Guides Gear Corner #2: What’s in Your Pack?

When preparing for any epic desert adventure, you want to pack everything you need and nothing you don’t. Lugging unnecessary weight means you will cover less ground and have less fun doing it. Also, don’t buy a bunch of gear you won’t use again. Unless you plan to hike a lot, you don’t need the $120 brimmed hat or $180 Osprey daypack. We won’t think less of you for hiking with a freebie, schwag backpack or even borrowing one of ours. Save the resources!

On a typical day out with Dreamland Safari Tours, you can pack light knowing your guide is carrying lunch, a first aid kit, and lots of incidentals you might need. Your pack should contain water, snacks, sunscreen (you can put it on before hiking and leave it in the Suburban), necessary personal items, a hat, sunglasses, camera gear, or a phone.

  • Water: Your guide will suggest the right amount of water carried depending on the weather and the planned hike. There is plenty of water to grab from the cooler in the back of the truck. Hydration reservoirs are popular among desert hikers. They are more convenient than reaching for a bottle, so users tend to drink more, which is essential in our hot, dry climate. You can also get a sip of water quickly when your throat dries. A lot of guides use Osprey brand hydration bladders. They withstand years of daily use, and small parts, such as the bite valves, are replaceable. Camelback is also a top seller. They make an on/off lever so you can close a valve that prevents water from leaking out accidentally. A great feature! If you prefer bottles, look for a reusable water bottle that doesn’t weigh you down. Stainless steel, vacuum-insulated bottles keep water cold for hours, but they’re heavy. If you want cold water, use ice cubes or partially freeze your bottle before hiking. Be careful not to break it. Serious weight-saving hikers purchase Smart Water bottles because they offer a lot of durability for their weight. But don’t throw them away after one use; refill them! 
  • Snacks: Dreamland provides a pretty sweet selection of snacks, but perhaps you have some favorites you’d like to bring along. It’s crucial to pack the food you want to eat. Salty snacks replace electrolytes when you’re sweating and drinking a lot. Sugary snacks, such as dried fruit or GU Energy Chews, give you quick energy boosts when needed. 
  • Hat and Sunglasses: It’s sunny out there. These items are pretty much essential. Wide-brimmed hats keep the sun off your head and neck and help keep your head cooler when it’s sunny. Your hat belongs on your head, not at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, so look for one with a string. Tilley hats stay attached in any condition with their wind cords. They are pricey but worth it if you plan to be outside a lot. The super popular Airflow is light and cool, but they are also floppy in the wind. Hats made of stiffer cotton duck fabric are preferable in windy weather. 
  • Camera Gear: We encourage camera gear on our trips, but bringing too much can weigh you down. With our sunshine, tripods are usually unnecessary but can be handy on slot canyon tours, when shooting a sunset, or the Milky Way. We don’t see a lot of wildlife, so long lenses typically go unused. It would be best to bring one versatile lens of the standard to a somewhat wide-angle focal length, which will suit you best for most of our trips. You are welcome to get more, but remember, changing lenses in our sandy, dusty, windy environment is hazardous. And lenses are heavy. 
  • Personal Items: These could include toilet paper (which MUST NOT be left behind in nature), hand wipes, extra hair ties, or medicine. But try to stick to the essentials. We have seen manicure kits come out of packs on Wave hikes. Unnecessary weight!
  • Headlamp: This can be a good idea if starting before sunrise or if there is a chance you won’t make it back until nightfall. A lot of our guides have Night Ize brand headlamps. Lamps should be bright, have several brightness settings, and a red light setting is a bonus for stargazing and astrophotography. The Fenix HL60R is also a great headlamp, and you can adjust the angle of the light. This one is a bit heavy for the overnight backpacker. 
  • First Aid Kit: When hiking on your own, carrying a small first aid kit with the essentials might be wise. Adventure Medical Kits make kits specific to group size and trip length, and they seem to have a suitable array of tools. We love the bag’s design, how well it is organized, and how easy it is to grab what you need quickly (without having to dump your supplies into the dirt to find them). 
  • Navigation: If you’re not out with a guide, bring tools for navigation. We like Gaia GPS for hiking navigation apps, but there are other similar programs. Don’t forget to download the maps before you go. We also feel that old-fashioned paper maps have their place and serve as a great backup if your phone battery dies. Compasses can be helpful but pointless if you don’t practice navigating with them first.

What’s in My Guide’s Pack?

In addition to carrying the lunches, your guide is probably taking some extras for your comfort and safety. If you need something, ask! They will be glad you did. Expect to find a Garmin InReach satellite communicator in case of emergency and a whistle to make them locatable if a guest wanders off. A first aid kit can also be used even if it’s not an emergency. Don’t hesitate to ask for an aspirin for your headache, moleskin for a hot spot on your toe, or Dramamine for the long, bumpy ride home. Duct tape usually cuts. In addition to holding things together, it’s an excellent cactus spine remover. Guides usually carry a WAG bag in case someone has to go poop in an inconvenient place, such as in a narrow slot canyon. They should also have hand wipes or sanitizer and toilet paper in small plastic baggies so they can be packed out. Also, expect a trash bag, pocket knife, and a lighter to start a fire in a winter emergency. Some also carry an umbrella to shield them from either sun or summer monsoon rains or a pad to sit on.

What Is My Guide Carrying on a Day Off?

Guides tend to pare down their pack on their days off. They probably go light on the hand sanitizer and the toilet paper. Another thing you won’t find is a Bluetooth speaker. If you rummage through a guide’s pack on their day off, you may come across a can of beer or perhaps a monocular used for spotting birds or Native American rock art. Sweet.

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