My Lightweight “House” for 6 months

What you don’t see behind the scenes of every thru hiker’s journey is often the countless hours put into researching and testing the gear they will take along for their journey. When preparing for my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail I did a few shorter hikers such as the seven-day West Coast Trail, my backpack loaded with a week of food and camping supplies weighing close to 40 pounds was a real wake-up call. To get the most enjoyment out of my PCT hike, I was going to need to lighten up!

The hiking community often uses the term “base weight” to refer to your backpack’s weight WITHOUT your food, fuel and water (as those weights fluctuate based on time between resupplies). Worn weight of your clothing and other accessories such as your watch and trekking poles are also not included. Based on the PCT Class of 2022 survey the average starting weight of 16.3lbs (interestingly, the average post-hike weight was 14.7lbs, dropping 1.5lbs from their backs).

My base weight when everything went into the pack was 13.5lbs, noting there are a few luxury items I may need to shake (i.e. pillow). With the high snow year, a big increase is coming to my base weight soon into the trail with an ice axe and microspikes, as well as the mandated Bear Canister in the Sierra section.

One thing I have promised myself not to be is a “gram weenie” which is where you shame other hikers for not having ultralight gear. I have committed to never ever asking another hiker about their base weight, or commenting on their gear. One more term readers should be familiar with is HYOH “Hike Your Own Hike” which basically means everyone should set out on their most authentic journey. For me, my base weight was about striking the balance between being comfortable hiking and camping. I certainly wont have the lightest base weight, some hikers who are ultralight purists will have under 10lbs for their base weight- going without comforts such as a stove, an inflatable mattress and extra clothing. At the end of the day, your base weight is not what really matters, it is the fact that you’re out there putting miles onto a truly amazing trail!

Jessica’s Gear List (see Lighter Pack for more granular details)

Image: Classic gear photo

The “Big 4”

Worn Weight

  • Top: Outdoor Research Sun Hoodie, with sun gloves- The desert is HOT, this avoids excessive sunscreen use
  • Bottoms: Patagonia Baggies Shorts – Word has it there is a creek crossing in the first few miles. Mountain Equipment Coop Tights – To interchange with the shorts to avoid excess sunscreen use, and to avoid scraping up my legs with brush
  • Headwear: Canada Ballcap – Not practical at all nor will it provide good ventilation in the desert, however this ballcap has accompanied me on many memorable trips including a bikepacking adventure with my mom. Not all gear needs to be 100% practical. Good polarized sunglasses brought along to keep the eyes well protected
  • Footwear: Hoka Hoka Speedgoat 5 GTX with Superfeet Insoles – These are trail running shoes, hiking boots are no longer the go-to for thru hikers as these dry quickly and are lighter on the feet. Of note, these are 1 size too large as I have been forewarned about desert feet swelling. I plan to replace shoes about five times this hike. Attached to the shoes are Dirty Girl gaiters to prevent sand from getting in and causing blisters, socks are Darn Tough quarter cushion
  • Misc: Fanny Pack- Patagucci to keep valuables safe, and to have easy access to key essentials such as hand sanitizer. Hiking poles (also used as my tent supports), Garmin Solar Instinct Watch navigation and tracking

Image: See if you can find these items from the list

What else is in my pack?

  • Personal Care: Medications (Advil, Gravol, Benadryl, Immodium, Iodine tabs water filtration backup), Soap, Small Bandana, Toothpaste/Brush, Comb, Sunscreen Stick and LipBalm 50SPF, Toilet Paper, Trowel to dig a cathole (thru hiking is not glamorous), Leukotape, Kula Cloth
  • Electronics: Petzl Bindi headlamp, wired headphones, Anker 10,000 battery bank, Garmin In Reach (satellite phone)
  • Kitchen: Toaks 650ml pot, Long handle spoon, BRS stove, Bic Mini Lighter, Sawyer Squeeze water filter, Fuel siphon, Swiss Army mini knife, Ramen cup for coffee (running joke is it will dissapate within 1 week!)
  • Additional Clothing: Rab Microalpine Down Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket/pants, Patagonia Capilene sleep base layers, Patagonia Fleece, Beanie, Rain Mittens, one extra pair of underwear and socks
  • Misc Bits and Bobs: Cork massage ball, Camp shoes (Mayfly UL), Smart Water Bottles, Water Bladder, Sit Pad

Image: My whole life packed up for the next 6 months

Image: Hiker to Town sign on groundcloth to make hitches easier

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Comments 2

  • Sarah Ferguson : Apr 16th

    So proud of you Jessica! Looking forward to hearing about all of your adventures and getting updates! You are truly inspirational, you got this!!

  • Dude : May 3rd

    Nice be safe out there and have fun!


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