Greetings, my fellow hikers! Today I am going to be taking you to the central region of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona, where you're going to find some extraordinary views while enjoying a very fun hike.

Hi, I'm Brice, president of Vaucluse Gear, where we love to sweat less and explore more. We are exploring a very straightforward hike, where the elevation gain is just under 300 feet. So if you're looking for an easy hike with perfect views of the desert, this hike is for you.

Let's dive in.

Hiking Review - Whiskey Trail, Black Hill Trail, and Power Line Trail

We are in the Mcdonald's Sonoran Preserve, north of Phoenix and just outside of Scottsdale, where you can get access – very quickly – to a choice of fun and easy trailheads and start hiking. I started at the Frail Field Mountain Trailhead (which you'll be able to see in my show notes, where I’ve provided links for how to get to this trailhead and how to find different trails.

I took three trails from this trailhead.

The first was the Whiskey Bottle Trail that walks you around the side of Frail Field Mountain (which has an elevation gain of 3,048 feet). I do believe there is a trail that walks you to the top, however, I just went around. I wanted something simple to do today and (oops, my apologies) I accidentally paused part of the hike on my AllTrails app. So if you want to see what's not included in this Alltrails map, you can jump over to my Strava account. That link is also below.

The second trail was Power Line Road and this is straight and easy, as it follows the power lines. It does go slightly up and down in elevation, and you are going to encounter other types of outdoor activities. Like horseback riding, which I got to see while hiking! I do think that other outdoor vehicles, like trucks and 4x4’s take this trail as well.

The third trail was the Black Hill Trail and this your basic hiking trail: flat with a few bends. If you don't want to “think” while hiking and just want to put one foot in front of the other, this is a great trail. You just hike and get great views of the desert.

Overall, my total distance hiked was 6.63 miles, with an elevation gain of 281 feet, and the total time spent was two hours and 24 minutes. We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time since it was mostly flat, and the temperature started around 43ºF and sent up to 56ºF with sunny skies, as always in Arizona.

Here are the hiking stats:

  • Weather - Overcast with temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit. (Full overview of the area)
  • Time on trail: 2h24
  • Distance hiked was 6.63 miles.
  • Elevation gain was 281 feet.

Strava Tracking: You can review the hike's stats on my Strava account by clicking here.

AllTrails Tracking: You can review the trail on my AllTrails account by clicking here.


Backpack Airflow System - Sweat Less in Arizona

For my gear review, I took with me this Gregory Zulu 40-L pack. You can find it online for about $195 and it has what they call a “free float,” or ventilated suspension. The backpack itself is made out of HDPE polyethylene material, weighs 2.9 lbs, and the curved frame is made from 4-millimeter alloy steel and fiberglass (what they call an “anti-barreling stay”). Honestly, I don't exactly know what that means.

It's a nice backpack, but at about three pounds while empty, it gets pretty heavy.

I tested this backpack with my Vaucluse Gear Cool Dry Frame (found here). I will say that, while I was hiking with this backpack, its curved frame provided airflow right in the middle of my back, but on the top and the bottom, it did not. I equipped the backpack with a Govee Thermo Hygrometer; it's a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer, and I just put it in here so I could track my back temperature.

I noticed that after about 45 minutes of hiking, my back was getting hot. There was some wind but as you can see from the chart, the thermal temperature of my back was definitely increasing. In addition to the backpack weighing in at just under three pounds, I probably had an additional 3 pounds.

Now this backpack is a lot heavier than what I usually use. This was probably twice as heavy as what I normally wear (a 22-liter). So I was having difficulties and was, for the most part, uncomfortable because I could definitely feel the heat. It's a heavy backpack and it's heavy because, for the most part, it's the frame. This is a beautiful backpack but its curved design frame makes it very heavy.

My back temperature was climbing over 65ºF and the outside temperature was climbing as well. So there really wasn't much of a cooling effect as I was hiking. The temperature kept increasing, as did my back temperature. I made a complete rest stop just over an hour into the hike because, even though it was flat, I was tired. This large backpack was causing me problems. I just wasn't used to the weight.

When I put my Cool Dry Frame on, I opted for the black model (this one shown is the white model). I could tell that my back temperature was more stable as the Govee thermometer was telling me it was happening. The outside temperature continued to increase from 50ºF to about 56ºF.

Now, as the temperature kept increasing, my back temperature was staying much more constant.

The chart shows that peak temperature between wearing and not wearing the Cool Dry Frame was just one degree. That is true. However, there are a few points to consider.

I wonder how hot my back would have been with just the Gregory pack, had I not paused to rest? Remember, I paused to rest about 45 minutes into the hike because I was carrying what felt like a lot of weight and I was definitely feeling the heat. I needed to pause and that lowered my back temperature.

The Cool Dry Frame provided more consistency in my back temperature.

The outside temperature continued to increase while the Cool Dry Frame kept my back at a constant cooler and more stable temperature, which definitely made a difference.

What could have been my back’s peak temperature with only the Gregory 40-L Zulu? I don't know. All I know is it kept going up. I will test this out at a later date and assume that I'm going to need probably more than a 40-L, and probably at least two hours to really get a sense of how back temperature performs with this backpack. Because 45 minutes isn't enough overall.

I did notice that the Vaucluse Gear Cool Dry Frame definitely made a difference. That's my personal opinion but… At the same time, the statistics do show that it kept my back at a more stable temperature. So I was happy to have this Cool Dry Frame and, as you can see, it's very flexible and light. If I went with a lighter backpack with this type of frame, I think overall I'd be really good to go.

So that's my review of this hike and the Vaucluse Gear Cool Dry Frame with a Gregory backpack.

Here’s to sweating less. See you on the trails!

You can read our 5-star customer reviews by clicking here. Yes, this gear works.

Sweat less when backpacking
Gregory Zulu 40L Backpack

The Cool-Dry Frame by Vaucluse

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