The Tortoise Shell of a PCT Thru-Hiker: The Gear List

If you are anything like me, the words “gear list” have become a tingle-inducing guilty pleasure. These ubiquitous compilations of what future thru-hikers are planning to carry so as not to die seem to be lurking around every corner of the internet. Maybe the intrigue stems from seeing how lightweight my own stuff is in comparison…or all to frequently, how heartbreakingly heavy. Whatever it is that motivates me to click on link after link, everyone’s got one, and it feels like time to publicly unveil my own.


This is from an overnight in Anza-Borrego State Park, where I tested some of my new gear for the PCT.

Special Circumstances

It seems appropriate to list what sort of special circumstances are underlying my gear selections. I mean, context clues people. In a perfect world, everything would be free, ultra-light, functional, convenient, durable, and ethical…but I don’t live in Canada (I love you Justin Trudeau). Jokes aside, here are some of the main points to keep in mind while perusing my gear list.

  1.  I am a 20-year-old college student from a large middle-class family. This means that I am relatively broke. Luckily, my parents support me enough so that I don’t have to worry about food, shelter, clothing, or educational costs. Nevertheless, my gear selections were funded mostly by the wages of busy STEM major working multiple minimum-wage jobs. Essentially, keeping costs low was always on my mind.
  2. I am *trigger warning* vegan (insert hilarious and original joke about rabbit food here). While food is a big part of the vegan thru-hiking experience, a lot of traditional hiking gear also contains animal products (leather, down, suede, etc.) I don’t hold myself to a standard of perfection, but I definitely did put in some effort to keep my gear as ethical as possible.
  3. I am inexperienced. By this I mean that prior to deciding to thru-hike the PCT, I had never been backpacking before. Sure, I’d hiked and camped frequently, but I had no gear that would get me happily and efficiently from Mexico to Canada. Overall, this meant that I had much more to purchase than most people and cutting corners was inadvisable. Ultralight hiking is reserved for people who know how to do more with less…and this hiker knows she has a lot to learn.


All my gear tucked away in my future home

Without Further Ado…THE LIST

DISCLAIMER: Some of these weights are estimates based on an imprecise food scale, while others are the weights listed by the manufacturers.

DISCLAIMER #2: I don’t weigh the items I wear daily, because weight is not important to me in that department.

DISCLAIMER #3: Four pieces of my gear contain animal products: my Tundra sleeping bag, my JagBag silk liner, my possum down gloves, and my Darn Tough socks. My justifications are as follows: Tundra is a company that uses ethical down (the ONLY one I’ve ever found), I don’t have an ethical stance regarding silk, and I already owned the gloves and socks.


Category Item Weight (oz)
ULA Catalyst 44
Trash Compactor Liner 2
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 35
Tyvek Groundsheet (Homemade) 5
Sleep System
Tundra Pure -5 Degree Bag 28
JagBag Silk Sleeping Bag Liner 4
Neoair Xtherm (Regular) 15
Zpacks Dry Sack/ Pillow 2
Clothing Packed
NorthFace Thermoball Hoodie 12.5
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket 5.5
2 Extra Socks (Darn Tough/Injini) 4
1 Extra Underwear 0.5
Synethic REI Zip Top (Mid-Weight)
Footed Fleece Leggings 4
Frog Togg Rain Pants 4
Warm Microfleece Hat 0.95
Possum Down Gloves 1
Zpacks Medium Dry Sack 0.85
Sawyer Squeeze Filter 5
Syringe 0.5
2 L Platypus 1
8 Smart Water Bottles 2
Zpacks Foodbag 1.4
Snow Peak LiteMax Stove 1.9
Toaks 750 ml Titanium Pot (plus mesh) 4
Sea2Summit XL Collapsible Bowl 3.8
Light My Fire Titanium Spoon/Fork 1
Iphone 6S + Lifeproof Case 6
Anker Wall Charger 4.6
Anker PowerCore 13000 8.47
Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp 4
SpotGen3 + Batteries 4
Charging Cords 1
Small Dry Sack 0.5
First Aid/Medical
non-stick wound pad, moleskin, leukotape, antihistamine, imodium, ipuprofen, zinc oxide, AfterBite, salt/electrolyte tablets, polysporin 8
Swiss Army Knife 1.3
Fire Starter 0.75
Whistle 0.3
Compass 1.1
Mini-Lighter 0.5
Toothbrush/Toothpaste (Zpacks) 0.71
Pee-Rag Bandana 0.5
TP 1
Hand Sanitizer 2
Sunscreen 4.5
Small Hairbrush 0.6
DivaCup + Cloth Storage Sack 0.5
Small Nail Clippers 0.5
Baby Wipes 2
LifeFlex Umbrella 7.5
Mosquito Headnet 0.3
Pen and Paper 4
Sharpie 0.1
Safety Pins 0.5
Items Worn
Hiking Shirt (Long-Sleeve)
Sahara Convertible Pants N/A
Sports Bra N/A
Underwear N/A
Injini Toe Socks N/A
Trail Runners N/A
Outdoor Research Sun Hat N/A
Bandana/Buff N/A
Polorized Sunglasses N/A
Hiking Poles N/A
Sierra/Snow Gear
Black Diamond Whippet 15
Kahoola Crampons 21.4
Bear Canister 41
Evolution Mid GTX Hiking Boots N/A
Snow Gaiters 4
Extra Battery (Anker Powercore 1000) 6


Total (SoCal, NorCal, OR, WA): 16.3 lbs

Total (Sierras): 21.8


Final Thoughts On My Carefully Cultivated Tortoise Shell

This is much heavier than I ever intended my pack to be. That being said, I’ve come to terms with my base weight, and I’m happy with every item listed above. Despite all the nay-saying, there is no universal truth that bars people with heavy packs from completing the trail. Furthermore, this list was MADE to change. I’ll get rid of and/or add gear as I experience the trail and come to  understand what I need…I will adapt. I will persevere. And I will have a damn good time doing it, 16.3 pounds and all.


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Comments 3

  • Leo Yermo Adan : Apr 6th

    Brilliant idea on the Safety pins. Only one tiny suggestion . Look around and get the old fashioned DIAPER PINS. About 10 Xs stronger. But regardless, safety pins are a real plus and almost weigh zilch.

    • Melanie Ottino : Apr 6th

      Thanks for tip! I’ll definitely try and find some before I leave (:

  • Tanya : Apr 29th

    If you’d like an ethical justification for the possum in your gloves, I have one. In NZ possums are a terrible pest (and possum down is an NZ company). Possums are destroying vegetation and birdlife at an alarming pace: possums don’t belong here and the possum fur industry is helping keep the numbers down. So thank you for wearing them!


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