It’s been a few years since my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, and the gear in my pack has changed dramatically.
The idea of another thru-hike (PCT or otherwise) interrupts my thoughts on a daily basis, and I fear that the only way to silence this persistent nagging voice inside my head is to once again walk the distance from Mexico to Canada (although some of Europe’s and New Zealand’s trails also have my attention).
The base weight of the gear included on this list (not including the clothing to be worn or the small miscellaneous items such as cords, a toothbrush, or Ziploc bags) is 10.47 lbs (4.749 kg).
Add another 2 lbs. 9 oz. (1.162 kg) for the BV500 in the Sierra.
THE BIG STUFF
- BACKPACK | ULA Circuit
- SHELTER | Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 1
- SLEEPING BAG | Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 20
- SLEEPING PAD | Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
- LINER | Sea to Summit Silk Liner
- TREKKING POLES | Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
- BEAR CANISTER | BearVault BV500 (Sierra)
- HEADWEAR | Double Mountain Fitted Hat
- HEADWEAR | Icebreaker Apex Hat
- SUNGLASSES | RayBan RB2140 Wayfarer (54mm)
- JACKET | Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket (Full Review)
- RAIN JACKET | Marmot Essence Jacket
- SHIRT | Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve
- SHORTS | Mountain Hardwear Piero Utility Short
- SHOES | Merrell Moab Ventilators
- INSOLES | Superfeet Wide Green Premium Insoles
- SOCKS | Darn Tough 1/4 Hiking Socks x 2 (Full Review)
- UNDERWEAR | Under Armour Heat Gear Mid Compression Shorts x 2
- BUG PROTECTION | Sea to Summit Head Net
THE SMALLER STUFF
- HEADLAMP | Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
- WATER TREATMENT | Sawyer Squeeze
- WATER BOTTLE | 2L Smart Water bottle (x2)
- KNIFE | Petzl Spatha Knife
- RAINCOVER | ULA Pack Cover
- SLEEPING BAG STUFF SACK | Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack (13L)
- STUFF SACKS | Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks (2.5L, 9L, 15L)
- STOVE | Jetboil Flash Lite*
- UTENSIL | Snow Peak Titanium Spork
- FIRE | Mini Bic
- STORAGE | Assorted Ziplocs
*I am currently stoveless (for reasons outlined here), but if I were to bring a stove, this is what it would be.
- PHONE | Nexus 6P
- POWER | AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank (10,000 mAh)
- HEADPHONES | Bose SoundSport In-Ear Headphones
- CORDS | Micro USB Cord
- CHARGER | USB Wall Adapter
- TOILET PAPER | Make it soft
- TOOTHBRUSH | Chop the handle
- TOOTHPASTE | Travel size
- HAND SANITIZER | Travel size
- CARDS | Credit/Debit
- CASH MONEY | Benjamins = Ultralight
- RUBBER BANDS | Quite useful
- DUCT TAPE | Wrap it around something
- NOTEBOOK | Moleskine Classic Pocket Ruled Notebook
- PEN | Pilot G2 0.7
The ULA Circuit is one of the most popular packs for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It easily fits the BV500 and other bear canisters and up to 35 lbs (16 kg) of gear. I am also a huge fan of the multiple and very stretchy mesh pockets.
41 oz (1.162 kg) – $235 US
Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 1
I have yet to make the leap to tarps, and so for now I would have to go with the Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL 1 as my shelter on the PCT. This thing can be set up practically anywhere and will keep you dry should you encounter a summer thunderstorm. However, if you don’t feel the need for an enclosed, freestanding tent, then there are other lighter options available.
33 oz (940 g) – $350 US
Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 20
I have long dreamt of owning a Feathered Friends sleeping bag, and I would be elated to bring their lightest twenty degree bag along on a PCT thru-hike. The Hummingbird UL is made with a water-resistant and breathable fabric that comes in three colors (but obviously orange is the one you want to go with).
25 oz (717 g) – $479 US
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite from Cascade Designs is the lighest full-length sleeping pad on the market. It sports an impressive 3.2 r-value (that’s the insulation rating), and it packs up quite small. The only problem is that it can sometimes be noisy, so be considerate to your neighbors.
12 oz (350 g) – $130 US
Sea to Summit Silk Liner
Although not completely necessary, I am a huge fan of sleeping bag liners. Sea to Summit’s silk liner protects your sleeping bag from your disgusting mess of a body and adds a few degrees of warmth for those particularly cold nights.
4.4 oz (125 g) – $75 US
Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
Not everyone is a fan of trekking poles, but I’m a convert and the Corklite Trekking Poles from Leki are comfortable, built with robust (and easy to use) locking mechanisms, and are capable of taking a beaking – everything necessary for a PCT thru-hike.
19 oz (541 g) – $140 US
The one piece of gear that every thru-hiker wishes they didn’t need to carry, the bear canister is a requirement for hiking in the Sierra. I own, use, and would bring the BearVault BV500 with me on another PCT thru-hike. It has a 11.5 liter (700 cu. in.) capacity and doubles as an excellent stool (perhaps its most redeeming quality). Plus, it stops the bears. For more on bear canisters, check out this post.
2 lbs. 9 oz. (1.162 kg) – $80 US
Icebreaker Apex Hat
The second piece of equipment from Icebreaker on this list, the Apex Hat is a one-size-fits-all beanie capable of fitting over my 7 5/8 head. It’s lightweight, warm, stretchy, and best of all, merino.
2.33 oz (66 g) – $20 US
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Hooded Jacket
One of the surviving pieces of gear from my first thru-hike, the Ghost Whisperer from Mountain Hardwear is a spectacular ultralight down jacket. I have the version without a hood, but I would gladly take a hood for just .7 oz (21 g) of extra weight. Read my detailed review of the Ghost Whisperer here.
7.7 oz. (219 g) / $350 US
Marmot Essence Jacket
Although I hate the rain, during a five-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail you would be extrodinairly lucky to have fair weather the entire time. The Marmot Essence. It’s an incredibly lightweight and highly rated jacket that supposedly will breathe in even the wettest conditions. Just note that it has no hand pockets. Worth it for the weight.
6.3oz (178.6g) / $200 US
Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve
Although I fear for my arms when it comes time to invade mosquito territory, I would still be hiking in my Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve shirt. It’s comfortable, quick-drying, odor-resistant, breathable, and never chafes my nipples.
4.48 oz (127 g) – $99 US
Mountain Hardwear Piero Utility Shorts
I shave yet to find a pair of hiking pants or shorts that I truly love. Shorts are my preferred hiking equipment, and I’m not sold on convertibles. A future PCT thru-hike would likely see me in a pair of Mountain Hardwear Piero Utility Shorts.
10 oz (282 g) – $75 US
Darn Tough 1/4 Hiking Socks
By the end of the PCT nearly everyone was wearing Darn Tough socks. They’re comfortable, made with merino wool, have a lifetime guarantee, and offer great cushion. You will never want to buy another brand of sock. Read my detailed review of Darn Tough Socks here.
7.2 oz (204 g) – $20 US
Merrell Moab Ventilators
The Moab Ventilators from Merrell is my favorite shoe for trekking. They’re wide enough for my fat-ass foot, water-resistant (but still breathable), and have awesome tread/laces. There’s a Goretex version available, but I would stick with the standard shoes since they’re far cheaper and probably breathe a bit better.
13 oz (369 g) – $100 US
Superfeet Wide Green Premium Insoles
I started using the Superfeet Wide Green Premium Insoles early in my first thru-hike when I was having foot, toe, and blister problems – and I’ve been using them ever since. I can’t say 100% whether or not they’re responsible for increasing my comfort, but I’m happy to have them along.
1.6 oz (45 g) – $50
Under Armour Heat Gear Mid Compression Shorts
My criteria for the all-important underwear is simple. I need something that’s comfortable, odor resistant, durable, and going to help prevent chafing. Under Armour Compression Shorts have done this for me for years, and I am still wearing them because I am happy with their performance.
7 oz (198 g) – $25 US
Sea to Summit Head Net
Basically a must, the Sea to Summit Head Net is a small, lightweight, and basic piece of equipment with a very important job – to keep insects off your head and out of your face holes. I’ve had the same one for years and usually just keep it stuffed into my pocket and ready to deploy.
1.2 oz (34 g) – $10 US
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
I have found that I like a bit of power in my headlamp (and that I enjoy having a red light), so the Black Diamond Spot would definitely be my pick for a PCT thru-hike. The 90 lumen light has impressive battery life and even has a lock to prevent it from turning on accidentally in your pack. However, if you’re looking for something lighter, check out the Petzl e+LITE.
3.4 oz (96 g) – $40
Although I’m not 100% sold on any filtration system, I would bring the Sawyer Squeeze along on a PCT thru-hike. Yes, it can be annoying to use if you don’t maintain it, but it’s reliable, versatile, and lightweight. For more on PCT water filters, click here.
3.5 oz (99 g) – $35 US
Petzl Spatha Knife
Some people may like bringing multi-tools, but the only thing I ever used on mine was my knife. I have since converted to carrying a Petzl Spatha Knife and I have been very happy with its cheese-cutting performance (and price). It might not be completely necessary, but it’s definitely useful and I enjoy having a knife with me on the trail (bear fights etc.).
1.4 oz (40 g) – $40 US
ULA Pack Cover
Some people put all of their things in a giant garbage bag in their pack, but I would rather use a ULA Pack Cover for my bag during those awful rainy days on the trail. According to ULA, the medium is the best fit for the Circuit.
1.1 oz (31 g) – $30 US
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack (13L)
For keeping your sleeping bag compact and dry, there are few options better than the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack. I’m not a huge believer in cuben fiber as it basically disintegrates over the course of thru-hikes so I will stick with the nylon stuff sacks.
1 oz (28g) – $22 US
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks (2.5, 9L, 15L)
I am a fan or organization, and the lightweight Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks are what I use to carry my clothing, food, and miscellaneous items. They are water-resistant (not waterproof like the one I use for my sleeping bag), and durable (so long as you keep sharp/pointy objects away from them).
.4 oz (11g) – $15 US / .7 oz (20g) – $18 / 1 oz (28 g) – $19 US
The Jetboil MicroMo is a game-changer with its simmer control (as Appa likes to put it). The Jetboil stoves are incredibly quick to boil water and the systems are also conveniently compact. The canisters are also fairly easy to find since most of the shops along the PCT know that hikers are looking for them. For more on stoves for the PCT, check out this post.
12 oz (340g) – $130
Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Sure, you could get a plastic spoon from McDonalds, but if you want a utensil that’s going to last forever (so long as you don’t lose it), then get a Snow Peak Titanium Spork. It won’t melt, it’s easy to clean, and it’s mother fucking titanium. Eat your trail meal like the champion you are.
0.3 oz (8.5 g) – $10
Most of you probably have your phone situation sorted, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still plug my current (and favorite) phone, the Nexus 6P. This phone takes spectacular photos (it could easily be your camera replacement on the trail), has a decent battery life (especially on airplane mode), and allows me to do all the Halfway Anywhere updating I need to do (when I get service/wifi). The only thing is that it’s huge.
6.31 oz (179 g) – $500
AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank (10,000 mAh)
I used to use a solar panel to charge my things (this one), but I’ve converted to using a power bank that I charge up in town and then use while on the trail. This one will charge a phone nearly six times before needing to be recharged. If you for some reason need more power than that, then there is a 16,100 mAh version available as well.
7.6 oz (215 g) – $25
Bose SoundSport In-Ear Headphones
Not everyone is a fan of listening to music (or whatever it is you listen to) on the trail, and that’s fine. However, I would love to have along a pair of Bose SoundSport In-Ear Headphones to blast J-Pop into my ears as I attempt to crush miles and climbs across the country. I also require a microphone and controls built into the headphones – of which this pair has both.
0.6 oz (17 g) – $100
Obviously the PCT gear list here is just one of infinite possibilities.
What I’ve laid out here is the gear I would bring with me on a PCT thru-hike if tomorrow someone said that I was off to hike the PCT again.
Is there anything here you would do differently? Anything missing? Any awesome gear that I have yet to hear about? Leave a comment and let me know!