Hello my fellow hiker! Brice from Vaucluse Gear here to share with you my first experience hiking the trails northeast of Phoenix, Arizona, called the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Southern Range (based on how they describe it on the map).

Absolutely unbelievable!

This was my first hike here, so if you've been here before and this sounds like a pretty basic description forgive me, because it’s my first time, absolutely completely new to the area. I'm going to be sharing probably several hikes in this area, because I just moved out here and thought it would be nice to share my takeaways, you know, having just moved to Phoenix.

Scottsdale Arizona - McDowell Sonoran Preserve

I thought it was going to be flat. That it would look like a desert. Absolutely not! I'm happily surprised that there is a whole lot more to discover. This range, I guess I can call it a range because there are definitely mountains as well. I had no idea there were that many mountains! I mean, some are almost 4000 feet high! So my objective for this hike was to climb up what's called Tom's Thumb, which is at 3800 feet. It was a moderate incline up, and the summer temperatures started at around 78 degrees.

I think, around 45 minutes into the hike, it was about 83 degrees. When you start climbing at upper elevations or do even a slight incline in hot weather, it gets pretty tiring. So I decided to turn back around and walk on flatter ground. Absolutely no problem. I'm going back, it was just way too hard this day.

I didn't reach my objective of going up Tom’s Thumb to have a beautiful view of Scottsdale, the Preserve, Phoenix, etc. However, I was blown away by all the different types of cactus out there. Absolutely incredible! So I'm going to share a lot of pictures of cactus I've never, ever seen.

Looking at what they call the Seguros, I could never say that word. I mean I thought they were like 10, 15 feet high but these things were massive. I've never seen a cactus this tall and there were lots of them! First, there's just one bigger cactus, then I saw another big one and then another bigger than the previous, and another one bigger than that previous, and they just kept getting bigger. There were all these other cacti, some tiny, some mid-size, then a little bigger, and then the ginormous one!


Sweat less when backpacking
Massive cactus McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Backpack Airflow System - Sweat Less in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

What also struck me is how green it was. You know, you think if you're flying out to Phoenix and you're going to the desert. Well, then you're not too familiar with Arizona. There's a huge difference between the northern and southern parts of the state, and I would say you can start seeing the change by the northeast side of Phoenix. So I was blown away by how green it was – absolutely, incredibly verdant green!

Overall we hiked about one hour and 21 minutes. We had anticipated hiking for probably two hours, but it definitely started getting hot. So if you want to go and sweat all the way up, you're going to have a great view but… what I did find is that it’s okay to turn around instead of doing the incline, and saying look, I'll do this later when I feel up to it.

  • Weather - The temperature started at 78 F and ended at 83F.
  • Time on trail: 1h21
  • Distance around 4 miles.
  • Elevation gain 570 feet.

You can review all the stats of the hike on my Strava account by clicking here.

I really didn't sweat so much and I am a big sweater. I sweat if there's any type of heat and, if my muscles have to really work, I'm going to sweat. On the downhill, overheating or sweating was not really a problem (the elevation gain was only 500 feet). We did not get up to Tom’s Thumb, which I did not mind, but it's definitely staying on my to-do list.

It was a great first hike, and the last thing that I want to share is that Vaucluse Gear is known for its Cool Dry Backpack Frame, which I have right here. As you can see, it's just a separator between your pack and your back. So today, there was a cool breeze and that's what I really enjoyed on the hike, how I could feel that breeze on my back even when I was going up the incline and sweating. I was definitely getting hot and this definitely gave me some relief. Otherwise, if you have a backpack just sitting on your back, you're just going to sweat, sweat sweat. But this Cool Dry Frame helped, especially on the way up.

I could also definitely feel how, on the way down, it was much easier on my whole body. I felt absolutely comfortable. The Cool Dry Frame is easily attached to my backpack, which is a 15-liter, Osprey Daylight. You can attach this Cool Dry Frame to any style backpack. These clips go around the strap and you just attach them to any backpack that you want. Plus, there's Velcro to customize the fit.

Think about your favorite backpack. If you don't want to sweat as much with that nice backpack, and you don't want your best backpack to become a stinky sponge for sweat, use the Cool Dry Frame. It definitely helped me during this absolutely beautiful hike in the northeast part of Phoenix/Scottsdale.

I'll share more hiking trips from here now that it’s our new home. See you on the trails!

The Cool-Dry Frame by Vaucluse Gear

It's your best way to stay cool and dry with a backpack.

This lightweight (only 6 ounces), soft, durable, and flexible frame attaches directly to your backpack and creates a natural airflow between you and the pack without using mesh or other material that soaks up sweat and retains heat. This design maximizes airflow to keep your back cool and dry.

Sweat Check