PCT Gear: The 4 big items I’m taking on trail in 2022

Hello there! I have great news. My visa application got approved!! Therefore, nothing is stopping me from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in May. Locking down that visa enabled me to finally purchase my big-ticket items. No sense in buying things when you’re not sure that you’re going right? I have been thinking about gear since last year. So, a lot of my time has been spent on gear research. Time well spent, because I will use these items daily for at least 5 months. I am definitely not a Ray Jardine follower and will not cut my toothbrush in half anytime soon. However, I did want to get my base weight down from about 10 kilos to 7 (22 lbs to 15). This blog is about the 4 big-ticket items that I choose: my pack, my shelter, and my sleep system (bag + pad). This is in no way a piece of advice but just some reflections on what worked for me and what was available in Europe. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Shelter: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Solution Dye

Different things work for different people. I took online reviews into account when selecting my tent. But I also made a list of things that were important to me prior to purchasing. For my shelter, these things were: 1. It had to feel safe in a storm 2. I wanted it to be lightweight 3. It needed to pack down small and 4. It had to be easy to set up. I already owned a tent: the 2- person MSR tent Hubba Hubba NX. I absolutely loved this tent but with its 1,7 kg (3,80 lbs), I found it too heavy for thru-hiking. From my online reading, it seemed that the Zpacks Duplex was the most popular choice amongst hikers. However, to me, it seemed difficult to get it set up and to get it taut. It is also expensive and hard to get in Europe.

Why I love the Big Agnes

The Big Agnes Tiger Wall was love at first sight for me. I love that the setup is incredibly similar to the MSR tent, as it’s also a semi free-standing tent. But it’s a lot lighter than the MSR at 1,1 kg (2,50 lbs). I also like that it’s super spacious but packs down small. And this shouldn’t matter, but I also really love the colour: bright yellow, my favourite colour. The cherry on top is that it’s possible to leave the outer tent off on dry nights, so I can watch the stars from the inner mesh tent. I am not sure I would dare to cowboy camp, so this is a great alternative. My one drawback is that the tent fabric seems a bit more fragile than my MSR tent or the Zpacks Duplex tent, which is made from DCF. The Big Agnes is made from nylon and I tend to be a bit rough with my stuff. We’ll see how it holds up on trail!

By the way, if you are also looking into buying the Tiger Wall, make sure you buy the 2021 version: the solution dye. Big Agnes has updated the fabric so it is more resistant to UV and doesn’t fade so quickly.

Sleep system: Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Women’s sleeping pad

My Sea to Summit sleeping mat is not a recent purchase. I have actually used it for over 2 years. I’m a very easy customer when it comes to sleeping pads: I sleep on my back and I sleep like a corpse, I barely move. The mat has an R-rating of 3,5, which is a little bit higher than the unisex version. It is definitely true that your sleeping comfort does not depend on the one element but on your entire sleep system. The first summer I used the pad, it was very cold. I used it in the North of Sweden, above the polar circle, where it gets about 33-35 degrees (Fahrenheit) at night. I guess my butt is the heaviest part of me (makes sense) because it was always cold and I could really feel the cold coming up from the ground. But I was also using a sleeping bag that was not warm enough for the climate I was using it in. I wasn’t wearing the proper clothes and I didn’t have a groundsheet under my tent. This summer I went there again. I added a groundsheet and I wore merino base layers. On the coldest nights, I wore a beanie, gloves and my down puffy. Even with my improper sleeping bag, I was comfortable!

Why I love the Sea to Summit pad

Apart from that, I love the pad. It doesn’t make noise when you move, which is one of the major selling points compared to the more popular Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads. It is also a bit cheaper. The Therm-A-Rest is more lightweight and has a higher R-rating, though. The Sea to Summit mat is very comfortable when your weight is evenly distributed. I will definitely take it on the PCT with me! I will also take a lightweight isolation pad to put under it, to keep it safe from punctures.

Sleep system: Enlightened Equipment Enigma 10F down quilt

I’m usually a person who makes decisions easily but choosing a sleeping bag for the PCT got me beat. The sleeping bag I already owned had a comfort rating of 32F. So I wanted to get one with at least a 20F or 10F rating. I knew I wanted a down quilt or bag because you get more warmth for less weight. But apart from that, I didn’t really know. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted a sleeping bag or a quilt. I like the fact that quilts are lightweight and versatile. But I worried about getting the technique down to secure it to my sleeping pad. Being cold due to drafts seeping in, also worried me. In the end, cost and availability decided matters for me. There are very few European brands that make lightweight, 3-season sleeping bags or quilts. So I wanted to purchase from American companies like Western Mountaineering or Enlightened Equipment.

Why I choose the Enlightened Equipment Quilt

Luckily, I found a European webshop that stocked Enlightened Equipment quilts for a reasonable price. I wanted to get an Enigma rather than a Revelation quilt because it has an enclosed foot box, so less chance of drafts. And I choose the warmest rating the webshop had available, which was a 10F. I also purchased a silk Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner to add a little bit of extra warmth and to keep my quilt cleaner. I have used the quilt inside my house and it is super comfortable and fluffy. Anyways, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I will report back from the trail.

Pack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L

A pack is traditionally not included in the items hikers list as their “big 3”. They include the 3 heaviest items that go in their pack, namely the shelter and the sleep system, but not the pack itself. However, because I think the pack is one of the most important gear items, I call it the big 4. On the PCT, I will carry my pack for at least 8 hours a day, every day, so it is essential that it’s comfortable. Before purchasing my Mariposa, I had an Osprey Kyte 46L. Osprey packs are widely known for being extremely comfortable. But this comfort also makes them a bit heavier. For my new pack, my requirements were: 1. Lightweight but still with an internal frame 2. Enough packing space. (The Kyte is only 46 litres, so packing it was a little bit like a Tetris game). 3. Padded shoulder straps and hip belt to make sure it’s comfortable.

Why I love my Gossamer Gear pack

Choosing a pack came with the same issues as choosing a sleeping bag, as most of the lightweight pack producers are American cottage companies. However, I was very lucky to be able to buy the Mariposa second-hand last summer and test it out. I find it very comfortable, even when I’m carrying more than the weight limit of the pack (14 kg/30 lbs). I love all the packing space. The Mariposa has a roll-top, so you can fill the pack with as much or as little stuff as you want. It also has 3 huge side pockets, so plenty of storage space. I especially love the mesh front pocket that enables me to stuff it full of things I might need on the go, such as my rain gear. Another great thing about the Mariposa is that it has a removable pad in the back, that you can use as a seat. The roll-top is a bit of a drawback for me, as it makes it difficult to keep the pack open when packing. I also don’t love how the Mariposa looks: it’s this elephant-grey colour and doesn’t have a very sleek shape. Please Gossamer Gear, start producing it in pretty colours like the Gorilla pack! I do like that the pack is named “Mariposa”, which means butterfly in Spanish. I nicknamed my previous pack Leviathan because it was such a heavy, monstrous thing. I will have to come up with a new name for this one!

Smaller Gear Items

If you are also interested in some of the smaller items I’m taking with me, check out the gear list on my profile. If you have any questions about my gear, please let me know in the comments. I will write a blog during and after the PCT to let you know how my gear held up!

 

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Comments 10

  • Juliette : Jan 3rd

    I’m also taking the mariposa 60!

    Reply
    • Kelly Groen : Jan 6th

      Awesome, love that pack!

      Reply
    • Mona L Boness : Jan 8th

      Take time to learn

      Reply
  • Mark Boulger : Jan 3rd

    Hi Kelly,

    Not a gear question, per se…I’m a 2022 NOBO hiker (May 6th start date) and wondering how the heck to store food overnight for the desert portion of the PCT. I’m from Canada and we always, always hang our food (and toothpaste and anything else with an odour) from a tree. I know bear cannisters are required for certain parts of the trail, but I don’t think people are carrying them through the desert, so without trees what’s the food storage protocol?

    Appreciate any thoughts

    Regards
    Mark

    Reply
    • Kelly Groen : Jan 6th

      Hi Mark,

      Good question! Being from Europe, I don’t have that much bear experience myself. I camped in “bear-territory” in Sweden but they were extremely shy and I never saw one. My plan for the PCT is to sleep with my food. I will make sure to choose campsites that look pristine, so no bears or other critters have ever found a snack there before. In the Sierra I will carry a bear canister. I plan to rent one from Triple Crown Outfitters, the outfitter in Kennedy Meadows. They have a system where you can return the canister in Kennedy Meadows North. Apart from that, I believe the only other bear canister requirement is in Lassen Volcanic National Park. I plan on just hiking through it and not staying overnight, it is about 30 miles in total I believe.

      Hope this helps!

      Best,
      Kelly

      Reply
    • Meat Sweats : Jan 6th

      Mark, I’ve thru hiked the pct a few times. Almost all pct thru hikers sleep with their food outside of the bear canister required areas.

      Reply
  • Charlie : Jan 4th

    I never hung my food on my 1997 PCT thruhike, just defended it. At least never bear-bagged it. I may have hung it up off the ground a few times in Washington where mice were occasionally a problem.

    Reply
    • Mark : Jan 5th

      Thanks for your reply, Charlie.

      So you kept your food near and dear? Like in the tent? Or vestibule? And that worked?

      Having trouble getting my mind around that. Typically we do a roughly equilateral triangle. Each point is about 100m away from the other two. One point is cooking and eating, one point is hanging, and the third point is sleeping. That’s worked well. We have on occasion heard rummaging about around the cooking point but nothing alarming, and nothing at the hanging point…or, most importantly, the sleeping point 🙂

      But this is Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada (had to do a shout-out) and not sure what to do or expect in southern California. I appreciate your thoughts
      Regards…Mark

      Reply
  • Meat Sweats : Jan 6th

    Mark, I’ve thru hiked the pct a few times. Almost all pct thru hikers sleep with their food outside of the bear canister required areas. Inside your tent or in your pack if cowboy camping.

    Reply
    • Mark : Jan 6th

      Thanks, uh, Meat Sweats. Sorry, that trail name (please dear god tell me it’s a trail name) is just, never mind…don’t think I want to know the story 🙂

      Kidding aside, thank you. Question asked, and answered. Perfect.

      Regards

      Mark

      Reply

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