Continental Divide Trail Gear List: The Essentials & More

Not another gear list! As I prepare to head out on my third thru-hike, I’m finding myself packing more gear and heavier items than ever before. I’m thrilled to talk about it, and why, the longer I’ve been backpacking, the more I’ve moved away from the ultralight mindset.

Continental Divide Trail Gear List

Don’t get me wrong— I love light gear as much as the next hiker. But, as someone whose base weight has increased with each thru-hike, I also feel strongly about the benefits that come with luxury items.

My Gear Philosophy

When considering all non-essential pieces of gear, I weigh the joy it will bring me against the inconvenience and discomfort of the added bulk and weight.

On the Colorado Trail, my base weight was below ten pounds. I didn’t have the fanciest, lightest setup but, for just a month on the trail, I was willing to go without certain items. On the John Muir Trail, I found it easier to justify bringing more, as I’d have to carry the added weight for a much shorter distance.

Now, staring down the void at six months on the Continental Divide Trail, I’m grappling with how to stay sane and somewhat happy while also prioritizing the comfort of my back and shoulders.

Me ‘n my gear! Consider this my fully furnished apartment for the next six months.

Let’s get into it.

Double Dip’s Continental Divide Trail Drip

My Big Four (80.55 oz | 5.03 lbs)

Backpack: ECOPAC LiteAF Ultra Curve 35L (with DIY changes) (23.8 oz)

Tent: Durston Gear X-Mid Pro 1 (17.1 oz)

I think the Durston X-Mid Pro 1 is the perfect tent. No one is paying me to say this (Dan Duston, call me!). I genuinely think every feature here is so thought out and well placed.

Sleeping Pad: NEMO Tensor Regular/Wide (17.55 oz)

Quilt: 10-degree Hammock Gear Down Burrow UL (22.1 oz)

Don’t ask me what this quilt smells like.

Shelter & Sleep System (30.95 oz | 1.93 lbs)

Groundcloth: Tyvek (4.9 oz)

Stakes: Groundhog Minis and a Hammock Gear Dyneema Stake Bag (2.1 / 0.05 oz)

Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech, Foam Grips (11.15 oz)

Yes, I use this picture in almost every article. Can you blame me? It’s a good one.

Hood: Hammock Gear Down Hood (3.9 oz)

Sleeping Pad Pump: FLEXTAIL Zero Pump (2.1 oz)

Sleeping Bag Liner: Mountain Laurel Designs Quilt and Bag Liner (2.8 oz)

Dry Bag: Hammock Gear (1.35 oz)

Sit Pad: Gossamer Gear from the back of a G4-20 Pack (2.6 oz)

Clothes & Worn Weight (106.7 oz | 6.67 lbs)

Sun Hoodie: Mountain Hardware Men’s Crater Lake (5.6 oz)

The Men’s version of this hoodie is wonderful. The Women’s has a ton of odd additional features that I don’t find necessary.

Shorts: Mountain Hardware (3 oz)

Fanny Pack: Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear 2.5L (4.2 oz)

Socks: Darn Tough Lightweight Microcrew (x2) (3.7 oz)

Underwear: Some Random Bra (x1) and Patagonia Active Briefs (x2) (1 / 2 oz)

Buff: CDT Buff (1.35 oz)

Rain Jacket: Marmot PreCip Eco (9.3 oz)

Rain Pants: Frog Togg Men’s Rain Pants (3.75 oz)

The haters will never convince me that my rain pants aren’t stylish. Also, oddly, I’ve found the Men’s version of these pants far more durable than the Women’s.

Hat: BearVault Baseball Hat (2.85 oz)

Shoes: HOKA Speedgoat 5 Trail Runners (20.8 oz)

Sunglasses: Goodr Polarized (0.8 oz)

Gaitors: Dirty Girl Gaitors (1.1 oz)

Microgrid Fleece: SAMBOB Hoodie (8.95 oz)

I got to pick all the colors for the different panels! I’m excited to overshadow gorgeous mountain views with this even more beautiful microgrid.

Camp Shoes: JOYBEES Dance Sandals (8.3 oz)

Sweatpants: Melanzana Wind Pro Sweatpants (12.4 oz)

Puffy: Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisper Hoodie (7.65 oz)

I try not to hike in my puffy… so tell me why it always ends up so stinky anyways?

Umbrella: Gossamer Gear Lightrek Umbrella (6.2 oz)

Gloves: Little running gloves (3.5 oz)

Stuff Sack: Mountain Laurel Designs, I think? Or, Hammock Gear (0.25 oz)

First Aid (4 oz | 0.25 lb)

Most of this is self-explanatory. I’ve divided my first aid kit into four categories. This is what works for me— if you carry something I don’t and you like having it, don’t change anything on my account.

  1. Blisters: Safety Pin, Leukotape, and a Lighter
  2. Trauma & Injury: Antiseptic Wipes, Alcohol Wipes, ACE Bandage, Gauze, and Tegaderm
  3. Sickness: Ibuprofen and Anti-Diarrheals
  4. Gear Repair: Extra O-Ring, Dyneema Repair Patches, Sleeping Pad Repair Patches, Needle, and Thread

Toiletries (24.8 oz | 1.55 lbs)

Once again, this is so uniquely personal and self-explanatory. I’ll rapid fire through my toiletries.

  1. Prescription Medication (2.55 oz)
  2. Spray Sunscreen (10.05 oz) 
  3. Glasses, Glasses Case, Contact Solution, Contact Case, and Extra Contacts (2.4 oz)
  4. Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Retainer (1.5 oz)
  5. WET Brush Mini and Hair Ties (3x) (1.6 oz)
  6. The Deuce #2 Trowel, CuloClean Bidet, KulaCloth, Hand Sanitizer, and Toilet Paper (3.5 oz)
  7. Pocket Knife: Swiss Army Knife Victorinox (0.75 oz)
  8. Ziploc Gallon Bag and “Odor-Proof” Opsack (1 oz)
  9. Bug Net: Sea to Summit UL Bug Net (0.95 oz)
  10. Aquaphor with SPF (0.5 oz)

Gross little hack for you: keep your Kula Cloth somewhere accessible so you can stop to pee without having to take your pack off.

Electronics (63.92 oz | 4 lbs)

Satellite Phone: Garmin InReach Mini (4 oz)

Even if I forget my shirt, I always bring along my InReach, and keep it in a location that’s easy to reach in case I’ve fallen or become trapped.

Headlamp: Nitecore Rechargeable (1.95 oz)

Chargers: USB-C, Lightning Cable, Camera Charger, MicroUSB, Garmin Charger (5.55 oz)

Photography: Canon Eos T100 Rebel, Peak Designs Camera Clip, and UVIEW Ultralight Tripod (23.25 / 2.9 / 1.95 oz)

Music: Apple Wired Earbuds & iPhone 11 Pro (0.45 / 6.63 oz)

Power Banks: Nitecore 10,000mA and LuminAID Solar Lantern (5.29 / 11.95 oz)

Yeah, yeah, yeah go ahead and laugh it up at me trying to take an artsy picture with the lantern. I can’t help it. I grew up with Tumblr.

Cook System (59.1 oz | 3.69 lbs)

Stove System: Jetboil Stash, Snow Peak Fuel, and OLICAMP Spork/Bottle Opener (7.95 / 7.4 /0.5 oz)

Food Storage System: BearVault 450 (33.15 oz)

This is probably my most controversial piece of gear. In the past, I have used a bear bag in black bear territory (try saying that three times fast). I had always assumed that if a bear got into my bear bag, my food would be crushed, but edible, and the bear still couldn’t access the calories inside.

However, I’ve come to learn that your food isn’t just crushed— it’s pulverized, along with all the scented items inside. If your meals are mixed with bear saliva and blended with your sunscreen, poop kit, and contents of your trash bag, you can’t just “make do” until the next town. Your food will be gone.

First person able to talk me out of bringing my BearVault gets $100.

While the bear may not be able to access the calories of your— now, inedible— food, the non-waterproof bear sack will still allow the bear’s saliva to pass across. This will give the bear a taste of the food and will contribute to the habituation of bears to humans and human food. Food-conditioned bears are far more likely to be lethally removed from a population.

It’s really not that much extra weight to bring a bear can, especially when it can double as a camp chair, a table, and a makeshift washing machine. I’m not telling you what to do, but I do believe hikers have a responsibility to do everything in their control to Leave No Trace and respect the wildlife of the areas they pass through. For me, that means hiking with my BearVault when in bear habitat.

Clearly, I feel strongly about this.

Water Filtration: Sawyer Squeeze (2.55 oz) and Purification Tablets (1.15 oz)

Water System: SmartWater 1L Bottles (x2), CNOC Vecto with a Coupler (1.55 / 2.95 oz)

Cold Soak Jar: Talenti Gelato Container (1.9 oz)

Extra Items (6.35 oz | 0.4 lbs)

Entertainment: A Deck of Cards (3.3 oz)

Wallet: Ziploc Bag (1 oz)

Stuffed Animal: Bean Dip, a Stuffed Marmot (undisclosed, it’s rude to ask for someone’s weight!)

Location-Specific Gear (19 oz & 11 oz | 1.19 lbs & 0.69 lbs)

Southern Colorado: Camp Corsa 50cm Ice Axe and Kahtoola Microspikes (7.1 / 11.9 oz)

My ice axe and I had a wonderful view at the summit of Mt. Princeton.


Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana: Counter Assault Bear Spray (11 oz)

Since I’m going NOBO, I don’t have to worry about this for a long time. But, as someone who has never hiked in grizzly territory before, I’m a little bit terrified. I have very little patience for the “bring a gun” crew, as studies have shown time and time and time and time again that bear spray is far more effective for protection, while simultaneously being better for the bears.

Feel free to comment on any of the gear I’ve chosen to bring— I’m very open to criticism and suggestions— but know that any recommendations to bring a gun will 100% fall on deaf ears.

Justifying My Heavy, Non-Essential Gear Choices

Just kidding! I— and you— never need to justify the weight of our packs to anyone! If someone looks down on you or thinks less of your abilities due to the brands/items you choose to bring along, that’s their problem. Every year, someone completes a thru-hike with a pack heavier than yours. Bring what makes you comfortable!

My non-essential gear choices fall into three categories: Comfort, Leave No Trace, and Safety. I’m not willing to sacrifice in any of those when it comes to six months on a trail. Plus, everyone knows that thru-hiking is never miserable and uncomfortable as long as you have the best gear… right?

CDT Gear List

She sketches, too?! I drew my gear list while stuck in bed with a broken foot in January. I’ve alrady swapped out the Altras for HOKAs. I wonder what else will change between now and the start of the trail.

Being Ultralight Means Nothing

When I first got into thru-hiking, I worried about fitting in and feeling included in the community I so wanted to belong to. I saw my gear as a way to establish myself as credible and deserving of the space I occupied.

Now, with more confidence in my own abilities, I just don’t care as much. Do I bring way too heavy of a camera? Yeah. Do I truly need both a fleece and a puffy? No. But I know what will make me happiest on the trail, and anyone who minimizes my abilities because of that has their own problems to deal with.

If you’re getting into thru-hiking, my biggest piece of advice is that you do not need to do what everybody else does. People with more experience certainly have great advice and tips that you can (and should!) listen to, but you are not any less of a hiker if you choose to carry whatever gear brings you joy. What is a gear hack for one person may be a miserable experience for another. Your pack weight is not the end-all-be-all some people like to pretend it is.

That said, let’s talk pack weight.

Gear Statistics

The Breakdown:

The heaviest, unnecessary item I’m bringing is my camera and all its associated equipment. You couldn’t pay me to leave it behind.

Total Base Weight (Neglecting Worn Weight and Consumables): 281 oz | 17.6 lbs

It’s odd to compare this to my 9.2 lb base weight on the Colorado Trail and my 11.3 lb base weight on the John Muir Trail. I know I’m capable of going without luxury items for weeks on end in the backcountry, but the CDT has me questioning if that’s really worth a few pounds saved. Plus, I can’t wait to brush my teeth with a full-sized toothbrush.

Total Everything Weight (Neglecting Food & Water): 370 oz | 23 lbs

My pack is advertised to only carry up to 20lbs comfortably, although I’ve done plenty of longer trips loaded with enough food and water to blow past that weight limit. Still, I’ll have to stay cognizant of that weight and be strategic about what goes in my pack, on my body, and in my fanny pack.

LOADED UP with 35lbs of food and gear on the JMT. Comfortable? No. Doable? Yes. By placing a lot of my denser, heavier gear in my fanny pack, hip belt pockets, and shoulder pockets, I minimized the weight pulling back on my shoulders.

Does the world really need another gear list? I don’t know. But I hope this is helpful, whether you’re reading these lists to prepare for an upcoming journey or to judge a stranger’s choices and be entertained. Personally, I’m excited to look back at this after the trail and judge myself for the things I ended up loving or hating and sending home.

Happy Trails!

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Comments 4

  • Morgan Sommerville : Mar 29th

    Hi, Katie. Great article! Thanks for your comments on bear cans, I always carry one, too.
    One comment on your gear list – your pics show a BV500, but your list says BV450. Did you downsize or is that a typo?

    • Katie Jackson : Mar 29th

      Thank you! Good catch- I downsized! The funny thing is both the picture and the text are technically wrong- I settled on the BV475.

  • Terry Stevens : Mar 30th

    I always carry a gun and bear mace, and the gun isn’t necessarily to protect against a bear. I am just too worried about bear mace only, it doesn’t work well in the rain wind and cold weather!!!!!

  • Michael Takatsuno : Mar 30th

    Hi Katie, you’re the first bpacker I’ve subscribed to in this forum. I’ve been backpacking since 1977 and the culture out there has really changed o over the years. I appreciate your openness and honesty. I too love my BV😁. I do weigh ounces but I’m also fine with 35#. I prefer to be on the trail for longer stretches and not Towne hop so frequently. Thanks for writing!


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