Having the right clothes with you on a trip can save it. The same day I bought a flight ticket to Arizona; I bought a new pair of beige shorts, opened my suitcase, and began packing for my winter hiking trip to Arizona. Arizona is hot. It has a desert climate and can reach temperatures in the 100s. Arizona’s environment, however, like many other desert climates, can vary. The temperature changes drastically depending on the region and whether or not the sun is out.
When I started planning my trip and was surprised when a friend said, “Flagstaff just got a bunch of snow.”
Excuse me? Snow?
I am under the impression I am going to a warm desert climate and want to escape the cold weather in Chicago. I am ready to soak up the warm sun and a tan on my midwestern skin.
My suitcase consisted of shorts, tank tops, and light jackets. After a quick google search of the weather, I decided my packing for a winter hiking trip to Arizona needed a few changes.
I research the current weather in the places we are going-Scottsdale, Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon. In Scottsdale, it is sunny in the 60s, and in Flagstaff, it is snowy and cold. How am I supposed to pack for this?
The best option is to dress in layers and be ready for all kinds of weather. One day I am wearing shorts and the next a down jacket and hat. I am all about efficient packing and never checking a bag. Knowing what to bring makes it easier to pack everything in a small carry-on. Here is everything I packed for a five-day Arizona winter hiking trip.
Winter Months: (December-February)
Average Temperatures: High 66 F/ Low 42 F
Cozy Sweatsuit for the Airport
Traveling is uncomfortable, but I don’t have to be. When I am on a cramped airplane with cold air blasting, my clothing is the last thing I want to feel stiff. I tend to wear soft baggy layers while traveling for optimum comfort. One thing I never do is wear shorts or dresses. You don’t want your bare legs touching the seat. Airplane seats are sanitized after every flight, but it’s better not to risk it. The last thing I recommend is not wearing.
1.) Hiking Boots/ Walking shoes
Hiking shoes are a must. At first, my sister told me only to bring tennis shoes, which you can, but be prepared to come home with a mangled pair of shoes. You are better off wearing your hiking shoes and one pair of athletic shoes you can dress up or down. I bring a pair of cute cream sneakers I can pair with a dress or jeans if we do something around town. For a low-key hiking trip, those are the only shoes I need.
2.) Down Coat
The main thing you will need is a warm jacket. It would help if you had a warm coat that is easily packable. I have a perfect pink down jacket from Patagonia, or it would have been if I hadn’t left it on my bed at home. Thankfully, someone else on our trip had an extra Patagonia I borrowed, which made all the difference.
3.) Athletic zip-up
I packed my Lululemon Define Jacket, which my boyfriend, Kerwin, got me for my birthday. This jacket is thick and tight to the skin, making it easy to layer during cold weather. I wear it as an outer layer on our warmer hike and as an underlayer for the walks in Flagstaff. An athletic zip-up is an excellent layer in your suite case.
Leggings are perfect because they are worn under jeans and sweatpants or on their own. I brought two comfy pairs I purchased on Amazon and wore both during my trip.
5.) Biker shorts
Although my bag isn’t all shorts anymore, I want one pair if it is warm. They came in handy. I wear them on a hike in Scottsdale.
A sweatshirt is always a must in my suitcase. It is like a piece of home to me. This sweatshirt is moisturizer-wicking yet warm. My sweatshirt was a perfect top layer over my turtleneck the day we went to the Grand Canyon.
Flagstaff, Arizona, and surrounding areas are cold in winter. I bring a turtleneck to wear when walking around and add a layer underneath when hiking.
I always have jeans in my suitcase. Somehow I end up wearing them year-round. Jeans will be in my bag unless I am on an island off the Caribbean. I wear them walking around downtown Scottsdale and again when we go out for pizza after a cold hike in Flagstaff.
9.) Basic long-sleeve and short sleeve
When packing, I want to bring my cutest clothes, but once on the trip, I go for what is most comfortable. Throw on long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts to make packing simple, and you are likelier to wear them.
The Grand Canyon is 6804 feet in elevation and very windy. With cooler temperatures, you need layers to stay warm. A hat is what I need to make sure my ears stay warm while visiting the Grand Cayon.
The temperatures in Flagstaff were 14 degrees on the morning of our hike. While the sun is out, nothing makes 14 degrees feel warm. I wear a pair of thick North Face Gloves, and my hands stay warm throughout our hike.
12.) Comfy Pajamas
When I pack light, by the end of the trip every piece of clothing is dirty. I pack a comfy pair of pajamas that stays nice and clean. Even if you aren’t a pajama fan, it’s nice to put on a clean pair of clothes at the end of a cold wet hike.
13.) Hiking socks
Keeping hands and feet warm is a crucial element of winter hiking. I wear a pair of Bombas socks and my wool hiking socks from REI.
I take pictures of everything. It’s nice to have a phone to snap pictures on, but a professional camera is how I get the good shots. If a large professional camera is too much for you bring a small compact digital camera like the Sony a500 or the Canon Powershot.
15.) Camera Bag
If I am going to lug around a big heavy camera I am going to have a backpack to put it in. While I have used my LowPro bag for years I recently got a Brevite backpack so I could fit my laptop and camera bag in one. While I didn’t bring my laptop hiking the Brevite camera bag is a great hiking backpack too. There is a zipper on the side for easy access to the camera. That is a gamechanger when I am trying to pull out my camera on the fly.
16.) Travel Journal
Almost immediately after returning from a trip, I forget what we did and write everything down. Traveling can be busy, so I don’t write novels, but I jot down a few notes about the trip while it is fresh in my mind.
Headphones are essential for an excellent airport experience. You don’t want to be stuck on the plane with nothing to do. I like downloading a few shows on Netflix and tuning out the world until landing.
Air Pods Max
Arizona’s bright sun beats down on me the whole trip. There isn’t a cloud in sight or tree coverage to hide from the shade. The sun is bright. I wear sunscreen on every hike.
The air in Arizona is dryer than in others. The first time I ever went to Arizona I was shocked at how straight my hair was. Being from the humid and wet state of North Carolina, I couldn’t believe the effect the hot dry air had on my hair. It’s the same problem for the skin. Especially if you are prone to dry skin I recommend bringing along some moisturizer.
Packing for winter hiking in Arizona doesn’t have to be over the top.
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