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Jordan Trail - a bit more extreme hiking

Jordan Trail - a bit more extreme hiking

...and what not to forget to pack for the desert

We at 68travel occasionally venture off the usual travel and hiking trails.

Like this time, for example, when we headed to Jordan.

Yes, there was also the classic - swimming in the Dead Sea and trying to swim in it on your belly. I recommend everyone to try it, but like us, you will find that you just can't do it! :)

We didn't miss the historic Petra, swimming in the Red Sea or the famous Wadi Rum.

So much of the itinerary of most casual visitors to the country called Jordan. We devoted about two days of our total program to it, but it was worth seeing.

Our main goal, however, was to hike part of the Jordan Trail, which very few people do. At least for now...

We experienced, and enjoyed as much as possible, 5 days on it, during which we walked a little over 100 km through the Jordanian desert. And since we write about the outdoors and try to be a helpful advisor on the equipment one needs for different types of adventure treks, this article has some good tips on what to pack for the dry canyons and deserts.

Top 10 things we couldn't miss on our trek:

  1. good backpack with a quality back system
  2. reliable water filter
  3. comfortable sleeping mattress
  4. light and high quality tent (ideally with a view of the stars) + floor
  5. sleeping bag "just the right one"
  6. food having as little weight as possible but with enough energy
  7. compact stove and lightweight pot
  8. good headlamp
  9. chargers/batteries
  10. properly broken-in shoes + shoe covers against sand and pebbles
  11. pocket knife
  12. what we didn't have and should have had: a hat with a neck apron, proper sunscreen, lip balm and wet wipes :)

The complete list of the contents of our backpacks for the 5-day walk is summarized at the end of the article.

1. Reliable water filter

The basic and really no.1 thing you can't do without on a trek of this type. Apart from us, we only met one group of hikers on the whole trail, so we can't really compare the different filtration systems used by others. The local goats and camels made do with unfiltered water, and the female hikers from Germany had an unnamed filter that took a really incredibly long time to filter, with a very slow drip of filtered water.

We had a tried and tested a UV pen, but in the end it only served as a backup. We decided to test the new GRAYL filter bottle. Filtering with it was fast and efficient, at the first stop we filtered about 20 liters of water in about 15-20 minutes. The bonus was that the water was clear after filtration and there were no odors or smells - something we remember from years of filtering with tablets. It was never exactly appealing to drink after that. If you've experienced it, you know what I'm talking about ;)

We used a GRAYL 400 ml filter bottle, and we were able to filter this volume in 8-10 seconds. There is now an improved version of the UltraPress 500 ml, the main benefit is the top drinking opening and better grip. If you'd like a larger volume bottle, there's also the GeoPress 700 ml.

They all come in several colour alternatives and we always recommend packing a GRAYL spare filter that simply screws onto the bottle to be on the safe side. It has a lifespan of 100-300 litres, but this also largely depends on how dirty water you are filtering. In Jordan, we drank water that looked pretty dull and unusable before filtering, so the filter wore off faster. So it's always good to have a back-up as well. Especially when you're a few days march from the nearest civilization... ;)

2. Good backpack with a quality back system

When you're hiking from morning to night with a backpack packed for 5 days, which includes not only camping stuff and clothes, but also food and water, a comfortable and good quality backpack really matters. Ideally with a good back system and preferably not too heavy, as you feel every 100 grams of weight more and more with every kilometre. Good backpacks - if they have to withstand something - usually also have their higher weight. It's a good idea to choose the right ratio and definitely go for longer routes with a tried and tested backpack. Whether we choose a classic heavier backpack or something from the ultralight range is up to each of us.

From the classics it is for example Deuter (for women it is more suitable SL version) or Ferrino. Both are brands that have been perfecting their backpacks for decades and know what they're doing. We recommend backpacks with a 60-70-80 litre capacity - depending on how much your tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag are lightened and scaled down ;)

And then there's a separate category, which is our backpacks from the well-known ultralight brand SixMoonDesigns. Here it's a bit more specific because each backpack consists of three separate parts (the pack itself, the shoulder system and the hip system). But feel free to contact us if you need any advice. We are going to test SMD's backpack as well - on an 8 day trek in Oman.

3. Comfortable and lightweight sleeping mattress

We've had different models, but what I can say in good conscience is that the Therm-a-rest has served us well for years. Not just for us but worldwide. If you don't mind the larger volume and clipping it to the outside of your backpack, the "old classic" in the form of the indestructible Z lite or Z Lite Sol is a great solution. These models pack up in seconds, no need to inflate and deflate, don't mind when the dew falls on them or they get wet, and you can promptly roll out on them during the day. Or use them as a seat cushion during your lunch break on the trail.

If you want to save weight as well as space (and don't mind saving less on your wallet), then there are lightweight and stackable models, which will especially please your back (during the day but also at night). Some of the best include, for example, one of the World's Top Mattresses last year - the NeoAir Uberlite, or the more economical Prolite. The latest hit is the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite, a more durable and less "rustly" version compared to the Uberlite. Just a bit heavier.

For inflatable mattresses, I recommend using the inflatable bag that comes with the mattress because of the moisture that collects in the mattress when blowing into it. Unless you're sleeping in really cold temperatures, it doesn't play that big of a role in terms of insulation. This can then be solved at home by leaving the air mattress inflated for a few days and the accumulated drops inside will gradually disappear. On longer treks, however, this can accumulate to more than a few droplets of liquid.

One more small recommendation from my personal experience - at height 186 I decided for the first time for the Large version not the Regular. It's a bit of extra weight, but the few inches of the mattress in length but also in width were very much appreciated and I got a better quality sleep. And sleep is the most important thing on long treks - it's what determines your well-being, energy and good mood the whole next day, right? ;)

4. Lightweight and high quality tent *ideally with a view of the stars

We tested three different models from MSR, namely Elixir, Hubba and Access. Three levels of cult tents, from which one can choose just based on the purpose for which he wants to use the tent in the long term or a little bit based on his financial possibilities. Unless you plan on camping year-round, the Elixir is perfectly sufficient. The Elixir 1 is a very nice 2.16kg.

It can still be lightened as I did by indulging in the Hubba NX model. As I personally prefer a little extra space in the tent - whether for backpacking or simply to sleep more comfortably, in Jordan I used the Hubba Hubba NX2, which even in the 2-person version weighs only 1.76kg. The one is even only 1.33kg, making it a really perfect tent with an incredibly light weight.

The third model we had with us was the Access 2, which weighs 1.84kg, but it is a four-season tent that you can use in winter. All three models were more than adequate in Jordan specifically, I also enjoyed falling asleep under an incredibly starry sky on more than one occasion as the NX2 has a part of the tent made of transparent mesh. And I left the tropico to rest.

For similar summer hiking, the CarbonReflex ultralight tent would be very suitable, which is only 0.79kg in the single-person version and 0.99kg in the twin version. Or the more economical Zoic 2 summer model, weighing 2.19kg.

Price-wise, it's always in the order of 100-200 EUR upwards from Elixir to HubbaNX to Carbon to Access. However, if you do and plan to do multi-day treks, want to go "easy" and be able to rely on your tent, it's worth the investment.

As for tents, we definitely recommend buying a floor, it will protect you and your tent better ;)

5. Sleeping bag "just right"

Anyone who travels and camps more often and throughout the year is sure to have two or more sleeping bags. It's just not possible to equip yourself with one for every season, it's impossible.

And even when you have a choice of them at home, it's very difficult to pack exactly the sleeping bag you need on the spot - especially when you have a fluctuating weather forecast and a time of year when the weather is just not stable.

We were going to Jordan with night temperatures around 3-5 degrees. The snowfall in front of the city of Petra made us wonder if we would freeze at night, but the next day we were warmer rather than colder. Sometimes the weather just does what it wants :)

I personally tested the Ferrino Lightec 1000 down sleeping bag this time and I was very satisfied. Reasonable weight, not unnecessarily large and the nights in it were very comfortable.

A sleeping bag with a smaller weight - such as the Lightex 500 Duvet, where you can still save some weight - would also be sufficient in the conditions. But if it had been a little bit rainy, it would probably have been on the edge. I was happy with my choice of sleeping bag for this hike. However, if the rains were endured, for wet environments we recommend a sleeping bag with synthetic filling, like the one we tested on our last expedition to the Arctic Circle. There the Nightec 600 proved to be a good choice, although on the coldest nights the Nightec 800 would have also been useful, as the frost was already going a bit beyond the nails.

After I found out how much attention Mountain Equipment pays to the production of sleeping bags and how they have them so well made, I plan to test something from their offer on the next expedition. They are one of the world's top in feathers, I'm looking forward to the new experience!

6. Food with as little weight as possible but plenty of energy

For all similar multi-day hikes, especially those where you need to carry all your food with you, we use as much dry food as possible, which makes for a warm, filling, energy-dense meal in minutes.

For breakfast, I usually make muesli (mostly Mixit), which I supplement with plain oatmeal and freeze-dried fruit.

In terms of lunch and dinner, we've been happy with Summit to eat products for years. This time we packed the Chicken Tikka, Pasta with Salmon and Broccoli, Beef and Potatoes, and Fried Rice with Chicken. Everything was delicious and always comes in handy after a busy day.

Our tip: it is always more cost-effective to pack for two people. And also less weight-consuming to carry and then carry the waste - the packaging from the individual meals.

Next time, we'll be sure to pack dessert extras and a cheese scramble eggs.

AFter a few days one needs a bit of change, so we diversify our diet with durable sausages, homemade sausage, cheese and canned food. All this combined with bread, in Jordan the Arabic round one was the best, it lasted until the end of the hike.

And of course, cereal bars and some chocolates and stuff like that.

As energy and vitamin supplements, grape sugar and magnesium are standard in the backpack.

On the next expedition we will also test the well-known Danish brand TRAIL, if it proves its worth, we will add it to our web offer to make it even more varied.

7. Compact stove and a lightweight pot

Our main problem with cooking in Jordan was that there are only about two or three towns in the whole country where you can buy cartridges for gas stoves. In Agaba, where we flew into - despite it not being a small town at all - they don't sell gas cartridges at all. Carrying around a gas stove and especially gas for it was the last thing we wanted to deal with and so, albeit a bit more logistically and financially challenging, but with a positive outcome, we arranged to purchase gas cartridges in the country's capital. While we were testing the density of the salt water in the Dead Sea and stuffing ourselves in the lunch buffet, we sent our driver to Amman and he returned from there with three cartridges. That way we'd have an easier time walking. And with less petrol stink and worry about spilling it somewhere in our backpacks, too.

We have already tried different cookers. After years I can say that although there are various cheaper solutions, replacements or copies, I use the MSR Pocket Rocket (there is also a De Luxe version improved with automatic ignition) which is reliable and I have had mine for about 15 years and it still works. After our pilgrimage through Jordan and especially the previous experience from beyond the Arctic Circle in Sweden, I envy (in a good way) other expedition members this model, which I am going to add to the Windburner System for the next expedition and the top of the line is the MSR Reactor - so far the fastest outdoor cooking system ever invented.

8. Good headlamp

One shouldn't go on any hike without a good quality headlamp, in the case of a multi-day hike it's completely out of the question. Whether one needs to hike early in the morning or even late in the evening, or just to pitch a tent or cook in the evening, a headlamp is a necessary and good companion for a hiker/trekker. There are many brands on the market that make headlamps and many of them are of good quality. We have once again reached for the tried and tested quality over the years - we specifically recommend Petzl headlamps.

More basic models such as Tikka or Actic are perfectly adequate for everyday use, but it's worth going up a class. I used the Actic Core in Jordan, where there is already an option to use not only classic AAA flashlights (I had those in my backpack as a backup), but also a core battery that can be charged via USB.

If you are even more demanding and need an even stronger light beam, which is especially useful when running, cycling or night skiing, we recommend Swift RL or its version Swift PRO.

9. Chargers/batteries/adapters

It's not something you can't survive a 5-day trek without, but... after all, we already take photos on our phones, we have navigation on them, we write notes and experiences in them... and that's why it's better to have some juice in reserve. So we carry a powerbank with us. The optimal size for a trek of this length turned out to be 10000W capacity, which will charge the mobl 3-4 times - depending on the type of phone, of course.

Powerbanks are produced by many quality brands, we have tested SCROSS - a Swiss brand with which we have always been satisfied. We are particularly pleased with the practical small size and the weight is also very acceptable compared to many other powerbanks of the same capacity.

Depending on which country you're traveling from, it's a good idea to pack the right adapter so you can charge your powerbank in Jordan or elsewhere on the local power grid ;)

10. Properly broken-in shoes + shoe covers against sand and pebbles

Anyone who has hiked a longer trail, especially if it's a multi-day hike, already knows that it's wise to wear well-tested and well-trodden hiking shoes. For this trek we all chose low shoes and it was a good choice. However, we also really appreciated the ankle sleeves because if it weren't for them, we would have been picking pebbles and sand out of our shoes non-stop. Sometimes a small and light thing that doesn't even take up space in a backpack can do invaluable wonders ;)

Almost all of them did without any blisters. If any did appear, the Compeed patch was an effective countermeasure. They are one of the few with which one can pedal on quite comfortably even when blisters form.

11. Pocket knife

I don't go on any multi-day hike without a pocket knife with a can opener, bottle opener, possibly scissors, a penknife and other bonuses. It's basically a necessity for food preparation, and besides, you never know where along the trail you'll need to cut, trim, etc. Personally, I've been using Victorinox knives for years, they've never failed. I have about my fifth one now, but not because any previous one hasn't withstood my use, basically these knives are immortal and you can have one for life. As long as you don't occasionally forget to unload them from your carry-on into your main luggage and they don't take the knife from you at the airport. And Victorinox is very popular with thieves, which is also where one or two of my original "collection" ended up. I currently have a Forester and I'm most satisfied - I appreciate the models in the larger handle version, they hold better. Personally, I chose the wooden-handled version, it gives me a better feel and connection to nature ;)

12. Sunscreen, lip balm, repellent

"Little things" that are not worth forgetting. Especially in the desert, but also in rocky canyons or random plateaus. Forgotten lip balm cost me a week's rehabilitation of dry lips. Nothing horrible, but it could have been avoided. I didn't forget the repellent, but in the end there was really no need for it. But I'd rather carry a smaller pack unnecessarily than have to fight insects without repellent and make camping unpleasant.


Comprehensive contents of our backpacks:

Sleeping - tent, extra floor to the tent, sleeping bag, car mattress, pillow either from your own clothes or inflatable

Clothes - merino shirts and underwear, minika, waterproof jacket, shorts, long trousers, socks, neck scarf, cap (also warm for the evening), thin gloves

Cooking and food - cooker, pot/pot, mug, dehydrated food, fresh food, cereal and protein bars, grape sugar, vitamins/sparkling tablets, teas, a bit of salt, sugar, garlic, oil - according to the taste and difficulty of the eater :)

Toiletries - toothbrush and toothpaste (smallest size toothpaste possible - either leftover larger or mini toothpaste, small bar of soap, sunscreen, lip balm, repellent

Other equipment - basic first aid kit, patches, electronics (cell phone, chargers/cables/reducers/powerbank), waterproof case for documents, money belt (for those who prefer to carry their documents and valuables around their waist - especially suitable in cities)

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