In the preparations leading up to the PCT I spent countless hours searching the internet and reading gear reviews when putting my own gear list together. I am happy to inform you that my efforts paid off. All in all I was very happy with my choice of gear. I only swapped out a few items during my hike, and I only consider them to be minor adjustments. If needed I could very well have hiked the entire PCT using my original setup.
I started from Campo with a base weight of 7,27 kg. A weight that I was quite happy with. By no measures am I an ultralight hiker, but I still want my backpack to be as light as possible. I also want to have the gear best suited for my needs. So, on a hike this long some adjustments were destined to happen. For me that was to replace my mug with a bigger pot with a lid, swap my wool underwear for a lighter set, ditch my pants and hike in my running shorts instead, swap out my headlamp which I thought was broken, change out my shoes for another brand, plus ditch some minor stuff that I didn’t need. This reduced my base weight to 7,12 kg by the time I arrived in Canada.
So the big question remains: What would I do differently if I were to hike the PCT over again. I actually don’t think I would change all that much. If I could get a smart phone with a better camera than the Samsung Galaxy SII I would seriously consider leaving the Canon PowerShot S95 at home. That would save me 336 grams just there. Other than that it’s more about replacing gear with better and lighter alternatives when the older stuff wears out. At the time of this writing, March 2013, it should be quite possible for me to get the base weight down to 6 kg and still have a double wall tent and a frame sheet backpack.
Here is an updated version of my gear list for the PCT, i.e. the gear that I actually ended up carrying. The weights are as measured by myself using a digital kitchen scale.
I have chosen not to include maps in the gear list. I printed out Halfmile’s maps, one booklet for each section, and ditched the maps as I finished each section. At most I carried around 250 grams of maps (covering Donner Pass, CA to Canada).
White = carried with me all the way.
Red = carried from Campo, but ditched along the way.
Green = acquired during the hike.
Yellow = bear canister for the Sierras (Kennedy Meadows to Donner Pass).
Click here if the spreadsheet doesn’t show properly, e.g. if you are on a mobile device.
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 liter backpack Weight: 1,35 kg
The Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 came out new in 2011. I got the regular size with large hip belt. It has a rated carrying capacity of 16 kg. I carried 14 kg at most, from Kennedy Meadows and into the High Sierras. My base weight through the Sierras was just over 8 kg, including the bear canister.
The backpack has one large compartment with a roll top, one large mesh pocket on the back and one on each side. It also has compression cords you can use to cinch it down or to attach stuff on the outside. It has a plastic frame sheet with exchangeable shoulder straps and hip belt. The shoulder straps can be adjusted up and down on the frame sheet to fit different torso lengths.
Pros: I’m 185 cm and 82 kg and the regular size Blaze with large hip belt fit me just perfect. It was comfortable to carry, even with heavier loads (14 kg). I really liked the simple no-frills single compartment design. My Therm-a-Rest Z Lite sleeping pad fit perfectly to the back, and the side pockets were perfect for holding water bottles, snacks, my smart phone etc. Because of the frame sheet I never had to worry about the contents in my backpack poking my back or feeling uncomfortable, which people with frameless backpacks have to worry about.
Cons: At 1,35 kg the Blaze may be considered a bit heavy for long distance hiking. There are lighter alternatives out there, especially if you are willing to go frameless. The frame sheet on my Blaze started cracking up in the lumbar area when I got to Washington. I tend to baby my gear and was quite surprised to see that it was falling apart. Fortunately I was able to repair the frame sheet with duct tape and glue and made it all the way to Canada.
Verdict: I loved my Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60. With a base weight around 7-8 kg and a total pack weight of up to 14 kg it was hugging my back and carried very well. The side pockets were awesome. I was surprised not to see more people using the Blaze on the PCT. It’s a really good pack.
See the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 on Amazon.com.
MSR Hubba 1-person tent
Weight: 1,38 kg including stuff sacks, but without stakes
The MSR Hubba is a double wall, freestanding 1 person tent. The inner tent is a bath tub floor with mesh walls. It has two wall pockets and a side entrance. The outer tent has a small vestibule. Mine weighed in at 1,38 kg without the original aluminum stakes. I used Vargo titanium stakes instead.
Pros: I like to sleep in a fully enclosed shelter to keep the critters and bugs away, and in this respect the Hubba works great. I like the fact that it is free standing, although the vestibule needs to be staked out if you use the outer tent. The side entrance makes it easy to get in and out. It’s easy to pitch and break down.
Cons: The Hubba was long enough to accommodate my 185 centimeters, but I wish it was wider. I like to keep all my gear inside the tent, which made it a bit crammed. Although, after doing some tetris exercises I made it work. The walls on the Hubba are relatively steep. It’s not the best tent in high winds. At 1,38 kg it’s also a bit on the heavy side for a 1 person tent.
Verdict: At around $300 (the price I paid) the Hubba is a decent tent which provides what it’s supposed to: a weather and bug proof 1 person shelter. The tent worked flawlessly throughout the PCT and never broke on me. I think that some people my size or bigger (I am 185 cm / 82 kg) may find the Hubba a bit crammed though. If you are willing to go with a front entrance I would suggest looking into the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 which is about the same size, but weighs in at less than 1 kg, or the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 which offers significantly more floor space at roughly the same weight as the Hubba.
See the MSR Hubba on Amazon.com.
Vargo Titanium tent stakes (6 x)
Weight: 48 grams for 6
I originally got these to replace the stakes that came with my Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 tent that I used on the John Muir Trail in 2011, and decided to use them with the Hubba on the PCT too.
Pros: They weigh less and are stronger than the aluminum stakes that came with the Hubba.
Cons: None, except that you have to buy them.
Verdict: Great tent stakes.
Weight: 100 grams
Tyvek is Dupont’s brand name for home wrap used in walls. I bought mine from Zpacks.com and paid around $12. After trimming it to fit the Hubba I weighed it in at 100 grams.
Pros: It’s waterproof, breathable and very strong.
Cons: None really.
Verdict: Tyvek home wrap worked out great as a footprint. It’s way cheaper than original footprints from tent manufacturers. It kept the floor of the Hubba whole and clean all the way to Canada and will most likely last me thousands of miles to come.
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32 sleeping bag (long)
Weight: 752 grams
The Phantom 32 is a down sleeping bag. Mine weighed in at 752 grams including stuff sack. I am 185 cm and got the long version which fit me well. As the name implies the Phantom 32 is rated for temperatures down to 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), and I found that to be fairly accurate. The bag is stuffed “quilt-like” though, with less down on the back/bottom than on the front/top, so be careful always to sleep with the back of the bag facing the sleeping pad.
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable and affordable for a down bag, around $300 on sale.
Cons: The outer fabric is very thin and snags in the zipper quite easily. The original stuff sack is insanely small and I found it very hard to fit the bag in it. I ditched it and got a 7 liter stuff sack instead, about twice as big as the original. The seams where the collar cinched down started to come apart after about a month and a half on the trail. Fortunately I had bought mine at REI who replaced the bag without further ado.
Verdict: The Phantom 32 is a good summer sleeping bag. I doesn’t get too warm in the desert, and for the very cold nights I did fine layering up with my wool longs johns and wool shirt. For cold sleepers though I would recommend looking into maybe getting a warmer bag though, e.g. a -7 Celsius/20 Fahrenheit bag. Like most down bags it’s not built as a tank though, so you have to baby it somewhat. Still, I really liked the Phantom 32 and think it’s a good summer bag as long as you’re not a cold sleeper.
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite sleeping pad – regular
Weight: 410 grams
Unlike most other sleeping pads the Z Lite doesn’t roll up. It folds up. Hence the Z in the name. The regular length is 183 x 51 x 2 cm.
Pros: Easy to pack up. Just fold it. Provides good insulation for summer use. Virtually unbreakable under normal use/abuse.
Cons: Provides only limited cushioning. Not the most comfortable sleeping pad to use on rough surfaces.
Verdict: In the beginning of the hike I was thinking of swapping it for an inflatable sleeping pad instead, but I was glad that I stuck with the Z Lite. The fact that it provides good insulation and is hard to break was a deal maker for me.
MSR Pocket Rocket stove
Weight: 125 grams including box and Mini-Bic lighter
The Pocket Rocket is a great little stove to use with screw-on iso-butane gas canisters. It’s actually nothing more than an adjustable gas valve with a pot stand. Simple as that.
Pros: Lightweight, easy to use and clean burning.
Cons: Doesn’t work well in freezing temperatures (because of characteristics of the butane gas, the main ingredient).
Verdict: I love the Pocket Rocket. For summer hiking it’s just awesome. Just attach the canister and fire it up. The complete setup may weigh more than that of alcohol stoves, but gas canister stoves are just so much easier to use and a lot less messier. Gas canisters can not be sent by mail or brought on airplanes, but getting new gas canisters wasn’t a problem at all. Almost all outfitters and campgrounds/resorts along the PCT carry them.
Snow Peak Titanium Trek 600 mug
Weight: 90 grams
This is the mug I started from Campo with. It didn’t have a lid, and it was also too small to conveniently boil ramen noodles, the main food source on the PCT, and it was a bit too narrow for the stove to work efficiently (it took a long time to bring it to a boil). I swapped it for the bigger MSR Titan titanium pot, 850 ml and with a lid, from Donner Pass.
MSR Titan titanium pot (850 ml)
Weight: 124 grams
I started from Campo with a Snow Peak 600 ml titanium mug. That one didn’t have a lid, and it was also too small to conveniently boil ramen noodles, the main food source on the PCT, and it was a bit too narrow for the stove to work efficiently (it took a long time to bring it to a boil). I replaced it with the MSR Titan at Donner Pass. The MSR Titan had more volume, a lid, and fit the stove better.
Pros: Lightweight and has a lid. Good size for a solo cook set.
Cons: Expensive, I paid around $60 for mine. It’s also just to shallow to fit a standard 230 gram gas canister inside. The gas canister goes in, but then the lid won’t fit. Come on MSR! Why couldn’t you add a couple of millimeters to the height when you designed it?
Verdict: A good and lightweight pot.
Platypus Plus 1 liter bottles (2 x)
Weight: 35 grams a piece
The Platypus Plus weighs in at 35 grams a piece and can hold 1 liter. They are collapsible, has a screw cork and a small carrying handle. I had two of these.
Pros: Lightweight and collapsible. Easy to stow when not in use.
Cons: Kinda hard to clean.
Verdict: The Platypus Plus worked out great. They fit perfectly in the side pockets of my Granite Gear Blaze A.C. backpack. I increased my carrying capacity by using Gatorade bottles or similar for the desert and other dry stretches. But the Platypus Plus bottles served as my main water reservoirs.
Sea To Summit spoon
Weight: 9 grams
A simple polycarbonate spoon. No frills.
Pros: Simple, cheap and weighs next to nothing.
Cons: Will break if exposed to extreme heat, i.e. open fire etc.
Verdict: A simple little spoon. Why bother with expensive titanium spoons.
57 ml bottle with bleach
Weight: 12 grams (empty of course)
When starting from Campo I carried Katadyn Micropur tablets for water treament. They are expensive though, around $10 to treat 30 liters, and it sucks having to order and have them shipped in. I decided just to use bleach instead and followed the directions from the Environmental Protection Agency: Use 2 drops of regular non-scented chlorine bleach per 1 liter of water (8 drops per 1 gallon). Let sit for 30 minutes before drinking. The water will have a slight odor and taste of chlorine, but no more than you get from chlorinated tap water. 1 liter of Clorox costs around $2 and should be enough to treat enough water to hike the triple crown. I got myself a bottle of 5-hour energy that I rinsed out and put bleach in and ditched the rest.
Bear Vault 500 bear canister
Weight: 1,16 kg
The Bear Vault 500 is the same kind of bear canister that I used when hiking the John Muir Trail in 2011, but I gave that one away. For the PCT I ordered a new one from REI and had it delivered to Kennedy Meadows, along with a week’s worth of Mountain House freeze dried dinners. The Bear Vault 500 weighs 1,16 kg. A weight that I would rather be without. But other than the weight I actually liked the Bear Vault as it helped me keep my backpack organized and tidy. I packed somewhere around 2000 calories a day (freeze dried dinners, Snickers and power bars, Skittles and M&M’s etc.) and find that I can fit about a week’s worth of food in it.
Pros: Transparent so that it’s easier to find what you are looking for, and it has s big opening. Some people complain that the lid can be hard to open, but I never had a problem with that.
Cons: Weight, weight, weight.
Verdict: Bear canisters are mandatory in Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Yosemite. If/when the National Park Service allows the use of food bags, like the Ursack, I would go with that. But until then the Bear Vault 500 is my choice. There are lighter alternatives out there, like the Bearikades for example, but they also cost 3-4 times more.
Arcteryx Alpha SV Gore-Tex jacket
Weight: 550 grams (size large)
What can I say about the Arcteryx Alpha SV? It’s a great jacket! It’s well designed and well made. The people at Arcteryx sure know what they are doing. The Alpha SV is actually a mountaineering jacket though, and for hiking the PCT it is overkill. I never had to hike in rain and only used the jacket as a windbreaker and for warmth.
Pros: Well designed and well built. It has elastics around the cuffs, not just velcro, 2 large front pockets, two small inner pockets and a small pocket on the left arm. The jacket is made from Gore-Tex Pro fabric, Gore-Tex’ best and toughest waterproof fabric at the time of my hike (2012).
Cons: Unnecessarily tough and heavy for thru-hiking the PCT. Expensive.
Verdict: The Alpha SV is a great jacket, but overkill on the PCT. I used it because I already owned it. I would definitely carry a waterproof jacket on the PCT, but if you are looking to buy a new one I’d rather look at something lighter and cheaper.
See the Arcteryx Alpha SV on Amazon.com.
Devold Active Zip Neck wool shirt and long johns
Weight: 320 grams for the shirt (size L) and 240 grams for the long johns (size L)
The Devold active is made from 80 % merino wool and 20 % polyamide, and is thicker and warmer than the Devold Multisport. The Devold Active is super comfortable and plenty of warm. It’s what I typically wear for a mid-layer during winter in Norway. For the PCT it’s a bit overkill though. Sure, the Devold Active was nice to have when I went over Mt. Baden-Powell in gale force wind and freezing temperatures, but I am convinced that I would have been fine with the Multisport too. Although a bit colder… After the Sierras I found that the Active was simply too warm. If I used them for pajamas I always ended up soaking in sweat. I swapped them for the lighter and slightly “colder” Devold Multisport instead and never regretted it.
Devold Multisport wool shirt and long johns
Weight: 253 grams for the shirt (size L) and 195 grams for the long johns (size L)
Devold Multisports are made of one-layer meriono wool. I started out from Campo with another set of shirt and long johns, Devold Active. The Devold Active are great pieces of clothing, but proved to be too warm for the PCT. They also weigh more. I swapped them for the lighter and less warm Devold Multisport and was very happy with that. The Multisport provided me with enough insulation and at a reasonable weight. I used them when hiking in cold mornings and evenings, and as pajamas on colder nights.
Pros: Lightweight and plenty of warmth for the PCT.
Cons: Not the most durable.
Verdict: I loved the Devold Multisports. They worked out great. If I were to hike the PCT again that’s what I would pack.
REI Boxer Briefs
Weight: 75 grams (size L)
REI’s own branded boxer shorts made from 90% nylon and 10% spandex. I paid around $20 per pair and carried two of them. One on me and one in the backpack.
Pros: Comfortable and durable. The two pairs that I rotated lasted all the way from Mexico to Canada.
Verdict: I would buy them again.
REI Ultralight Quarter Socks
Weight: 42 grams a pair
From REI’s own brand of socks. I have no idea who actually makes them. I carried 3 pairs of these at any time, one on me and two in the backpack. I rotated them every day and got about a month’s worth of hiking out of 3 pairs. When they started to wear out I ordered in 3 new pairs.
Pros: Comfortable and relatively durable
Cons: Kinda expensive in my opinion ($11 a pair)
Verdict: I would buy them again.
Mountain Hardwear Transition Dome beanie
Weight: 28 grams
A great beanie made from Windstopper material and with fleece lining. I had the large one at 28 grams. I found it super comfy and started using it as my favorite beanie after the trail.
Pros: Warm, lightweight and super comfortable.
Verdict: I love my beanie.
Nike Dri-Fit running shorts
Weight: 100 grams
The running shorts didn’t see much action through California and Oregon. It was usually tucked away in my backpack as I wore the Propper BDU pants when hiking. The running shorts only came on when I had to do laundry. I ditched the pants in Washington though, and started hiking in the running shorts instead.
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable. Unrestricted movement.
Cons: Provides limited protection from the elements, from scratches and from stuff like poodle dog bush, poison oak etc.
Verdict: I really like the freedom of movement when hiking in running shorts, but then again I really like the extra protection when hiking in pants. The jury is still out on this one.
Patagonia sun gloves
Weight: 20 grams
I got my sun gloves in Mt. Laguna after getting sun burned on the backs of my hands the first few days of hiking (I don’t use trekking poles and often rest my hands by holding the shoulder straps). The sun gloves worked out well, and beats having to grease up on sunscreen all the time.
Pros: Protected my hands from more sunburns. Didn’t need to take gloves off to operate my smartphone. A great benefit of fingerless gloves.
Cons: Sometimes I would use the gloves for warmth, but the fact that they were fingerless made them less effective in that.
Verdict: They served their purpose.
Weight: 47 grams
I got my no-name bandana in Mt. Laguna for the same reasons as the sun gloves, to avoid sun burn. I found it very versatile and kept it around my neck almost throughout the hike. It protected my neck against the sun during the day, and provided extra warmth during early morning and evening.
Pros: Versatile and affordable.
Verdict: Be sure to bring one.
Mosquito head net
Weight: 20 grams
I got my mosquito head net from a discount store in Norway.
Pros: Lightweight and no need to use bug spray in the face.
Cons: Reduces visibility
Verdict: Be sure to bring one. Bug season in the Sierras can be awful.
First aid kit
Weight: 94 grams
My self made first aid kit was comprised of a roll of non-woven tape, a few pieces of second-skin, some small band-aids, and ibuprofen and Tylenol wrapped in a zip-lock bag. Weight: around 100 grams.
Pros: Lightweight and customizable.
Cons: Insufficient in case of severe injuries.
Verdict: My opinion is that a first aid kit for thru-hikers needs to be sufficient to treat blisters, minor scratches and aches and pains. My kit did that. For severe injuries and major trauma (broken bones, lacerations etc.) you will need medical evacuation and hospital treatment. In such an event a bigger first aid kit will bring little to the table in my opinion. But the good thing with self made first aid kits is that you can stock it to suit you level of comfort.
Weight: 20 grams
As far as hiking is concerned a toothbrush is a toothbrush. I just carried a straightforward standard toothbrush, Colgate I think. I never bothered to trim down the handle. I’m not that much of a gram hunter. I would stay away from heavy battery operated toothbrushes, but other than that just get one that works for you.
Weight: 48 grams
Every few weeks I need to trim my nails. Hands and feet. I carried a “heavy duty” nail clipper that was strong enough to cut toe nails. At 48 grams it wasn’t exactly lightweight, but I still carried it all the way from Mexico to Canada. Nail clippers come cheap though, around $1 – $2. If you’re truly a gram hunter I would suggest just buying a new one every time you need to cut your nails.
Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp
Weight: 70 grams including 3 x AAA lithium batteries
The headlamp itself is good enough. It has 5 light modes: High, low and strobe white light, and strobe and continuous red light. It’s driven by 3 x AAA batteries, lithium, alkaline or rechargeables. I got the Tikka Plus 2 for the PCT because it’s compatible with lithium batteries which are supposed to last longer than alkalines. I found the whole lithium thing to be a big hoax though. Sure, lithium batteries may give a higher output and maintain a steady voltage. But when lithiums die they die fast. I never got more than 3-4 hours of light on the highest setting before the headlamp went dark in no-time. At first I thought the lithium batteries were bad, but after going though 3 sets of batteries I thought it was the headlamp. I swapped it for the Black Diamond Spot, but had the exact same issues with that. I realized that none of the headlamps were broken. It’s just that lithium batteries are a hoax when it comes to headlamps and switched to using alkalines. Alkalines may not maintain max output for the same time as lithiums, but they actually last longer (although the output is gradually decreasing), are way cheaper and give you a fair warning before they die on you.
Pros: 5 different light settings. I like that it remembers the settings from last time when you turn it off and on.
Cons: At 70 lumens it’s far from the brightest headlamp out there.
Verdict: A good headlamp for using around camp, but if you are doing a lot of night hiking I would look into something more powerful. Forget about using lithiums in it. Save yourself some money and just go with regular alkalines.
Black Diamond Spot headlamp
Weight: 94 grams including 3 x AAA alkaline batteries
I got this to replace the Petzl Tikka Plus 2 which I believed to be broken, which it wasn’t. Same as the Tikka Plus 2 the Spot is powered by 3 x AAA batteries, lithium, alkaline or rechargeable. It also has 5 light modes: High, low and strobe white light, and strobe and continuous red light. At 90 lumens The Spot is significantly brighter than the Tikka Plus 2 though and better suited for night hiking.
Pros: Bright headlamp, good for night hiking.
Cons: I don’t like the controls on the Spot. It doesn’t remember the settings from last time, other than if it’s on red or white light. Every time I turn it on I have to toggle between “high beam” and proximity mode (the modes alternate), which is kind of annoying if I always want it on high beam.
Verdict: A bright and powerful headlamp. A good choice for night hiking. The same goes for the Spot as for the Tikka Plus 2: Forget about using lithiums in it. It’s not worth it. Save yourself some money and just go with regular alkalines.
Canon PowerShot S95 camera
Weight: 336 grams for camera, charger, memory card, pouch and an extra battery.
The S95 is a great camera. With a zoom range of 28-105mm (35mm equivalent) it’s a versatile camera that is great for hiking and all-round use. The pictures that come out of the S95 are simply great for a point-and-shoot.
Pros: Produces good quality pictures. Can be shot in automatic mode (like a normal point-and-shoot) and in shutter/aperture/manual modes much like a DSLR.
Cons: Like most compact cameras the battery life sucks.
Verdict: I love the quality of the photos that the S95 produced. I didn’t like the added weight of the camera though. Especially since I also carried a smart phone with a camera. I am glad I brought the S95 on the PCT, but when I get a smart phone with a camera that is good also in low light situations, the S95 stays at home.
Lenmar 2000 mAh external battery w/USB wall charger
Weight: 150 grams
I picked up this one at Fry’s Electronics at $30. It’s simply a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can be charged from the wall or a computer via USB, and then be used to charge devices via USB. I used it to recharge my Samsung Galaxy SII smart phone. The Lenmar battery would gave just over one full charge on the SII.
Pros: Lightweight and inexpensive
Cons: Takes a long time to recharge the battery
Verdict: For the price and the weight the Lenmar was much better than other alternatives (batteries, solar panels etc.) that I looked at. A neat little battery to extend the operation of my smart phone. I never ran out of power on my SII.
Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone
Weight: 160 grams for phone, USB charging cable, original headset and Case-Mate cover.
The Samsung Galaxy SII was my jack of all trades for 4 months on the trail. I used it as a camera, music player, GPS, for backing up photos from the S95, for web browsing and for sending and receiving emails. I also had Halfmile’s maps downloaded onto it just in case. The only thing I couldn’t do on the SII was to access online banking, due to lack of Oracle’s Java Runtime Environment in Android. On the trail the SII served mainly as a music player though. When put in flight mode I could get around 40 hours of music playback on one charge. That’s 4 days of hiking. With the extra power from the Lenmar I could keep it going for over a week.
Pros: Jack of all trades.
Cons: A bit too small serious writing (blogs etc.), but then again it’s a smart phone, not a tablet. I wish the camera was better in low-light situations.
Verdict: A smart phone is a great piece of technology and in my opinion it’s a “must-have” on the trail. That’s unless you are “muiring” it on the trail of course (“muiring” means to think that technology doesn’t belong on the trail and wish that you lived in the 1800’s). The SII served me very well.
Spare batteries (3 x AAA alkaline)
Weight: 36 grams
2x Corsair Voyager Mini USB stick + code generator
Weight: 20 grams total
One 16GB and one 32GB Corsair Voyager Mini USB stick. I used them to take backups of my photos. I also had an installation of Ubuntu Linux on one of them. The idea was to have my own installation of the operating system that I could run off the USB when borrowing a computer. I didn’t get to use Ubuntu all that much though. The code generator was to log into online banking.
Key chain LED
Weight: 8 grams
A simple single-LED light with a button cell battery. It’s a great thing to have around camp etc. Not so great for hiking due to the low output, but good to have as a backup in case the headlamp fails. I picked up mine for $2 at a discount store.
Notepad and pencil, survival whistle, compass
Weight: 64 grams
Notepad, pencil and compass was made obsolete by my smart phone (Yeah, yeah, I know. Only as long as I have power. And as for the survival whistle, what’s wrong with shouting if in trouble. They are probably smart things to carry, but I never used any of them and ditched them at Donner Pass.
Gerber Paraframe I
Weight: 80 grams
A simple, but great knife. I always carried it in my hip belt.
ID, credit card, drivers license, passport etc
Weight: 120 grams
Can’t go without it…
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack, 8L
Weight: 37 grams
Used to organize and compartmentalize electronics, first aid kit and other smaller stuff. And, of course, to protect the contents from water. After a while I wore small holes in it, but it still worked out great. 8 liters is a bit big though. I could have gotten away using a smaller one.
Granite Gear dry sack food bag, 13L
Weight: 53 grams
Used to organize and store food when not bear-canister land (Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite). The Granite Gear was made of a slightly more durable fabric than the Sea To Summit sack, but I still managed to wear holes in it (freeze dried bags with sharp corners). Worked out great though. Beats carrying a bear canister.
Paracord, 8m (~25ft)
Weight: 50 grams
Nice to have for emergency repairs, if you need to hang your food bag etc. I never used it, but would still recommend to carry some.
Outdoor Research sun hat
Weight: 80 grams
The brim is wide enough to provide sufficient shade from the sun. Except foor in the neck, which I learned the hard way when I got sunburned hiking out of Campo. I also like that it’s collapsible and easy to stow. The hat is also washable so you can get rid of the cocktail of sweat, sunscreen and bug repellent that inevitably builds up. A great hat.
Native Gonzo sunglasses
Weight: 40 grams
Super light weight polycarbonate sunglasses. Mine were polarized. They have wide temples that block out light from the sides. The Native Gonzos fit me just perfect, and for that I love them.
Under Armour Catalyst Longsleeve T-shirt
Weight: 150 grams (size M)
The Catalyst is loose to the fit, very comfortable and is rated UPF 50+ for sun protection. It’s made out of 100% polyester and will last a long time. I wore the same shirt both on the John Muir Trail in 2011 and on the PCT in 2012. Almost 3000 miles. A great shirt, both for protection against the sun and for warmth (due to the long sleeves).
Propper BDU pants
Weight: 690 grams (size medium/long)
Affordable and practical pants that you can buy at any military surplus store. I found the big side pockets very useful and always carried my maps in one pocket and my pocket knife and some snacks in the other. They come in different colors and fabrics (cotton, polyester blends, nylon blends etc.). I prefer the 100% cotton ones. They are the most comfortable and breathable, but unfortunately wear out quite quickly. I also tried pants in polyester/cotton blend and cotton/nylon blend (ACU pants), but they didn’t breathe as well as the cotton pants. Hiking in pants is great for protection from scratches, bugs and poisonous bushes (poodle dog bush, poison oak etc.), as well as protection from the elements (sun, wind, rain, cold). Compared to shorts they do limit the freedom of movement though, and when I hit Washington I decided to ditch the pants and hike in my running shorts instead. They both have their pros and cons, and which one is better depends on where you are hiking.
Merrell Moab Ventilator hiking shoes
Weight: 910 grams a pair (US size 10,5)
This is the type of shoe that I started from Campo with and that I hiked most of the PCT in. I also used Moab Ventilators on the John Muir Trail in 2011. When they are brand new the Moab Ventilators are very good and very comfortable. They have one big flaw though. After around 300 miles the mid-sole gets compressed to the point where it doesn’t provide any more cushioning. The mid-sole basically collapses. I went through 4 pairs from Campo, CA to Stehekin, WA and they all suffered from the same problem. By the time I reached Stehekin I was suffering from plantar fasciitis because of this, and I decided to ditch the Moab Ventilators for some Brooks Cascadias. I should have done that a lot earlier.
Pros: Comfortable when new. Has a durable out-sole and good grip.
Cons: Mid-sole collapses after approximately 300 miles and leaves the shoes with no cushioning.
Verdict: OK for walking around shoes, but stay away from them for long-distance hiking. The mid-sole simply wears out way to fast. I met people who thru-hiked the PCT in road runners (Nike, Brooks, Asics etc.) and got 700-800 miles out of each pair, so I would expect more than 300 miles from a pair of hiking shoes before they need to be replaced.
Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes
Weight: 790 grams a pair (US size 10,5)
I got the Brooks Cascadias in Stehekin, WA, 80 miles from the end. I had never tried them on before, but a lot of the other hikers had already converted to the Cascadias and were very happy with them. I decided to take a chance and ordered a new pair online. The Cascadias were lighter than the Moab Ventilator, and they also had a rock shield in the mid-sole to distribute pressure from rocks and sharp objects. I used the Brooks Cascadias for the rest of the PCT and on some shorter hikes afterwards. Great shoes. I wish I had switched to them earlier.
Seiko wrist watch
Weight: 70 grams
My beloved Seiko titanium chronograph. Shows the time and is very lightweight. There were times though when I wished I had a hiking watch with altimeter etc. instead.