The Pacific Crest Trail
In 2022 I thru hiked the 2,653 mile (4,269km) Pacific Crest Trail. In this article I review all the gear that I used but have also tried to offer many great alternative options which lean more on the side of comfort, while still being very light weight as well!
- Start – May 10th
- Finish – Aug 1st
- 84 days
- 31.5mi / 50km per day average
My baseweight for this trip was 6.5lbs (or 2.9kg) a very minimal style of going about a multi month thru hike in the wilderness. I never found that I wanted more or that I was missing anything. My gear stayed the exact same for the entire trail, and If I were to do this again I would use nearly the same kit as I was quite happy with it.
My Lighterpack, as I know many like to compare: https://lighterpack.com/r/ub8e5c
So although this gear worked really great for me there is definitely a balance to be found within ultralight backpacking, and I think most people would really benefit from just a couple small changes here and there. Swapping out my shelter for something like a Zpacks Plex Solo Tent or Duplex Tent. Carrying a Thermarest Neoair Xlite instead of my small foam pad. Adding a puffy jacket like the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Pullover in addition to a light fleece, or instead of. These changes would add just a couple of pounds, but would make your life at camp a whole lot more comfortable, while my trip was definitely focused solely on the hiking. We’ll talk more about this below.
I have wanted to do a review of my entire PCT gear list, as maybe it could be valuable to see what worked for me. The PCT is quite popular, and considered the most premier long distance hiking path in the US, if not the entire world. So having as much information out there about it I think is a great thing. Especially from all kinds of different sources and styles. I personally would have loved to of had this information before I set out to do it myself, so I hope this article holds a lot of value.
I think regardless of pace having an ultralight setup can be beneficial to anyone, even if you don’t care for super minimalism or aren’t going after some kind of speed goal. Since overuse injuries are so common on a long trail like the PCT a heavy gear list is only going to add extra strain on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. This is a 2,653 mile hiking trail after all, and much of your time is spent lugging your pack up and down rugged mountain trails. Having an ultralight setup will definitely make that more enjoyable beyond just injury prevention. Still, as mentioned before it’s important to find a balance of happiness, comfort, and safety that will work for you.
So lets get into it. This is the gear I carried on my PCT thru hike.
If you’d like to read more about my hike including tons of statistics and useful information check this article out as well: https://jupiterhikes.com/2022/10/17/pacific-crest-trail-thru-hike-recap-2022/
My Big 3+
Backpack – Pa’lante V2
- 14.7oz / 416g
- 37 liters
- holds 4 water bottles on the sides
- many easy access pockets
- frameless, but does come with a hipbelt
I have always enjoyed Pa’lante Packs, having used them on every thru hike I’ve done since 2016. They are very thoughtfully designed, with an interesting V shape, and you can tell every detail is cared for and considered. The shoulder strap pockets make small items through the day easily accessible. While the bottom pocket stuffed with food allows me to keep hiking and snack on the go without having to take my pack off. They are frameless and minimal but with choice features to aid along the way.
The V2 in Ultraweave fabric held up well and would last another thru hike beyond this one. Though there was quite a bit of delamination inside, no major rips or tears overall. The Ultraweave is a waterproof fabric so no sagging or gained weight when it rained. I do (at this time) still prefer gridstop fabric though, even if it is a bit heavier, and not inherently waterproof. I think gridstop will last the longest, but you sacrifice some luxuries of these newer more technical fabrics.
The one thing that I do wish is that I got the larger 43 liter Desert Pack by Pa’lante instead, while the V2 is just 37L. Something as small as the V2 is great, but during such a long thru hike like the PCT it would have been nice to have some extra flexibility with volume. A small difference, but noticeable over the course of 4 months and many many resupplies of varying distances and sizes. I think the V2 is comfortable up to around 25lbs total, while the desert pack can definitely handle more weight on top of the added volume.
The pack itself is not taped at the seams so I also used a pack liner inside. Even if it were taped I would still use a pack liner.
Shelter – 7×9 Zpacks Tarp
- 5.6oz / 158g
This shelter I think is the perfect answer to the PCT. A trail where rain just isn’t that frequent, and you’ll be cowboy camping nearly every night a more robust shelter isn’t all that necessary for those wanting to go lighter. In fact, I only set this tarp up twice over the course of the entire hike, choosing to sleep under the stars every night instead. Why carry something heavier, when I am not going to even use it was my thought.
7×9 is personally as small as I am willing to go with tarps as they are so exposed. Any smaller and you just aren’t saving much weight, while making things potentially a lot more dangerous or miserable if you do get stuck in the rain. I’m not going to fit two people under my 7×9 but I am going to be happy and protected in a storm. I even think a 9×10 would be exponentially better for not that much extra weight. More protection, room for two, a true party tarp that would still be lighter than any tent in existence.
I started to run into mosquitoes in Oregon, and got lucky that they then mostly went away once in Washington. It’s a funny trail in that regard as timing is everything, you may start seeing hoards of mosquitoes as soon as the Sierra just 700 miles in, and they may never go away all the way to the end. So for those who would want more bug protection, I would go with the Zpacks Plex Solo Tent, or Zpacks Duplex Tent. Heavier than a tarp, but much more protection offered, a lot more comfortable, and a whole lot easier to use because of those reasons.
Since a tarp has no floor, I used a piece of polycryo. A more durable option would be tyvek, as poly gets shredded very quickly, while tyvek will last you the entire hike and then some. I chose poly because it is lighter, even though I knew I would need to replace it twice over the course of the trip. In the end I used three sheets of it. One through the desert, one for all of the Sierra and Norcal, then one for Oregon and Washington.
Tent Stakes – MSR Carbon Core
- 1.8oz / 51g
- 8 total
I used a small variety of tent stakes but in the end the MSR Carbon Core were my favorite. I also tried the Zpacks Carbon ones, and a Walmart special which had an X shape to them. The Zpacks one I found to break fairly easily while MSR has really held up to quite the smashing with a rock while trying to get them into harder ground. I would recommend being careful with them of course, and only smashing with a rock directly down into them and not at an angle to hopefully avoid breaking them. They are thicker than your average shepherds hook stake so they hold in the ground very well even when it’s on the softer side. They are also very light weight. Another instance of I hardly even used my shelter on the PCT so why carry anything heavier.
The Walmart ones were actually really good. Much heavier but because of the X shape (when looking down upon them) they hold in the ground better than anything. I think they’re made of aluminum, and were quite cheap. So when I did finally break one (on a future hike) it doesn’t matter because they’ve already lasted so long and are easily replaced.
- 17oz / 482g
- 30f / -1c temperature rating
- 950 fill rating
- Long / Regular size
I love my Enigma, and have been using this particular one for the past two years and a few thousand miles of thru hiking already! I definitely sleep kind of warm, so 30 degrees was perfect for me. Most I think would be happier with a 20 degree instead though. Especially for utmost comfort in all situations as I sometimes felt like I was riding that line and certainly had a few nights into the 20s. Still this hike can definitely be done with just 30, it depends on your comfort level and how much you want to shave a little weight. I thought my quilt was true to the temp rating and was happy with it the whole way.
I like the U shaped baffles of this quilt as the down doesn’t migrate in the night like with other quilts which have horizontal baffles. I think all of Enlightened quilts use the U shape design which is nice. Imagine waking up at 2am freezing because all your down insulation has fallen to your sides, leaving your core and legs exposed with only some thin fabric on top of them. No fun and something I’ve experienced with other brands.
I think Enlightened Equipment really stands out because of all the customization options they offer. Any color you could imagine, any possible size, different fill ratings, and all manner of temperature ratings you could ever need. Some companies just offer static options, while with EE you can really make it to your exact needs and wants. It’s fun to just go through sometime and play with the different options to see weight and how color combinations work. So EE is definitely at the very top in that regard, and having used quilts from a couple other companies I have still been happiest with my Enigma, and it worked great for my PCT hike. Very lightweight, packed down small, and kept me warm.
With a down quilt you definitely have to take care not to get it wet as the down will clump and no longer provide warmth when wet. Given the PCT and most of the west coast is such a dry environment, this isn’t a problem at all, and in my opinion down insulation is the way to go for it’s ability to pack down so small and be so much lighter weight. For a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail on the other hand which is known for its rain, I would probably use an Enlightened Equipment Enigma still, but with APEX insulation.
Sleeping pad – 1/8″ Foam cut to torso length
- 1.1oz / 31g
Certainly the most controversial item in this gear list is my sleeping pad. It’s extremely thin, does not provide much warmth, and really requires that I search very hard every day for ground that is on the softer side naturally to supplement the lack of comfort it provides. But hey it’s extremely light at just 1oz and over the years I have gotten quite good at finding a suitable campsite for it nightly. I also just happen to like a harder surface to sleep on.
Both because of my tarps lack of protection and my sleeping pads lack of warmth or comfort, campsite selection is extremely important to me. So here’s a few tips to help with that. Avoid rivers, lakes, and camping by any kind of water as it will be colder and there will be more bugs there. Animals also like water, so if you don’t want a visitor in the night keep that in mind as well. Avoid the tops of mountains as weather is often more extreme up there and the higher elevation is typically colder. Avoid camping in valleys as cold air usually settles there through the night. Somewhere in the middle will be warmer and more protected. Soft ground with natural duff like pine needles, leaves, soft sand, etc will be more comfortable, and also helps prevent water from pooling should a storm roll through! This type of ground cover lets water percolate away, while worn in compacted ground just allows water to to collect. I always look for natural cover like trees above or large bushes which creates for a warmer camp as those things trap heat underneath them. Rock walls, trees, and bushes also help block wind. And I never sleep in an open sky field as that makes for terrible condensation.
So that’s a lot to think about in regards to campsite selection! But overtime it is just natural for me and to look for these places without much consideration.
I think instead of what I use I would recommend others use a Thermarest Zlite, still a foam pad but much thicker, warmer, and more comfortable. Still with the advantage of foam in which it will never break, and is easy and fast to setup (just throw it on the ground.) You could even cut it down to torso length still, if you want to drop a little extra weight. For those wanting even more comfort and warmth the inflatable Thermarest Neoair Xlite is great, but takes a bit longer to setup, and could develop a hole if you aren’t careful with where you use it. The PCT is a rocky trail, and comfort is definitely something to consider in such an environment.
I think clothes can be a place where people carry a lot of weight and bulk that could be paired down, but it does come down to comfort. Some people just are colder, though often comfort can mean different things. Are sleep clothes necessary? No, but they are comfortable. Are spares of clothes that do the same thing as something else you’re already carrying? Not really, but they can be nice to have. So do as you please. What is enjoyable for one, doesn’t have to be that way for all.
Wind Pants – Bodywrapper Dance Pants
- 3.9oz / 110g
I have wanted to try these wind pants for such a long time and am super happy that I took the chance with them on this hike! These are not made for hiking, but instead for dancing. So because of that you could get them in fun colors, however I am not fun and thus black is what I chose. So why some dance pants? Well they are made truly for warming up a they are a fairly non breathable fabric that will trap your body heat in. Great for hiking, and super light weight!
These proved to be durable enough to last not just the PCT, but many hikes I have been on since. They trap heat in, and keep me warm. They are extremely light weight. They are extremely cheap! Like incredibly cheap, which is probably the biggest upside to these vs a more technical version from an outdoor manufacturer.
I found that I could hike in these comfortably in the cold, without overheating. Great for getting miles in the mornings, or late in the evenings. Great for hanging out in a windy place, or hiking through a windy area.
If you want wind pants but even lighter weight, I would go with the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Wind Pants instead. If you want warmer than wind pants, tights are your answer. I do not think both tights and wind pants are necessary though, just one or the other.
Beanie – Zpacks Fleece
- 1oz / 28g
This beanie has been on every backpacking trip I have ever been on, more than 13,000 miles worth of wear and tear. It could easily go another few years. It is comfortable, a good size, and about as light weight as it gets. I have loved it. The one downside for me is kind of silly, but sometimes it feels tooooo warm and I might prefer a thinner version which I can hike in for longer. Still I mostly use this while at camp, and it’s perfect to keep my noggin warm in bed or while stationary.
Rain Jacket – Enlightened Equipment Visp
- 5.8oz / 164g
This rain jacket kept me dry in the few storms I experienced up the trail, and it kept me warm when it was very windy. It is very lightweight, and made by a company I like. Prior to this I had never seen anything else made in the same fabric before, it looked space age, and originally that’s what drew me to it. After owning it and using it for 3 years it has no holes, all the zippers still work, and it still keeps me dry.
I like the ventilation it provides with the pit zips, allowing me to hike in it without overheating too drastically. Pit zips I think are a must in any hiking rain shell. The hood fits well, and it is long enough where it covers some of my butt, and I can pull it over my fanny pack to keep that dry too. Overall I think it’s a great fabric, and a great design. It isn’t some 3 layer goretex super heavy rain jacket, so I wouldn’t expect it to keep you dry in weeks worth of heavy rain, (no ultralight rain jacket will) but for a thru hike of the PCT it really is the perfect option.
I also think a FroggToggs Rain Jacket is a great option for this trail. The FroggToggs is probably the least durable rain jacket in existence, but it’s also extremely light weight, and extremely cheap (should you need to replace it.) It doesn’t rain that often on the PCT, and the trail itself is very well groomed, so you are unlikely to get it snagged on anything, and durability is less of a concern.
(As of writing the Visp Rain Jacket is currently not on their website, but I have gotten confirmation that it is returning in the fall of 2023)
Fleece – Kuiu Peloton 97
- 5.8oz / 164g
About as light of a fleece as you can get, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I could hike for hours in my KUIU each morning without overheating, I could hike with it on in the rain and still be warm, it has worked amazingly and has lasted 4 years with only one small hole on the shoulder to show for all it’s been through. It is the perfect jacket for a fast trail like the PCT, and for hikers wanting that kind of style of hike since it really excels at warmth while moving.
It does not do well in wind, but that’s what a rain jacket is for. It is breathable, and that’s probably why it does so well for me.
It is best for those who are either on the move, or in their quilt. So if you plan on hanging out at camp with friends, taking breaks in colder areas, or spending time more stationary and not moving, a puffy jacket will suit you much more. The fleece for my style of hiking however can’t be beat! So for those reasons I think most would be happier with a puffy jacket since it will keep you warmer in all situations. I would in this case use an Enlightened Equipment Torrid. Extremely ultralight for the amount of warmth it provides.
I don’t particularly love the company that makes the Peloton 97, so I will say I know of two small backpacking companies who are right now developing something better and more suited to the hiker which will hopefully be released by 2024. So keep an eye out for those! As of right now a Senchi jacket might be comparable, not as warm or durable, but even more ultralight.
The ever popular Melanzana is fairly heavy and a bit too warm compared to something like the Kuiu for what you want this type of item for. So instead of a Melanzana I would just bring a puffy jacket like the Torrid which would be warmer and lighter weight.
Sunglasses – Ombraz Viale
- 0.8oz / 22g
I loved these sunglasses, and I’m not even a sunglasses kind of person. I think in the exposed sunny desert, with all that reflective desert sand and geology sunglasses were a must. Then in the Sierra and all the snow I had in Oregon and Washington, sunglasses would have been dangerous not to have as the snow could literally blind you.
The Ombraz sunglasses are quite unique as they do not have traditional arms, instead they have an adjustable cord that wraps around your head and holds them onto your face. Maybe sounds weird but is really nice and comfortable. When not in use they are easily stored around your neck with that same cord. They are also lighter weight than most because of this same feature. I think it’s super cool.
If you’re into rock climbing or more dynamic sports with big movements, these will really stay on you at any angle or during any activity. While hiking that maybe isn’t as much of a problem, but it’s nice to know that they will never fall off unexpectedly.
I unfortunately forgot my pair in a hotel and was very sad. I tried a few other brands along the way as I went north and was never quite happy with them. Of note, the ever popular Goodr sunglasses let in so much light on the sides that in snow I felt like all I could see was my own eye reflecting back at me from the inside. So hey the Ombraz are cool, and I’ve since gotten another pair.
If you are a SOBO hiker, sunglasses will be absolutely essential as later in the year as the sun gets lower in the sky, you will be walking towards it, and staring into it nearly all day.
Bug Headnet – Sea To Summit
- 0.8oz / 22g
I didn’t start with one, but I sent myself a bug headnet for the Sierra and then wound up carrying it the rest of the way to Canada. I think you and anyone should do the same. The Sierra is where you will likely first see mosquito and they will likely last all the way until the end. Depending on season and pace though you might have a different experience. I personally did not see hardly any mosquitoes in the Sierra, Oregon was a nightmare, and then none in Washington again. This is all based on when snow melts so it’ll be different for everyone. But seriously the mosquitoes can be ridiculously bad and you will be so happy to have one of these. They are extremely lightweight, take up zero space, and could even be used as a stuff sack when the bugs aren’t around. Even the most crazy of ultralight people, should carry one of these. For me personally, sleeping under a tarp this was my only protection from bugs. Again relying on campsite selection to avoid them. Windy spots, or higher elevation away from water was key. I still got a bit lucky being able to get away with that though.
Socks – Darn Tough Style 1959
- 2.6oz / 73g
- 9 pairs used
Darn Tough is famous for its return policy. You get a hole in them about the size of a quarter, and they will replace them for free. After my hike I sent them something like 6 pairs, and they replaced them all. This is all great, but was kind of annoying to deal with while on trail. I wound up sending all these socks home, paying for postage which I probably could have just bought new socks with. Some stores along the way will replace them for you, but I found that to be very difficult to find and not to be relied on as I never found one when I actually had a sock with a hole. So pretty cool, but for the thru hiker, kinda less cool? I don’t know.
So how did they actually perform?? I’d say pretty average. They don’t make a size that actually fits me so it was either too tight causing blisters between my toes, or too loose so that my heel was not even sort of where it should be in relation to the sock. I usually went with the too loose and fortunately that never actually caused me a problem. These socks are rather thick, so when you get them wet in a river crossing it takes a very long time to dry. But I did like the thickness for comfort. I wish they made more low cut style socks as I prefer that over ones that come far above my shoe. I always carried two pares, never more or less than that. One pair I wore, while I would wash the other pair with water and let dry on the outside of my pack through the day. Usually rotated every other day between the two, sometimes rotating at lunch time. Remember, foot care is very important on a thru hike. So not just washing socks, but washing all the grime off your feet often can go a very long way towards your happiness on trail.
Would I recommend them? Yes, the return policy is pretty cool even if occasionally a hassle (other companies like Grip6 also have the same return policy.) I thought they were comfortable, and you can find them everywhere as they are so popular. The finding them everywhere is probably the best part, as it would suck to have to change from something that is working to an unknown while along the way. As for weight, they are on the heavier side. In the future I will continue to try new things as I don’t think Darn Tough is the end all of socks.
- 3 Merrells, 1 Superior, 2 Lone Peaks used
I think changing to a new pair of shoes every 500 miles is ideal, 600 is still pretty good, but 700 and you’re starting to push it. Considering foot health is probably the only important thing in regards to thru hiking, changing pairs mor often then not is ideal. So I think for the PCT, 5 pairs total is what you will want.
I started out with the Merrell Trail Gloves and loved them, I love them more than any other shoe. I actually would not recommend them though as they are extremely minimal and most would likely get injured wearing them. I’ve been wearing and thru hiking in barefoot shoes since 2018 so I think that’s why they worked for me. They aren’t as minimal as say a pair of XERO shoes, which I think is positive. There is a point where I think anyone is doing more harm than good so finding that balance is key. Even in more bulky shoes, is the most cushion imaginable the way to go? Probably not as more cushion means you’re higher off the ground and more prone to rolling an ankle in a really terrible way.
I like how I feel so in control while wearing them, that my feet can literally grab onto rocks because of the minimalism. I felt so comfortable and ready for whatever the trail would throw at me. The size fits me right and my toes can splay out. I do not get blisters with these shoes. The downside of them however was that they aren’t easily available while living in the woods for three months straight. Which brings us to our next options.
Altra, in all forms is extremely available, so in a pinch this is what I went to. You can find them at nearly any outdoors store all up and down the PCT. The Superiors you’d think I would like because they are more minimal, but I found the sizing to be extremely far off, even far from their own other shoe models. A size 13 Lone Peak fits me almost like a clown shoe, while a size 13 Superior is so unbelievably tight I thought I was doing irreversible harm to myself. Why is this? I don’t know, but for that reason my stint with the Superiors was short and filled with a lot of frustration.
The Lone Peaks are pretty great. Fit is nice with a wide toe box, and a medium amount of cushion. Going from a barefoot shoe I kind of felt like I was on stilts at first and had to be very careful of rolling my ankle, but overall I got used to it. These lasted quite a good amount of time for me, and I still use my final pair for runs and local hikes. No real complaints and will continue using these here and there.
Something worth note about Altra is it seems that from year to year the model changes just enough so that you may have loved how the 6 felt, but then hate the 7. Or the X may be super durable but the X+1 may be terribly fragile. Always test shoes before you go. These are quite popular but they aren’t for everyone. Not just for the reason above but also because of the Zero Drop. If you aren’t used to that already, it will be stretching muscles in your calves in such a way that you could get an injury quite quickly that would otherwise be totally prevented with something else. Or you could just be very sore for the first two weeks again in a way that otherwise wouldn’t happen with a shoe that is more for you.
TopoAthletics is another brand I like and recommend trying, which offer more diverse options than Altra.
In the end I think you need to go to a store and try shoes on if at all possible. Or order a bunch of shoes and return the ones you don’t like or that don’t fit. I truly believe that when you put on a shoe, if it doesn’t immediately feel like heaven, it isn’t the right shoe for you. That small rub, will later give you a blister. That weird feeling, could be the beginnings of a small injury. Shoes are just so personal that I would not take what is popular and just run with it as if it’s the best. The best is very different for each individual person.
Water & Eating
Water bottles – 4L total
- 2.4oz / 68g
I used cheap gas station water bottles and carried about 4 liters total capacity for the entire hike. These fit on the side of my pack and I was happy with them. I do not like water bladders all that much and find them to be mildly annoying to fill, so individual bottles it is for me. I think I would recommend others to carry about 6L total capacity, as that would offer much more flexibility and in the desert you truly are going to want more than I had. So 4 bottles, and maybe a 2L bladder that is collapsible and can be stored away easily when not in use. Definitely be honest with yourself here, as there are many folks who find themselves carrying upwards of 10 liters total, and use all of that. This is all directly related to your pace, start date, and how comfortable you are in the desert heat and sun. The furthest I went between sources was 20 miles. For some that could be two full days of hiking just from one water to the next. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just worth noting as 4 liters is not a common amount to get away with and I don’t want anyone getting in trouble because that one guy online did it. Dehydration and heat stroke are serious matters and should be treated as such. I would rather carry the extra capacity and find that I’m not using it, rather than not having the option at all.
Water Filter – Aquamira
- 1.5oz / 42g
I used Aquamira as my primary water filtration. An annoying two bottle system you must mix, and then wait like 45 minutes before you can drink it. I wouldn’t recommend it, and instead think that a Platypus Quickdraw or Sawyer Squeeze(the big one, not mini or micro) is best. With one of those you can get water, and drink immediately as if it’s a straw that magically cleans your water. A water bladder will help you hear as it makes the ‘squeezing’ action required to filter so much easier. Many hikers will also use smart water bottles (instead of my gas station ones) for this same reason, the Platypus or Sawyer screws onto those without leak. So be sure to check before you go that your water reservoir actually works with your filter, as it would suck to find later that you have a leak.
Spoon – Toaks Long Handle Titanium
- 0.7oz / 19g
This was actually something I changed during my hike, but a nonconsequential change it was. I found this spoon somewhere along the trail and just continued carrying it, and sent home my small plastic spoon I had been using. The plastic one still worked great, but I liked how the long handle fit really nice in my backpacks tent stake pocket for easy access. The long handle is also good for those who like Mountain House meals or anything similar as you won’t get your fingers dirty trying to reach for food with something smaller. Overall a nice spoon, and will continue to use when I am not trying to literally shave every last tiny gram off my kit.
Food Container – Empty Peanut Butter Jar
- 1oz / 28g
I think the brand is Peter Pan, but yes I didn’t bring a stove. This whole hike I just cold soaked my dinners. It goes well with my hike hike hike style as once I was in camp, I basically went to sleep immediately. About 4 miles before camp I would put my dehydrated beans and rice in my jar, add water and store it away in my pack. I would then eat dinner an hour later or so either as soon as I got to camp, or sometimes a mile before if I was worried about bears. I like that it cooks, while I keep moving. I like that the system is so simple, and all you need is a jar, spoon, and water. Instead of a titanium mug, stove, water, and fuel which you then need to replace and find every week in a town. I never felt the desire for a stove or hot food as on a thru hike, most days you are just so tired, the simplicity becomes so much more valuable. While on fun trips with friends, I do bring a stove, just not on a long thru hike. Though everyone’s desires are different.
So the cold soaking is great, and I think a lot of thru hikers do that, but it certainly isn’t the best if you find yourself in a trail family. Having food to cook, while you hang out with friends really is great. So if you do want that warm meal or coffee I recommend a Toaks 750ml titanium mug and a BRS stove. About as light as it gets. Also, out west you really cant use (and it’s probably illegal) to use an alcohol stove. Mistakes and fire potential is just too high so please, just get a canister stove if you do want one.
Food Bag – Sea To Summit 15L Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack
- 0.8oz / 22g
I have liked this stuff sack as a food bag about as much as you could like a stuff sack. I feel that 15 liters was the perfect size for me, and I will continue to use this. The cord it uses to sinch it down is pretty thin, so if you’re trying to hang a bear bag often I would maybe go with something else. I never did and thus this is perfect. Very lightweight and cheap. It’s a good shape to fit inside my backpack and all around I’ve been happy with this over the many fancier options out there.
Electronics & Camera Gear
Flashlight – RovyVon Aurora A5x
- 0.6oz / 17g
I love this little thing, and it is my primary and only source of light. It is very small and lightweight, and through the day I just keep it in my pocket so that I don’t have to search for it later when the sun is setting. I used this everyday of my PCT thru and loved it. The flashlight itself glows in the dark, which may seem like a silly feature but when camping it makes it extremely easy to find should you need it in the middle of the night. It has three different main settings for luminance, a low, medium, and high. The majority of the time I use it on the medium setting, but in camp will switch to low. Only if I hear some weird noise will I switch it to high to investigate.
The battery of it lasts quite long, and I usually never needed to charge it while on trail, instead charging in town and it lasting until I got to the next town. When the battery is low, it glows red to let you know. The light does have a bunch of other features, but none I really used all that much. It does have a red light as well which you could use at camp, but I mostly camped alone so can’t really speak much on that.
I don’t use trekking poles so I just carry it in my hand as I walk, though it does come with a little clip so it can be attached to a hat and used like a traditional headlamp, I still personally prefer it the other way. By carrying the light so close to the ground, instead of it having it attached far up on my head, it serves to elongate shadows cast by rocks, roots, or other obstacles in trail. While most headlamps shining down more vertically can make those things look more 2 dimensional, and flat, oftentimes making it so you can hardly see them at all just because of how the light is hitting them. So by using this flashlight I feel that while nigh hiking I can walk more easily without tripping, I feel like I can see better than if I were using a headlamp.
I think this flashlight is great, if it breaks I will immediately buy a new one. I think it would be good for trail or good as just an every day carry item. Something for a small town bag, or something for the rugged backcountry. All around can’t recommend it enough.
Headphones – Skullcandy Ink’d w/ Microphone
- 0.4oz / 11g
Just your normal little earbuds. Important to me to have a microphone so I can use them if I need to make a call. Also important that it has a little remote so I can pause my music or podcast quickly should a hiker be coming up. I like these ones specifically because they seem to last quite long, while many earbuds I’ve tried break extremely quickly. In fact I’ve had many earbuds that have broken within an hour of buying them. Never had such a problem with these, and own a few that are still going strong.
Cell Phone – Google Pixel OG
- 5.3oz / 150g
A very old phone and not noteworthy. Takes terrible photos. So lets talk about some Applications. The most important is Farout, which used to be known as Guthook. It will be your primary source of navigation. It will tell you where water sources are. It will show you were common camping locations are. This app has maps for the entire trail (you must actually download them before leaving though) and this app has an elevation profile so you can see and agonize about just how far away you are still to the top of a climb. It is by far the biggest change to happen to thru hiking in the past decade. Most do not even carry paper maps anymore, and on a trail like the PCT, with an app like this you just don’t need them anymore. Though they still provide great information, it would be more along the lines of something fun to have if you like maps, rather than a necessity, because of this app.
So be sure to keep your phone charged and keep it safe!! As they say, relying this deeply on something electronic can be quite problematic should you break it, or it dies. Still, the PCT is rather popular, and you could basically just sit still for an hour and someone else will likely come by with their Farout app to guide you.
External Battery – RavPower PD Pioneer 20,000mah 60w
- 12.8oz / 362g
Since I film everything and listen to a lot of podcasts, 20,000mah was a necessity for me. Though even if you don’t film everything it can be a nice size still just for safeties sake. Nothing says you have to get to town with a dead phone every time, it’s nice to have some extra should you want it. Still it may not be needed and many are very happy with just 10,000mah.
I went with this specific battery (and wall port) because it charges extremely fast. Something like 2hours for a full charge from zero. Basically while I am eating food at a restaurant, by the time I’m done my battery is back to 100%. So for those looking to go very fast, and get out of towns very quickly, that is a huge plus. If that isn’t your goal, there are lighter weight batteries out there which I would recommend. The Nitecore NB10000 or NB20000 for instance are both lighter weight, which is extremely appealing given how stupid it feels to carry this brick around.
I think most spend more time in town than I do, and having the utmost fastest charger isn’t that important, so I wouldn’t put to much weight in it and would go with the Nitecore instead. It still charges very fast by comparison and is the better battery.
Wall Charger – RavPower PD Pioneer 30W 2port
- 2.9oz / 82g
Same goes for what’s said above. Speed was what I was after, so although there are lighter and arguably better batteries, this is what I went with. I would be sure to check with whatever battery you do wind up with, that you are also using a wall charger which is compatible with it, or would be best to use with it. Some chargers use different technologies and may not be as efficient as you would initially think. As you see both my battery and charger are by the same brand, and share the same name even. That isn’t always the case, but I think illustrates my point.
I also carried just two USB cords. One that I used for my phone and battery, and one that I used for my camera. I can’t wait for the way when every electronic just uses the same kind of charger, what a blessing that will be.
Camera – Sony ZV1
- 10.4oz / 294g
Phones these days have gotten so good I often wonder how necessary a camera is anymore. Still I don’t ever buy the newest phone, and I do like having a dedicated item for photos and video, I also like not having my phones memory entirely taken up by video clips which is probably the biggest positive here. Afterall I filmed some hundreds of gigabytes worth of video while out there. Something my phone would not be able to do without also having to spend loads of time in town trying to upload all that to a cloud.
This camera specifically is made for video from what I understand, with just some minor photography features. It is small and lightweight which is great. I was using a big DSLR for many years while thru hiking but ultimately decided that carrying it was such a burden (2lbs or so of camera) I was resenting actually using it. So with something this small, and so inconsequential to my pack weight I once again enjoy using it. I can store it in my backpacks shoulder strap pocket, or it easily fits in a fanny pack for quick access.
The screen flips out if you want to get a selfie or line up a shot from a weird angle. The zoom is pretty great for capturing details or getting a different feel to the depth of your shots. It comes with a little microphone fuzzy to get clear audio, that I personally felt was indeed quite clear even in the wind. It does shoot in 4k, but the battery life is so extremely bad when doing so I just filmed everything in 1080p. I still think given good light and a nice eye for composition that 1080p was good enough for me. I’ve long felt that it’s more about the story than anything so it was ok, and again way preferable to me given the size and weight. It recharges via usb so I didn’t need a dedicated battery charger like I have had to carry with past cameras. It has pretty great image stabilization even! So moving shots within reason come out quite nice, like walking with a gimbal.
If the utmost quality is your main priority this probably isn’t the camera for you, one of those big heavy ones is. But if you want small and light and something fun to use, this really has been nice. If you just want to play around with some video here or there, maybe your phone is the way, phones really are great these days.
With this camera I used a 256gb memory card and had a 128gb spare in my pack. I did use both, and nearly filled both by the end. Which is wild to think of considering I was only shooting in 1080p, and not 4k. I chose not to send my memory cards home as they filled because I worried about losing them, instead I carrying both to the end as I felt I could keep them safer than a mail carrier.
I also had a small microfiber cloth to clean the lens. It is quite the dusty trail and the cloth was needed.
Tripod – Pedco Ultrapod
- 1.4oz / 39g
This is a small very ultralight plastic tripod. Cheap to buy, and seemingly cheaply made. And yet, still going strong after two years and 4,000 miles of thru hiking! From the Arizona Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Long Trail, and now the Pacific Crest Trail… this cheap little tripod has really proven itself to me durability wise. Though if you have a very heavy and long lens, it may not work with that. It really does like the bulk of the weight to be directly centered over the top of the tripod. Still a great little tool that allowed me to setup my camera and film shots where otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to. I have really enjoyed this. Quickly screws into the bottom of my camera, or so small that a lot of the time I could just fold it down and leave it attached. The tripod when folded also works as a nice selfie stick. Not the longest, but can help to get a wider view of your surrounding.
Chafe Cream – Body Glide
- 0.4oz / 11g
Chaffing is probably the worst thing you can go through on trail, that isn’t actually being injured. Yeah it’ll go away, but it can really make life miserable for a while. Here you are hiking this amazing trail, you nor I want to be miserable, we want to enjoy the walk in the woods. So chafe cream of some sort is a must in my opinion. Once you get dirty or sweaty, both will happen no matter how clean you try to remain, you run a high risk of chafing. So when you feel that rub start to happen, just apply a little and move on happily. I like the Body Glide because it comes in a tiny container that is easily applied, like deodorant. A quick process and you are walking happily again!
Knife – Swiss Army Classic
- 0.8oz / 22g
A knife certainly isn’t essential in my mind for a thru hike, we aren’t bushcrafting, we are hiking. The knife was nice to have though for opening boxes, cutting nails with the little scissors, tweezers to remove thorns, and of course for cutting food. All sorts of tiny little tasks that were made easier, and I was happy to have it. I have hiked a lot of miles (14,000 of thru hiking) and it’s never been life or death where a knife really changed my life, so do what you will. But hey it was fun, small, and light enough weight were I hardly noticed it.
Trowel – Deuce of Spades #1
- 0.4oz / 12g
You need to carry a trowel, it is no longer just a fun thing. Thousands will attempt this hike each year, and it is extremely important that we are doing everything we can to keep the land beautiful and to leave no trace. The ground along the PCT is also quite hard and compact, and you simply aren’t going to be able to dig a proper hole with any sort of ease without a trowel. So please carry one! It is very small, very lightweight, and you won’t even notice it. It will make the process so much quicker since this makes digging so much easier! This is essential gear in my opinion.
Lighter – Mini Bic Lighter
- 0.3oz / 8g
I never once had a fire on this hike but I still carry a mini bic lighter. This is the west and wildfires a huge problem so although I avoid potentially contributing to that problem from a recreational fire standpoint, a lighter is essential to me. If you get cold, or wet and cold that could be life threatening. Trust me when I say hypothermia is not that uncommon of a problem to run into up in the high mountains. Unsuspecting storms roll in, high elevations, no cell signal, wind… being able to start a fire could save your life. OR turn a really miserable time to an at least bearable one. So of course make smart decisions, but even if you don’t plan on making a fire at all, I still highly recommend carrying a lighter just in case.
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Flosser, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Safety Pin
Hygiene stuff is important. The safety pin was used for a potential blister so I could pop it in the evening. Ibuprofen was for a potential injury so I could hike myself out, similar goes for Tylenol. Not much to say or look at here. I don’t have allergies so I didn’t carry those meds. Still could be smart to maybe help someone else. I’m not used to hiking around so many people on less popular trails, so didn’t think of it beforehand. Diarrhea medicine could also be helpful, as that kind of illness could contribute to massive dehydration as you are losing all your fluids. Also feels worth mentioning that a Garmin InReach Mini is highly recommended. It seems like 1 in 3 hikers carried one, and I saw more than a few people who had to use them. It is a safety item that could literally save your life.
All of this small gear I carried in a gallon sized ziploc bag, which I thought of as my catch-all ditty bag. Easily replaced, totally water proof, see through for easy access and finding of small items. Does it get any better than that? No, but fancy bags are cooler.
Bear Can – BV450
- 31.8oz / 901g
You need a bear can through the Sierra. Most will start carrying one from Kennedy Meadows around mile 700, all the way north to Sonora Pass around mile 1,000. You could pick one up from Lone Pine if you get off at Cottonwood Pass, but not many do that. The section where this can is most required above all else, with no trick or workaround, is Yosemite. It’s something like a 90 mile stretch that just isn’t feasible to do in a single day. So all together about 300 miles of carrying one. Just embrace it! Everyone has got to do it. Most will either rent one from Kennedy Meadows South, be sure to check if they still do that, and then return it at Kennedy Meadows North. Or like me, you ship one yourself to Kennedy Meadows then ship it home from Kennedy Meadows North at Sonora Pass, or from Bridgeport to the east.
I personally used a BV450, but if I were to do this again would not hesitate to use the BV500 instead. The 450 is just too small and not worth it. I purposefully carried less food into a very unforgiving and remote place, just to make the 450 work. The 500 is so much more forgiving, and you won’t starve like I was basically doing. These cans weigh about as much as 1 liter of water. Keep that in mind, that here you are in the Sierra where water is everywhere. You no longer need to carry the 4-6 liters you have been through the desert. You just gotta carry this can which isn’t even close to as much weight as you have been lugging around. It’s just bulky and annoying. Still not as annoying as 10lb of water.
If you use a small ultralight frameless pack like me there’s two ways to carry a can comfortably. I actually made a video about this you can checkout here. One method is to keep the can inside your pack, this is not the most comfortable way it’s still worth mentioning and trying to see what you prefer. First pack your pack liner and then quilt, then full bear can of food placed right-side up inside. Any softer clothing items you have should then be packed around it, focusing on where your back would otherwise be making contact with the pack (and bear can inside.) You want to create cushion between you and the hard can. Once all your random clothing is stuff around the can, put anything else you have on top.
The more comfortable method is to pack your pack like normal, food in your normal food bag inside your pack. And then strap the bear can empty on top of your backpack. Strap it down tight so it doesn’t fall off. This way your pack feels as it always does, and you pack it like you always would, you just have this fun empty can to strap on last. This method allows you to then also easily access the can to use it as a seat through the day. When night comes you gotta put your food in it and store it away from you, and in the morning take your food out, but I think the comfort of this method is worth that extra step.
Blister Tape – Leukotape
- 0.3oz / 8g
Leukotape is by far the best when it comes to blister prevention and care. I think there is two different kinds, you want Leukotape P, which is stretchier and stickier. I like this stuff so much because of that stick factor. It actually stays on you, while more conventional blister tapes peel off within the first 30 minutes of getting walking again. This stuff will stay on your foot for days and not come off, through rivers, and all sorts of brutality. It’s really great. Now blister prevention is key, its much easier to deal with a blister that hasn’t fully formed, than having to treat a blister once you have one. So I do not care what you are doing, or how good the conversation is with that other hiker in front of you is, stop take off your shoes, and put some tape on that hot spot. I personally know that I can be prone to getting a blister on my forefoot, so I often put a piece of tape there before I have even started a hike. If I don’t do this, I will surely be stopping later to so might as well take the prevention seriously.
With your small swiss army knife scissors you can cut the tape easy and wrap your toes, or just do super large pieces all up and down your foot. As the tape starts to eventually come off, it will loosen at the corners of the area it was applied, I take my scissors and remove that so it doesn’t bunch up under my feet.
Leukotape is great and I highly recommend it. I label this as ‘occasional gear’ because I started out with a finite amount knowing that at a certain point my feet would be hardened enough to no longer need it. I just guessed and turns out I was right on with my guess.
A little trick to avoid carrying the whole roll is to take packing slips, the ones where a sticker talking about your order has come on. Sort of looks like parchment paper. Take said sticker off, and put a strip of leukotape there on the shiny side of the paper instead. Do this like 30 times with all the slips from all the packages of gear you’ve recently gotten. I actually save these things just for this purpose. This allows you to carry only what you need instead of a whole roll of tape, and it makes applying the tape super easy instead of struggling to peel it off your trekking pole or something. The paper even makes cutting the tape easier! All around a great thing.
Lip Balm – Miniature
- 0.1oz / 2g
I started the trail with lip balm, using it seldomly in that harsh desert sun and dryness. My body eventually got used to the new environment and I no longer needed it. So I just carried the smallest lip balm possible knowing it was basically only for the first 1,000 miles or so. I really was happy to have it though, and would recommend. Cracked lips can bleed and be very uncomfortable.
Trekking Pole – Anything Available
For the Sierra I picked up a half broken trekking pole out of a hiker box, it was some cheap model, and was hardly in working order. I did this and carried it for the next 300 miles because I only wanted to use it for stability in snow, and for river crossings. I was not using micro spikes or an ice axe, and without this walking stick I would have had some serious trouble. Despite its condition it really worked out perfectly to help balance me, and add a third point of contact to the ground when traversing snow fields. I think if you are uncomfortable in snow, you should also add micro spikes to your kit for the Sierra as well.
I picked up another random trekking pole again for the state of Washington as I had arrived there early, and there was still quite a bit of snow as well.
Shorts – New Balance Accelerate 5″
These have by far been my favorite hiking shorts of all time. I feel that the 5″ inseam is perfect so that you can still be presentable in town, while having great airflow on trail. They are quite durable for sure lasting a whole thru hike. The pockets are deep and there’s no worries of your phone bouncing out! I did not wear underwear with them, and just let the internal liner do its thing. Everyone is different in that regard, so try underwear vs liner to see what you prefer. Great shorts, definitely recommend.
Into the future I will be trying the Pa’lante shorts to see how those are. Even more and even larger pockets. More durable materials, and they are made to look a bit classier than your typical running shorts. We will see how they go into the future.
Shirt – Columbia Silver Ridge Lite
I have been using this shirt for so long and have really loved it. Nearly every thru hike I’ve been on since 2018, and the funny thing is, I found this in a hiker box that first year! It has really been great. I have replaced it once in 4 years, and usually after a long hike will hit it with some bleach to get that nice white color back.
The shirt is very light and comfortable on the skin. The fabric is very breathable, and designed with some good ventilation. It is a button down which both adds class in town, but also makes for even more ventilation should you need to unbutton a few on a hot day. I like the long sleeves to keep off the sun, or keep off bugs. The collar is good to keep sun off my neck. All around a great shirt that is very nice to wear.
I have since been trying out sun shirts like the Outdoor Research Echo Sun Hoodie, which I have really loved! Also quite comfortable and provides a lot of protection. Sun hoodies are very popular on the PCT and you will see many. I recommend either shirt, they’ve both been great.
Hat – Ciele Athletics
Ciele is a small hat company out of Montreal Quebec. I like Quebec having spent time there while hiking the International Appalachian Trail, so have wanted to support them. They make really great running hats as it turns out! Without a doubt the most comfortable hat I have ever worn. Breathable too so your head won’t overheat. Clearly a great quality item just from inspection, perfect stitching and after doing this trail the hat still looks to be in perfect shape.
Many people will choose to wear some kind of sun hat instead to keep cool and avoid sunburn in such a hot environment. My personal favorite sun hats are the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat for maximum sun protection, and the Sunday Afternoons Vaporlite Tempo Bucket hat for something a little smaller. Both great hats, I just love a good old baseball cap so I unfortunately chose to leave behind the extra protection. Next time however I would probably wear the bucket hat instead.
Also very very popular are the sun umbrellas, which very frequently found myself wishing I had through the desert, or when I got rained on. I actually used one on the Appalachian Trail when I did that but not here, a funny decision. Anyhow the sun umbrellas are super cool, provide shade anywhere, and will keep you cool underneath them during breaks. There are many sections entirely devoid of shade (Acton to Agua Dulce, the LA Aqueduct, Cabazon area, north of Scissors Crossing, etc etc.) and a sun umbrella really would be great there. Many companies make them but Six Moon Designs makes one of the most popular ones.
Watch – Casio Illuminator
All my life I never cared for a watch, until I started hiking a bunch. I think I like keeping track of the sunrise and sunset and knowing how much time until one or the other. I like knowing that I’ll get to a store before they close. I like tracking my pace occasionally. I like knowing the date. Many of these things your phone will tell you, but then you gotta take out your phone often, while a watch is just right there and so quick and easy to read when the thought to do so arises. I very much like having the watch. This Casio one in particular is cheap, has a nice backlight, and is quite water resistant. They last a long time, and really the only thing that may eventually break is the band which can be replaced easily.
I have since this hike gotten a smart watch however! The Coros Pace 2 and absolutely love it! Coros is known for its long lasting batteries and even though this is their cheapest model the battery still lasts three full days of tracking my every mile, pace, heart rate, sleep schedule, elevation, barometric pressure, sunrise and sunset… it does so much. It’s even helpful to let me know when maybe I should rest as I’m not performing quite as well as I should. I have really loved all the data, and even if you aren’t looking to track your every movement it still provides a lot of useful information. And if you aren’t going to track every day of your hike the watch will literally last weeks on just one charge. A really cool thing I’ve been quite excited about and have enjoyed using on my hikes since the PCT.
Shoes & Socks were mentioned above.
So that’s it!
I feel like I offered some good alternatives to some of my more questionable gear choices and for that I am happy. There is no best way or one right way. There are so many methods of going about this, the only thing that matters is that you are happy. So I hope you found some value in this info, and thanks for reading!
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