim-2-Rim in the dark as we always do.
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Charging Devices

We each carry a portable USB charger, a watch charging fob, and 2 cables to charge all of our electronics on the trail. If we’ll be spending the night indoors with electricity, like in a North Rim of the Grand Canyon cabin, we each add a dual 110 plug/USB adapter to our 210 gram kit. Usually, we are charging on the trail at lunch if the battery life of one of our devices is short.

This key fob is an easy way to top-off the charge on my old watch:

This is/was the link to our 3-in-1 a battery charger, flashlight, and pocket warmer though on10/24/ 21 there was a "not found" notice:

Matador Bottles for Sunscreen
These nifty little flat bottles are the answer to my dreams for traveling with sunscreen. I can only get about 70 grams of my favorite, high SPF, hypo-allergenic sunscreen in a bottle, but that amount will last me more than 2 weeks when using it on my hands, face, and neck. (We always wear high UPF long sleeved shirts and long pants to reduce our sunscreen use.) They are a bit fussy to fill with a thick product, but entirely worth the effort for me. Ours haven’t leaked. They are available at REI in 3 packs and run about $13 per bottle if you buy them individually elsewhere.

Poop Bags Instead of a Shovel
Burying poop in a 6-8” cat hole off the trail in places like the Grand Canyon can be difficult and time consuming. Rather than waste my time digging, suffering the extra weight of a sufficiently sturdy shovel, and then contending with a poop-covered shovel blade, I’ve become a poop-scooper: I grasp my poop into a bag, knot it, and carry it with me to the next toilet or suitable receptacle or to softer ground for speedy burying.

In deference to the flush or pit toilet in which you might be depositing your poo, select a relatively firm surface on which to drop your load. Avoid duff, which is partially decayed organic litter, like leaves and needles. Duff readily sticks to poo when you pick it up and may also make it harder to contain the stool in your bag. Picking up your poop from a smooth rock or piece of bark, packed dirt, or sand will make it easier to selectively retrieve only the poop.

I buy dog poop bags that are designed for the job. To get a clean scoop, fold the bag in half so the top opening is in line with the bottom of the bag, slip your hand between the 2 layers of plastic, then grasp the poo with your bag covered hand. Strive to get the poop in the very bottom of the bag when you first grab it, which leaves more clean bag available for tying a knot. Carry plenty of bags so if the initial scoop turns messy, you can drop the first bag into a second one. With luck, you may be able to reuse a bag after you empty it.

Chest Packs for Spinal Stability
After a lifetime of struggle with his weak back muscles and sometimes debilitating back pain, Bill tumbled to a wonderful intervention, which is using both a front and back pack to stabilize his spine. We’d occasionally seen kids and tired hikers carry their day packs in front but hadn’t really seen intentionally paired packs, except by the military and sportsmen when carrying tactical gear in front. Interestingly, there were few hits when searching online for chest packs and the young staff at the Flagstaff, AZ REI only scratched their heads, looking at us like we were nuts, when we inquired at the store.

Bill’s initial trial was an instant hit. He used my Outdoor Products pack noted below for 2 liters of water in his water bladder with drink tube. Doing so transferred about 1/3 of his day pack weight onto his chest, which was perfect. It kept the weight high, near his neck, which felt like the right place to carry the load.

I too was struggling with my back for different reasons and, since he had his own on the way, I asked for my pack back. My exceptionally flimsy, feather-weight, 116 gram pack is as easy as it gets for a jury-rigged chest pack for my 1.5 liters of water in a water bladder, Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System with its 32 ounce collapsible flask, and my little Midland walkie-talkie. The above contents and pack run around 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg) and I counter-balance it with up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) on my back. The odd cinching cord in the center-front of the unusual little pack effectively shortens the bag to keep the weight high and yet makes the available volume of the pack easy to regulate.

Bill opted for the smaller, higher-end, sturdier, more heavily engineered, 84 gram, 3 liter, ZPacks Multipack that only stores part of his larger water supply. His ZPacks comfortably holds a liter in a square Hydropak. He can cram 1.5 liters in the bag, but not in our standard water bladders, because of the pack’s shape.

Interestingly, the same solution of carrying weight high on our chests solves very different problems for us. Bill is a chronic head-forward guy, which can cause pain anywhere the length of his spine. Putting weight on his upper chest pulls him forward like his undesirable head position does, but even more so. He instinctively pulls his head back into the healthy but elusive position to counter the forward weight of the pack, achieving better spinal alignment than he can sustain with his good intentions.
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Umbrellas & chest packs.

My chronic right buttock pain originates in my lumbar spine, about at my waist. Oddly, I suffered disc injury from immobile lumbar vertebrae even though I tend to have too much low back mobility and curve. I ended up with damaged lumbar discs in late 2020 and spent a year vigorously treating them with backbends. Unbeknownst to me, somewhere in my recovery, I had done too much back-bending and was damaging the nearby facets on the vertebrae. I was in a Catch-22: I needed to maximize back-bending for the health of my lumbar discs but I also needed to do less back-bending for the health of my facet joints and to calm the muscles next to them. It sounded impossible to resolve: it was a thread-the-needle challenge to find the right balance—on my own.

Like for Bill, using a literal, physical, counterweight was the easiest solution to my postural dilemma rather than relying on the continuous concentration needed to use intention to attain the desired alignment. Putting about 1/3 of my pack weight on my chest settled the tug-of-war between my natural stance of excessive back-bending and my needed emphasis on a relative forward bend when walking. Unlike Bill, when my water volume in my chest pack decreases with drinking it, my back is still comfortable. My guess is that my back benefits from the daily reminder of the ideal position that it gets from the front pack but it is still able to hold that alignment when the reminder provided by the water weight shrinks.

Because I am healing an injury, not correcting a chronic posture problem, I suspect that in the near future, I will transition to only using a front pack when my total load is over 10 pounds. In contrast, Bill senses that a front pack is a ‘forever more’ solution to his back pain.

Sun Umbrellas
We bought our sun umbrellas on sale a year ago for $30 and love them for those 96° days at Phantom Ranch and along the river on our 12 hour long, Rim-2-Rim days. You must customize them for your pack so that it is hands-free, which leaves your hands available for using poles or anything else. At 187 grams, less than half of a pound, we considered it a worthwhile weight penalty in the notoriously hot middle segment of the Grand Canyon ‘Corridor’ trail at about 2400’. Other companies have similar products:

They of course, double has rain umbrellas.

Sun Gloves
We literally don’t go outside without wearing our sun gloves over the sun screen on the backs of our hands to slow the nasty looking side-effects of aging. They also give light protection against abrasion from rocks and from pole handles.

Neck Gaiters
We bought and started wearing these light weight neck gaiters in the spring of 2020 in response to covid because the gaiters were easier to whip over our faces on the trail than a mask. Granted, a mask is a superior barrier, but the gaiters seemed good enough for those seconds-long, outdoor encounters. Now, I won’t travel or hike without them. I always carry 2. I fold them in half and wear one around my neck, the other on my head under my sun hat or hood when it is cool on the trail. As the day warms, I can whip them off while moving and stash them in a pack pocket.

When traveling and indoors, I may wear one on my head if I am too cool in the morning or around my neck while sleeping if it is drafty. They provide such amazing warmth, comfort and versatility for 24 grams each.

My new favorite wool sock, called “Darn Tough”, don’t seem any more durable than other socks, but they meet my needs for a heavier sock. At 52 grams, I use them on Rim-2-Rim crossings as mittens on pre-sunrise, chilly descents and again when in the cabin in the evening for soft, cushy slippers to pamper my hard working feet on the cold, almost clean, floors. If I were backpacking, I’d wear them in the sleeping bag at night. And of course, I could use them as socks in my shoes.

Hyland’s Leg Cramps tablets
I don’t have a clue how these homeopathic tablets work for leg cramps but they do, at least for some of us. Are they safe? “Don’t know.” The bottle does have an NDC number, a National Drug Code product identifying number, which adds credibility to the medication in my eyes.

Our friend swears by them and takes them by the handful when hiking. I had terrible foot and leg cramps as a side-effect from anti-hypertensive medications and these tablets knocked them out in practically seconds. After ‘drying out’ from use of that prescription drug for 2 months, I no longer had the cramping issue but kept them handy by my pillow. Brick-and-mortar retailers sell them for less than the manufacturer does online.

One of my unfortunate, involuntary responses to stress is activating the apocrine glands in my groin area, the same glands that create the stench in my arm pits. A nifty trick from my dermatologist that has absolutely eliminated the stink from both areas is to apply my stick deodorant to both areas in the evening, after I shower. Apparently it takes hours for the chemicals to do their thing on the tissues so it’s best applied the night before to maximize its effectiveness. Switching to applying the product in the evening instead of the morning works like magic for me. I have used Clinical Strength Secret 48 hour gel for years and that is the product she also recommends.

For Rim-2-Rim, I used a table knife across the top of the ‘roll on’ dispenser to scrape the gel off while I advanced the product with the twist knob at the bottom of the applicator and deposited the gel in a tiny plastic, zip top, pill bag. I stashed more than I’d normally use to allow for wastage. I then applied it with my finger tips, which worked quite well, after my evening shower. My clothes weren’t smelly from the 12 hour hike across the Canyon in 96° heat and I was content to wear all of the same clothes that had been sweat-saturated a second day, even my underwear, without being repelled by my stale body odor.

In the past, I carried a fresh shirt and a fresh pair of underwear to feel my best but that cost me 126 grams; not carrying the deodorant applicator saved me an additional 42 grams.

Beef Jerky
I’d been reading the ingredient labels on jerky packages with disgust for years when, at a shuttle bus stop in a rain storm on Navaho Nation land outside of the Grand Canyon, I finally spotted my trophy find: an ingredients line so short that I could hardly find it. It read: “Beef, Salt”. There were no chemicals, no sugar, or natural flavorings that usually contained the garlic and onions which would give me massive indigestion for hours. “Beef, Salt” that was it. I bought 2 packages and after sampling them later that day, ordered more from the company

Almost all jerky has so much extraneous stuff in it that it hardly qualifies as food in my mind. After years of searching, with this jerky, I finally had a dehydrated, real-food that I could safely use as a feather-weight protein source on Rim-2-Rim crossings, backpacking trips, or to serve as a emergency meal when traveling overseas by bicycle. At about 38 grams for a 30 gram bolus of protein, the amount needed per meal by seniors to fend-off the age-related muscle loss of sarcopenia, the jerky would be about the same weight as dehydrated or freeze-dried foods but be much more palatable and not require rehydration or refrigeration once the package was opened. The jerky has an 8 month shelf life; look for the date on a small white sticker on the back of the package.

The marketing information is correct, this product is super-thin and snaps into pieces; no arduous chewing when exhausted or in a hurry. It doesn’t have much flavor but goes down too easily. The Green Chili is too spicy for my palate and contains the dreaded garlic and onion that play havoc with my gut but at least they are declared and not camouflaged under “spices.”

The jerky manufacturer’s website is confusing. It shows photos of the retail packaging, clearly displaying “3 oz” for the content’s weight. The website ordering information indicates that they ship 4 oz packages, which is what the small packages actually are. The from-the-manufacture product is a much better value, especially if you order enough to qualify for free shipping. Allow at least 10 days for delivery.

Black Diamond Carbon Fiber Z Poles
These poles are our favorites and are crazy-expensive but go on sale often:

Here’s our write-up about trekking poles:

We buy our fixed-length poles a size longer than recommended for the descents. Poles spare the knees on the downhills and reduce the risk of falling. I also love them for their contribution to good posture on the trail, regardless of the grades. Good alignment, which is having the head balanced over the shoulders, hips, and feet spares your energy; poor alignment triggers the wrong muscles to engage, which will burn through your energy reserves fast. A short gait helps with balance and maintaining good posture.

I like to have my elbows against my ribs as my default arm position regardless of the terrain. I use a flick of my wrists to kick the pole tips out about 3’ straight in front of me without moving my arms much. That tight, arm position combined with my compact stance and short gait conserves my energy. My arms move out wider when needed for stability and then return to their tight, default position.

Pee Funnels For Women
For stand-up peeing; I use the slightly larger, easy-to-use, Tinkle Bell at 48 grams. So, so nice to have a pee funnel in places like the Grand Canyon where there is often no where for a girl ‘to go’.

Include becoming obsessed with tracking the weather in the Grand Canyon as a part of planning any long journeys into the Canyon depths—it could save your life! Here are my favorites.

Grand Canyon Village (near Bright Angel Lodge & Trailhead):

Grand Canyon Trailer Village (near the GC Visitors Center & Orange Line bus stop),-112.114

Grand Canyon North Rim

Grand Canyon Indian Garden

This link can be a bit fluky. Under the map on the right, check that the elevation is "5584". If not, scroll to the top of the page, then drop down 2 rows of banner lines, looking for the blank entry box on the left edge that has a GO button next to it. Enter "Indian Garden", then hit go. Don't be distracted by the mention of Flagstaff and Sedona. It takes a bit of cross-checking to use these NOAA sites but they are excellent if you can find the correct location.

Most other sites indicate that Indian Garden is at 3800' and I have no explanation for the discrepancy, but even if this forecast isn't quite right, it is a useful approximation. I always compare the S Rim, Indian Garden, and Phantom Ranch forecasts: there is usually a 20+ degree F difference between the S Rim and Phantom, the Ranch should be intermediate between the 2.

Grand Canyon Phantom Ranch

Have a great crossing!