So one thing most hikers won't shut about is their gear setup - I'm no exception to this! I could talk your ear off about my gear choices. And while I was researching, I was thankful for all the YouTube videos and blog posts from former PCT hikers sharing their lists. So I figured I would pay it forward too and share my gear picks and why this stuff works for me. Also, if you're not a hiker but just curious about what one takes when walking across the country for 5 months, this is for you.
While I didn't really have the budget to drop a ton of money on ultralight gear, I'm pretty happy with my lightweight setup so far. I purchased a lot of my gear based on hiker recommendations (Mac from Halfway Anywhere is the real MVP), but I've gone on several shakedown hiking trips to test it out and refine what works best for me. At some point I may invest in some pricier, lighter gear, but so far, this has all served me well. And I'm sure as I go, I'll figure out what stuff I really need and what I don't.
Since I had virtually no backpacking gear when I decided I wanted to hike the PCT, and I still had a year and a half to plan for it, I did a ton of research on gear so that I could take advantage of seasonal sales as much as possible. This helped me get some great gear for way less.
I also put all my gear into Lighterpack if you want to see the breakdown there. I tried to weigh out most everything and link to the items, but I know I missed a few things, so my baseweight is more like 17-18lbs right now.
Big 3 (tent, sleep system, pack)
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2
This was my first big gear purchase I made after I told my parents I wanted to hike the PCT! I saw it on Ebay for a pretty good deal, and I wasn't comfortable at that point with a tent that relied on trekking poles. I didn't even have trekking poles when I bought this.
While the single entry door isn't my favorite - especially when sharing this "2-person tent" - for one person, it's nice and spacious with room to keep my gear inside. It's kept me dry in storms, and it sets up super quickly.
I'm using a sheet of Tyvek for the footprint. (You can buy it by the foot here)
Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt
Specs: 850 fill down, short wide, 10 degree (with weather resistant stripes)
I started hearing more about sleeping quilts while researching down bags, and decided to pull the trigger. I love them now! I naturally move a lot in my sleep, so this solved my mummy bag strait-jacket problems. Purchased during their Black Friday sale when they have a good 10 percent off deal - way more affordable than some of the other down bags you'll see that can be upwards of $400.
Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite
I started with the NeoAir Trekker (Regular Wide) and while it was amazing and comfortable, I realized it was almost double the weight of the Xlite. Fortunately I scored the Xlite at an REI garage sale for $70 off.
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow
It's a luxury item, but it really helps me get a good night's sleep.
ULA Circuit Pack
I started with an REI Flash 60 pack that I bought on sale - I liked a lot of things about that pack, and I probably could have made it work, but it had just enough annoying quirks to convince me it wasn't right. So I sprung for the Circuit on a Massdrop deal and I have loved it! Durable, comfortable, and lighter than my other pack.
Gossamer Gear Thinlight 1/8 Pad
Using this to protect the bottom of my inflatable pad, especially for the desert section. Also will help keep my pad from slipping and I can use it as a sit pad during breaks and a wind shield for my stove. Cut it down a little bit since it was pretty long.
GSI Halulite Minimalist (with cozy and pot grippy)
I started with a Grease Pot (mostly because I'm a Homemade Wanderlust fan, haha) but then a friend of mine brought her GSI kit on a trip and I loved it! My homemade cozy was already in poor shape after only 2 trips, and this one seemed light and well made. Should cut out the need for me to bring an extra cup for coffee. Not taking the cheapy spork.
Yeah, so this is the dirt cheap stove you can get on Amazon for 10 bucks, but it's been so great and hasn't let me down after several uses. I tried one of those sketchy BRS stoves and while it worked, it sputtered and the flame control was so inconsistent it was scary. Maybe I just got a dud, but I'd rather use a stove that is less likely to tip and spill boiling water on the ground (or me).
Just screw it on to your smart water bottles or water bladders and go!
IsoButane fuel canister
Smart Water/Life Water Bottles
Evernew Water Bladders
2 of the 2L capacity ones for long water carries in the desert.
These also match the threads on the Sawyer Squeeze, so you can screw it right on, like you can with a Smart Water bottle.
Food Bag - Sea to Summit 20L lightweight stuff sack
Bear bagging kit - rock bag made of leftover Tyvek, 50ft of Dynaglide cord, small carabiner
Titanium long-handle spoon
The long handle is perfect for eating out of the backpacker meal bags :)
Opinel No. 8 Trekking Knife
Great lightweight knife that is perfect for cutting cheese, meat, and avocado. My other little multitool knife is so tiny, and this is super light so I decided it was worth taking. We'll see if I decide to keep it.
I will probably at some point also experiment with going stoveless and try using a Talenti Jar to cold soak food - if not in the desert then maybe NorCal?
I love the morale booster of a hot cup of coffee in the morning and hot dinner at night, but I'm willing to give it a try!
Google Pixel 2 (not pictured)
The camera on this thing is amazing and I have free cloud storage until 2020 so I can free up space on my phone easily when I'm in town. Also, I'm planning to use Guthooks (Atlas Guides), an amazing navigational app that doesn't require wifi/data connection. It's kind of like Google Maps + Yelp for hikers, because you can leave comments on different waypoints, like water sources, trail junctions, hiker-friendly amenities in town, and more.
Canon EOS M
Originally I was gonna bring Moment lenses for my phone camera, but I've realized that once you're a DSLR shooter, it's just so hard to go back to cameras with limited settings, especially for portraits and shallow depth of field shots. I also realized what a hassle it was to be putting on and taking off lenses on my phone. I was drooling over Karen Wang's amazing photos of her PCT hike when I discovered that she used this camera, a compact mirrorless with a 22mm prime lens. It takes great photos, fits in my shoulder pocket, and it's really light for a mirrorless camera. Win.
RavPower 20100mah power bank with Qualcomm QuickCharge
Using this to charge my phone, camera, and InReach while off the grid. The QuickCharge feature will help it charge faster in towns.
Dual-USB QuickCharge compatible wall charger
Garmin Inreach Mini
This is a two way satellite communication device that will allow me to let my parents know I'm okay when I don't have service, and it also acts as an SOS beacon should an emergency arise.
Cree from Amazon (basically a cheaper version of the Black Diamond Storm)
Pedco Ultrapod + Bluetooth Camera Remote
Mini tripod so I can take timelapse videos
Headphones, Camera Batteries, SD Cards, Charging Cables
Cascade Mountain Tech Cork Grip Trekking Poles - love these things and they're great quality for the money. Check out this Backcountry Banter review of them!
First Aid Kit
Leukotape (for blisters), band aids, gauze, alcohol swabs, sting-eze, inhaler & meds
Swiss Army mini-multitool with tweezers & scissors
Needle, duct tape (on trekking poles)
Daily Contacts (Going to give these a try - might end up staying with glasses, but I usually hate wearing glasses for physical activity.)
Conditioner (for town)
Snow stake (for digging catholes.)
Feminine products when needed
Moleskine sketchbook (for journalling, sketches, and to use as a hiking log)
Pocket New Testament
Pen, Pencil, and Sharpie
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
This was another great Black Friday deal. The warmth to weight ratio on this guy is amazing.
I decided to bring this windbreaker jacket, since rain on the trail (before Washington) is much more rare than it is here in the Midwest. Having a breathable wind layer on exposed ridges will be helpful.
Frogg Toggs Ultralight Jacket
Kind of at the end of my budget with rain gear, but I've heard the PCT doesn't typically get much rain before Washington. These are 5oz lighter than my Torrentshell jacket and only set me back $20.
Patagonia Capilene Midweight Leggings (to sleep in)
Paradox Merino Blend Quarter Zip (to sleep in)
Camp shoes - XeroShoes Z-Trail (to let my feet air out)
Exofficio Quick Dry Underwear (extra pair)
Darn Tough 1/4 Micro Crew Hiking Socks
Injinji crew toe socks (as liners)
I get blisters between my toes, so these have been a major gamechanger for me!
Columbia Tamiami UV Long Sleeve Fishing Shirt
Long sleeves and SPF will help protect me from the sun. And the nice vented lightweight and quick-dry material will keep me cool.
Walmart Running Shorts
Darn Tough 1/4 Socks with Injinji Liner Toe Socks
Exofficio Quick Dry Underwear
C9 Champion Sports Bra
Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Trail Runners
Fun fact: most thru-hikers don't wear hiking boots. That's because they add weight to your feet, don't dry well after getting wet, and often cause crazy blisters when you're doing big miles. I've opted for trail runner tennis shoes that are 1.5 sizes bigger than my regular shoe size to allow my toes plenty of space to spread out without bumping into the front on downhill sections. I'll go through 4-5 pairs of shoes on the trail, so depending on how these perform long term, I may switch it up.
Outdoor Research Sun Gloves (to keep the back of my hands from getting burnt)
Gaiters (to keep dirt and rocks out of my shoes)
Quick dry hat (from work)
Reflective Sun Umbrella (Desert section)
Going to carry this in the desert for some instant shade!
Microspikes (San Jacinto, Sierra Nevada)
BV500 Bear Canister (Sierra Nevada)
Required in the Sierra Nevada and in Lassen (if you're camping there overnight)
Ice Axe (Sierra Nevada)
It looks like it will be an above average snow year, so I will pick up an ice axe in Kennedy Meadows to have on snowy traverses.
Waterproof Socks (Sierra and Washington)
Neckwarmer, Showa Gloves, Fleece Liner Gloves and Hiking Baselayers (Washington)
I think that about covers it! At the end of my hike, I'll go back and walk through what worked for me and what didn't, and any gear changes I made mid-hike :)