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This is the Gear Hiker Katie Brown Used to Set a New Arizona Trail FKT

A tarp, sun hoodie, and pee rag are her secret weapons.

In the spring of 2022, emergency room nurse Katie Brown set the self-supported Fastest Known Time on the Arizona Trail, beating Heather “Anish” Anderson’s 2016 record by nearly two days. On the northbound attempt, Katie drew on her backpacking experience as a Triple Crowner to winnow down her pack weight to the bare minimum. We caught up with Brown to talk route-planning, her favorite gear from the trip, and a few packing strategies that didn’t pan out.

The Route

Arizona is known for its heat, but thanks to the Arizona Trail’s high-elevation, 790-mile route from Utah to Mexico, the nights are surprisingly cold. Snow can linger late into the year north of the Grand Canyon and water can be tough to find throughout. Unlike most other long trails, the Arizona Trail has two separate seasons in the Spring and the Fall. Both seasons have their challenges. Backpackers in the fall have more trouble finding reliable water and are at risk of encountering heavy rain or snow. Springtime hikers often encounter lingering snow in the north and heat in the south.

The Plan

Planning and weather considerations played a large role in Brown’s kit: By leaving on April 28— later than is common—she was able to carry less cold-weather gear and avoid any lingering snow north of the Grand Canyon. The decision to tackle the trail northbound meant she would face the most rugged, technical terrain of the Sky Islands—mountains abruptly rising from the desert floor—and the Sonoran Desert first, before the tamer rolling plateaus of northern Arizona.

Despite the strategic timing, a single gear list to cover nearly 800 miles is still a challenge. To transform her traditional backpacking gear to an FKT-worthy gear list, Brown cut weight nearly everywhere. “I packed taking into consideration how much I was willing to suffer without putting myself in danger,” she says. Her zero-degree sleeping bag became a 30-degree quilt, her usual freestanding tent became a simple tarp, and the 50-liter Osprey backpacking pack was replaced with a small, 24-liter fastpack. Despite some uncomfortably cold nights and two borderline unbearably hot days in the southern desert, the gear remained the same throughout the 17-day record attempt.

Continue reading Katie Brown's game plan for the Arizona Trail here.

LAST UPDATED

November 16, 2022

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Jeff 'Legend' Garmire

Sawyer Ambassador

Jeff grew up backpacking with his family in the Pacific Northwest. It was far from ultralight backpacking, but loading up 50 pounds each and hiking 3 miles to a lake to fish and camp for the weekend. At 2 years old Jeff got giardia on one of these trips, and on another he had so many mosquito bites the daycare thought he had chickenpox.

Backpacking went right along with fishing, building log rafts, and catching crawdads. The first thru-hike was when Jeff was 20 on the PCT, and since he has gone on to set 16 trail speed records and hiker over 30k miles.

MEDIA MENTIONS

The sawyer filters are much slower but quick enough to avoid being an annoyance. You can also back-flush them provided you remember to pack out the provided cleaning syringe.

PAUL “BOWIE” MADIGOSKY
Pacific Crest Trail

MEDIA MENTIONS

Brown’s gear list considered weight and functionality above all else. With the goal of traveling as fast as possible, every ounce was considered.

Jeff 'Legend' Garmire
Sawyer Ambassador

MEDIA MENTIONS

Permethrin is a highly effective insecticide that can be used as a first line of defense against biting insects. It is highly toxic to a whole spectrum of insects, including black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks.

Rachel Shoemaker
The Trek