Here is a listing of the gear I’ll be taking with me on my 2013 PCT thru-hike. These gear choices were determined based on my experience backpacking and the equipment I’m most comfortable using now. It’s also an attempt to save a little cash by not buying the newest, lightest and best gear out there, which would be awesome… but I figured I’d rather use that cash for a few extra burgers along the way. And maybe some bacon. Or a shower. No, bacon. You get the idea… So my hope is to get away with using what I already have and making it work. If I absolutely need to replace something, I’ll do so on the trail. As you go through this list, you’ll see that I am certainly not super-lightweight — my base weight (no food and water) comes in at around 23 – 25 pounds. But that’s okay. Gonna’ roll with it and see how it goes!
The Big 3 ::
Backpack — I use the Granite Gear Nimbus Latitude as my backpack of choice. The one I will be using has a women’s hipbelt and is teal in color, so it’s not exactly like the picture shown below, but close. It’s 3800 cubic inches, so it’s also a larger pack than what most PCT hikers use. I’ve just been using this bad boy since 2005 and it’s still got lots of life in it and fits me well… so it’s what I’m going to use! (I also used the women’s version of this pack on my ADT hike in 2006.) It’s not terribly heavy, either, weighing in at 47 ounces, or just under 3 pounds.
Sleeping Bag — I know this is overkill for the PCT, but it was expensive when I bought it back in 2005, lasted me on my entire ADT hike, and is still in great shape. It’s my Western Mountaineering Antelope 5° sleeping bag. I’ve used it in all kinds of weather, from hot desert camping to winter backpacking – with minor adjustments in each condition, I was able to use it comfortably. It doesn’t pack down quite as small as the standard 20° bags most people carry on the PCT, and one day I’ll upgrade to the WM Ultralite, but this will have to do for now. I will, however, be a forever WM bag owner. I’ve been spoiled and don’t think I could ever go back to anything different. This one weighs 41 ounces. Again, not terribly heavy — especially for a 5° bag.
For my sleeping pad, I have the Thermarest Neo-Air, which is super-comfy, but I have a feeling it’s going to be replaced with my Z-Lite because I’m not going to want to blow up the Neo-Air every night. I’ll start with the Neo-Air, see how it goes, and have the Z-Lite on standby.
Tent — I hope to cowboy camp for most of the trail (sleeping under the stars), but I will be carrying the MSR Hubba along with me for windy, rainy, or nights I feel like there’s critters around every corner. I love the bomb-proofness of this tent, as well as the versatility of it. I can use with or without the rain cover, or just the raincover if I choose. I have a feeling this will be a changing process as I go, though. Weighs in at 54 ounces (3.37 lbs.) for the whole shebang (tent, footprint, poles, stakes and stuff sack).
Clothing & Footwear ::
Bottoms — I became a skirt-hiker this past year and love it. I fell in love with my first skirt, which is a Patagonia Morning Glory skirt, but they no longer make that style, and I can’t find them anywhere online (can you see my pouty, sad face?). So I bought something similar, hoping it will work for the PCT – I haven’t been able to try them out on the trail yet, so we’ll see how it goes in the first week or so. I now use the Mountain Hardwear Better Butter Skirt with Nike Compression shorty shorts underneath as underwear. Super-comfy, super-breathable, and very versatile — I’ve even used my skirt to change under in front of tons of people on the beach! It’s great!
Tops — I have a couple of options for tops. I will be carrying a short-sleeve Patagonia Capilene 1 baselayer for warmer weather, and the REI larch long-sleeve shirt for sunny and/or buggy conditions. Under that I will be wearing some random sport bra that is comfy. I’ve got a few for running that I’ll just choose from when I go.
Feet — I am so happy to say that I have my feet figured out (or at least I’m pretty confident that I do!). I will be wearing Injinji socks with Brooks Cascadia 7 shoes. I’ve been using this combo since March 2012 and have not gotten a blister. I love the combo! I also have Dirty Girl Gaiters to keep junk out of my shoes, as I have a tendency to kick all kinds of crap up off the trail right into the backs of my shoes. These have been a life-saver for me.
As for those shoes? I will probably go through 5 or 6 pairs. As for socks, many more than that. You’ll be seeing holey pictures of toe socks, be sure of that!
Warm Layers — I’ll have a Patagonia R1 1/2-zip Fleece for a warm layer, and I might switch back and forth with my Patagonia Nanopuff Jacket. Both are warm layers that I love, so finding which one I will use the most is going to come down to trial & error while on the trail. I’ll also be carrying lightweight gloves and a warm hat at all times.
Sleepwear — I always carry a separate set of sleepwear in a waterproof stuff sack or ziplock bag so I always know whatever kind of weather I run into during the day, I’ll have something dry and warm to sleep in. I’ll have my Patagonia Silkweight Capiline 1 Bottoms (and they’re freakin’ pink because I got them on sale! Gah!). I’ll also have a random long-sleeve lightweight shirt and a set of fuzzy socks. Oh, and I will start out carrying my Mary Jane Crocs for camp shoes. I’ve always liked having camp shoes, but I hear of so many people that ditch them on thru-hikes, so we’ll see.
Raingear — I have not figured out my raingear as of yet, even though I’ve had a couple of major rainy training hikes. I should know this by now! I have a few options at my disposal. I have a Patagonia rain jacket, which is bulky and kind of heavy, but may come in handy if it’s a wet year in the Cascades. I may have this sent out for the last sections of the PCT. I also have a set of Mountain Hardwear Epic rain pants that I love and work really well, but again, kind of bulky and probably overkill for most of the trail. I’ll have these on standby in case I need them. I own a backpackers poncho, which is obnoxious-yellow in color, but I’m leaning towards this option because of its versatility. Could be used as shade, poncho, emergency shelter, and something to sit on. My 3rd option is to purchase a Frogg Togg jacket, which is uber-lightweight, packs down small and would only be pulled out in rain or high wind. I’m liking the sound of that option, too. So, needless to say, I don’t know what my rain gear will be, but I’ll figure it out!
Stove — I use the Jetboil stove. I’ve played around with the uber-light soda-can stoves that so many people use on the trail, but I’m just more comfortable with the Jetboil. I recently upgraded from my old, retro Jetboil that I used on my 2006 ADT hike to a brand-spankin’ new one. I love that I can simmer on this, and it boils water super-fast. I like my coffee in the morning, and I like it NOW! :)
Extras for kitchen — I also carry a long titanium spoon, a small cleaning rag, and a Sea to Summit collapsible coffee cup.
Water Treatment — Aqua Mira. Been using it pretty much ever since I ditched the filter on my ADT hike in ’06. I just don’t like to pump my water. I also carry along a piece of nylon to strain any chunky water. Bandanas work in a pinch, too.
Water containers — I carry a Big Zip Platypus 3L hydration reservoir (bladder). I find that I don’t drink enough water as I hike unless it’s easy to get to, so the hose is a must for me. I will also probably have one or two 1L Aquafina (or similar) bottles on me to hold water, depending on the water situation — more in the desert, less in the mountains.
Toiletries & First Aid ::
Toiletries — I carry a ziplock or stuff sack with my trowel, toilet paper, wet ones, 1 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer, tampons, and a panty liner or two. This comes with me on my trowel-treks. I’ll also have a small bottle of Campsuds along in case there’s that perfect stream to wash my face, crotch and armpits in (not necessarily in that order).
First Aid/Meds — In a small zippered stuff sack, I’ll have a patch kit, mini Bic lighter, Deet, Mosquito Headnet, Safety pins, Emergency water purification tabs (in case AquaMira leaks or I run out), Ibuprofen, Immodium, Benadryl, Neosporine, Aquafor, spare chapstick and a sharpie pen.
Misc. — On a carabiner that is easy to get to, I will have my small Swiss Army Knife/scissors, whistle, photon light, and compass. I also have chapstick, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen on small carabiners that can be lashed to the outside of my pack so they are easy to get at because I use them so often. I’ll also have a small notebook and pen for taking notes during the day so I don’t forget all the awesomeness to add to my daily blog, and a rope in case I hang my food (I have a feeling this plan will go out the window early, as so many use their food bags as a pillow). A small wallet with ID and cash will be in my misc. bag, as will a mini deck of cards… and maybe a cribbage board.
Phone — Samsung Galaxy S3. I’m still getting used to this (I recently upgraded from an ol’ fashioned flip-phone), but I hope to use it as a phone and for texting, of course, as well as taking photos and typing up my blog entries. I also have the Backcountry Navigator PRO app with Halfmile’s waypoints downloaded. It looks awesome so far! I will also be carrying hard copies of Halfmile’s maps to refer to as I hike so I can keep my phone on Airplane mode as much as possible to save battery life.
Camera — Even though the camera on my phone is pretty sweet, I’m still going to carry my Olympus Stylus Tough camera. I love this thing, and I’ve used it for a long time in all kinds of crazy weather. I like that I can take it out and confidently get some photos when it’s raining or snowing without worrying about breaking it. I currently have a Gorillapod tripod and a SticPic packed, but I might just go with the SticPic because it’s super-fun to use!
Headlamp — I’ve been carrying the Black Diamond Spot for a long time (I’m on my 2nd one, even!). It’s super bright, and works great for hiking in early mornings before the sun comes up, or late at night. The only downfall is that it’s probably one of the heavier backpacking headlamps out there. I plan to bring it, but I do have the Pitzl E+Lite as a backup. I may just end up switching to that one.
Electronics Misc. — I’ll carry my iPod for those situations I need a pick-me-up. Also a couple of extra phone batteries and a couple of extra camera batteries.
Well, that’s pretty much it, for now. Some of these things will be replaced, some will be tossed and not used, some things might be added, and some will stick with me the whole trail. But regardless, I’m sure if you follow this blog, you’ll hear all about what worked and what didn’t!