What to bring
A golden rule of hiking is to go light. Whatever you bring, stick to essentials. It can be surprising to see how little you really need, especially when accompanied by Bedouin guides who typically travel with a minimum of possessions, relying on their natural resourcefulness to find what they need along the way or otherwise improvise. Carrying less helps when hiking the Wadi Rum Trail; loose paths, tricky scrambles and rock climbs are all easier with lighter loads and camels will appreciate hikers keeping baggage to a minimum too. When supported by camels hikers will typically need to bring two backpacks; a daypack and a camel bag. Hikers will carry a daypack most of the way, from the time a hike is started in the morning to the evening camp. Camel bags are carried on a different route and will not usually be accessible during the day. 25-30 litres is sufficient for all the daypack essentials: a daily supply of water, lunch and snacks and a warm, waterproof layer, along with a small personal first aid kit, a flashlight and other useful odds and ends like spare batteries, a penknife and personal items. Sleeping gear, extra clothes, wash kits and other gear required in the evenings can be sent in camel bags. Camel bags should not be angular or hard-framed; luggage of this kind can rub painful sores into a camel's back over a long journey. A 40-50 litre backpack is the best option for a camel bag and it can double as the bag used for sections of the trail on which hikers will carry all they need for overnight bivvies, including on Jebel Rum and perhaps also on Jebel Um Adami. Sleeping bags, warm blankets and tents can sometimes be provided by Bedouin operators in Wadi Rum and perhaps climbing equipment such as ropes but always check before arrival, especially with climbing equipment.
Whatever footwear is chosen, do not bring anything old or near the end of its life. Wadi Rum's trails are broken and rugged and its smooth, sloping sandstone crags put stresses on every part of a shoe. Boots give the best protection but can feel hot, heavy and cumbersome in the desert. Specialist hiking or trail-running shoes are the best all-round option. Hiking sandals are excellent when walking in open wadis and plains and are a comfortable option for evening camps but are not suited to the mountaineering sections of the route. Climbing shoes are also unnecessary on the Wadi Rum Trail, even for its climbing sections; these are all at easier grades and incorporate lengthy sections of walking and scrambling. Blisters are a common affliction for hikers so air feet regularly and use a tape to strap any newly-developing hot spots.
A good night’s sleep is key to a successful journey. Feeling well rested and recuperated makes a big difference over a long wilderness hike. With wild camping the only option on most of the route a good sleeping bag is key. One with a sub-zero rating is important in colder seasons, when temperatures can dip below freezing, especially on high peaks like Jebel Rum. Sleeping mats give a warmer, more comfortable sleep, but inflatable Thermarest-style options should be avoided; the desert is full of thorny vegetation and they're susceptible to punctures. Ordinary closed-cell foam mats are the best option. Tents give security in bad weather and many hikers appreciate having a barrier against snakes, scorpions and other desert critters, along with the feeling of their own private space. Bivvy bags are a good alternative option.
Bring a combination of layers to add or remove according to the conditions. Clothes that cover the full length of your arms and legs give the best protection against the desert sun. They are more culturally appropriate in a Bedouin setting too, for both men and women. With trousers, be sure they do not constrict your leg movements or prevent you reaching up to high footholds. Headgear is important too. A baseball cap or wide brimmed hat is a decent option for sunny weather and a woolly hat for colder times, but the traditional Bedouin headwrap or shemagh is perhaps best of all. It is warm in the cold and gives protection from the sun and can be wrapped around the face in a sandstorm. From an arm sling to a canopy and short rope it has may other uses too and is one item of clothing the Bedouin are almost never seen without.
Climbing gear is required for the Wadi Rum Trail and may be required to protect both its scrambling and climbing sections. It will also be essential for the descent of Jebel Rum, which involves multiple long abseils. Climbing equipment is in high demand in Wadi Rum and can be hard to find, especially the full range recommended for the Wadi Rum Trail. The easiest option is to bring all your own gear from home, although for hikers moving into climbing for the first time this will be a significant expense. Otherwise check with your Bedouin climbing guide what equipment will be available on the dates you need it and source the remaning essentials before you arrive. It is recommended hikers have at the least their own harness and helmet. A full outline of recommended gear is found in the section Climbing Jebel Rum.
Thermals - For legs & upper body, in colder seasons. Avoid cotton thermals, which can get wet & soggy on strenuous hikes.
T-shirts - Ideally long-sleeved. Shirts whose collars can be turned up against the sun work well too. Expect to use one for every 3-4 days on-trail. As with thermals, avoid cottons.
Warm layer - 2 warm layers e.g. thick fleece & down jacket.
Waterproof - Breatheable materials like GORE-TEX are best. Always keep in daypacks in case of rain.
Trousers - Avoid shorts. Full length trousers are best. Make sure they give your legs full flexibility when climbing.
Socks & underwear - One pair per 2-3 days on trail.
Headwear - Baseball cap/ wide brimmed sun hat/ warm hat in winter or a Bedouin shemagh. Avoid Buff type headwear which is too thin to give adequate protection from the sun or cold.
Starting a fire is always important in the desert, so bring cigarette lighters. Windproof, blowtorch-type models are best. A penknife has many uses and should always be carried. Flashlights are essential, with headlamps the best option; these leave hands free for eating, unzipping tents, rummaging in bags etc. Do not forget spare batteries. Tough, durable water bottles with a combined capacity of at least 4.5 litres should be bought. Bladder bottles with drinking hoses encourage regular drinking but it's hard to know how much water is left. The Bedouin will carry cooking equipment; bring a personal plate, mug and cutlery. A toothbrush, toothpaste and perhaps wet wipes for cleaning are essential. Pocket tissues will suffice for toilet trips. A first aid kit with plasters, painkillers, anti-diarrhoeals and rehydration salts is a must-have.
Bring any specialist food or snacks from home. Pocket binoculars are good for getting a closer look at climbing lines and admiring desert wildlife and faraway vistas. Many hikers bring DSLR cameras but be warned windblown sand can damage these beyond repair so keep them in cases and carry enough spare batteries and memory cards. Solar panels are good for charging electrical gear like phones or tablets. Whilst there is no phone reception on most of the Wadi Rum Trail, calls can usually be made on Jebel Rum's summit and a variable 3G signal picked up. Hikers wanting to stay in touch with the outside world can consider a satellite phone. Some modern GPS units can send and receive messages without an internet connection too. Small spot devices can send messages and SOS signals in the event of an emergency on the trail.
Baggage - 25-30 litre capacity daypack; 40-50 litre backpack for use as a camel bag & main bag on traverse of Jebel Rum.
Footwear - specialist hiking shoes or trail runners; hiking sandals for easy wadis. Zinc oxide tape to avoid blisters.
Sleeping gear - sleeping bag, with sub zero rating in winter. Non-inflatable sleeping mat, plus tent or bivvy bag.
Climbing equipment - at a minimum, a harness. Ropes, screw carabiners, descending devices, slings & climbing nuts are also important. For further guidance see Climbing Jebel Rum.
Other essentials - Cigarette lighters, penknife, headlamp & spare batteries, water bottles, plate, mug, cutlery, wash kit, paper tissues & well-stocked personal first-aid kit.
Other desirables - specialist food & snacks, pocket binoculars, camera plus spare batteries & memory cards, solar panels, satellite phone, GPS unit or spot device for communication.