Havasupai is a great introductory backpacking trip. Backpacking can be mildly uncomfortable to downright dangerous, if you are not prepared. Havasupai and Supai village have provisions if you forget something or an injury occurs. The trails are obvious (mostly), frequented often, and there’s water and a general store at the village, if you forgot snacks! The helicopter is an option for emergency evacuation if serious illness or injury occurs (dependent on weather), and the mules can carry gear. However, please remember, these resources are foremost to support the villagers that live there, secondly for emergencies, and THEN they are available for tourism operations. Like I mentioned in my travel journal, we chose, and encourage others, to try this completely self supported!
This list can be used as a checklist to make sure you have the necessary general items or recommendations if you’ve decided to start upgrading your gear. We don’t anticipate carrying/living out of our packs for more than several nights per trip, and we like to be prepared and mostly comfortable. Therefore, we accept carrying extra weight that others may find unnecessary. All of our recommendations are in the “middle-of-the-road category”. They are neither the smallest, lightest, most compressible (most expensive), nor are they the cheapest options, because we are straightforward with our priorities and budget.
Advice corner: if this is your first trip backpacking, I don’t recommend going out and buying a ton of equipment. A full set up can cost SEVERAL HUNDRED dollars (REI is trying to help though!). Check out REI or your local outdoors shop for rental opportunities or try asking your friends around to borrow until you are set on getting into it as a hobby and investing.
(Disclosure, some links in this blog will take you to affiliate sites. However, I only recommend gear I personally use, is on my wishlist, or similar items if mine are no longer available for sale.)
Any items with a “*” mean they are creature comforts. They’re not specifically required, but worth it to consider bringing.
- Backpack – If you were a snail, this thing is your shell. I use the REI Venus 75. You probably don’t need a 75L bag, but I never argue about free (mom used it once in ’09. So now it’s mine!). This particular model is no longer for sale. Check out a great selection at REI (womens and mens). We snagged Seth a new Thule Versant 60 after his 20 year old backpack literally rubbed his back raw. This is a super personal preference, since every body is different. Try on several and find one that’s the most comfortable. Also, no matter which bag or where you get it, find a professional to get it appropriate fitted and adjusted!!
- Tent* – Another hand me down from my parents, I’ve been a fan of my REI Taj 3 “alien spaceship” tent. I’ll be honest, modern tents are starting to make its weight not “the best”, so I’ve been window shopping. If you are looking to buy (assuming for a two people), check out the REI Half Dome 2+. Half of the people in our camp had these set up and we’ve been eyeballing it when REI has a sale. We always bring our rain fly, just in case, but if you are sure your don’t need it you can leave it at home to shave some pack weight. Some people use Havasupai as a trip to try out hammock camping! Good thing we didn’t rely on it because there were no trees in our particular area, but we saw several others doing it while there!
- Sleeping Bag – We admittedly splurged on sleeping bags about a year ago, but I couldn’t be any happier. Seth and I use the Nemo Disco 30 and NEMO Rave 30, respectively. They are a little roomier in the hips than mummy bags for side sleepers, have some neat pillow, ventilation, and storage features, and if you get both the mens and womens versions they can zip together (it’s disgustingly adorable, I admit). It can get toasty or cool in the canyon depending on the season, so check ahead of time.
- Light – Seth and I each have one of these headlamps! Nothing fancy, but I like having my hands free at camp. We also have a system to clip them in the tent so they are usually our only lights (we just bring spare batteries).
- Water Reservoir – Really how you do it is up to you. For the hike down we each had 5L of water. I already had a 3L bladder from a camelbak and purchased Smart water bottles for mixing powder drink mixes and not contaminating my bladder. We brought a collapsible water jug so we wouldn’t have to run back and forth to the spring. If you plan on using the hydration bladder multiple times, I’d pay the premium for a reputable brand. I’ve seen some knock-offs rip at the seams and leak. Some people prefer the Osprey and Platypus style closure methods.
- Food Storage – There are critters! Two bags in our group fell victim to motivated squirrel! Familiarize yourselves with proper food storage practices. We got lucked out and found a bucket. If you hang it appropriately from a tree, a thick dry sack (I use these for everything) should do well enough, but squirrels can chew through it if they get a hold of it. If you want some more protection you could consider a rat sack or bear can and not worry about it.
- Water Filtration System* – Usually, the campground has a clean, freshwater spring. However, if you’re heading for a 18 mi round trip day hike (the Confluence), you’ll probably want to grab a small filter and refill at river crossings (or just lean over while walking and slurp). We use the Sawyer MINIs and they are perfectly good, small, and convenient. However, if we were to buy another, we’d get the Sawyer Squeeze instead. It’s a bit more pricey, but faster if you plan on filling up bottles/reservoirs. Pro-tip: Sawyer filters have compatible threads with Smart water bottles so you can “hack” them!
- Cooking System* – You could make sandwiches a head of time, or you can make yummy things to warm your insides. We use the MSR WhisperLite international backpacking stove, and whip up goodies in the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset. We can fit our stove in the cookset, so it’s all encompassed in the largest pot. Pro-tip, one of the little mugs holds almost exactly a package of ramen. Don’t forget fuel! Also, if you want to be in the hip crowd, everyone and their brother is getting a Jetboil.
- Sleeping Pad* – REI Rail 1.5 (mens and womens) is what we use and have suggested to friends. A sleeping pad is not just simply to get you off of the hard ground, most pads have an insulation factor to prevent the ground from sapping heat from you as well. We tried to car-camping with inflatable mattress in the tent deal, and these are much more comfortable and warm than that experience! There are many options (smaller, lighter, cheaper, more expensive, insulation factor) out there so decide on your most important qualities and go shopping.
- Day Pack* – If you plan to venture away from camp, you’ll want some storage without packing up your whole backpack. I just shoved my handy-dandy CamelBak Helena 20 flat in my backpack. This is my go to bag for day hikes and short trips; it’s been along with me to several states and countries! I’d avoid those draw-string bags, to protect my shoulders, but if you are staying close to camp and just need a towel, water, and some snacks, it would be fine.
- Towel* – We like these microfiber towels. The ones we got come in a tiny mesh bag with a carabiner so you can clip it anywhere. Arizona is pretty dry, so standing around takes care of most of it, but these are good for a swipe down. They are awesomely absorbent and small enough to throw around and use for everything camping or not.
- Hiking Poles* – I use these for basically anything longer than 7 miles these days. I’ve had repeated ankle injuries and tend to sacrifice my knees to “save” my ankle. I find poles particularly helpful on the uphills, loose, unstable downhills, and river crossings. When the trail is relatively flat and smooth, I just strap them to my bag.
- Hammock* – If you got trees might as well bring it. I grabbed my generic brand one on an Amazon deal, and it packs down to the size of a soda can, similar to ENO (this one looks similar to mine! Watch for prime/black friday deals, I’m pretty sure I paid less than $20). But bring whatever you are willing to carry! However, with the size of our group, our campsite didn’t have any great swinging trees so I ended up bringing it and not using it.
- Pillow* – You can shove some clothes in your sleeping bag if you prefer, but I like a good compressible foam pillow.
- Organization* – I like to have a little method to the madness in my bag. I use compression dry sacks to protect things that, if it were to rain, I REALLY wouldn’t want wet. Otherwise, I use your average packing cubes to quickly find things like socks and underwear in a big bag. For smaller items, such as electronics, extra batteries, matches, check out waterproof ditty sack (or ziplocs, or ziplocs in ditty bags, if you’re anxious like me). Pro-tip: use different colored organization bags, so you don’t have to check every bag to figure out what’s in it.
- Bathing Suit – seriously, what do you think you’re going to Havasupai for?!
- Athletic pants/shorts – quick dry! If planning to hike to the Confluence, the trail is very grown over. I wore shorts and my shins were definitely scratched up. May want to consider pants or leggings. Remember, you’ll also be crossing the creek multiple times, though.
- Shirts – I have a fear of my backpack straps rubbing my shoulders raw, so I avoid tank tops when carrying a pack.
- Compressible jacket* – If you need it, you’ll appreciate it. If not, pack it down and leave it at the bottom of your bag – or use it as a pillow! We visited in May, and I still wore it early in the morning at the top of the hill and late in the evening.
- Evening wear – Tee hee. Sweats/dry pants that you didn’t hike in. You may even want a long sleeve shirt as it gets chilly in the evening, even in the summer.
- Nylon/Wool socks
- Hiking boots/shoes – I like ankle support while carrying a weighted back, so I bring full boots. Some people are perfectly happy with running shoes or hiking shoes.
- Water shoes – I just wore some Nike tennis shoes that I had previously made disgusting in a mud run and trudged straight through the river crossings. Also, the bottom of the pools can be rocky, so I usually had something on my feet in the water.
- Camp shoes – I absolutely do not want to lace up my boots to run from the tent to the bathroom in the morning. I like Tevas. They dry pretty quick if you wear them through the water, and I definitely rock the socks with sandals at camp in the evening.
- Bandana/Buff – It was equally great for keeping dust out of your nose/mouth when the horses passed, or for dunking in the river and using to cool down during hot times of the day.
- Hat – Especially the hike in and out, and past Beaver have extended areas of sun exposure.
- Check the weather – you may need more or less layers. You might want a wind/rain proof layer.
- Leave the rest in the car! You’ll probably pack too much, and honestly a clean comfy set of clothes in the car for the ride out is great.
- Canon 6DMII with 16-35 mm
- Canon t3i with 55-250 mm (t5 is close enough!)
- Peak Design Capture Clip – seriously shouting my praise from the rooftop. This thing is clever.
- ND filters ND2, ND4, ND8
- Cleaning equipment – desert dust!
- SD cards
- Extra batteries
- Lightweight tripod
- First aid kit
- Toiletries – You know what you’ll need on a day to day basis, but dumb it down. You’ll sweat/swim off that make up. But, I recommend a wet wipe at the end of a dusty hike.
- Bug Spray
- Medications – We bring a “tic tac” container of various OTC pain relievers. Make sure to bring any daily medication you require. And I bring small containers of aloe vera and topical benadryl/itch relief
- Various sizes of ziplocks – I got dime bags, I got snack bags, I got sandwich bags, I got gallon sized freezer bags. I got ’em all.
- Trashbag – YOU MUST PACK OUT ALL TRASH. Everything that comes into the canyon with you, must come out. We were able to fold up/compress our trash so that it fit in a quart sized ziplock
- Extra plastic bags – if your shoes/bathing suit/etc hasn’t dried by the time you need to hike out, this will help not get the rest of your pack nasty
- Bungee cord/rope
- Hand sanitizer