Gear Talk: PCT 2022

My hike is right around the corner, which can only mean one thing: the gear post! Because I already backpack so often, I haven’t bought much new gear for this hike. This means that I already have a solid system, and it’s familiar and comfortable.

The only problem is… my pack is kind of heavy!

My base weight on the AT was 14 pounds at its lightest, a little heavier at first when I had more cold-weather gear. Since 2018, I’ve backpacked hundreds of nights, but rarely at thru-hiking mileage. I tweaked my setup while in the conservation corps, and I’ve changed it again while guiding. Simply put, backpacking for work is different than thru-hiking. The mileage is lower, the pace is slower, the objectives are different, and I’m responsible for the safety of others, not just myself. All of these factors point to one end result: a heavier pack.

So, it’s taken a bit of effort to pare my habits back down toward thru-hiker minimalism. Even now, I’m starting the trail with a base weight of a whopping 17 pounds! It’s almost embarrassing. Then, I remind myself that I’m not asking anyone else to carry it for me, so I don’t have to apologize for my pack weight (even if inside I’m self-conscious that people will think I’m a noob). But the nice thing about thru-hiking is exactly that: it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of my pack weight.

So what am I still using from the AT?

  • My pack: a trusty Granite Gear Crown v60 that I bought in 2016, have used for 2500+ miles, and still love.
  • My Sea to Summit sleeping pad and Therm-a-rest liner.
  • My fleece-lined sleeping bag stuff stack/pillow
  • My base layers: an Icebreaker top and Odlo bottoms
  • My Darn Tough socks
  • My button-down hiking shirt from the giant Cabela’s in Harrisburg, PA on the AT
  • My Frogg Toggs rain jacket
  • Perhaps surprisingly, my underwear: two pairs of synthetic briefs by a brand called Kalenji, purchased seven years ago from Decathlon in Spain when I was preparing for the Camino. Still in great shape, 10/10 would purchase again (but don’t need to, because they’re still so great)
  • My cook system: MSR PocketRocket + Halulite minimalist pot + Sea to Summit long-handled spoon
  • My dry bags (large for food, small for toiletries)

What have I replaced/upgraded since the AT?

  • My tent: I went from an REI Quarter Dome to an REI Flash Air 2. Two ounces lighter and fully double the size.
  • My sleeping bag: I still love my Mountain Hardwear Phantasma from the AT, but it’s only comfortable to around 40° nowadays, so I’m bringing my REI Magma 15 in Women’s Long. When I was shopping for a new bag, I almost pulled the trigger on an EE Enigma quilt, but with my 50% discount on REI Co-op brand products, the price difference was literally hundreds of dollars. I chose the savings over the lighter weight and compressibility of the Enigma.
  • My puffy: I just recently bought a synthetic hooded REI insulated jacket. Quite a bit lighter (although admittedly not as warm) as my heavy-duty REI down puff and more budget-friendly than Patagonia or Mountain Hardwear.
  • My shorts: I’m hiking in a pair of Vuori shorts with excellent pockets!
  • My sports bra: I sprang for an ExOfficio sports bra when it was on sale last year and I love it. Comfy enough that I don’t usually take it off while backpacking, saving me from my least favorite moment of every day on the AT: putting on a freezing, often-damp bra first thing in the morning!
  • My hat: a baseball cap sporting the USFS logo from Medicine Bow in WY, where I did some crosscut work in 2020. It’s lightweight and the color matches my pack.
  • My headlamp: I now have a rechargeable Biolite headlamp instead of a battery-powered Black Diamond one.
  • My trekking poles. They’re basic REI brand ones, purchased after my Cascade Mountain Treks finally died on me after 3000 miles.

What have I added since the AT?

  • A CCF sleeping pad: That’s right, I have TWO sleeping pads! I got into this habit on a conservation project in Arizona, where the cholla cactus at our campsite was claiming the lives of one inflatable pad after another. Having two pads makes me feel like a spoiled princess, but besides the comfort of doubling up, I love having the Z-lite for breaks during the day, as a windbreak when I’m cooking, and to protect both the bottom of my tent and the inflatable pad. I might end up ditching or cutting it smaller, but for at least the desert, I think I’ll keep it.
  • Sun gloves: I started using them while guiding in the Southwest, and I like not needing sunscreen on my hands.
  • A bladder: I only intend to keep this 2.5L bladder during the desert section, which gets my full capacity up to 5L (with the option of a bonus 6th liter if my Sawyer bag is full).
  • A bear can: I will be sending my BV450 to myself in Kennedy Meadows.
  • An umbrella: I *just* got this in the mail, so I’ve barely tried it, but everyone here at The Trek seems to swear by it, so I’m going for it!
  • A SPOT emergency beacon
  • A slightly beefier first aid kit: I’m not guiding on the PCT, but since getting WFR-certified for my job, I would feel extra compelled to help if I encounter a sick or injured hiker. I know it’s not my responsibility to save the world, but I’d regret being unable to assist someone because I lacked simple items. It’s still a fraction of what I carry while guiding, but it’s double what I brought on the AT.

What have I subtracted since the AT?

  • A sit pad: obviously not necessary now that I have a whole extra sleeping pad!
  • Camp shoes: this was a difficult cut, but I figure since my feet will not be wet nearly as often on the PCT as the AT, I will be comfy enough in my trail runners at night and in town.
  • A beanie: now that I have a hooded puffy, this felt superfluous, at least until maybe Washington if the weather is starting to turn.
All in all, my pack is a little heavier than I anticipated or hoped, but I think it will be fine to start out with. I might make adjustments or cuts as time goes on. I’ve deliberately resisted the urge to upgrade when an item I already own is still usable, but if anything wears out on the PCT, I will hopefully replace it with something lighter. I also anticipate that I’ll ditch a few of my luxuries as time goes on, but at least for the first month, when I’m still building up mileage and have some time in camp, I think they’ll be worth it.

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Comments 1

  • pearwood : Apr 28th

    I do like my REI Flash Air 2.


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