There is no perfect Pacific Crest Trail gear list – there is only the perfect one for you. Your experience and skills play the biggest role in determining what gear you are going to use. But your fitness level, health issues, and age will also impact your choices. Even though a lot of hikers have similar goals and dreams in mind when it comes to PCT, everyone still has different ways of getting there.
Your PCT gear list will change depending on whether you want to take great photographs, stay comfortable, hike fast, or just enjoy different seasons while you are there. We recommend ultralight gear while thru-hiking. Long-distance hiking is associated with aches and pain, and carrying lightweight gear can help with these problems.
Keep in mind that you should be buying a backpack last. Once you are aware of the weight and volume of your gear, choosing the right backpack will be much easier. A good pack should not rub when you’re on the move, should ride well when loaded, and fit your body properly. Make sure that a backpack you get can handle a lot of stuff since you will be keeping the most important parts in it. A capacity of about 40L-65L is perfectly fine. Try looking for a backpack that weighs about two pounds since you don’t want to add any unnecessary weight.
A good shelter that should be on your PCT gear list is durable, easy to set up, lightweight, able to holds up to the storm and keep out the bugs. Find a good balance of durability, price, and weight, even if you’re looking for a tent for two persons. Your shelter also shouldn’t be any heavier than 2 pounds per person with all the stuff sacks, guylines, and stakes included. Having trekking poles may be useful with some specific tents since you can use them to set them up in freestanding mode.
No one sleeping bag will be perfect for every night during your PCT. This is mainly because temperatures can go up to 100°F, but it can be really cold too. Usually, hikers recommend having a 20-30 degree down sleeping bag on a Pacific Crest Trail gear list. Another great solution is sleeping quilts and they are getting more popular among PCT hikers. A sleeping quilt is a lot lighter than a sleeping bag but provides enough warmth. A traditional mummy bags are also a good option if you enjoy sleeping in those, just make sure you can sleep in them comfortably.
A sleeping pad will insulate you from the ground, thus keeping you warm while being very comfy. This will make a huge difference for you while you are in the Washington or Sierra – you will either get a good night’s rest with a sleeping pad, or you probably won’t have any due to the rough terrain. To cut down on pack weight, hikers recommend using a kid-length or a ¾ pad. There are sleeping pads that weigh only about 12 oz, and you will probably see a lot of them on the trail. Aim for a foam pad if your priorities are durability and price.
You’ll probably want to bring a lightweight puffy jacket with you, no matter what are your hiking goals or style. Adding one of these to your PCT gear list will allow you to manage the extreme temperature swings you will face. Jackets that weigh about 9 ounces are the best pick and can provide you with a good balance of warmth. If the Pacific Northwest is worrying you because of rain, try looking for a synthetic jacket. These stay warm even when they are wet, but they usually weigh about 2 ounces more.
Raingear is something you maybe think you don’t need on your Pacific Crest Trail gear list. It may never rain in California, right? Well, keep in mind that PCT hikers will most likely tell you that when it does rain – it is not pretty. It hails, pours, and snows. Washington and Oregon can get precip for days. Find something that will vent well while keeping you warm. The weight is also an important factor since you don’t want to be adding unnecessary weight. Getting from Mexico to Canada is easier if you have a lightweight rain jacket that functions in this way. A lightweight umbrella can also be quite useful since you can use it as a parasol in the desert sun too.
The Pacific Crest Trail is gritty and sandy. You probably want to pick up some hiking gaiters if you don’t want pine needles and rocks in your trail runners. Ideally, you will find gaiters that have a stretch fabric that doesn’t cause feet to overheat. The materials should be breathable and the gaiters should weigh about an ounce. Another good thing about gaiters is that they come in many different designs, so you can pick the one that fits your personality the best. Wearing the same thing every day can be boring, so this is very important.
As you already know, the desert’s sun can be a big problem. Protecting your face with a hat with good coverage is very important. Pack a hat with neck coverage and a wide brim. Keep the weight in mind too (up to 3 oz is fine). Try using a trucker or baseball hat combined with a bandana. You will get the same benefits since you will be protecting your whole head. Keeping your head warm is also important once the weather changes, so don’t forget a beanie.
No matter how good your hiking shoes are, you will get a few blisters on this 2,000+ mile hike. Aim to cut down on weight and try to bring shoes that will prevent excessive foot sweating. Having a pair of mesh trail runners on your PCT gear list is always a smart option. Hikers usually cross rivers in their shoes to prevent slipping, which is why a mesh shoe that dries fast is really important. Your feet will probably get larger on such a long hike, so expect to change your shoes every 400 miles.
Good hiking socks will hold up for hundreds of miles, won’t smell, and will be able to prevent blisters. Some high-quality socks can fit so well that you might not even be able to feel them. Also, this is very helpful since there won’t be a lot of rubbing that leads to hot spots. If you want to reduce the smell try getting socks made of Merino wool.
You want to bring only the necessary stuff with you. This means that dental care supplies, over-the-counter meds, blister prevention, and a blade should be on your Pacific Crest Trail gear list. To deal with the desert’s harsh sun, you are going to have a good sunscreen too. Also, put some bug spray or lotion if you are not a big fan of bugs – there are a lot of them on many sections. A duct tape, thread, and a needle will be your best friends for most gear repairs. Whistles and mirrors are carried as safety measures if you ever get lost.
Maps, Compass, Permits
You will need your navigation gear, just like on any other trail. The PCT is known for its wildfires, so don’t be surprised if the official trail is closed down and you have to change your path.
Many hikers recommend having an LED keychain on your PCT gear list. These are usually very lightweight (about 0.30 ounces). You will be using light only to zip up your tent in the dark or when you have to get up to pee. Some of these small LED keychain lights may be attached to a hat brim or worn as a necklace. If you plan serious night hiking then consider getting a real headlamp, but make sure it doesn’t weigh too much and that it has a good battery.
The past few years have been bad for the PCT in terms of wildfires. This is why the Forest Service bans alcohol stoves in drought years. Consider going stoveless instead of packing a fuel bottle or canisters. Try putting a plastic container with a screw-on lid on your Pacific Crest Trail gear list. It is leakproof and you can prepare a lot of dehydrated foods and meals in it.
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Hiking more than 2,000 miles requires good preparation. You don’t want to forget anything, but you also want to avoid packing too much stuff. Think about the essentials and focus on them. Put the luxury stuff on the side and bring them only if you have space in your backpack, or if they won’t add too much to your total weight. A good backpack, shelter, sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad is what you should focus on.
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- Types Of Backpacks
- PCT Gear and Equipment, pcta.org