What Not To Take: My PCT Gear List
Choosing the tools that will help to carry me from Mexico to Canada proved to be an increasingly difficult task. Despite my best efforts to be my own pack mule, I’ve found over the years that less is indeed more, at least up to a point. If you’re looking to carry your fears, there’s a good chance your body will protest. If your entire kit is feather-light and you’re caught in a storm though, it’s easy to understand why some folks arrive at the terminus overprepared. When deciding how to lighten up my pack, I decided to focus not solely on achieving comfort(that can be done in a variety of ways), but more so on avoiding discomfort.
For some circumstances, I found that the best course of action was to trust conventional wisdom and buy from the most popular brands. Altra(trail runners), Gossamer Gear(pack), Enlightened Equipment(quilt), and Patagonia(base layers) are a few that come to mind. It was refreshing to try these out and quickly discover for each, the common convenience of a well made piece of gear.
Shelter and Clothing, Layers Upon Layers
For my shelter in particular, I wanted to avoid one thing: sleeping on the ground. A Warbonnet hammock, suspension and underquilt allow me to do just that. I instead aim to get the best sleep possible on trail, or at least not the worst imaginable. In addition, there’s a chance a heavy tarp could lead to an overuse injury, while not packing one would leave you dripping wet with a deep chill. For my size hammock, I’m trusting the 8×10 Hyperlite Flat Tarp to keep me dry.
Lightweight clothing will be plenty comfortable for hiking and sleeping in warmer weather, but what happens when the temperature dips below freezing? I had to make a few executive decisions here, but for now I’ve settled on a few key items. If I find myself routinely smacked by the elements, a simple dollar store poncho coupled with an ultralight pair of Tachyon wind pants from Montbell should offer some relief. If all else fails, garbage bags and hiding under the tarp will be my failsafe. If it’s bitter cold, I’m leaning on two layers: one is a 6oz polartec alpha hoody from Senchi and the other is the Katabatic Tincup, a puffy jacket model that offers a few extra ounces of down fill.
I’d really rather not settle for below average snow gear in 2023, as it’s looking like pretty much the highest snow year on record. With that being said I want to remain open to last minute changes and new philosophies while on trail. Today I am packing my Black Diamond Whippet attachment and a pair of Kahtoola K-10s. The goal here is simple: to avoid poor traction that could lead to potential long sliding falls in the backcountry.
How To Stay Plugged In
Technology on trail is more important than ever and I feel it would be irresponsible to not rely on certain modern devices. One easy way to feel safe and secure on a thru hike is to bite the bullet and invest in a Garmin Inreach Mini. They’re only 3.5oz and they offer GPS tracking/messaging, but more importantly, an SOS function. Another important consideration is mapping apps and the capability of your smartphone. I found FarOut and Gaia to be the most relevant and user friendly. As for the phone itself, I find the Google Pixel 6 Pro is reliable enough to keep me connected. As a bonus, the camera capability of the pixel has been consistently top of the line. As someone who had considered bringing a full frame mirrorless camera, it’s important to me that when relying solely on my phone(my only camera on trail) -I know it’s worth a damn.
Everyone has different preferences for sure, so I made sure to test these things out ahead of time and get a read on how they feel to me personally. The trail itself however, is the ultimate shakedown. Every hiker gets to decide for themselves what systems to trust, which to me, is certainly part of the fun.
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