Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail Gear

Pacific Crest Trail Gear

For my thru-hike attempt of the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ll be carrying everything I need for 4-6 months on my back. This begs the question, what gear am I bringing? This is where I fell down an analysis paralysis rabbit hole. I have been backpacking for several years so I did have great gear already but was it the *best gear. With the exception of water, which I will filter from the trail, and food that I will purchase in towns every 4-5 days – the gear is vital to my success. My gear has changed a lot over the years and this is an iterative process. Also note that I had a skin cancer diagnosis and surgery in late 2022 which is why sun prevention is seen in a good amount of my gear. If you see a scar on my forehead in any photos – that is why!

*This is the gear and weight that works best for me based on my needs.

For part of the trail, I will be in the high Sierra Nevada mountain range which requires additional items to be added and swapped out per the law and out of necessity. Most of this gear will only be used for the ~400 miles that it is required as it adds a substantial amount of weight.

I have been accumulating this gear over years so if any links list a price that is higher than expected – I was able to plan ahead and get deals! Also, though this is the gear I have chosen, it does not mean that you need this gear. The outdoors should be inclusive and accessible, so don’t let the cost of gear get in the way of your experience!

Big 3 Gear:

  • Backpack: ULA Circuit 68L. I’ve had this pack since 2022 and it has served me well. I enjoyed working with ULA and their customizability for packs was helpful in finding the perfect fit! As a 5’5″ female and 130lbs, I went with a size small and S straps.
  • Quilt + Quilt Sheet: This is probably what I am most excited for and generally concerned about – my sleep system! I went with the Zen Bivvy Light Bed 25 degree quilt and quilt sheet for my main temperature rating. Zen Bivvy is unique in that it sets up exactly like a bed. There is a sheet that wraps around your sleeping pad and has a hood that simulates a mummy bag. The quilt itself hooks on to color coded hooks on to the sheet which gives you more room and you are not as confined as in a mummy bag. I am a stomach sleeper so this has been a game changer!
  • Tent + Tent Footprint: After some trial and error with Zpacks, I chose the Nemo Hornet Elite Osmo 2p and the coordinating footprint. It had the best combination of trail weight, is semi-freestanding, and enough room for a comfortable set up for 1 person.

Sleep System Extra:

  • Pillow: As mentioned above, sleep is the thing I am most concerned with hence why I have added weight to my pack in hopes that it pays dividends in nightly logged sleep time. I chose the Seat to Summit Aero UL pillow in size Large. With the hood of the Zen Bivvy Light Bed, the pillow tucks in perfectly and does not escape off of my sleeping pad in the night.
  • Bag Liner: Because I chose a 25 degree bag as my main temperature rated quilt outside of the Sierra Nevada – I wanted to add some degrees and versatility to my system. Enter a bag liner. The Cocoon Silk Bag Liner adds warmth to your sleep set up on chilly nights while you can use it by itself on warm nights. This may also help prevent wear and tear on bags/quilts as I can house my dirty self within the liner (and wash it in town).
  • Sleeping Pad: Similar to the tent, this was also a category that had trial and error. After being disappointed in the most “popular” brand and model, I chose the Nemo Tensor in ┬ásize Regular Wide. It perfectly fits the quilt sheet and gives me ample space for my stomach sleeping.

Sierra Nevada:

  • Bear Can: A “bear proof” can is required for this section and will be swiftly shipped home after I am out of the required zone. During the Four Pass Loop hike, I hiked with a BearVault 450 and it was nearly too small. I chose a BearVault 475 as it was the perfect combination of capacity, weight, and fit in my pack securely.
  • Ice Axe: This is probably the neatest ‘looking’ gear on the whole list. Depending on the Sierra Nevada snowfall, going over passes can be extra nerve-racking. The ice axe is used in a few ways; as a trekking pole on the high side of a snow crossing, as a tool to carve out boot track, and finally as a self arrest tool if I slip. I chose the Black Diamond Raven in 70cm as I wanted something sturdy and long enough to support me if I ever need to use it in an emergency situation.
  • Crampons: I will have microspikes for the desert section of the trail (yes there is snow!) but for deeper snow, I will add proper crampons as my foot traction tool – Kahtoola 1/2″ spikes. These make a huge difference in stability on snow.
  • Glacier Glasses: My goodness my eyes are sensitive to the sun so it was vital to me to make sure I could see the trail properly with sun shining on the snow. I chose the Sunski Treeline Polarized and I am excited to see how they perform.
  • Quilt: I mentioned that I would be using a 25 degree quilt for the majority of the trail, but I will switch out the 25 degree in favor of a 10 degree quilt for the Sierra section. I would rather be too warm and have the capability to shed layers than the opposite.

Food + Water System:

  • Stove + Cook Pot: Though the ultralight thru-hikers that cold soak have my admiration, I need a stove. Throughout camping adventures, the regular Jet Boil has been reliable – so why ruin a good thing! Because of this, I chose the Jet Boil Stash which came out relatively recently.
  • Spork: Who knew I would think about utensils so much – landed on the Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork with the long handle.
  • Food Bag: I’m sure I will have DCF jealousy with my hiking companions, but I chose a simple 20L REI stuff sack.
  • Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze. Check out Sawyer’s philanthropic work – they are a company worth supporting.
  • Water Storage: I will have 5.5L water carrying capacity between a CNOC 2L bag and 2x 1.5L SmartWater bottles, along with a 700ml SmartWater bottle strapped to my shoulder strap.
  • Lighter: Rechargeable Explorer lighter
  • Paracord: 30′ for a solid bear hang.

Clothes:

  • Sun Hoodie: The amount of research that has gone into my sun hoodie choice is comical. After all of it, I landed back where I started on the REI Sahara Shade. The synthetic fabric is quick dry and the price is great. Only complaint is that the synthetic material does lend itself to smelling badly as compared to natural materials. Sorry to all of those on trail I offend!
  • Shorts: Similar to the sun hoodie, tried a lot of active shorts and REI’s Active Pursuits 4.5″ inseam are the winners!
  • Puffy: Not the most ultralight, but I already had a Patagonia Down Sweater and it works great.
  • Rain Coat: Also not ultralight, but I also already had the Patagonia Torrent Shell.
  • Rain Pants: Three words – Amazon Dance Pants. I am an Extra Large.
  • Mid Layer: Melanzana pulled some hipster nonsense with their scheduling system to shop in store in Leadville, CO (lol @ a 6 month wait), so I went with a Mellie knock off in Mountain Hardware Tunic. I got a size Large because these microgrid fleeces tend to shrink.
  • Socks: Much to my dismay with my Smartwool loyalty, Darn Tough won out. 3 pairs; 2 for hiking, 1 for sleeping.
  • Pants: REI Trailmade – LOVE THEM.
  • Hats: I have both a running hat for the sun/warmer days and a Smartwool beanie for chillier ones.
  • Gloves: I have both warm REI Polartec gloves for cold mornings and REI sun gloves to help save my skin.
  • Buff: Classic Icebreaker buff – can be used for so much!
  • Base Layer: REI 185 Merino Wool top + bottom. Cozy, soft, and a good price point. This outfit will be my primary sleeping clothes.
  • Camp Shoes: It was a debate between Crocs and sandals – then Teva introduced their classic Universal Sandal in slim which was the winner!
  • Hiking Shoes: Altras? No. Hokas? No. Brooks Cascadia? Yes! Their durability, trail availability, and mid-sole rock plate made them a no brainer.

Electronics:

  • Battery Pack: 2x Nightcore 10000.
  • Cords + Charger: Double USB-C wall charger. 2x USB-C to USB-C cords, USB-C to Micro-USB, and USB-C to Garmin.
  • Headlamp: I wanted something rechargeable and that did not require batteries; I chose the Black Diamond Storm 500-R.
  • Watch: I’ve had the Garmin Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar for over a year and continue to be obsessed with the data.
  • Satellite Communicator: Garmin InReach Mini 2. This allows me to send messages to my Home Support Person and has SOS capabilities. Stay safe!
  • Subscriptions: FarOut PCT Map, Spotify Premium, and Kindle Unlimited.

First Aid + Toiletries + Misc:

  • First Aid Kit: This will be an iterative process based on what I need but I am starting with a basic backpacking first aid kit.
  • Multitool: Very Boy Scout of me; Gerber Stakeout Tool.
  • Microspikes: Good for small amounts of snow and ice, less intense than the crampons – I have had these spikes since 2020!
  • Towel: I have very sensitive acne prone skin so I’ll be carrying a personal towel dedicated to my face cleanliness.
  • Bathroom Kit: UL trowel, Kula cloth, and Portowipe compressed towels.
  • Paper Maps: In addition to the FarOut PCT map and guide, I will have the National Geographic section paper maps with me. My Support Person will be sending them in various resupply boxes.
  • Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork – so nice!

Luxury:

  • Kindle: This feels like a necessity, not a luxury but at 7oz I guess it is a luxury. I love reading and this is one of the best things I can do as self care on the trail!
  • Fanny Pack: This is to add more hip belt space and to have something to carry around town stops!
  • Sun Umbrella: This also feels like a necessity.
  • Sit Pad: This versatile item will be used as a sitting pad but also underneath my inflatable sleeping pad to eliminate sliding around and popping protection.
  • Necklace: Maybe the most important and sentimental thing I am bringing on the trail is a memorial necklace for my grandparents that recently passed. I am excited to bring part of them along on this journey and I know they will be a source of support for me during hard times.

Post Pacific Crest Trail Gear Update

Some of this gear may change after my experience on the Pacific Crest Trail or some of it may fall completely flat – that is to be expected! Use your resources, here is my favorite resource, and decide what is best for YOU.

 

xoxo Leeann

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