It can’t help to have a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim gear checklist just to make sure you’ve got everything covered. By the time you attempt to cross the Grand Canyon once or twice in a day, you probably have your gear pretty well figured out, but I find I always forget little things (like Chapstick) or big things (like salt pills). And it’s always worth seeing what worked last time, or didn’t, to make updates,
This checklist is meant for day-hikes or runs of R2R or R2R2R, with some adjustments for some weather variations and trail conditions. Its based on years of experience in the canyon doing R2R and R2R2R more than a dozen times, in addition to many other trails in the canyon, but it’s still just my opinion–at the end of the day, you should do and take what works for you. Your first R2R2R is not the time to try out new shoes or randomly change your nutrition plan.
Table of Contents
- Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklists
- Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklist FAQs
- More R2R and R2R2R Stuff
Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklists
Spring / Fall / Summer Gear Checklist
This list is for any time in the canyon when it’s not raining or snowing hard (even if there’s a little ice or snow on the trail) and it’s not too cold (by your own interpretation and body knowledge). As with all lists on this page, the focus is on R2R or R2R2R in a day, hiking or running, and does not apply to other itineraries or overnight trips of any kind. Also, and this is just me, avoid the Canyon in the summer if you can. It gets hot enough to kill…and does so almost every year.
Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklist – Clothing
|Warm or Hot Weather|
Including mild to high winds. Everything should fit in your pack.
|Comfortable with good traction, not new and not falling apart, with some toe-protection. I’ve never used hiking boots in the canyon (even when snow shoeing), and wouldn’t except for longer trips carrying heavy packs for the ankle support. My default is Salomon Speedcross because I like the giant lugs, but the right answer is what work for you.|
|Shoe Inserts?||These are optional, but technically all shoes have inserts. I replace all the original inserts with green Super Feet or the equivalent because I have plantar fascia issues, but you’ll appreciate the additional support on these rocky trails even if you have no current injuries. Just make sure its something you’re used to before trying in the canyon.|
|Socks||Comfortable, non-cotton, regular or five-toed, though I always go with cushy Smart Wool for odor reasons. Make sure you’ve tried them in your shoes before. I used to advocate double-socks (five-toe under, liner on top), but found this added too much volume to my shoes.|
|Whatever you usually use for longer-distance runs or hikes, that takes into account chafing, pockets, etc. My default are Patagonia Nine Trails shorts because they have full-length liners (for chafing) and 3 zipped pockets (for stuff), but the right answer is whatever works for you. In the three pockets, I carry (A) my phone (B) salt pills / pain killers (C) empty for trash and wrappers. My female running partners often prefer leggings, which also help with sun protection but usually lack pockets.|
|Underwear?||I don’t use ’em (my shorts have liners), but if you do, I’d suggest something non-cotton, stretchy, comfy and odor resistant. This preference might also change for women runners based on time of the month.|
|Comfortable with reasonable sun protection, non-cotton, ideally Smart or Merino Wool if cool at all, but otherwise with some odor prevention. You just want something that breathes, dries quickly, doesn’t stink, and stays warm when wet or sweaty. Whatever you pick, make sure the sleeves are long enough not to chafe your underarm and the neck is tight enough that your pack straps don’t rub your neck raw. This can be a challenge if you wear a halter, tank or just sports-bra top (in warm weather, some women will forgo the shirt for just a sports bra). Whatever you pick, try it on a long run / hike before the canyon. Chafing and bleeding are no fun.|
|Sports Bra||This is obviously very personal, but it’s important to be comfortable enough for long runs, not chafe with the pack or shirt, etc.|
|Sleeves?||I’ve increasingly started wearing white cycling sun-sleeves on long runs or hikes for sun and wind protection. Totally optional, but they protect your arms much better than the sun screen you sweat off a few hours ago.|
|I’ve been bringing a cut-off 1/2 Buff or equivalent for use as a face mask when passing others (COVID) and to cover mouth or nose if it’s really windy or dusty, especially if the mules are running on the north rim.|
|Corrective Lenses?||If you need them, don’t forget them. I use daily contacts in the canyon so I don’t need to bring corrective sunglasses, but this is entirely up to you. Whatever you bring, make sure they’re compatible with your sunglasses.|
|Sunglasses||Glasses, for the sun. Ideally with a sleeve or other way to wipe off lenses.|
|Basically, anything with a brim to cover your head and keep the sun off your face. I use an OR Sun Runner cap, but baseball caps or trucker caps (with larger brims) are fine, though ideally not cotton. If it’s warm, black can be bad and melt your brain. For very hot weather, you might swap for a full, larger-brimmed hat, even if it’s not as stylish.|
|Hair Thingies?||If you need scrunchies or other whatnots to control the hair, well, you should probably bring ’em.|
|Watch||You don’t technically need one, and you certainly don’t need anything fancy, but it’s important to keep track of time and its better not to have to take your phone out to do it.|
|For Cool DRY Weather|
Including warm temps with intermittent sprinkling and mild winds. Everything should fit in your pack.
|Sun Shirt OR|
|Depending on the wind and how cool it is in the mornings and evenings, I might bring a sun shirt (long sleeve, Merino Wool, with hoodie) or very light windbreaker. This is often the only thing I take on or off.|
|Light Vest OR|
|This is another layer of optional insulation, barely insulated, used on cool days for a little core warmth without the sweatiness of long sleeves. I use an thin vest, which is not for everyone. Some insulation that works for you, but thin and packable, including some newer ultra-light puffies are fine.|
|Liner Gloves?||Thin gloves, wind resistant, not water poof, mostly for cold hands in the morning or night but also for blister prevention with poles. Sometimes if it’s hot I’ll just use light sun-gloves or nothing.|
|For Cool WET Weather|
Including intermittent light rain, light snow, or combo with mild winds. Everything should fit in your pack
|Light Raincoat||Swap the windbreaker / sun shirt for a raincoat, waterproof or very water resistant, lightweight and packable.|
|Other?||I don’t change much else, but you might want to consider a warmer hat, vest, gloves, socks, etc., depending on your body. This is when women especially have trouble with hand warmth, so don’t ruin your run or hike by forgetting about your chilly digits.|
|For COLD WET Weather|
Including heavy rain or snow, low temps and high winds. It happens even in April. Everything should fit in your pack
|Heavy Raincoat||This replaces the light raincoat can be a hardshell or soft-shell, but it should be waterproof and light while providing some protection from wind and contact cold. If find that ultra-thin running coats don’t hold up in these conditions.|
|Other?||You’ll need more insulation, a good hat, possibly a face mask or balaclava, better gloves, and possibly rain paints or the equivalent, light long underwear, etc. No matter what you bring, all extra layers should fit in or on your pack. There are too many variations to cover here, but you should know your body, the conditions, and not depend on getting warm or dry anywhere on the trail. This can be VERY problematic if its snowing on both rims and raining in the middle because you’re never dry, you’re never warm, and it kinda sucks.|
Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklist – Other Gear
|Warm or Hot Weather|
Including mild to high winds
|Phone (!)||These days, your phone is one of the most important things you’ll carry. While there’s no reception in most of the canyon, it’s your only way to communicate on either rim, your clock, GPS tracker, map holder, camera and more. All obvious, so just make sure it’s fully charged before you go…|
|Trekking Poles?||These can super light, with no snow-baskets, and anything with sharp tips and comfortable grips will do. If you’re not use to poles, they sometimes have rubber walking tips instead of metal by default, so make sure you swap these out. I take poles about 50% of the time, when hiking in snowy conditions, but they are purely optional most of the year.|
|This is what you jam all your stuff into, so I assume you have something. Make sure all your gear fits, it’s comfortable, and it can hold all extra fear, food and water as needed. You’ll be changing clothes / layers a lot in the canyon, so the pack should be easy to fill and empty.|
|This is deeply personal and varies widely by temperature and speed. The only thing I can offer here it to make sure you have a way to carry whatever you need from Manzanita to the north rim and back, because water is often off at the north rim (check!!!) and pipes can break mid-run. Dehydration sucks. Bring enough to carry what you need.|
|Take a headlamp or illumination device bright enough to see in flat, dusty light in the dark for hours. This may not be necessary if you’re fast and can do the whole trip during daylight hours, but it’s essential if anything goes wrong or you’re pokey like me. Always check the batteries, and consider taking spares.|
|Sun Screen||Always good to have a bit to reapply at the far rim so you’re not all crispy when you get back.|
|Lip Balm||Great to have, somehow always forgotten. Something with a good SPF rating is better than just moisturizer|
|I bring one heal-blister Band-Aid and one other bandage, but you should bring what you think you’ll need for a 40+ mile hike or run. Many will advocate mole skin or kinesiology tape for blister management, but you should know what works for you before you go.|
& Credit Cards
|I always take this no matter what I do in case (a) I need the stuff and (b) so that if someone breaks into the car or hotel room, I don’t have to worry about identity theft and not having resources. Phantom Ranch canteen might or might not be open, but if it is, it’s nice to able to buy something delicious as you go by. Just leave the rest of your wallet / purse hidden somewhere. In wet weather, use a snack-size plastic zip bag to hold them.|
|Car or Hotel Key||Don’t forget or lose these. You’ll be sad.|
|Pain Killers and/or NSAIDs||Always take a few ibuprofen and Tylenol pills, or whatever works for you. Great for aching body, and vital for injuries or if someone’s having menstrual cramps. Don’t take ibuprofen if it’s hot and you’re dehydrated, and avoid entirely if you can (there is some kidney damage risk associated with NSAIDs and endurance events).|
|Feminine Hygiene Products?||Always a bummer to forget. Please carry them back out of the canyon with all other garbage, or use specially-provided trash cans in the bathrooms.|
|Medications?||If you need ’em, take ’em!|
|You should use the bathrooms provided, but if you need to answer the call of nature in nature for any reason, please bury your poo off trail and practice Leave No Trace. Everything including TP must be carried back out of the canyon.|
|Other Stuff||A number of people I know bring duct tape for emergency repairs (esp. on shoes), and this is something I bring on mountaineering trips, so a bit of it sounds like a great idea. Just make sure it’s fresh and not a billion years old and useless when you need it. Additional considerations might be more first aid supplies, a lightweight knife, etc.|
|ICE!||For ICY Conditions|
The trail is often icy near the rims. You should always check conditions in advance. Everything should fit in your pack.
|Traction Devices||These are often called micro-spikes, with brand names like Kahtoolas or Yaktrax. You do NOT ever need crampons.|
|Other?||Trekking poles can be helpful and augment or even substitute for traction devices, but this is entirely based on your skill and experience.|
|For WET Weather|
Includes any level of rain likely to get your stuff wet.
|Ziplock Baggies||Your phone is one of your most important emergency supplies, so don’t let it get wet and ruined. Also good to keep your cash in, and anything else that you don’t want soggy at the end. I also bring a larger one for trash, so it doesn’t get all over my pack.|
|Pack Cover OR Plastic Bag||You can use a kitchen trash bag in most cases. No need for anything fancy. Just tear holes for your arm straps.|
Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklist – Food & Water
|WATER||Water & Hydration|
Probably the most important part of the list. More details here. Always check water availability before you go.
(At the Start)
|To start, you’ll want 1-2 liters from the south rim down to Phantom Ranch, but this varies by course (SK vs. BA), weather, etc. On BA, for instance, there is always water at Indian Gardens, but there might not be any water on SK.|
|If all the water is on, you won’t need these, but in case it’s off anywhere and/or the waterlines break, I always carry at least a few iodine tablets to purify creek water along the NK trail.|
|Electrolytes and/or Salt Pills||Highly recommended, either as a mix in your water or as salt pills, or both. For me, this is essential given how much I sweat, and in hotter temperatures, these can save your life.|
|Check Conditions!||Did I mention this? Well, please check water availability before you go. More details here. Water good. Death bad.|
|FOOD||Food and Nutrition|
This is entirely personal, so just some general notes. Everything should fit in your pack
|It’s a long day whether you’re doing R2R or R2R2R, so make sure you have enough food and calories for the entire trip. Imagine on R2R2R that the north rim is closed, Phantom Ranch is closed and you have to be totally self-sufficient. At 300 calories per hour for, say, 18 hours, this means 5,400 calories. That’s a lot, maybe too much, maybe too little. It’s your body. Make sure you can feed it. I take a 5-hour energy just in case things get bleak, but you might also consider gels with caffeine or another way to keep your energy up.|
|Salty Foods||If it’s warm at all, you’re going to like the occasional salty snack, something like chips or pretzels.|
|Carbohydrate Mixes||A lot of hikers and runners take their calories by adding a mix to their water. In the GC, this is also good to cover the taste of the treated water.|
& Fun Things
|Never hurts to have a Starburst, Gin-Gin or whatever makes you smile when things get tough. Take a few to share. I hear Mentos is the freshmaker, so there’s that…|
Winter Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklist
This is beyond the scope of a simple checklist. See here for an example of winter conditions, including snow, blizzards and general chilly awesomeness. In some cases, in years when there’s not much snow and it’s not that cold, the checklists above will do just fine. Other times…not so much. If you really want to do the canyon when there’s 2+ feet of powder on the north rim and no one else out there, you hopefully have your gear dialed in already.
What about the 10 Essentials?
So, there are a large number of wise people who think you should always hike with the ten essentials, which are the following:
- Navigation, like a map and compass, altimeter or GPS device
- Headlamp (Illumination)
- Sun Protection
- First Aid
- Fire, such as matches
- Shelter, like an emergency blanket or light bivy sack
- Extra Food
- Extra Water
- Extra Clothes
The checklist I’ve provided is focused on going light-and-fast, but still includes everything except (1), (5), (6) and (7). Technically, your phone can offer a map even when GPS doesn’t work, but you are always on marked trails when doing R2R or R2R2R. That said, I would suggest taking a light waterproof map the first time you do the traverse. If you feel more comfortable taking the other items, please do; you’ll add weight and space to your pack, and you’re always on marked trails, but you might be more comfortable erring on the side of safety.
Rim-to-Rim Gear Checklist FAQs
Q: Does it matter which route you take?
There are around several variations of R2R and R2R2R, based on which rim you start on (must be the south rim during winter) and which trails you take (SK, BA, or both) to or from the south rim. This checklist works for any of these variations, and the only thing that will change is how many total miles you do and where you can get running water.
Q: What type of shoes should you wear?
Whatever you’re comfortable in for long distances on trails. You’re never off a well marked trail, and there’s nothing technical about R2R or R2R2R, so as long as you avoid blisters, stay warm, and have good traction, you should be fine.
Q: What type of traction devices should you use?
If it’s icy on the trail, any of the major brands will do. I use Kahtoolas, but they are heavier than some of the alternatives. Most will work if they’re securely fastened to your shoes. Every year, you find people’s lost microspikes in the snow, so make sure yours are attached properly.
Pro Tip: If there’s loose snow and you’re wearing traction devices, the rubber strapping can force cold meltwater through your shoes and chill your feet. If you don’t mind looking a bit daffy, and don’t have waterproof shoes, wearing plastic bags over your shoes and under the microspikes works surprisingly well. Just don’t leave plastic trash all over the place.
Q: Should you bring trekking poles?
Depends. I’ve done R2R2R with and without them. If you’re fast, running, healthy, and there’s not much snow or ice, you can easily skip them and save the weight. Otherwise, it’s very nice to have the help on the climbs to both rims. They’re even more important if you’re carrying a lot of weight or have bad joints, as they really help with stability. Just don’t trip over your own poles.
Q: Where can you get water?
See the separate post about water resources for R2R and R2R2R. The answer varies by course, time of year, and conditions.
More R2R and R2R2R Stuff
Always more on the way.
If you have suggestions or find inaccuracies or errors, let us know in the comments below. Thanks, and good luck out there.