If you’ve done a little research you will see that there are a few different options. The route we will be taking is north to south, making our exit via Bright Angel. You can read more about these options here under the section “What Trails Should I Take?”. The total miles we’ll tally will be twenty-four. I’ve read that the total elevation on the climb is about 6,000 feet. No slouch. You will need to be in good shape.
How I Prepared. I prepared for twelve weeks. I started with hiking five miles. Every other week I added one mile. Be realistic. You will not make a hike every single week. However, even if you can’t make it out for a hike, do be in shape. Even weeks I don’t hike I’ll swim, bike and get in as much walking as I can. Having said that, and I am not a doctor, but I would wager that without any other serious medical condition, if you can hike at a steady pace for eight hours, you are in good enough shape to finish this hike without (doing too much) damage. That takes us to gear.
Backpack: I used a Golite daypack. My model was discontinued but it most closely resembles this pack. You can find similar packs from REI. The most critical is that it is light, just big enough to pack all your critical gear, and in my opinion, that it holds a hydration bladder like Camelback makes. Mine carries a three-liter bladder. Yet, I saw folks on the trail with all manner of packs. One guy we were with had pack that looked more like a carry on bag than a backpack. None for me thanks.
Shorts. I hiked in the shorts I hike and run in. I suggest you do the same. Whatever you are most comfortable in. Mine are a cheap pair of lifeguard style swim trunks. Go figure.
Shirt. I did my last hike in a long sleeve Columbia hiking shirt. I may bring a short sleeve along with me this time too.
Shoes. Oh, shoes. I spent a lot of money of fancy hiking boots since my old pair I’d had since college. My dad did the same hike in a very old pair of running shoes. At the end of the day I’d split the difference. Get a pair of good trail running shoes like I use from Mizuno and do all your training in them. I’m on my third pair of these. They are light and sturdy and all I need. Bottom line, hiking boots are expensive, and if you aren’t hiking with a full frame pack, are likely unnecessary.
Socks. Get a good pair of hiking socks. In fact, get two pairs. Do it. Don’t skimp. Go to REI, tell the guys what you need them for, and buy them (but don’t let him talk you into buying fancy hiking boots.)
Sunglasses. Do bring a pair. Preferable a pair that won’t slip and slide off your face when you sweat. You will sweat.
Hat. A ball cap worked just fine for me. Nike makes light weight ball cap style called Nike Dri-Fit. Whatever you do, do not show up without a hat you can wear for lots and lots of hours.
Lube. I like BodyGlide. I’ll not go into details because trust me, after a few training hikes, you’ll figure out all on your own where this is needed most.
Sunscreen. Bring a tube of something you can apply all over, even to your face, that won’t sting your eyes. Figure this out during your training.
Fuel. Bring whatever you like that will fit in your bag. Trail mix. Power bars. Gels. Fig Newtons. Also, make sure to bring plenty of electrolyte mixes for your water. With all that sweating you will need to replace.
Headlamp. Pick up a cheap LCD version. You will hopefully only need this on Friday morning when we start hiking before the sun comes up. I sure wish I’d had one of these during my last trip when my battery died and I was stuck doing the last several hundred yards by the light of my cell phone. Seriously.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. Let me know if you think of something.