5 Pieces of Gear I Would Probably Die Without on the Pacific Crest Trail

Thru-hikers depend on their gear to not only perform but hopefully last a long time.  While I prioritize the weight of my gear, I’d prefer not to be walking into Canada wearing an entirely duct-taped get-up; the Canadians may find that suspicious.  After many shakedown hikes, five pieces of gear have proven to me their utmost loyalty, and are officially deserving of being depended on during my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Would I literally die without these items? No, but they sure do make thru-hiking a hell of a lot easier.

1. BUFF Original EcoStretch Multifunctional Headwear

Is it a headband, neck gaiter, balaclava, mask, leg-warmer, towel, pillowcase, hanker-chief, durag, or tube top? The answer is all of the above. This 1.2-ounce sleeve of polyester must be the stupidest yet most ingenious idea ever produced. If someone had told me back in 1992 that I could sell a tube of fabric, raw hem and all, for $20 plus $8 shipping, then I would’ve booked my ass to the nearest Joanne’s. One day my BUFF Buffy will save my life. Not only does this little gizmo make me look like a pro-hiker in all of my photos, but it has also kept me fashionable and covered up while my river-washed clothing dries out. Additionally, my Buffy can defend me from heatstroke, hypothermia, and blood-sucking insects. The Buffy is the Swiss Army Knife of clothing!

Durag mode in Kings Canyon National Park

2. Enlightened Equipment Enigma 10 Degree Down Quilt

Camping is all fun and games until you find yourself in Bryce Canyon with the weather app fear-mongering you with a nighttime low of 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Not to fret, I still have my fingers and toes, and my Enlightened Equipment Enigma 10 Degree Down Quilt to thank. At 19.8 ounces, my customized EE Quilt has proven time and time again to be worth the big bucks I put into it. As my poorly anchored Zpacks Plexamid flapped through the night in 50 mph gusts on the Lost Coast, I squeezed my Enigma tight and received the soothing comfort of a child’s blankie. I even dragged it up to the summit of Half Dome at 4 am and partook in some comfy cozy pre-dawn stargazing.  If I didn’t live in sunny San Diego, the Enigma would double as my bedding. If anything’s going to keep me on the trail, it’ll be the thought of getting another night’s sleep in my EE quilt.

Cuddled up in my EE Enigma Quilt on the summit of Half Dome, with my BUFF Buffy in Balaclava mode!

3. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles

Being one of the lightest poles on the market, I didn’t expect the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z’s to uphold too much of my trail stupidity. At 10 ounces per pair, I was fairly convinced these trekking poles were done for as I made my way down a black diamond ski run last summer on Mt. Baldy. As I descended this scree ‘shortcut’, all my weight was placed on my Carbon Z Poles to abstain from nose-diving into a ditch. I anxiously awaited the dreaded sound of my $170 poles snapping. To my utmost stupefaction, the poles withstood the torture and much more suffering in hikes to come. The poles have wedged themselves under rocks while I, unaware, powered forward at 4 mph. And all the times I accidentally smacked a tree while baton twirling my trekking pole: no crackle, snap, or pop! Black Diamond deserves a cookie.

Flexing my trekking poles at the summit of Telegraph Peak

4. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody Down Jacket

The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 was on my wish list for a while, but its $325 price tag deterred me from making the purchase. I browsed the racks of my local outdoor outlet aimlessly only to find the Ghost Whisperer at 40% off. At 7.5 ounces and an abundance of warmth, the Ghost Whisperer has proven to be one of my most successful purchases to date. Despite its ultralight characteristics, it withstood my foolish bushwhacking through cat-clawed thorn bushes in Cleveland National Forest. The insulation is so fantastic that I can’t hear a single thing while cocooned in the hoody. Some may say that’s a con, but you wouldn’t hear a cougar stalking you before it strikes under any circumstances. Plus the jacket has yet to be washed, so all predatory creatures will stay outside my five-mile radius stench bubble.

The Ghost Whisperer 2 Hoody Down Jacket is a thru-hiker favorite!

5. Louisville Vegan Jerky

I’ll save you time and tell you that Louisville Vegan Jerky is far superior to its vegan jerky counterparts. My vegan perspective could be considered a little biased, but both my cat and omnivorous friends drool and plead for even just a sliver of the plant-based goodness. I inhale a packet a day on the trail. Not only is it delicious on its own, but it also upgrades my cold-soaked couscous and mashed potatoes to fine vegan foodie cuisine. On top of that, you don’t need to break your jaw trying to consume it. My favorite flavors are Smoked Black Pepper and Maple Bacon, as they are widely available, and often discounted at my local Sprouts ($5.99/bag). A single bag of vegan jerk contains on average 21 grams of protein, 240 calories, and 3 grams of sugar.

A happy hiker holding the BEST vegan jerky ever!

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Comments 4

  • Tom : Apr 3rd

    The future of the US is DOOMED.

  • Scot : Apr 6th

    Congratulations on starting your adventure. Great idea to take time after school to do this now. Best of luck to you and thank you for listing vegan jerky as a must have on the trail. I’m always looking for plant based snack options and seeing this brand made my day. Just made a big order and I’m looking forward to trying this out. Thanks!

  • Birdy : Apr 13th

    That jerky is the absolute best!!! I’m a fan of the smoky Carolina barbecue flavor myself


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