What I’m Packing: Pacific Crest Trail Gear List

One thing you can learn about thruhiking via the internet is that how much weight you’re carrying will have a measured effect on how much you’re enjoying you’re hike.

Not that long ago, it wasn’t rare for people to carry packs that, not counting food, water, etc weighed upwards of 30 or 40lbs. Cheryl Strayed’s pack, fully loaded, supposedly weighed half her body weight (there’s a reason she named it Monster.)

Now backpacking gear and it’s enthusiasts are trying to find a balance between lighter weight, durability and price point. Some people spent a lot of time, energy, education and often money trying to make their base weight – the weight of a person’s gear not including the clothes on their back, food, water, or fuel – as little as possible.

An “ultralight” hiker is someone who’s base weight is typically less than 12 lbs. Almost every UL hiker whose gear you look at will be carrying a tarp or a tarptent – an easy way to shave a pound or more off your base weight. They also tend to be fastidious about not carrying duplicate gear.

A “lightweight” hiker’s base weight ranges between 13 to 20 lbs. They might have a freestanding tent (like me), sleep clothes, town clothes, and a few other luxury items.

A “traditional” hiker has a base weight of 20 lbs or more.

My baseweight comes in just under 15 lbs, which is considered lightweight. My pack recommends not carrying more than 35lbs at a time, which means I’ve got about 20lbs to play with as far as food, water, and changing gear is concerned. That’s not much, considering that water weights 2.2lbs/liter (and there will be sections I’ll have to carry 6 or more liters of water) and in order to eat enough calories, I’ll be carrying around 2 lbs of food per day I’m hiking. Not to mention, 35lbs is heavy, and heavy slows you down.

I’m giving exact numbers where I can and making guesses where I can’t. I’m not invested enough in exact ounces to weigh each individual piece myself, so I’m going off of product weight details or other hiker’s estimates.

Main Items
Backpack – ULA Circuit – 41 oz – I upgraded this from a 62 oz Deuter backpack to save myself 1.5 lbs and it ended up being more comfortable than the Deuter
Tent – REI quarter dome 1 – 34 oz
Sleeping pad – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s Regular – 12 oz
Sleeping bag/quilt – Enlightened Equipment Revelation – 21.5 oz
Ground sheet – Tyvek – 5 (?ish?) oz
Sleeping bag liner – 4 oz – Bringing this mainly to put over my sleeping pad because I find it super uncomfortable to sleep directly on plastic. It’s also a nice back up for especially cold nights to help prevent drafts from the quilt, or for warm nights where I don’t need my sleeping quilt.

Total: 117.5 oz 

Potential modifications: I could maybe be talked into a tarp tent, but have seen enough people struggle with them that I’m OK with the Quarter Dome for now. Price is also pretty prohibitive there. Also although some people don’t feel more “protected” inside a tent, I definitely do (for now.) It would be near impossible to talk me into a straight tarp at this point. I can drop the sleeping bag liner if I decide it’s unnecessary, ditto for Tyvek. I have been using both on weekend trips.

Worn clothing (not part of base weight)
Shoes – still figuring this out
Socks – Darn Toughs or Injinji’s (still figuring this out)
Sun shirt – Columbia sun hiking shirt
Smartwool Tshirt
Pants – Columbia Saturday Trail Pant
Underwear – Ibex Wool 
Bra – Panache
Sunglasses – Random cheap polarized glasses, fancier glasses for the Sierra snow
Hat
Trekking pole (one)

Potential modifications: Might drop sun gloves if they prove unnecessary, might switch to running shorts if pants prove too hot/my legs can handle the sun, might give up on trekking poles if I can’t teach myself to love them, might have to change shoes depending on just how swollen my already-wide feet get out there

Packed clothing
Rain gear – Dry ducks small jacket – 5 oz (ish)
Socks – Darn toughs x2 – 5 oz
Down jacket – 7.2 oz (Bought on sale from campsaver.com, 50% off)
Underwear – Ibex Wool – 1.6 oz
Cold weather gloves – 1 oz ish
Beanie – 1 oz ish
Bandanas x3 – 1 oz ish

Total: 35.8 oz

Potential modifications: Current plan with bandanas is one is for nose blowing, one is a pee rag, and one is for sun protection/water filtering. Could potentially drop one in the future.

Cooking/Food storage
Stove – Pocket rocket knockoff – 3 oz
Pot – 7.5 oz
Long spoon – .5 oz
Opsack odor proof food bag 28.20 – 2 oz
Windscreen (Aluminum foil) – .05 oz

Total: 13.5 oz

Water
1.5L Evernew Bladder – 1.3 oz
2L Evernew Bladder – 1.5 oz
Evernew Bladder Hose – 2oz (ish)
Smart Water Bottles x 2 – 2.6 oz
Sawyer Squeeze – 3 oz

Total: 10.4 oz

Potential changes: Likely using the 2L Evernew Bladder as a “dirty” bag for Sawyer – whole thing is subject to change, one of the challenges of carrying water on the sides of your pack is having to adjust it as you go through your water lest you end up walking like Igor. At this point I definitely prefer being able to sip water effortlessly via a tube than having to take a waterbottle out of my pack. But the bladder hose is compatible with Smart Water bottles so I may end up just attaching it to the bottles directly.

First aid/emergency/hygiene kit
Duct tape, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Pepto, Antifungal, anti-chafe, Sunscreen, chapstick, antibacterial, sunscreen, needle, thread – 5oz ish
Toothbrush, Toothpaste,  Floss, Hand sanitizer, Wet wipes, TP, Menstrual cup, Deuce of Spades – 5 oz ish
Lighters x2, Whistle, Compass, (2.4 oz), Multitool – 5 oz ish
DeLorme InReach – 7 oz

Total: 22 oz

Potential modifications: Changes to first aid kit as different things become an issue/nonissue, will eventually add bug spray/lotion

Electronics
10k MAH Battery pack – 6.4 oz
Headlamp – 4.6 oz
iPhone7 w/ lifeproof case- 6 oz
Earbuds – .4.oz
Backup batteries for headlamp – 1 oz
Charges/cords – 3 oz (ish)

Total: 21 oz

Misc
Trash compactor bag – pack liner – 1 oz ish
Cards/cash/ID — 3 oz ish
Hiking Umbrella – 7 oz
Maps – varies, let’s say 2.5 oz
SticPic + Phone holder – 1 oz

Total: 14.5 oz

Potential modifications: Umbrella will get shipped ahead or ditched in the Sierra, possibly sooner. We’ll see if I use the SticPic, or the trekking poles that it attaches to, for that matter.

Total pack base weight: 234.1 oz (14.6 lbs)

Later gear
Bug net
Microspikes
Ice axe or whippet
Bear canister

The last of the lazy Sundays – pre-trip, Battleship Mountain, AZ

Today is one of my last “lazy” Sundays before the trail. Three Sunday after this one I will be hiking through the desert barely having scratched the surface of 2600 miles. The last Sunday where I can imagine soreness and stiffness as a temporary condition. 

Yesterday I hiked Battleship Mountain with three other people who are all doing the Oregon Coast Trail this summer. Our challenges are going to be different. They’re hiking 400 miles, but only have 3 weeks to do it, which means they will have to average 18 miles a day with little time to acclimate. I’m hiking 2600 miles but have the freedom of taking time and having patience with my body for the first few weeks. They will be cold. I will be battling the sun. They’ll be sleeping in hotels and yurts and designated campgrounds much of the way, eating hot meals and drinking beer, and I will not be. 


Still, Battleship Mountain was a challenge for all of us. Long (5 miles before reaching the base), steep, bushwacking, trail finding, scrambling (some of which could be called low grade rock climbing). 


We started giving each other trail names. When I slid my hand across a cactus that was hidden in a bush while we were bushwacking, I became “Cactus Whacker.” When my blistered feet and overtired legs made me slow for the last two miles, I became “Willie” – “because you’re moving by sheer force of will at this point.”

“So you’ve named me Cactus Willie Whacker?”

We got a kick out of that. I won’t be taking it with me on the PCT.


We didn’t make it to the very last summit of Battleship Mountain. That’s okay. We were tired, and the exhaustion was making the eroded granite that gave the “ball-bearing slope” its name especially treacherous. We called it and turned around.


Today I am hobbling around. I threaded some string through my blisters last night to much success, but my feet are still tender. I’ve decided to take it easy today. I took myself to brunch, read a book. I am trying to revel in the fact that in three Sundays, I won’t have the choice to put my feet up and drive to breakfast and watch hours of TV. I won’t get to cuddle with my dogs or wake up next to my husband. I will be choosing to be sore and exhausted every day. I will be choosing to walk on anyway. 

It is also strange to think that however long I’m out there – hopefully five months, or however long it takes me to reach Canada – when I come back I will be coming back to a life that won’t quite fit me anymore. Too loose or too tight. Too sharp or soft. I will be stepping into a phantom life that I recognize and yet won’t quite seem alive anymore. Or that’s what I imagine. That’s what happens in small doses when I come back from long, hard hikes. I see my daily life and it seems to be, however slightly, sized to someone else. 
I am nervous and afraid and excited and hopeful. 2600 miles seems too long and also totally possible. 5 months seems too hard and yet within my grasp.

The only way to do it is to do it I guess. But hopefully without feet filled with blisters. I have four pairs of shoes I’m testing out. Wide feet are especially hard to protect on the trail, it seems. I will find a way.