Utah 2021 - Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Gear List

Trip Info

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

April 20-24

In April I will heading down south to the unique and iconic terrain of Southern Utah. I am joining a 5-day backpacking trip guided by Andrew Skurka. There are several different styles of trips available, from never-been-camping-in-my-life to experienced ultralight backpackers wanting to get into remote regions of Alaska for a week. I will doing an "Adventure" course, which falls in the middle. The course starts with two months of pre-trip planning curriculum. There is also in-the-field curriculum focusing on topics like navigation and water management. I am excited and nervous! This will be the most ambitious outdoors trip I have done (aside from wild land firefighting, although that was ambitious for different reasons).

Part 1 - Conditions Assessment

Part 2 - Gear List (You are here)

Part 3 - The Trip Report

I'm midway through the Andrew Skurka pre-trip curriculum getting ready for our 5-day journey in Southern Utah. This will be my first time backpacking in the unforgiving desert climate. I'm brand new to backpacking. I did my first trip (solo) in August 2020, roughly 6 months ago. It was a loop in the Diamond Peak wilderness. The majority was well maintained trails with a short section (maybe 0.5 miles) off-trail. I planned for 4 nights/5 days with one day to do a day-hike and remain at the same campsite. I left a day early because I was underprepared for the mosquitos and unhappy with crowds showing up for the weekend. The trip was ~27 miles with ~3,500’ of elevation gain. The first day was 7.5 miles with 2,100’ elevation gain. The second day I stayed at my campsite because a storm rolled in the night before. The third day was 8 miles with 800’. The last day was 11.5 miles and 600’. The last day was originally planned to be split up into two sections. My pack weighed in around 45 lbs, which was ridiciulous given the poor hiking shape I was in. It was a difficult trip for me, but I powered through and really enjoyed it. I had not done much hiking for the months prior to doing the trip and my pack was way too heavy, so I was very sore throughout. I got some gnarly hip bruises! I also did not bring trekking poles so I started using sticks on the third day.

I've learned a lot since that first trip, and much of it has to do with bringing the right gear. One idea that Skurka often stresses is that the right gear will be different for every individual and trip. What works in Oregon in August may not work in Utah in April. Below is my gear list for Southern Utah with some pre-hike comments and room for post-hike comments which I will update upon my return.

"Go-Suit" Clothing + Items Worn

Hiking Shirt - Prana Calder Hoodie

Pre-Hike Comments: Gift from Daschel - 87% Polyester and 13% Elastine (Spandex?) - UPF 50+ - Seems kinda heavy to me at 10oz.

Post-Hike Comments: It worked out great. Never felt too hot in it. Comfortable. Kept my skin protected from the sun. The hood is a good size. Basically lived in this shirt waking and sleeping and I have no regrets.

Pants or Shorts - Rail Riders Eco-Mesh Pants with Insect Shield

Pre-Hike Comments: Recommended in the forum by a guide. I like the insect shield for PNW trips.

Post-Hike Comments: The fit has much to be desired. I am always a size 32/32. These were too big in the waist and too long for me. They definitely look like parachute pants. Andrew said I looked like MC Hammer. If you can live with the lack of style, they are lightweight and perfect in the heat. Functionally I thought they were great but fit is an issue.

Underwear - Smartwool Merino 15 Boxer Brief

Pre-Hike Comments: Brand new and untested. We'll see how it goes.

Post-Hike Comments: They rode up a little bit. For the most part though they were comfy, didn't smell, tried quickly, and temperature was perfect.

Headwear - NuNaturals Trucker Hat

Pre-Hike Comments: Gotta rep NuNaturals!

Post-Hike Comments: The best hat ever.

Sun Gloves - Glacier Sun Glove

Pre-Hike Comments: Used a couple times on training hikes. They were nice to have because I was getting blisters on my hands from the trekking poles. Comfy so far.

Post-Hike Comments: Worked out fantastic. I could see durability being an issue long term, and Andrew confirmed this. However they are very comfortable and worked great on this trip.

Sunglasses - Radar EV Path Polarized

Pre-Hike Comments: I don't typically wear sunglasses. I am going to bring them anyways as the guides say they are necessary.

Post-Hike Comments: I should have listened to my gut - I didn't put them on once. My eyes are used to the sun so I don't find them necessary.

Trekking Poles - Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles - Carbon Fiber with Quick Adjustable Locks

Pre-Hike Comments: I have not hiked with poles in the past (if you don't include the sticks on my first trip). I like that these have cork and foam. On my training hikes they feel good and I like to choke up a lot so the long padded handles are nice.

Post-Hike Comments: Loved them. Worked out just like my training hikes. Lots of choking up but good use of the cork handles as well. I took off the straps before the trip and never wanted them.


Shoes - Altra Lone Peak 5.0

Pre-Hike Comments: Seems there is no consensus on these. Some guides say they work well, others say they don't. Of all the shoes I tried on I liked these the best. They are zero drop, nice big toe box, tread is good - I'm going for with them.

Post-Hike Comments: The Lone Peaks performed awesome in the desert. I rarely got sand in my shoes and when I did I blame the gaiters. They had plenty of grip. The toe box is wide which I love, although at times I felt like I was sliding around in them. I did develop two small blisters on the inside of each big toe by day 3. These were minor though, especially compared to other folks.

Gaiters - Altra Trail Gaiters

Pre-Hike Comments: Never used gaiters before. Supposed to help with the sand. Tried them on a few training hikes and din't notice they were there.

Post-Hike Comments: Not great. There is no way to cinch them tight. While they stayed up, they seemed loose. I didn't get much sand in my shoes but I don't these gaiters helped much.

Hiking Socks - Cotopaxi Libre Socks

Pre-Hike Comments: Made from llama "fiber" (wool?). Got these from their kickstarter campaign which took almost a year. I love these socks, but they never went into production after the long wait time.

Post-Hike Comments: Performed awesome as usual.

Camp Footwear - Plastic Bags - Doggy Bags

Pre-Hike Comments: Haven't tried this before, should be interesting.

Post-Hike Comments: DO NOT USE DOGGY BAGS! They ripped almost immediately.

Sleeping Socks - Cotopaxi Libre Socks

Pre-Hike Comments: Will they be thick enough? 

Post-Hike Comments: They were not thick enough. One night I wore my hiking socks (dry) over my sleeping socks. A thicker sock would have been better for the chilly nights.

Clothing: Element Protection

Shell Top - Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Pre-Hike Comments: I love this for wind and light rain (drizzle). Probably won't do much in heavy rain but I'm willing to risk it.

Post-Hike Comments: No rain and it performed great as usual. Perfect around camp and while moving.

Mid-Layer Top - Patagonia R1 Pullover Hoody

Pre-Hike Comments: Always does the trick on day hikes.

Post-Hike Comments: Good as usual. Great for the mornings with no puffy on. Usually wore it for the first hour or two of the day.

Liner Gloves - Smartwool Merino 250 Gloves

Pre-Hike Comments: Will I really need them? My hands don't get that cold.

Post-Hike Comments: They were nice to have. Probably didn't "need" them but it was nice to have something for the first two hours of the day.

Insulated Headwear - Buff

Pre-Hike Comments: It's a buff. It does its job.

Post-Hike Comments: This was super helpful for sleeping. It doubled as my  eye mask and earplugs.

Clothing: Stop and Sleep

Insulated Jacket - Patagonia Down Sweater Hoodie

Pre-Hike Comments: Only used this once in Utah in December. Tore the side open rappelling and had to send it in to Patagonia to repair it. I hope I get it back in time for the trip.

Post-Hike Comments: Came back a couple weeks before the trip. Performed great at night and while sleeping.


Pack - Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor

Pre-Hike Comments: Demo gear - first time trying it on will be at the trailhead.

Post-Hike Comments: I love it! Huge capacity. Comfortable. Generous hip pockets. Fit felt good for my body. I have since ordered one for myself.

Waterproofing - Huge black trash bag

Pre-Hike Comments: Not sure how big it is, I don't want to open it and have to fold it again.

Post-Hike Comments: Way too big, comically so. Bring two small ones next time. Use them for sitting at breaks and dinner.

Food Storage: Today - Old zip lock bags

Pre-Hike Comments: Worked well on my first trip.

Post-Hike Comments: Worked well again.

Food Storage: Future - Loksak Opsak Bag

Pre-Hike Comments: No real danger of bears or mini-bears but I have them already.

Post-Hike Comments: Nice big bag, what can I say?

Stuff Sacks - REI 10L (Red)

Pre-Hike Comments: Not sure how many I will need. Not sure if demo gear has stuff sacks already? I assume it will.

Post-Hike Comments: Only used one. It was kind of annoying having everything loose in one. Might do a better job separating things next time.

Eyewear Case - Oakley Case

Pre-Hike Comments: Heavy but good protection.

Post-Hike Comments: Totally unnecessary weight.


Rainfly or Tarp - Sierra Designs High Route 1FL

Pre-Hike Comments: Demo gear - not sure how to pitch it. Watched the video a couple times. Should be fun!

Post-Hike Comments: I didn't end up using it. I wanted to pitch it for fun/practice, but never got to it. Looks like a great tent though. I would have bought it for this season but they are out of stock.

Ground Cloth or Footprint - Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth

Pre-Hike Comments: Promises to be sturdy. Wanted the medium 2-pack but they only had large in stock.

Post-Hike Comments: Very sturdy, very big.


Bag or Quilt - Sierra Designs Nitro Quilt 20°

Pre-Hike Comments: Demo Gear - never used a quilt before. I am worried it will be drafty with no bivy if I'm cowboy camping.

Post-Hike Comments: Worked great. It was drafty at times and I had to get a good tuck technique going, but overall I loved it. I have since ordered one.

Pad or Under Quilt - Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women's

Pre-Hike Comments: Might be too small, but I plan to put my pack under my feet.

Post-Hike Comments: Perfect size. With my feet on my pack and my head on my pillow, this thing is just right. It is skinny, so my arms hung off the sides. This wasn't an issue though, they never got cold.

Pillow - Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite

Pre-Hike Comments: Never used an air pillow, not a big fan of them.

Post-Hike Comments: So glad I had this thing. Very comfy.


Stove - Caldera Sidewinder Stove Kit

Pre-Hike Comments: Demogear - Never used an alcohol stove before. Excited to try the Kojin.

Post-Hike Comments: I loved it! Super easy to use. Lightweight. Very storable. I have since bought one.

Hot Drink Container - Starbucks Mug

Pre-Hike Comments: $2 in store, they were behind the counter and I had to ask for it specifically.

Post-Hike Comments: Worked out great - lightweight, big enough, held my coffee - not much else to say.

Utensil - Snow Peak Titanium Spork

Pre-Hike Comments: Works as intended.

Post-Hike Comments: It is a spork alright.

Ignition - Bic Mini Lighter

Pre-Hike Comments: Small but mighty. Had to buy a pack on Amazon.

Post-Hike Comments: Did not disappoint.


Bottle(s): Primary - Smart Water 1L

Pre-Hike Comments: Old reliable.

Post-Hike Comments: When in groups, label your water bottle! Or buy a different brand. There were a few clusters of smart water bottles.

Bottle(s): Storage - Evernew 1.5L & Playpus Platy 2L

Pre-Hike Comments: Used the Evernew on my first trip and it worked out well. Added the Platy for this trip.

Post-Hike Comments: Both worked well and 4L+ was totally necessary.

Treament: Primary - Aquamira Drops

Pre-Hike Comments: The guides will have them.

Post-Hike Comments: Very easy, very convenient, very lightweight.

Treatment: Secondary - Sawyer Mini Squeeze

Pre-Hike Comments: Very slow, really annoyed me on my first trip.

Post-Hike Comments: Never pulled it out once.


Guidebook - Canyoneering 3 - Steve Allen

Pre-Hike Comments: Definitely will not bring it hiking but good to have beforehand.

Post-Hike Comments: Good for a bedtime story.

Topographic Maps - Printed and distributed at trailhead in a gallon ziplock bag .

Pre-Hike Comments: Excited to map the route!

Post-Hike Comments: Cut the margins!

Every piece of gear listed in this article is something I used on the trip. Some of the links may be affiliate links, which means I may receive a small percentage of any purchase you make.  There is no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!