Since I’ll be living the next four months and 2650 miles out in the wilderness with everything I need on my person, I wanted to share what items I’ll be bringing with me.
In total, I’ll be starting with a base weight of 10.52 lbs, i.e. the weight of all non-consumable items not always worn on my body. In addition to my base weight, I’ll also bring 1.94 lb of clothing I’ll always wear as well as my consumables: food, water, and gas in canisters.
Base weight breakdown:
- 4.54 lb “Big 3” (Shelter system, sleep system, and backpack)
- 2.26 lb electronics
- 1.94 lb carried clothing
- 1.13 lb food and water system
- 0.67 lb miscellaneous (first aid kit, small items, toiletries, etc.)
Rather than a tent, and I’ll be bringing a tarp and bivy setup for my thru-hike.
- Borah Gear 5.5′ x 9′ Silnylon Tarp
- Borah Gear Argon90 L-zip Bivy
- Self-cut polycryo groundsheet
- 8x MSR Mini-Groundhog Stakes
- 50 ft of Kelty Triptease
- Cascade Mountain Tech Quick-Lock Trekking Poles
Whereas tents are convenient to pitch and require lower barrier to entry, a tarp and bivy system allows me to simultaneously save weight and have a modular setup. Furthermore, using a tarp will challenge me to become a better backpacker by requiring me to select better campsites and setup creative pitches using the environment.
For most PCT thruhikers, rain is a rare occurrence that occurs primarily in Washington. Especially since I’m starting fairly late in the hiking season (May 10th), I plan to primarily cowboy camp both for convenience and to enjoy the stars and the night sky. My bivy will protect me from bugs and some of the elements for most of these nights while being effortless to setup. Furthermore when I do expect rain, my bivy will provide additional splash protection for the edges of my tarp.
Sleep System and Backpack
To keep me warm at night, I’ll be bringing a quilt and CCF sleeping pad cut to torso-length to provide coverage for my butt to my shoulders. In addition, the sleeping pad doubles as my backpack frame!
- KS Ultralight KS-40 (Made-to-order Backpacks)
- Underground Quilts Bandit 20F
- 6-section Z-Lite Sol equivalent
- 2-section Z-Lite Sol equivalent
One might ask – why a quilt rather than a sleeping bag? For starters, it’s easier to regulate heat in a quilt, since you can easily take your feet out without issue. Furthermore, insulation on the back of a sleeping bag usually gets compressed against the back of your body while lying down, so the loft and insulation is wasted in practice. Instead, a sleeping pad provides the majority of the insulation from the ground. With my sleeping pad under my upper body and my backpack under my feet, I should have plenty of insulation from the ground.
My quilt was ordered from Underground Quilts, a wonderful cottage company that makes, in my opinion, the best bang-for-your-buck quilts in the business. My original quilt order actually came in ever so slightly too short for me, but Paul and Missy from UGQ were super friendly and helpful, allowing me to return my original purchase for store credit.
The PCT during the regular thru-hiking season rarely drops below freezing, so a 20F quilt provides more than enough warmth – even when the temperatures do drop lower. Since I typically have cold feet, I ordered my quilt with a sewn footbox to ensure that they stay toasty through the night. The draft collar also helps me stay snug and warm around my neck and shoulders – especially since I’ll be sleeping in a bivy with a non-windproof head area.
My backpack is a customized pack from KS Ultralight, a small cottage shop based out of Japan. Laurent from KS Ultralight offers an extensive selection of custom options and fabrics including an innovative frame set consisting of two small aluminum poles connected to the pack via small loops along the side of the pack. I ordered my pack with strong mesh side pockets and hip belt pockets to give me extra, readily accessible storage to food and items I plan to use daily.
As you may note in the photo above, I can use my sleeping pad as the frame for the KS-40. However for the PCT, I’ve cut out a separate 2-section piece of the Z-Lite Sol equivalent to act as a pillow and a less rigid frame; we’ll see how this new piece performs.
At 32L for the main compartment, it’s definitely been a game of tetris fitting all my gear into my pack. However the limited space has taught me to bring only what I need with me. However, I may eventually need to further embrace minimalism, since my starting loadout for the PCT is really pushing the limits of this pack.
One thing I learned since ordering my pack: there’s a knowledge requirement that is required when ordering fully customizable items, and I probably failed to meet that threshold when I ordered initially. However I’m still quite happy with this pack, and I’m excited to see how it lasts me for my thru-hike.
I somehow ended up bringing a lot more clothes than I intended originally. However one philosophy still holds true – you shouldn’t bring more clothes than what you can wear on your body simultaneously, and I can still layer all my clothes together. So, without further ado…
- Ex Officio BugsAway Halo Shirt
- Soffe 5″ Dry Running Shorts
- Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap
- Outdoor Research Protector Sun Gloves
- UV Buff
- REI CoolMax socks
- DirtyGirl Gaiters
- Altra Lone Peak 3.0s
As you can probably tell from this list, my worn clothing is focused on one thing: protecting my upper body from UV radiation. I’m not a fan of sunscreen, so I’m bringing a long-sleeve shirt and a very silly looking hat. The button-down shirt provides lots of breathability by unbuttoning the shirt, plus the BugsAway will hopefully limit the number of bug bites I get.
As for my lower body, the general thru-hiker philosophy is to use the shortest pair of shorts you can get away with. My Soffe shorts are only 5″ inseam, so you know I’m not dedicated enough yet.
These shorts have lasted me well throughout the majority of my previous hikes. My only complaint is that the (lack of) pockets are lackluster, so I’m open to recommendations! I’ll be applying sunscreen to my legs initially, but we’ll see how long until they’re dark enough to no longer need sunscreen.
Sometimes it gets cold. I don’t like it when it’s cold, so I’ve brought some extra layers:
- Borah Gear down jacket (with hood and kangaroo pocket)
- Frogg Toggs DriDucks UL2 Rain Jacket
- Patagonia Houdini
- Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Zip-T
- BodyWrappers Women’s Dance Pants
- AegisMax Down Booties
- PossumDown Gloves
- Borah Gear eVent mitts
- Fleece beanie
- Darn Tough 1/4 Cushion Socks
In case you couldn’t tell, I really like Borah Gear. John makes fantastic gear and very reasonable prices, and both the down puffy and eVent mitts are no exception. The puffy has 2.8 oz of 800-wt down filling despite weighing just 6.2 oz, making it effectively the warmest jacket in its weight class, even outperforming heavier, more expensive jackets like REI’s Ultralight Down Hoody. The choice of a puffy over my super comfortable Melanzana fleece was a tough one though….
Aside from my puffy, my other items are designed around simple layering. The Capilene base layer will be worn in the mornings until it gets too hot, while the Houdini windshirt provides easy insulation that can be thrown on or off as necessary. However, I may need to send home one of these layers, since they serve effectively the same purpose – albeit at different times.
The DriDucks UL2 is cheap, light, and completely waterproof. No qualifications necessary.
While some people may opt for hiking pants, I find them suffocatingly hot. Instead a cheap pair of windpants like the nylon BodyWrappers Women’s Dance Pants (I’m strangely proud of their intended use-case) provides ample insulation for my lower body so long as I am moving. For colder stationary areas, I can always bring out my quilt.
Unfortunately, my limbs run super cold, and I haven’t yet figured out a mental routine to overcome the numbness. I’ll be bringing plenty of insulation for my hands, feet, and ears, although I hope to send home the booties and at least one pair of gloves eventually – maybe after the Sierras?
Man goes into wilderness to discover himself and separate from society. Man brings more electronics than he knows what to do with.
I knew I wanted to take lots of photos to record my hike. What I didn’t realize was how heavy that choice would be.
- Moto X4 + Case
- Sony RX100M3 + Pedco Ultrapod + Anker Battery Case
- SPOT Gen3 GPS
- Nitecore NU-25 Headlamp (with custom cordage)
- Earbuds (Soundmagic E10 or cheap Panasonic ones)
- RAVPower QC 3.0 Dual Port Charger
- RAVPower QC 3.0 Input 10k mAh Battery Bank
- RAVPower USB A-to-microUSB cable
- Anker 0.7 ft USB A-to-C cable
The RX100 is often touted as the best ultralight compact camera, so I’ll be putting that assertion the test. Mk 3 introduces an electronic viewfinder and WiFi connectivity – the viewfinder being the key differentiator for me. More recent revisions of the RX100 offer more features and better video performance at the price of battery life – an exchange I wasn’t willing to make.
My Moto X4 works nicely with Project Fi and is IP68 – a welcome feature for a trail with plenty of stream crossings. However in hindsight (foresight?) – I probably should have just opted with a Google Pixel 2 rather than this combination of camera and phone. I just have to make the most out of my system to prove my own self-doubt wrong!
As for recharging, I’m opting for a 10k mAh battery bank rather than a solar panel. Although solar will provide more wattage overall, the recharging is often unreliable depending on cloud and tree cover. Furthermore, I expect to run into towns every 2-5 days, so I’ll have ample time to recharge.
To facilitate effective recharging, I’m bringing a dual-port charger that can support simultaneous QC3.0 with 5V/2.4A. Dual port will also make it easier to share outlets with other hikers. I chose to bring a QC 3.0 input battery bank to expedite the recharging process, with my new battery bank taking just around 4 hours to recharge from 0 to full. The battery bank itself can supply my phone with two full charges. It also serves to recharge my headlamp or to independently operate my SPOT Gen3 in case it ever runs out of battery.
Cook Kit and Water Filtration
Kept my kit fairly minimalistic here – canister stove system and Sawyer Squeeze for water filtration.
- Sawyer Squeeze
- Syringe (backflush Sawyer Squeeze)
- TOAKS Light 650 mL Pot
- Soto Amicus
- Long-handled bamboo spoon
I opted against bringing the world’s lightest canister stove, the BRS-3000T, since the Soto Amicus provides much better wind performance and piezo self-ignition. However having a backup miniBIC is always a smart choice. Once the water is boiled, I’ll pour it into a Ziploc or equivalent to cook my dried dinners. TOAKS makes fantastic pots, and the 650 mL has the added benefit of being able to fit the rest of my cook kit – canister, lighter, and stove – inside the pot itself!
In addition the Sawyer Squeeze, I’m also bringing some Katadyn Micropur MP1 Chloride Dioxide tablets in case I need emergency water filtration or if the water looks exceptionally sketchy.
First Aid Kit
- Alka-Seltzer equivalent
- Loperamide (Immodium)
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Diphenhydramine HCl (Benadryl)
- Katadyn Micropur MP1 tablets
- Tenacious Tape
- Alcohol Swabs
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Tiger Balm
- Butterfly Bandaids
- Shock Cord
A thru-hiker’s first-aid kit (FAK) is supposed to be just sufficient to get them to the next stop rather than a full-on emergency kit. Core to my FAK is my little bottle of pills – primarily Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and diphenhydramine HCL for pain relief and allergic reactions respectively.
I’ll most likely ignore smaller cuts and scrapes. For worse injuries however, a combination of alcohol swabs, the antibiotic ointment, whatever fabric I have available, and some combination of adhesives (duct tape from my water bottle, shock cord, and the butterfly bandaids) should get me to my next location. I’ve also brought a bit of tiger balm by request of my parents to relieve bug bites and muscle soreness.
I’m also bringing Tenacious Tape for gear repair and Leukotape for feet care. For those of you haven’t heard, Leukotape is basically magic and keeps your feet in great condition. Any time you get a hot spot, a little bit of Leukotape does wonders.
Lastly, we have some items that I’ll likely need to use on a day-to-day basis.
- Dr. Bronner’s Soap
- Bottle of multi-vitamins + probiotics
- 12×12 Lightload towel
- Lip Balm
- Swiss Army Knife Classic
- Eye Drops
Dr. Bronner’s is pretty much the baby of hikers everywhere. Hopefully that little bottle will keep my hands clean enough to avoid getting (or spreading) illness. I’m also bringing extra multi-vitamins and probiotics, since I’ll almost certainly need it for my mostly dry diet. Sunscreen and lip balm are fairly self-explanatory. I’m also bringing eyedrops to assist with my dry eyes from getting LASIK earlier this year.
The Swiss Army Knife provides much needed self-defense (I joke, I joke). Really, I plan to use the scissors on it to cut rope and/or tape if necessary. The blade can help me open boxes I mail to myself, and there’s a hidden pair of tweezers that will come in handy for tick removal. The lightload towel will likely go into my pack eventually as a catch-all for wiping things and drying my hand. As for the sharpie, I’ll need it for my homeless ventures (hitchhiking and the like).
I will have to bring some section-specific gear. I’m bringing 4L extra water capacity in the desert for longer dry sections, whereas for the Sierras I’ll need a bear canister (BV500), a bug headnet for those pesky mosquitos, and potentially microspikes if snow warrants it. However I’ll cross that bridge when I get there!
And that’s it! Thanks for reading through all this – I hope this sheds some light into what a first-time thruhiker thinks he’ll need for the trail. Now I’ll have the next four months to test all this out!