Arizona Trail Race: The Gear

Each product we build opens us up to new possibilities to indulge in. Each indulgence becomes a learning opportunity and ultimately leads to that next place. After I'd completed the Tour Divide in 2009 I commited myself to attempting more technical, potentially more difficult Ultra races. The Arizona Trail Race is one of those races. The Arizona Trail is rocky, steep, and often unforgiving. It is a difficult thing of beauty. It was a perfect pairing for the Spearfish and an opportunity for me to play with some new ideas. 

Kentucky Camp, a welcome water stop

Just as when we toured the Central Coast back in the fall of 2010, I plugged all of my gear weight into an Excel spreadsheet. Weights are listed *skin out* meaning everything I wore, carried, and pedaled, except food.  This is a detailed (geek) way to determine how much I am carrying, where I am carrying it, and potentially what I can eliminate from my kit. 

The bike as shown (roughly 28.76 lbs)

  • Salsa Cycles Spearfish XL, pilot production frame (subtle differences from final production)
  • Rock Shox tapered Reba fork
  • Stan's Arch rims laced to DT 240 hubs
  • Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.2 EVO Tires (both set up tubeless using Stan's sealant)
  • Cane Creek headset
  • SRAM/Shimano 3x9-speed drivetrain (XO grip shifters & derailleurs, XTR cranks)
  • SRAM XX F&R brakes (160 front, 140 rear rotors)
  • Salsa Carbon Lowrise handlebar, ESI 'fat' Silicone grips
  • Thomson seatpost and stem
  • WTB SST titanium saddle
  • Revelate frame bag and Gas Tank (These are the first Spearfish bags Eric has built and they turned out incredible)

Navigation, zip-tied to the handlebars (included in bike weight)

  • Garmin Colorado 400t (uses AA batteries, extras carried in frame bag)

Strapped to the handlebars using two simple nylon straps from the Salsa Anything Cage (1.55 lbs)

  • Thermarest NeoAir 3/4 length sleeping pad
  • P.O.E. stuff sack from the pad (held both the ground cloth and the pad)
  • Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Solo sil-nylon tarp
  • Fenix LD20 AA flashlight mounted using a Two-Fish strap

In the seatbag from front (seatpost) to back (4.11 lbs)

  • Jacks R Better Sierra Snivler 20 degree quilt, long
  • Granite Gear large double ended sil-nylon stuff sack
  • Montbell down sweater
  • Ibex merino wool beanie
  • SL2 knee high compression socks
  • Gore rain jacket (chest pocket held ear plugs, Mountain Laurel Designs Event rain mitts, and head size bug net)
  • Shower's Pass Event rain pants (custom tailored to knicker length)

In the frame bag (3.27 lbs)

  • 4L MSR Dromlite bladder with drinking hose
  • 2 innertubes (in plastic bag to eliminate chafing)
  • Extra AA batteries for lights and/or GPS (I took extra batteries and put fresh (8) in my handlebar mounted light, headlamp, and GPS)
  • Bike/Personal maintenance and emergency bag (contents include:  Leatherman with pliers and knife, Lezyne multi-tool with chain tool, Dumonde Tech chain lube, tire lever, presta to schrader adapter, patch kit (glue and sticker types), tire boot, power link, 2 sets brake pads, 7 zip ties, sewing needle, nylon thread, 30 feet of light nylon cord, bandaids, first aid-cream, pencil with 3 meters duct and sports tape wrapped around it, water treatment for 5-10L of water, 2 C02 cartridges and head)   
  • Personal Hygiene bag (contents include: handy wipes for business, chamois cream packets for each day)

In Osprey Manta 25 Backpack (2.37 lbs)

  • 4L MSR Dromlite bladder with drinking hose
  • SPF 45 Sunscreen
  • SPF 45 Lip Balm
  • 1L Platypus bladder
  • Soft bag with clear lenses for sunglasses
  • Cell phone
  • Camera
  • Aloksak Wallet with cards, cash
  • SPOT device (that I apparently never set properly)

In the Gas Tank (included in frame bag weight)

  • CLIF bars
  • Emergen'c powdered drink mix (orange and raspberry)

Worn and/or carried in my jersey from top to bottom (6.32lbs)

  • Lazer Genesis helmet
  • Princeton Tec Swerve rear tailight and Apex headlamp strapped to my helmet
  • Pace cotton riding cap
  • Oakley Jawbone sunglasses (the optics of the Jawbones continue to impress me)
  • Ibex merino long sleeve 1/4 zip base layer
  • Salsa Cycles jersey
  • Fox Incline full finger gloves
  • Salsa Team shorts
  • Pearl Izumi knee warmers
  • Smartwool socks
  • Pearl Izumi Alp-X Pro Carbon shoes

Total Skin Out Dry Weight (does not include nutrition and water) (46.39 lbs)

Weight of gear worn (does not include nutrition and water) (6.32 lbs)

Weight of gear carried or pedaled (does not include nutrition and water) (37.69 lbs)

Total weight with food and 3L water was not measured at the beginning (estimated at sub-50 lbs)

Stopping for sunrise enroute to Molino Saddle and the climb up Mt. Lemmon

Not knowing the AZT 300 route I went a bit more conservative and carried quite a bit of gear. I contemplated not carrying my quilt, sleep mat, and tarp. Given the temperatures and conditions this year I absolutely could have gotten away with this. When I did stop for 4-5 hours of sleep after 36+ hours on the move, I barely got my kit out before I fell asleep. It is said that we carry our fears when aiming to travel light. For me, these fears are of getting cold and wet. This year the AZT dished out higher than normal temperatures. In the past there has been snow. In the future, I'll likely make these decisions at the last minute and leave what I don't need behind. I find that the less I carry the more freedom I have, not to mention more space for burritos and potato chips.

Heading back to the AZT from Sonoita, enroute to Kentucky camp

Now that I have some understanding of the route I'll definitely carry enough (probably too many) calories to make the finish. I had a hard time taking in the calories and getting my body to absorb them in the heat. I was constantly aware of my nutrition woes and suspected the heat as culprit. It was the same feeling I had during the DK200 last year. When the sun began to set my energy level and strength would soar. The miles seemed to come effortlessly. It likely played into my taking too few calories from Summerhaven. 

I started the race with 6 CLIF bars, 6 packs of CLIF Blocks (with caffeine), and an enormous bag of trail mix that was primarily nuts. This was supplemented with sandwiches, ice cream, and soda in Sonoita that I carried through the first night. Kurt Refsnider and I stopped for Mt. Dew at the Saguaro National Park visitor center and each carried a couple up Redington to savor at the beginning of the 4WD trail and again at sunrise on the approach to Molino Saddle. When we reached the Catalina Highway I was having a tough time eating the trail mix and CLIF bars that I had. I was literally choking them down knowing my body needed nutrition. Hydration was a constant, but I did manage to get in enough water along the way. In Summerhaven I took a long-ish, hour-or-so break to eat and rest before tackling Oracle Ridge. From there it was a push down Oracle and across the pipeline...where I realized I had too few calories to make Superior. 

I do wonder how deep I would have gone if I'd tried to push to the finish, but I know it will still be there next year and I'll take a very similar approach if I have the opportunity to show up again.

I hope this information is of help to those of you considering doing the AZT Race or a similar adventure.

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Mountain Biking Spearfish Ultra Racing

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Joe Meiser

Joe Meiser

I've had a lot of good luck and made a series of choices to be working for the brand and in the bike industry. In 2007 I signed up for the TransIowa just to see if I could complete it. I completed it and discovered a few things about myself in the process. Adventure cycling has been in my blood ever since.


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Tom King | May 12th, 2011

I will sometime do the AZT but not in a race.  I thank you for sharing your experience with us so we can learn from you. 

Thank you again.

Erik Mathy | May 12th, 2011

Making notes, as always! Nice setup, man. I recognize alot of it from the Central Coast.

Outsider/Yeti | May 15th, 2011

Very thought through, as always. That the frame bag actually is usable is interesting. I gave up on a frame bag for my FS bike, since I thought it would be too small, but I might have to reconsider that now, having seen your setup.

Errin | May 16th, 2011

Joe-You are no longer using your POE mattress? Why the change?


Joe | May 16th, 2011


I love the POE and will still use it.  Awhile back I recieved a gift certificate for Midwest Mountaineering and had a 20% off coupon.  Not needing/wanting anything else I decided on a Short NeoAir to try.  It’s a few grams lighter and takes a bit less to fill than the full length POE.  However, it isn’t nearly as comfortable being that it is short.  It didn’t matter this trip.  By the time I stopped on Saturday night I could have slept on a prickly pear…

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