Preparing for the AZT, 2016


Huachuca Mountains Sunrise

In less than two weeks I’ll be leaving for Arizona to thru-hike the Arizona Trail!

The crowdfunding campaign was a great success. I was shooting to raise about $3000 to make sure I would have everything I would need to hike the trail without going over budget. In all, we raised a total of $2,875. After fees were taken out, this was brought down to $2,637.80. However this doesn’t include the $500 that the National Forest Service will also be contributing once I’m in Arizona, nor the $300 that came in from personal checks thanks to two other contributions apart from Indiegogo. So in fact, the total comes out to $3,437.80! This should be plenty and hopefully will allow for some leftovers to be donated back to the Arizona Trail Association (ATA). Based on my research, I assumed I’d be spending about $3/mile, which includes a GPS device for my camera, which was requested by both the ATA and the National Forest Service to know where each photo was taken. This will also be paying for my food, shuttle services (if necessary), replacement gear, mail drops, an occasional bed/shower, actual meals to replenish calorie count, camping permits (when applicable), perk fulfillment once I return, and of course, anything else I can’t think of.

Camera Gear for the Trail

Camera Gear

Currently I have my base weight just below 20 pounds, which is kinda miraculous since this includes all my camera gear as well. I still have a few small items to add, but nothing substantial at this point. For camera gear, I’ll be bringing the following:

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  • 2x Canon batteries
  • 1 64gb CF, 3 32gb CF
  • USB battery charger
  • Polarizer filter and case (maybe)
  • Shoe-mounted GPS unit
  • Gorillapod

In total, this adds just over 7 pounds of weight, but at the same time, good photos are an absolute must on this trail not just for personal reasons, but also to help protect the natural resources and scenic beauty along the trail from potential threats, as well as the habitat of the only known jaguar in the entire United States. These photos will be donated back to the ATA who will use them to help promote those areas and build support around them to deter private interests from wreaking havoc on the fragile ecosystems.

At the same time, I also plan on bouncing my 14mm lens whenever the moon is out, since that lens will really only be used for dark night sky photography, so that’ll save about a 1.5 pounds whenever the moon’s out. I’m also undecided on the polarizer. I’ll just have to see how much I actually wind up using it on the first leg and then decide if I want to keep it or not.

I’m planning on taking three zero days over the course of the trail for resupplies, to binge on calorie-heavy meals, and to ship out new mail drops. During each of those, I’ll also use that as an opportunity to dump all my photos onto my laptop and multiple external hard drives (redundancy is good!). I expect 160gb should be plenty to cover roughly 200 miles of trail.

Other Gear

As mentioned, I’ll have a solar panel to keep the electronics charged, which also includes my cell phone and headlamp. To save weight, I bought two Sawyer Squeeze Minis to take onto the trail. They seem to be the lightest water filters and work very well, provided there’s clean water to backwash them (hence the reason I bought two – there won’t always be clean water). I’ll also be ditching the bladder system and simply using two 2L plastic bottles. They’re lighter, and easy to replace (though I’m not fond of taking plastic for granted).

For food protection, I bought a Ratsack this time around since on my attempt last year, I had a bit of food broken into by a critter. It’s a lightweight metal-mesh bag, keeping out the smaller animals that would otherwise like to chew through. It also has a strong velcro seal at the top with a hole to hang from a biner or rope.

Aside from that, most of the gear will be standard supplies. It’s only 53 miles from the Mexican border to the town of Patagonia, so I won’t need as much food as other stretches, which will give me a good opportunity to see how everything’s working out.

Training

I’ve been using a rural-road loop that I can access right out of my front door for training. Training through the dead of winter here in Jackson Hole, Wyoming has helped to throw a few extreme elements my way to get me better prepared. In addition, where I live, I start out at 6,500 feet above sea level, and top out on a hill at 6,800 feet. It’s not a huge elevation gain, but it does help since it’s a little steep.

Aside from all that, I’m nearly ready to go!

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