Backpacking Havasupai - October 2016 – Overthrow Clothing

Backpacking Havasupai - October 2016

havasupai falls

If you have scrolled through Instagram in the past year, it is likely that you have come across otherworldly images of Havasupai. Blue-green water and painted canyon walls define this stretch of reservation land known for its sights and limited accessibility.

I won't bore you with the basics, but here's the skinny: 3-ish hours north of Flagstaff in northern Arizona, the Supai tribe inhabits the sprawling acres known simply as Havasupai to tourists. *Traditionally* you haul your gear 10 miles to the campground and explore the wildly beautiful waterfalls and canyons of the area. I say traditionally because having your shit hauled in by mules or flown down via helicopter is also an option. A word of advice: if you can't carry it, you probably won't use it and furthermore don't need it. Throw the essentials in your pack and forget the camp shower. This is backpacking! Plus, that helicopter is no guarantee.. (no flights on Wednesdays).

The village of Supai is roughly 8 miles from the trail head. Here, you check in, receive your wristband which states that you are worthy if being there, and there is a small market and cafe if you need to fuel up.

If possible, please, anyone... buy some fry bread and send us a photo as proof. The fry bread stand became the bane of our Havasupai existence. When you enter the campground there are 2 stalls promising cold drinks and fry bread. The hours sign reads: "Open at 10am, we come at 11, sometimes 1:30, close at 5pm." Were we surprised that we never managed to score some powdered sugar goodness? No, I guess not.

I wanted to share our pack lists and trip tidbits for anyone interested in descending into the canyon. What we were happy to have, and what we will be bringing next time. For reference, we visited midweek October 16-20.

packing for havasupai

Andrew and I split up our gear between the two of us, so he took the tent, I took the chair, etc. I managed to get my pack down to about 28lbs, which I was preeetty stoked about.

Here are the notables:

  1. Women's Flash 60 pack from REI
  2. Hiking boots + closed toe water shoes
    Don't be the person who brings a pair of Vans and dollar store water shoes (Andrew learned this the hard way). We rocked the sock + Teva combo hard and were very happy about it.
  3. Day pack
    Bring a pack-able bag that you can stow essentials in and easily take with you on hikes and trips to the falls, and leave your big pack at camp.
  4. Hammock
    I have the Eno Sub 7 which I highly recommend for backpacking. It is incredibly light and like all Eno products, it super quick to assemble. It got down to the high 50s in the evenings, so we opted for a tent, but you can definitely sleep in your hammock most of the year. There are plenty of sturdy trees in the campground and scattered around all the falls. I purchased this with the Helios Hammock Suspension System, which is also ultra lightweight.
  5. Empty gallon jug
    Tie an empty gallon jug to your pack and enjoy having an extra water source at your camp. There is a spring in the campground to fill up at, and you will be extra happy about this if the line to get water becomes obnoxious.
  6. Camp chair
    We lucked out and had two picnic tables available for our group to use at camp, but if you visit during a busy week it is possible that you may find yourself SOL (i.e. sitting in the sand the whole time). Pick up an inexpensive but lightweight camp chair or one of these bad boys.
  7. Jetboil
    If you like eating and drinking and living and being content.

backpacking food

The most important and ever-changing decision: what to eat?

 We discussed, nit-picked, and carefully chose our food supplies catered to our own individual tastes, preferences, cravings and intolerance. The worst thing you can do is bring crappy food. You're outside, you're being highly active, and there is a lot of time sitting around shooting the shit in between activities where all you will want is a good snack.

I took a women's backpacking course at REI (which I would highly recommend for all ladies), and learned some very valuable nuggets of knowledge in regard to food: (a) backpacking is not the time to start, obsess, or adhere to any diet, besides those that are mandatory such as allergies. (b) your body is working overtime; you are outside in unfamiliar territory, so make it as easy as possible for your body to operate at optimal levels. Eat! Eat fats, carbs, and plenty of protein. (c) Foods like pre-cooked bacon, summer sausage, and hard or waxed-covered cheeses will keep well in the average environment (summer in Arizona may be another story).

My own word of advice: Do not bring a bunch of foods you haven't tried before, or maybe haven't had in a long time ("I loved instant mashed potatoes when I was younger..."). Nothing is more disappointing than shitty food that you have no choice but to eat.

Without further ado, here is what we were happy to have, and what we will bring next time:

  1. Dehydrated meals (3 each, one for dinner each night)
    You by no means have to depend on these (think Mountain House brand, if you are unfamiliar), but they are substantial, won't go bad, and very satisfactory after a long day. My favorite was Backpacker's Pantry Chicken Vindaloo, I could have eaten that every night. Andrew always brings a trusty Pad Thai, also a goodie. He got risky and tried out the Alpine Pineapple Orange Chicken- was not enthused.
  2. Trek Mix
    I was lucky enough to be gifted 4 ziplock bags of homemade trek mix pre-trip. We weren't messing around; this was not an M&M and raisin situation. Think dried baby pineapple (I know, what?), crumbled Bobo oat bars, raw cashews and almonds, candied ginger.. you get it. I happily ate this at any and all times. I kept it handy during both the hikes in and out, as well as during day trips. Good snacks are key!
  3. Dried mango
    So. Good. So sweet. Get some, eat it, you're welcome.
  4. Freshies for the first day (or 2)
    Fresh produce, fresh food for that matter, is tough. It doesn't keep, it stinks up your pack, it bruises, it's heavy, and it attracts critters. BUT- if you are up for the risk, it feels pretty damn good among the dried shit. We brought apples and an avocado. We found this nifty squeezable almond butter (again, heavy.. it's iffy) which we ate with the apples, and scooped out the avocado with crackers.
  5. Dried meat (jerky, summer sausage, salami)
    To cure your protein and salt cravings, cured meats definitely do the trick. Not in my normal grazing rotation, but it's kind of a delicacy while backpacking. Andrew will recommend roasting over a fire on a stick (drippy). Pair with crackers for your mindless eating pleasure.
  6. Bars, coffee, instant oatmeal
    All the standards. Bring what makes you happy; your favorite substantial bars (i like Lara and Oatmega, and holy shit have you even tried the new Nutbutter Cliff Bars?!), and oatmeal for mornings IF you like oatmeal (otherwise you will probably puke and be sad). We brought instant coffee, but friends in our group had a jetboil French press attachment and a silicon pour over. These luxuries are worth it, it is a nice morning ritual and something for your group to enjoy together.
  7. Lemons?
    We are whiskey people and sip after sip of Bulleit can get a little monotonous. A squeeze of lemon goes a long way if you are feeling fancy. I have also been known to hunt out sage and muddle that in for camp cocktails.
  8. Charcuterie platter
    This one we can not take credit for but we definitely enjoyed it. A friend brought Babybell cheese (the wax coated cheese wheels), smoked salmon *from Alaska,* and summer sausage. On our last night at camp he sliced all this up and laid it out for all of our grubby hands to dig in. We tossed in our leftover crackers and got after it.

What we would consider for next time:

  1. Instant apple cider
    See the whiskey bit above (#7)... oh yeah!
  2. Dehydrated scramble meals
    If the idea of dehydrated eggs makes you somewhat nauseous, you are not alone. Hence why I have never grabbed for a pack to try at camp. Our comrades proved me very wrong. So, the trick is purchasing a small, backpacking pan set and after letting your scramble stew in the boiled water per usual, fry it up in said pan. Step 2 is bringing along some tortillas and hot sauce packets (good for so many meals!). Coordinate with your camp crew and everyone can be eating breakfast tacos en la manana.
  3. Frozen burritos
    Another incredible revelation from on of our camp members. Prepare ahead of time (obviously), wrap up, sear shut on the stovetop, wrap in foil and freeze. Pack up just before hitting the trail and in a few hours you will have precious burrito bundles at the ready. Heat in foil over your jetboil flame. Bastard.

Got questions? Grievances? Comments? Drop us a line in the comments. We would love to hear your own tricks of the trail.

As of February 1, 2017, the Havasupai tribe has launched a website to book reservations.



1 comment

  • Sammy J

    Awesome blog! Thank you! Did you happen to get in the water? I know it’ was October, but we are from Indiana and I’m not sure of the water temp in AZ. We are going October 2017, I plan on jumping in! Unless that’s batshit crazy?! Thoughts?

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