My Starting PCT Gear List
I may be deep in resupply planning currently, but my gear list is pretty set to start the Pacific Crest Trail! I consider myself an experienced backpacker: I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc last year and have several long weekends in the Sierra under my belt, but nothing quite compares to the 2,653-mile thru-hike that is the PCT, so I’m probably just as nervous as a beginner.
A lot of my gear I would say is not common around the PCT watering holes (e.g., the Facebook group and Halfway Anywhere gear surveys) but I’ve had most of it for a long time, so I know it all works for me. So if you are looking for packing list alternatives to the popular gear recs, I hope this post can point you in a new direction!
Ever heard of it? Like I said, not common. This is actually a men’s daypack that I bought at an REI garage sale years ago. It fits me perfectly and is quite spacious; don’t let the 36L capacity fool you. Even though it’s a size S/M, the hip belt was still too big when cinched all the way. I found a great hack on YouTube where you remove the clips. It’s a little hard to explain, so see photo for reference.
I can carry a small bear can in this pack, or seven days worth of food. Being 5 feet, 3 inches, all my clothing is XS and my sleep system is women’s short, so my gear does not take up as much space as it would for a tall man. I also am hiking with my partner, so we can split some of the gear. That being said, I have an Osprey Ariel 65 waiting at home in case I need to switch to something bigger.
Big Agnes Slater UL2
This tent is discontinued, but it’s very similar to the Fly Creek. I am hiking with my partner, so we need a two-person tent. He’s also 6 feet, 3 inches, so we need a long tent. This one fits the bill and is 2 pounds, 9 ounces. We’ve tested it in a late spring storm in Desolation Wilderness, and we stayed dry inside. We were also able to fit our bags and an adult German Shepherd inside, if that tells you anything about how spacious it is.
My Sleeping System
A sleeping bag rating of 20F or lower is recommended for the PCT, but I am a very hot sleeper and have spent many cold nights in my 28F bag. I’ve added the liner for two reasons: it theoretically adds 14 degrees of warmth and it will help keep my bag clean-ish because I can take it out and wash it when I get into town.
Some people have said the liner is annoying because it bunches up and wraps around you as you sleep, but I haven’t experienced that problem. Some people have also said I will most certainly freeze in a 28F bag, which is why I have a Mountain Hardwear Phantom Alpine 15F waiting at home. It is significantly bulkier though, which is why I’m not starting with it. Also keep in mind that I’ll be sharing a tent with another person, which will add some body heat.
This is a solid pad with an expanding foam core and 3.9 R value. The women’s cut is a bit slimmer and shorter than regular. Compared to the ubiquitous Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (you know that yellow one that crinkles every time you move), this is a very quiet pad that won’t disturb your campmates.
I’ve had this pillow for a long time and have had no problems. I slip a Buff over it as a pillow case that I can wash. I like that it fits comfortably in the hood of my sleeping bag, so it doesn’t slip away.
I will warn you now that a lot of my clothing is from Eddie Bauer. This is not a sponsored post; I’ve just found them to be the perfect combination of quality, style, and price. I don’t see them talked about at all in the thru-hiking community, so hopefully this post will inspire you to check them out. They aren’t found in REI, but I have experienced excellent customer service whenever I needed to exchange or return something.
I was drawn to this jacket’s revolutionary down technology. Here’s what their website says: “New Thindown® fabric replaces traditional, high-loft down clusters with ultrathin down sheets, eliminating the need for quilting or channels. It also creates maximum thermal efficiency without bulk and, since the down is uniform throughout, there are no cold spots.” I’ve only had it for one winter season, but I find it just as warm as my other quilted puffy jackets but packs down smaller. It has won a lot of awards and Adrian Ballinger takes his on Everest, and yet I still don’t see it much talked about.
Their most lightweight jacket ever at just over 5 ounces. Fully waterproof and packs into its own chest pocket, but does not have hand pockets.
I plan to hike in shorts, so these will also serve as wind pants when it’s cold (not just rain pants).
Unless you have a wool allergy, Merino wool is pretty much standard for sleeping clothes. I’ve found them to be helpful with odor control, and I don’t think they are itchy (though they aren’t exactly soft as silk).
These have an anti-microbial coating that thru-hikers definitely require. I’m not quite on board with going commando yet (as I’ve heard many hikers do), so I’ll be starting with one pair worn and an extra pair packed.
I find this bra to be flattering enough to double as a swimming top should the opportunity for a dip arise. You should know what works for your body, but I’ve found this model to be a good fit for small- to medium-chested women.
I’ll be wearing this combo and packing an extra combo, so two pairs of each. If you don’t already know of this method, pairing toe socks with hiking socks over them is the winning recipe for a blister-free hike. Just make sure your shoes are roomy enough to accommodate two pairs of socks.
Synthetic material with a loose fit will hopefully keep me cool enough in the desert. Thumb holes will help protect my hands, and the hood will keep the sun off my neck.
Lightweight, quick drying, and plenty of pockets.
I’m sold on the wide toe-box, but the zero-drop heel took a while to get used to. I’ve always had muscular legs, but my calves were definitely sore after the first few hikes and runs in these. I did like that they are really flexible and don’t take any time to break in. I’ll never go back to bulky hiking boots, except for winter trips.
Patagonia Active Mesh Bra
Darn Tough Socks
Injinji Run Socks
After hiking the very exposed TMB, I realized sun gloves are not to be missed.
Most hikers will use the Sawyer Squeeze on the PCT, but after a few trips with it I found it was just too tiring on my arms to do it day in and day out for five months. The GravityWorks filter is larger, but it’s effortless.
That’s about it! I’ll add in an Eddie Bauer fleece and possibly swap in leggings for the shorts in the Sierra, which will also require extra gear like my bear can, ice axe, and microspikes, but this list is what I’ll be setting out from Campo with. Seems like a lot, but it really all fits in that 36L pack. Happy trails!
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I love Eddie Bauer clothing too! Especially my Horizon shorts and pants. Glad to hear about that Evertherm down jacket – though I’ve stayed away from down and always opted for synthetic. I’m also surprised to never hear much about the brand.
Hope you have a great hike!