Maggie’s PCT 2020 Gear List: Big Three

Hi guys. Maggie here, Managing Editor of this site, finally ready to hike the PCT.

Five years go by fast—at this time in 2015, I was putting the finishing touches on a 35-pound pack load for the Appalachian Trail that included approximately nothing I’ll be taking along on the PCT this year. I’ll write a comparison post at some point, but basically I’m super lucky, as working for The Trek affords me access to the latest and greatest gear—plus the chance to test the gear on backpacking trips that are technically work trips.

My Big Three packing strategy is pretty straightforward. I try to strike a balance between lightweight gear while still being comfortable at camp. My pack could be lighter if I went with items I found less convenient, but I’m not going to do that. For instance, I’d rather take a semi-freestanding tent than mess around with a trekking-pole shelter, and I could opt for a quilt instead of a mummy bag, but I’ve never slept well with a quilt.

Here are some of my big-ticket gear items for the PCT this year, and I’ve included the items that just missed the cut. I’ll follow up with smaller gear and apparel in the near future.

Pack: HMG 3400 Southwest or Gossamer Gear G4-20
Capacity: 55L (HMG) | 42L (GG)
Weight: 32 ounces (HMG) | 20 ounces (GG)

Maggie Slepian PCT Gear

Testing some gear in the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago. This photo was taken a few minutes after I faceplanted off a rock.

This is one of the only thing I’m still undecided about. I’ve carried the Southwest 3400 for the past year, and it’s great. Holds a bear canister, plenty of capacity for a reasonably low weight, and a size small fits me well. The DCF construction is abrasion resistant and the roll-top and materials are highly water resistant. I like how large the hip belt pockets are, and I have an additional shoulder pocket where I stash my phone and gummy worms. However, the DCF against my back gives me unsexy amounts of back sweat (which turns to butt sweat because gravity), and I have immense amounts of trouble accessing the side pockets for grabbing water bottles on the go. My hiking partners are very kind, but the continuous, “Hey, uh, can you grab my water bottle for me lol,” gets old. We recently reviewed the G4-20, and our reviewer was stoked on the user-friendly design of the pockets. Mine should be arriving any day now, so I’ll bring it out on some hikes and see how it fits.

Missed the Cut

One or the other. I’ll update once I’ve taken the G4-20 on a trial run.

Shelter: Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2
Weight: 2.5 pounds

Maggie Slepian PCT Gear

One of the best features of the Tiger Wall is that it looks like a hard-boiled egg.

This is a splurge item for weight, but worth it. I’ve tested the Tiger Wall, the Copper Spur, and the Fly Creek, and I like the double doors for the Tiger Wall, as well as the interior space and head room. I’ll be hiking on and off with a partner for the first section, and after he bounces, I might drop to a one-person tent. We’ll see. I like semi-freestanding tents, and the extra ounces between the Tiger Wall and a trekking-pole shelter are worth it to me for how unbearably stupid I feel fumbling around trying to tension the tarp. I haven’t had any durability issues with the Tiger Wall, and it sets up fast after a long day of hiking.

Here’s me having a lot of trouble remembering specs for Big Agnes tents.

Missed the Cut

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2. Like I said, I’m not a trekking-pole shelter hiker. Additionally, I put together a video reviewing this shelter in the snowy Montana winter, but was told by HMG that the Dirigo was not ideal for snowy conditions. That takes it out of the running for the Sierra.

Sleeping Bag: Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20
Temperature Rating: 20 Degrees
Weight: 20 ounces

Maggie Slepian PCT Gear

The Hyperion 20 is a no-frills sleeping bag that I tested on a media trip a few years ago. It’s the simplest and lightest bag I own, and more than warm enough. It packs down to the size of a volleyball, I was able to strap it to the back of my bike for bikepacking trip last summer. It weighs just 20 ounces, and has high-loft treated down that has withstood a lot of being crammed into various packs and stuff sacks. I know I could go lighter with a quilt, but again… I like to strike a balance between weight and comfort, and I can’t seem to stay warm in a quilt.

Missed the Cut

Feathered Friends Petrel UL 10: This 950-fill sleeping bag is super luxurious, but too much for the PCT in late April. Depending how much of a fragile sunflower I am, I might have this sent to me for the Sierra or Washington. For the start, though, a 10-degree is overkill, even for the relatively low weight of 30 ounces. I reviewed it here.

Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
Weight: 12 ounces
R-Value: 4.2

We all know the NeoAir. This sleeping pad is hella popular, compact, warm, and lightweight for how comfortable it is. I carried a NeoAir on the AT and have used some variety of the model ever since. I have had some deflating and durability issues with them, but Therm-a-Rest / Cascade Designs customer service is top notch and has always helped me out. I know Z-fold pads are popular on the PCT, but what can I say? I like getting lightheaded inflating my sleeping pad every night. The NeoAir has a new valve as well, which helps it deflate quickly in the mornings.

Missed the Cut

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite: This sleeping pad made a big splash when it debuted as a full-size inflatable pad with the legendary NeoAir comfort for 8.8 ounces, but I had trouble keeping mine inflated during desert trips last year, and would rather have the extra few ounces and increased R-value of the good ol’ yellow model.

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Comments 7

  • Douglas Peffer : Feb 7th

    Thermarest is great hate sleeping on rocks. Too old? For my section hikes PCT Olympics and Glacier. I use an older North F. Foot sack down with a down parka. Tent older pup stile with hiking polls about 2 LB WITH FLY. some times just the fly if I am single. Moved to cooking cubes but often just eat cold meat packs and cliff bars. 30 -35 lb but looking to go lighter. Mylar thin sheet as ground cloth or tent liner I don’t trust tent. bottoms I make a boat. Moving to a Sawer sm filter.

  • Brandon Chase : Feb 9th

    Go get em, Maggie!

  • JB : Feb 13th

    I have the G4-20 but haven’t tested it yet.
    Looks like it may have a ventilation problem as its back pad is made of foam, I would recommend buying their replacement AirFlow SitPad.

  • Tracey Wintersteen : Feb 16th

    I hope you continue to post as you hike. I enjoy going out near the Hat Creek Rim to provide trail magic. Maybe I will see you though it is hit and miss since I do it random. I follow the PCT blogs. Have fun.

  • Marshall : Mar 26th

    Wow.. what can be better than this ?

  • Miro Torg : Mar 26th

    Thank you for letting us travel along with you! I have learned so much and now I have several options when I can finally explore some good places. Since I still study and plan to travel meanwhile, I want to share my little trick too. It is help that has made it possible for me to learn anywhere, as long as there is Internet. While it is my little piece of gear, it might help someone else too! 🙂

  • Bob Finistrat : Jan 4th

    cool post


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