To check out my post-trek gear review, click HERE!
Gear! I started investigations into PCT gear when I section hiked in Oregon last summer. I was blown away by the amount of information and discussion on STUFF you can take. When you’re surviving on items weighing a total of <15lbs for 4-5 months, you have to choose, purchase and edit with the wisest of hands.
Quetzaltrekkers was a lovely preparation for this, because I had to carry so much necessary but annoying bullshit (3 [essential] medical kits, for example) for my clients that I would purposely end up bringing nothing for myself. When you are carrying 6 liters of extra water up the highest volcano in Central America, you do not bring an extra pair of socks. Or any hygiene products. Well, you do bring an extra pair of socks in case your client gets wet and hypothermic, but you do not bring them for yourself. Call it lazy, or call it smart.
I know I can take very little for 2-10 day backpacking treks, but 4-5 months is new for me. Doubtless, I’ll learn a lot as I go.
The first big piece is a tent; Dan and I have settled on the functional and beautiful TarpTent Double Rainbow 2, under which to dream. We started with a Big Agnes Scout UL2 but had issues with condensation within and the centrally-placed trekking pole blocking spooning activities. The Double Rainbow is fabulously designed to be open or closed in many ways, is spacious longways/tallways for our enormous bodies, and has double doors to ensure no midnight trampling. Splitting a tent is economical, warmer, lighter to carry, I’m looking forward to living within this beauty.
I am beyond excited to meet my new best friend, coming in with rave reviews from literally everyone who’s ever touched one. My spankin’ new ULA Catalyst Backpack is far lighter and more trail appropriate than my Osprey 45 or North Face 75. I’m so grateful to kind Chris at ULA for helping us out with a discount! Thanks, ULA!
The current eesleepeeng, as they call it in Guatemala (or saco de dormir, technically), is a gorgeous red Kelty Cosmic DriDown 20 degree. As much as I adore this bag, it’s not terribly warm, despite its temp rating. With all my layers on, I froze every time I summited Tajumulco in Guatemala and ended up switching to a(nother red) Mountain Hardware bag from our gear room.
I finally decided to buy a new sleeping bag for the trek, a Mountain Hardware Phantasia 15, which is basically my dream bag. A new friend, Heather, helped me get a whopping 50% off, for which I am eternally and overwhelmingly grateful. This bag is lighter by a whole 10oz and warmer than my Kelty.
For a sleeping pad, I will be trading in my deluxe compact mattress for a squishy piece of foam. No, I’m not talking about my mattress at home, which is far less comfortable than my Big Agnes Iron Mountain Mummy Pad. I cannot tell you how dang comfortable this thing is. The downsides are the fear of a puncture (terrifying fear, on a thru hike), weight (30oz: nope), and time to inflate and deflate every day. Mostly because of the first two reasons, I am switching to a Thermarest Z-Lite, the most popular pad on the PCT. It looks like an accordion, so I can use it to sing and scare off the cougars. It ain’t comfortable, but it’ll keep me warm and mildly padded.
One of my favorite bits of gear is my headlamp, a tiny and bright Mammut S Lite coming in at just 4 ounces.
I’ve just about had it with the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter. I’ve had to replace mine TWICE because of leaking issues – the plastic o-ring in the filter begins popping out and then falling apart as I shove it back in every time. It still works when it leaks, but it’s a hassle I’m sick of dealing with and repairing while in the backcountry. Despite the weight, we’re bringing a Platypus 4L filter, and I’ll be bringing back-up bleach for myself.
A trekking pole, to save my poor knees! I’ve never hiked with poles, but the destruction of my patella ligaments by descending volcanos both stateside and abroad have convinced me that I need them. I’ll carry REI Traverse poles.
Other gear, mostly to be shared with group : solar charger (we’re liking the SolarMonkey Adventurer); bear canister in Sierras; stove and fuel (I’m jazzed about our MSR Pocket Rocket); pot; tupperware, mug and spork for eating; iPhone and headphones to serve as GPS, camera, blogging device, and World Cup viewing; small 1.5oz Leatherman CS with knife and other tiny handy features; very minimal toiletries. I’m cutting out microspikes and ice axe for now, due to the very low snow year for the Sierras.
I’ve used my Sierra Designs Rainshell enough that it’s, well… Not waterproof anymore. I dropped by Next Adventure in Portland and bought a beautiful blue Marmot PreCip to keep me dry. As for rain pants, I have previously used completely unbreathable but bulletproof ski pants for biking in Portland, or a trashbag “rain skirt” with the bottom cut out. Might go for the trashbag princess look on the trail, or use the REI UltraLite Rain Pants I got at a used gear sale. These will double as a generous insulating layer in cold weather.
My trusted superwoman superlightweight down jacket is a Sierra Designs DriDown Cloud Puffy. It doesn’t keep you warm on Tajumulco (you may notice this is my most common qualifier of warmth), but with some decent base layers I should be OK. Unassumingly, I plan to be mostly hiking or in my sleeping bag anyways.
I don’t believe in hiking clothes, especially the junk made for women. It’s all ugly and its all the same. You can hike in anything, preferably anything that’s synthetic. I don’t plan on buying anything new, except gaiters.
To wear, daily : Long sleeve sun-proof shirt (only in the desert); later, a synthetic Hood to Coast 2012 t-shirt (to look cool, because I didn’t actually run that race); running shorts; mid weight Darn Tough socks, carry extra pair; exceptional Exofficio underwear, carry extra pair; sports bra; a Buff; a sun hat.
Other clothes : Cotton bandana; dorky clip-on sunglasses for my specs (trailname 6-Eyes?); Crocs for camp shoes (fashionista always); Manzella fleece gloves; fleece hat.
My base layers (I tend to get quite cold) will be Colombia thermal bottoms and long sleeved top.
As for trail runners, I’ll be trading in my trusty old Keen’s for some lighter weight, lower cut shoes. Brooks Cascadias are the most popular on the PCT, and for good reason. I’ll likely have to purchase 2-4 pairs to get me to Canada, I’ll be ordering online while on trail and have them sent to my next resupply.
All of this brings my base weight to approximately 14.6 lbs. Many thru hikers believe 15 lbs is the very highest you should go. I could definitely drop weight with a lighter (and more expensive) sleeping bag, and a couple other things (do I really need rain pants? a tent?). I’m sure I’ll get more effective (and tired) and drop some things on the way, but for now, it seems doable. Carry less or get stronger… I’ll do both.
Below, you can find a table with a detailed base weight.
Things I’m considering :
A mosquito head net, because the buggers make me wacky. Perhaps creating one? (yes, I know how hard netting is to sew.)
Sea 2 Summit drybag/stuff sack for clothes and sleeping bag. Do I need it? Will a trash bag or two be sufficient? Will ziplock freezer bags keep my maps and iPhone dry, or should I get a small dry bag for these?
To cover my backpack, a waterproof pack cover. Most people say these are inefficient, that an inner liner of a trash bag works better. In the past I’ve wrapped my backpack with the tent fly in addition to an inner liner. Even in a downpour, this works if you pay attention to the actual wrapping, but leaves you with a wet fly to set up – only good if you expect you’ll get to hang around and dry out in the next few days.
I probably won’t bring my trusty 3L Camelbak Bladder. As much as I love it and how it keeps me mega-hydrated, I’m going to learn to work with just bottles. Plastic bottles are far lighter, and I have a much better sense of my water intake when I can actually see what I’m drinking (and how close I am to running out).
A journal to write and books to read. I hate typing on my iPhone, but I don’t know about spending postage to mail myself journal pages home. I love drawing, so I’ll at least carry paper for that. I’ll download audiobooks, kindle books and podcasts for listening/reading on my small iPhone screen, but there’s nothing like falling asleep to the comfort of a real paper book in the tent at night.
Note that I’ve estimated things like first aid kit and toiletries; and I’ve marked half weight for the items I’m sharing with the others in my group.
|What is it?||Type?||Weight? (in oz)|
|Sleeping Bag||Mountain Hardware Phantom 15||33|
|Sleeping Pad||Thermarest Z Lite||10|
|Tent||Tarptent Double Rainbow + Tyvek groundcloth (carry 1/2)||21|
|Headlamp||Mammut S Lite||4|
|Electronics||iPhone, iPod, earbuds, charger||11|
|Solar Charger||Powertraveller Solarmonkey Adventurer (carry 1/2)||4.6|
|Extra pair each socks and underwear||Darn Tough/ExOfficio||3.5|
|Rain Jacket||Marmot PreCip||11.4|
|Puffy||Sierra Designs DriDown Cloud Puffy||11.5|
|Bottom Base Layer||Colombia midweight thermals||5|
|Top Base Layer||Colombia heavyweight zipneck||7|
|Rain Pants (add in Washington or Sierras)||REI Ultralites|
|Hat and Sleep Socks||Old fleece hat + REI fleece socks||5|
|Gloves||Manzella + latex gloves to waterproof||2|
|Stove, Pot, Fuel||MSR Pot + homemade aluminum lid + Pocket Rocket + fuel canister (carry 1/2)||11|
|Eating utensils||Plastic gatorade jar + titanium spork + plastic mug||2|
|Water Filtration||Platypus + 1 oz bleach||1|
|Water Carrying||Plastic bottles||2|
|Drybag||Sea 2 Summit 15L||4|
|Toiletries||Dr. Bronner’s 3oz, meds, TP, chapstick, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, toothbrush||10|
|First Aid Kit||athletic tape, tylenol, ace bandage, safety pin, neosporin, benadryl, duct tape, dental floss, sewing needle, moleskin, a few alcohol wipes, imodium||10|
|Notebook + pen + drawing pencil||unlined Moleskin notebook||3|
|Total oz =>||233.8|
|Base weight =>||14.6125|
|Sunhat||Sexy pink baseball cap|
|Sunglasses||Clip-on polarized UVA/B|
|Trekking Poles||REI Traverse poles|
|Shirt||Sporty button down|
|Shorts||Colombia hiking shorts|
You made it to the end! Congratulations and thank you. Reach me with comments, questions or suggestions. (Please. Suggestions.)