My Mistakes and Gear: What I’m Taking on the PCT in 2020

Hot Topic Isn’t Just a Clothing Store

Gear seems to be the hottest and most highly requested topic in the online backpacking realms and for good reason. Lightweight, good-quality gear can improve the comfort and safety of your hike. However, I don’t believe gear determines the success of a thru-hike. People can and do finish with heavier, outdated, and poor functioning equipment. 

Opinions: Everybody’s Got One

Gear selection is a highly personal choice. There are so many variables as to why one piece of gear will work well for one person and is not the best choice for another. Height, weight, anatomy, skill level, and financial means are all factors to consider during the selection process.

Whole Lotta Errors

I do not consider myself to be a gear expert. However, the amount of time I’ve spent researching, selecting, and testing new gear in the past three years has helped me to form opinions about what works best for me. There was a fair amount of trial and a whole lotta error during this process!

Since 2017, I swapped sleeping pads four times, tested three different pillow configurations, tried three tents, and upgraded my stove and backpack. So far, the only big-ticket item I got right on the first go around was my sleeping quilt. Luckily, I had three years to nail down my gear selection, and those extra expenses did not impact the money saved for my hike.



A Chateau in the Woods

In 2017, I purchased my first backpacking setup. After an agonizing amount of deliberation, I decided to purchase the following items:

—Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2

—Osprey Aura 65

—Therm-a-Rest Prolite self-inflating mattress

—Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 degree quilt

The only item remaining on my Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) 2020 gear list is the quilt. The new items purchased and the reasons I changed them for 2020 are:

Tarptent Aeon LI: One pound lighter than the Big Agnes Fly Creek with a wider vestibule for gear.

ULA Circuit in XPAC material: Two pounds lighter than the Osprey Aura 65, hip belt is more comfortable, and the squeaking noise the Aura made when loaded drove me crazy.

Therma-a-Rest NeoAir XLite: I’m a side sleeper. Comfort is elusive for the side sleeper. We will give this one a try.

Additional items in my sleep system include a pillow with down cover.


A Girl’s Gotta Eat

I originally started with a Jetboil MicroMo stove, and quickly learned what a pain it was to remove the pot from the base. The first few times using it ended in me spilling boiling water on bare hands and cussing profusely. It didn’t take long for me to make the switch to the MSR Pocket Rocket 2. I now feel safe removing my pot of boiling water from the base and another bonus is it’s lighter than the Jetboil.

Additionally, I misplaced my old food bag, so I decided to give the Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit a try. I am still undecided if it is worth the $50 price tag. Stay tuned!



Sun, Rain, Wind, and Snow

I am one of those unlucky people allergic to sunscreen. I’ve tried countless brands, spoke to a dermatologist about it, and still have not found one that doesn’t give me a nasty rash that rivals poison ivy. As a result, I plan to use a wide-brimmed hat, an umbrella, sun gloves, and a sarong (to cover my legs while still allowing air flow) to protect myself from sunburn.

My current rain setup is rain jacket, pants, and trash liner for the inside of my pack. Additionally, I will use my rain jacket and pants as a wind and bug barrier when required.

For cold weather and snow, I will carry a puffy, fleece hat, gloves, and light weight thermals for the entire trail. When I reach Kennedy Meadows, I plan to add a bear canister, traction devices, an ice axe, and knee-high gaiters.



Gizmos and Gadgets Galore

I’ve tried to keep this category pared down. Electronic items are heavy! I decided not to bring a Kindle and just use my phone with the Kindle app. To shoot video, take photos, and as a navigation tool  I will be using an iPhone XR. I may upgrade to a camera for pictures and video, since iPhone pics tend to look grainy enlarged. At this point, I am undecided and open to suggestions. If you have a great recommendation leave me a comment below. I’ll also be carrying a wall charger, a battery pack, and charging cables. A satellite SOS device and headphones are the newest items in my electronics bag.


What’s on My Feet?

I’ve been a fan of Brooks trail runners for at least five years. In that time, I have never suffered from a blister hiking. For that reason, I will be using Brooks Caldera 3 trail runners with custom orthotics during my hike, Smartwool ankle socks, and a pair of Dirty Girl gaiters.



Check Out My Complete Gear List

To keep this post from becoming a novel, I highlighted specific pieces of gear and areas of interest. If you didn’t see an item listed in this post, or you’re wondering about the brand, price, or the details of an item I mentioned see my complete gear list!

Wondering how and why I decided to hike the PCT? Check out the post discussing my motivations.

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Comments 10

  • Sammy : Jan 16th

    I am no expert on cameras by any means however I read the Canon M50 is a great camera for the trail. Downer: it’s not weather resistant.

    • Shannon Ryker : Jan 17th

      Lol..Oh good I not the only one! I will check that model out. Thanks!

  • Chris : Jan 16th

    Personally I’d want a waterproof camera. Best of luck on your adventure!!!

  • Shannon Ryker : Jan 17th

    Yeah, weather resistant would be a good feature for this trip. Thanks!

  • Todd Patrick : Jan 18th

    I use a Canon SX60 HS with 65X Zoom on my hiking trips. Small, lightweight, and used in conjunction with a collapsable monopod, it takes great shots up to 1/4 mile away!

    • Shannon Ryker : Jan 23rd

      Thanks I will check it out!

  • Nick Crispe : Jan 23rd

    An Olympus TG5 is an impact resistant, waterproof camera that might work for you. It’s not too heavy, decent image quality and you can recharge it through a USB cable.

  • Shannon Ryker : Jan 23rd

    I really like that this option is rechargeable with the USB cable. I have a four port wall charger and it would be easier to just plug it in the wall charger than find space for a separate unit. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Heather Gleason : Jan 23rd

    Thanks for posting this helpful info. I am also working over gear and switching thigs up out and over..What kind of custom orthodontics do you wear. I am having a problem with mine when I get my feet wet they want to fall apart.

    Thx Heather

    • Shannon Ryker : Jan 23rd

      Hi Heather- I am not sure how mine will hold up in wet conditions. Unfortunately, I didn’t purchase them with the PCT in mind. Mine are called Foot Levelers, and are used to correct a hip alignment issue. i got them from my Chiropractor. I’ll have to ask him if I can get them wet.


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