PCT Gear List: A Review from the Rearview

(Please check out my previous post titled “How to be a Sponsored Hiker” if you are thinking about hiking the PCT in this or the following year.)

This is a long time coming, but I wanted to get this up in a timely manner, in the hopes it could help others in their planning.

Apologies for not having it set up in a clean, visually appealing excel worksheet with pictures, but I am slammed for time…I’m sure everyone knows the feeling too well! πŸ™‚

I’ll set each section apart, from clothing to food to foot care, etc.  I will also include how I obtained the equipment, and where possible the prices (as of 2011).

Without further ado:

The Post Trip Gear List Review!

The “Big Three”

Backpack: McHale “Chasm”
Cost: $745 (sponsored)
Website: http://www.mchalepacks.com
This pack was amazing. Dan McHale handmade it custom for me as he does all of his packs, and he even integrated some cuben fiber into the design (hip belt pockets, side water bottle holders). It rode on my hips like it wasn’t even there, and expanded beautifully to accommodate any amount of gear or food I needed, including a large sized Garcia Bear Vault. Ruggedness was what I would have expected, exemplary. I do thinking could have chosen a lighter pack, but I never had to worry about wear issues, breakages, or discomfort. I would use a McHale pack again in a heartbeat.

Sleeping Quilt: Jacks’R’Better “Sierra Sniveller”
Website: http://www.jacksrbetter.com
This was a down quilt, 900 fill, and weighed 24 ounces. It packed down very small, but I would rarely pack it that way, instead opting to let it loft a little in the pack. It was my first time using a quilt, and I’ll not go back to a traditional sleeping bag. The options it gave me for different temperatures was a big plus. I was only cold once, but not cold enough to keep me from sleeping. It was warm and toasty all through the Sierra (the record snowfall was conquered by this bag!), and it was one piece of gear I looked forward to using the most. I’m sold on the JRB product, their customer service and friendliness, and can’t recommend them highly enough.

Shelter/Tarp: Yama Mountain Gear “Stratiform III Tarp; Bug Tent 1.25; custom Tyvek ground cloth
Cost: $165 (tarp); $119 (bug tent) (Sponsored)
Website: http://www.yamamountaingear.com
What can I say about this company… Awesome. From the tarp design, to the quality, to the customer care & service. Gen Shimizu has his finger on the pulse of lightweight backcountry travel. I began the trek with his silnylon version of the Stratiform III tarp. Many nights I didn’t have to use it due to the great weather. When I did (thank you, Mt. Whitney, for your generous opportunity to test the tarp in a raging downpour!) it handled the weather with applomb. The Bug Tent was worth it’s weight in gold. Solid, roomy, easy to set up (as was the tarp), I used it on buggy evenings, or even as a quick respite at lunch to escape the mosquitoes. Halfway through, I switched to a cuben fiber model of the Stratiform III, and at just about 7 ounces of protective peace of mind, I loved it. A slight touch smaller than the silnylon version, but not by much. I would highly recommend these tarps/bug tents based on how they performed on my journey.

An addition to the “Big Three” is necessary…footwear. It’s massively important. I saw more than one good hiker leave the trail because of foot issues. It shouldn’t have to happen.

Shoes: Inov-8 “Terroc 330” trail runners.
Cost: $130ish, deals can be found. I paid around $90-100 a pair.
I went with the Inov-8s based on their reputation for dependability and toughness. The Terroc’s had a wider toe box, and since the brand typically run narrow as it is, it fit me perfectly. I never had an issue with them. I started with a half size larger than u normally wear, and the other pairs were a full size larger. I could have gotten away with a half size for the whole trip. They have minimal cushioning, yet comfortable. Very airy, drying time fairly average. Stink factor after being soggy through the Sierra was not bad. Never had rubber delam issues. Only wear issues were on outside of mesh, where pinkie toes sit. There’s a crease there, and it exacerbates wear. I noticed Jeff Saufley’s as well as Heading North’s wore the exact same way. They all lasted over 600 miles each, and could have lasted longer. I would use the Inov-8’s again. Very good shoe.

Head to Toe:

Headwear: a variety of hats!
Began with a Columbia wide brimmed straw hat. Good, but had to modify back rim to fit with pack. Moved to basic green wide brimmed hat that I found new in a hiker box in Big Bear. Worked great, but was warmer after Tahoe, so I switched to a visor/bandana option at Echo Lake. Really liked this option, and if I was to start all over, I’d do it this way: GoLite visor with an oversized bandana. The bandana also doubled as a water filter to get out chunkies when needed.

Beanie: BlackRock Gear down beanie
Cost: $59 (sponsored)
Website: http://www.blackrockgear.com
What a great piece of equipment! I would use this as part of my sleep system, as well as a very warm, comfortable beanie in the mornings and evenings. My head was never once cold on the trip with this beanie. Occasionally it was cold enough to wear while hiking, but usually wouldn’t need it for that. All of 27 grams, and 900 fill down. I wouldn’t think about doing this trail without one, it’s just that versatile & comfortable.

Bandana: YES.
You just need to have this on the trip. Comfort, safety, you name it. I bought an oversized one at REI for less than $3. Five thumbs up.

Sunglasses: Ray Ban sunglasses, polarized, prescription.
Thank you Lenscrafters for the great sale you had going on! I had my eyes examined, an updated prescription made, the frames + polarized lenses all for $299. Good sunglasses are critical. You could end up going snow-blind (I saw this happen with three hikers, one needed help to get off the mountain he was on and into town), and long term damage can result. The snow glare, not to mention general brightness and reflection from rocks and sand can be torturous. Wider fit the better. Get them. Crucial.

Shirt: REI Sahara Long Sleeve Shirt
Price: $55
Really liked this shirt. Tough as nails, dried insanely fast, well vented along the puts, back, and front pockets, and the button down aspect was great when hot. UV protection. I would wear it again.

Shirt: Smartwool Microweight Wool 1/3 zip
Cost: Approx. $65
Loved this top, wore it through the Sierra. Stink factor very good, durability was decent. Being a microweight, it did tear when I fell face first onto my shoulder and slid down the trail a ways. Once it gets a tear, it’s best to treat it with burned wax or some type of polish, to reduce fraying and further holes. Downside: your shoulders will be easy pickings for hungry mosquitoes, but I got used to the constant itchiness. I would use this again for sure.

Jacket: Patagonia Nano Puff 1/3 zip
Cost: over $100, found mine used.
Excellent piece of equipment. Versatile. Great for cold mornings/evenings. Synthetic, so I never worried about being caught wet. (synthetics retain heat better than down when wet). could use as pillow at night, or extra layer of warmth if needed. Also used as “kilt” when doing laundry (with it unzipped, fit neck section over my waist, and tied the arms together. Was awesome, if not hilarious looking!) would use it again.

Wind Jacket: Patagonia “Houdini”
Cost: Usually over $100, mine was $90.
Super lightweight, very effective against wind and light/medium rain. Less than 4 ounces. I’d use it again inns heartbeat.

Pants: RailRider “Eco Mesh” pants.
Cost: about &100+, mine were $95
loved these. Came with insect shield. I never had a single tick issue. Very lightweight, dried insanely fast. The sides of the legs had zippers running nearly the full length, and when opened there is an airy mesh fabric. Tough as nails, nit a single tear in the pants despite many opportunities for one to be had. If there was one thing I’d change, I would add cargo pockets. I’d wear them again.

Underwear: Ex-Officio “Boxer Briefs”
Cost: Around $18-$26
Awesome! I wore just one pair, and aside from a little sweat discoloration in the back, they are just as I bought them. Super comfortable and very nice. I’m ging to buy several pair for everyday use!

Socks: different types. I just made sure they were mostly wool, or a poly-wool blend. I did find that some Smartwool socks fell apart a little too quickly, while Wig-Wam socks held up really well, at a lower price point.

Gaiters: two types:
Dirty Girl. Really lightweight, worked well, but not durable over the miles. My first pair had holes on the inside of the ankles (and the outside, as I was swapping them to keep the wear down). By Kennedy Meadows, I switched to a little heavier pair of Outdoor Research gaiters. They had the same type of wear holes by mile 1800. If I did it again, I would start with the Dirty Girls in the desert again, and switch to the taller, tougher Outdoor Research again at Kennedy Meadows.

Ibuprofen: Thru-hikers call it “Vitamin I” for a reason…good stuff. Consult your physician, of course.

iPod Touch 64 gig, with a Pelican i1015 hard case.
The case weighs 8 ounce, a little heavy, but it gave me peace of mind knowing it was safe, protected from shock, water and dust.
The iPod Touch performed multiple tasks phenomenally. It shot Hi-Definition video with great sound. I was able to use several different types of editing apps to edit the video and post the videos to YouTube. It picked up free WiFi in most towns (coffee shops & McDonalds were great spots). I stored contact information for other hikers I met, journaled, kept notes on mileage, had a couple movies downloaded to watch every now and then, cut and paste articles in towns to read while I was on the trail….you name it, it seemed to do it. Lighter than an iPhone, too. Can you tell I liked it? Get one. It changes everything. πŸ™‚

Sleeping Pad: I used closed foam cell pads, usually two, through most of the trip. Towards the end, I used a ThermaRest Neo-Air.


I’m so sold on this. It’s the lightest inflatable that I know of, and it made a huge difference. Instead of waking up several times a night to shift around to get comfortable, I slept the whole night through. It’s worth the price tag.

GPS: Garmin CSX
I started the trip without a GPS, and as far as the navigational aspect there’s really no need for one. I picked mine up at about mile 1200, and I really liked the feature of knowing how fast I was hiking and how far I went each day. I would love if it was smaller, and used a smaller, lighter battery configuration. Otherwise, I would use one again for the same reasons.

Water Filtration: I started with Aqua Mira, then switched to straight bleach. I figured that the end result of mixing part A and part B of Aqua Mira is bleach. Just very, very expensive bleach. I was able to get my little tiny dropper bottle filled at restataunts, trail angels or convenience stores for free. I never had any issues and if done right, the taste was totally acceptable. If there were chunkies in the water, or silt, I used my bandana to make the water visually cleaner. I’ll use this method from here on out. (I used this measuring method: very sketchy water, 3 drops per liter. Average water, 2 drops/liter. Clean/fairly clear water, 1 drop/liter).

Watch: Casio watch with altimeter/barometer.
Worked really well. At one point, the altimeter matched up with elevation signs for 3 weeks straight with no calibration. Was never usually more than 30 feet off. I don’t remember the model name, but it cost $39.95. Just proves one doesn’t have to drop a ton of cash on a good altimeter/barometer. Downside: alarm wasn’t loud enough to wake me up in the morning. (iPod Touch to the rescue…was a great alarm clock).

Extra Juice: Brunton “Inspire”
Weighing 5.5 ounces, it was a great alternative to solar chargers. It would deliver 4-5 FULL charges to the iPod Touch, and seemed to be built for a trip like the PCT. Took about an hour to fully charge from any wall plug. Will recharge a laptop battery one full time. Loved it, loved it more when I heard others talk about their recharging methods.

Stove: started with a cat food can alcohol stove, and liked it, but switched to a JetBoil at Laguna. Awesome, although not the lightest. Never had a problem with it, but I did send it home at around Lake Tahoe and went stoveless the rest of the way.

Knife: Gerber “Mini Paraframe”
Cost: $12, REI
Really liked this knife. Just 1.4 ounces, and held it’s edge well. Folded easily with one hand, clipped solidly onto a clip on my shoulder strap, and when open locked into place safely. There’s plenty of opinions on whether you should even bring a knife on a PCT thru-hike. You’d have to be an obsessive ‘gram weenie’ to not find 1.4 extra ounces fir a tool that comes in handy across the board. You need a cutting tool. Just make sure it’s light. This one fit the bill perfectly. I would definitely use this knife again.

Ice Axe: Camp “Corsa”
Cost: $75
This was a great tool when I needed it. I bought it from Andrew Skurka, who used it on his ‘Great Western Loop’ hike in 2007. At 7.2 ounces, this 50cm axe was useful on several of the snowy passes through the Sierra. Most of the time, an ice axe is just a passenger on your backpack, so I wanted the lightest axe possible. I would have liked an additional 10 or 20 centimeters, because I had to lean over while using it on the high side of the snow slopes, but ultimately that was just a minor issue. Just having it in my hand knowing I could use it to self-arrest in case of a slip gave me incredible peace of mind. There were times when you looked down, and thought to yourself, “Oh, my, wow! No slipping here, please!” Definitely glad to have this piece of gear.

Spikes: Kahtoola “Microspikes”
Cost: $50 (used)
I was able to buy a pair of these at Kennedy Meadows from another thru-hiker who was southbounding. I was very glad to have them, and really only put them on about 4 or 5 times. But those 4 or 5 times were important (I’m looking at you, Mather Pass). After I sent them home at Sonira Pass, there were a couple more times I wish I had kept them. If you’re on the fence between taking or not taking Microspikes, take them. You’ll be glad you did.

There were other items, but these listed were the main items. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them for me and I’ll answer them.


Rawhide πŸ™‚

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3 Responses to PCT Gear List: A Review from the Rearview

  1. Dana says:

    I’ve been following your blog since I started my prep in April. I’ll be hiking the trail this upcoming season and want to thank you for keeping up the blog. It’s been a great tool for us!

    Just one question, were you able to fill the 64 gb ipod? I’ve been waiting for the price to go down, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. After adding up my costs, the 32 gb is looking so much nicer right now! Just want to make sure I have enough room for 5 months on the trail. I’ll probably do about half the number of vids you did, plus books, music, and a couple of movies. Thanks for your help!


    • thf2 says:

      Hi Dana, thanks for following along! I hope there was good info and entertainment from it!

      As for the iPod Touch, I really enjoyed it. I think you could manage with a 32GB model, but it would be tight. You’re going to end up shooting more video than you think. As for photos, I’d recommend a good point and shoot over 10 megapixels. That way you wouldn’t have to use any storage on your Touch for still pictures. To be quite honest, the Touch’s still camera is pretty crummy. It’s the 720p high definition video that rocks. Also, there are apps out there (one called movie to image, if I remember correctly) that can capture a single frame from your Touch video, and
      Turn it into a still image, with better still quality than the Touch still camera.

      If you have a chance to unload it onto a hard drive at some point, or even borrow an Apple, then burn your videos onto discs and mail them home, I recommend it. Depending on when you’re trekking through the Tahoe area, I’d be glad to bring my Mac out, dump your video & burn them to discs right there on the spot for you, then you could send those home from Tahoe. A little trail magic if you need it!

      If you don’t do a video dump along the way, you might be pushing the iPods limit with music, books and movies. I didn’t have any music on mine, and one movie of 2 1/2 hours. I had two books, and just a few apps, all video/photo related, as well as all of Halfmiles maps for the PCT in PDF form. I would erase those as I completed them. For music, I carried a small iPod Nano. Way better, in my opinion, and the battery life was superior playing music than the Touch, and saved my video life tremendously. Also, the Touch is a little more fragile than a Nano.

      I hope this helped…feel free to ask any more questions, I’d be more than happy to help.

      Also, I’m currently planning a solo attempt on the Continental Divide by mountain bike this year, so I’ll be looking at the logistics for that as well on another site, Thru-Ride 4 Freedom, also on wordpress…


      Rawhide. πŸ™‚

  2. Kirsty says:

    Hey there!
    Everything looks amazing! How did you get sponsored for your trip?

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