The case for ultralight

There is a trend among backpackers toward using less and lighter gear which has grown over the past decade and is popularly known as the ultralight or “UL” movement. This shift is part cultural, part technological.

The packs carried in the past were significantly heavier than those we carry today because we have materials that simply did not exist five or ten years ago. Packs in the '70s had external aluminum frames that weighed 3.5 lb minimum. My pack (just the backpack) is 2 lb 2 oz. Apply this same shift to nearly every piece of gear available and it totally changes how people outfit themselves for long distance hikes. This is especially true on long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest Trail. When you hike 20+ miles day in and day out for five months, every ounce matters.

I truly applaud the women and men of older generations who went mountaineering and hiked long-distance. They faced far more challenges than I did, and they did it with base weights far greater than mine. For reference, your base weight is how much your pack weighs with all your gear in it, but without food or water. To really start getting into the realm of lightweight and ultralight backpacking, your base weight will should be around 20 lb and 10 lb respectively. Carrying much below 10 lb is both impressive and crazy. It should be noted that achieving a base weight of 10 lb or less probably involves foregoing any medical kit or creature comforts. It definitely means you aren’t carrying a stove.

While "going UL" is becoming more popular on long distance trails, you should heed a few warnings before buying a bunch of fancy, lightweight gear. A better or more expensive set-up (read: more UL) isn’t going to make you a good hiker. For that matter, what does it even mean to be a good hiker? There's nothing competitive about it, and generally speaking, there is no exact right way to do this hiking thing. All I can do is share my perspective, and in my opinion going UL is a good way to go.  

For many, UL gear is simply not an option. You can pretty much count on the lightest gear being the most expensive gear (with some exceptions, mostly in the homemade category). Many hikers may decide they want to join the UL ranks, the big challenge is balancing cost and weight. Sometime you have to sacrifice dollars for fewer ounces. As you learn about gear you may find it can become an obsession.

If you do decide to join in the UL movement, here are a couple pieces of advice.  First, don't be a dick about it. Just because you might be UL and don't have any single piece of gear weighing more than 2.5 lb doesn't make you better than any other hiker.  Second, there are other things to talk about on the trail than your gear. A little bit of gear talk is great. Most hikers, myself included, love learning about new gear and seeing how it works for different people.I hiked with a couple of UL bros who pretty much never shut up about their base weight. It got really old, really fast.

For those long-distance hikers who are not UL, having a higher base weight does not mean they’re doing it wrong. Some people are perfectly happy carrying extra weight or like the luxury of a few key items. Sometimes these items are about preparedness. This could include a SPOT device, compass, maps, jackets, warm clothing, etc. If you get caught in the wrong weather at the wrong time with the wrong gear, things can get very scary, very quickly. It can be dangerous and potentially lethal. While I don’t like carrying more than I need to, I’m never advocating neglecting gear that very well may save your life if it starts raining and gets cold or windy. A good friend of mine from the trail, Smokes, carried an extra of damn near everything and often that was really handy (not just for him!). Smokes is well-versed in wilderness survival. He was ready for anything both in terms of gear available and mental preparedness. On the luxury side of gear, certain people enjoy their creature comforts. Maybe you want your book, harmonica, wind shirt or town shirt. Dan carried a harmonica for the whole trail. Hike your own hike. (HYOH. It’s a phrase/acronym you hear often around trail. It means do your own thing, and let other people do their own thing.) Those people probably value those comforts over big miles anyway. There is nothing wrong with that.

There are, however, other hikers who are not UL and who may not even have the heaviest of gear but just have way too much gear. These people's gear choices seem to be guided by fear. You should never go into a situation unprepared, but do not underestimate how much you can do with very little. Do a shakedown of your pack sometime and consider how much you truly need each item. There are likely quite a few that will never be used nor missed once you have ditched them. (A shakedown is when you dump everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, out of your pack to re-evaluate exactly what you do and do not use/need.) Do you really need that Tiger Balm? Why on earth do you have a knife that big? How come you always walk into town with at least two days worth of extra food?

Once I lightened my pack I quickly realized a few things. My legs hurt less, especially going down hills. I could go faster and I was more nimble. Heavy, bulky packs can be unruly and make it harder to maintain a brisk pace. It makes climbing over obstacles more cumbersome too. I could go farther each day. Because you burn fewer calories with less weight, you are usually less exhausted. Even if you don't want to do big miles or hike hard, the fact that it reduced leg pain and strain would have been enough to convince me.

Because of the UL trend, at least in part, the outdoor gear industry has been shaken up over the last few years. Smaller cottage companies are springing up all over the place because they came up with new ideas on ways to approach gear. Sure, it’s a cliche word nowadays, but I love seeing this innovation. The proliferation of cuben fiber in the backpacking world is perhaps the best example. Do a search for cuben fiber gear and look in awe at what you can make out of it and how little it weighs. (i.e.: Z-packs and Hyperlite Mountain Gear.

I don’t think the trend will completely take over the backpacking/hiking world. There are still more than enough people who aren’t worried about weight and want to take their time. This trend will, however, continue to grow, just as thru-hiking does.

Take it from me, a guy with absolutely no credentials who has only done one big hike and then made a blog about it, dropping your base weight can make life way easier on trail.



Soapbox's gear reviews: pt. 3

Use sites like Steep and Cheap, I suggest knowing what you want and watching for deals if you have the time. Also, this is a great gear reference: 10 lb Backpack.

The other stuff:


Yogi's Guide

I read the book to help prep. I made little notes in it and used it as a reference point and to help me feel less insane since everyone I knew thought I was crazy for deciding to walk across the country. At least this Yogi person and the people that answered the questionnaire understood my mania.

The book comes with “beta” pages or tear-out pages about sections of the trail. They included phone numbers, diagrams, notes from other hikers. Jonathan and I shared a copy. I saw these pages only a couple of times, but the info was quite useful.

Halfmile app

I love this app. It’s free. It’s accurate. It was reliable. I wish Halfmile made an app for my everyday life. “You are 2.2 miles off trail for your life. Get it together. The shortest distance to achieving your goals is ...” I could use support like that. I miss looking at this and knowing where I was, where I needed to go and the fastest way to get there.

If you are hiking with a smart device, this is the way to go.

Guthook app

While using Guthook and Halfmile I could answer most questions about the trail. Guthook costs money, each section was $6. You can buy the whole suite of apps for $30, I think. Go for it, although if you are on super strict budget, you could get by without.

Water storage

Smart Water bottles and a wide mouthed Gatorade bottle. Don’t carry Nalgenes for they are heavy.

Maybe use a platypus or camelbak container for the ease of packing. In the desert I carried up to a 6 liter capacity using plastic bottles from gas stations. They're light, durable and cheap!

Water purification

AquaMira - Mix part A with part B. Wait. Add to bottles. Wait. Drink. Tedious but effective as long as you use it correctly. Chlorine Dioxide (active Aquamira) /= bleach.

Sawyer / Squeeze (3oz) - This is a great purification solution. Compared to the pumps and thing I used growing up, you can't ask for a better innovation. That said, using it every day gets old fast. Its not as quick as using drops because you have to fill the bag and squeeze it, which can get more difficult with dirtier water. Also, the bags can break or leak and contaminate your clean water. The filters do fit on several water bottles, which helps with the bag issue. For me - this is for short trips or back up/emergency water purification method.

Bleach (household bleach is typically Sodium Hypochlorite, although you should always check the container for potency and composition if you are planning on using a chemical to treat your drinking water)

Treating water with bleach is definitely effective, but there are certain risks and may not be able to destroy cryptosporidium pathogen with 2 drops in a liter. I used bleach to treat water from Northern California to the border and have used bleach in the past very frequently. There are plenty of studies out there discussing the use of bleach as water treatment. I would consider reading up on water treatment. Start with the CDC or something.


I carried a myriad of other items in my backpack. These included a harmonica, an iPhone, iPhone charger, sketchbook, pen and pencil, permanent marker, some paper, my hiking permit, and some money and credit cards. These extra things can add up fast. Your friends may put rocks in your pack. You might put a beer in your bag to have on the first night then forget about it (great surprise when you do end up finding it later, though). It's a fun trip, enjoy it. Try not to flip out about gear too much. I'm sure while you are planning your trip you will freak out a few times... once you are on the trail, stop doing that.


Dan (aka Soapbox)

Soapbox's gear review: pt 2

Use sites like Steep and Cheap if you can tell they post brands or gear you like. Also, this is a great gear reference: 10 lb Backpack. Feel free to ask questions. Try things on before you buy them. Go to a store and look before you make an online purchase!

Wearables (clothing):

In general you're going to probably be able to figure out what clothes to wear without consulting blogs, but here's my data for the sake of completion. I hope someone finds it useful.

Shirt - Columbia Silver Ridge

It’s a shirt. Whatever. Oh - it cleaned up well in the wash. You’ll want to wear something. Or maybe you are a nudist? Me? I prefer a “Tradewinds Grey” color to protect from the sun and harsh elements on the PCT. 

Bottoms - "I can't begin to care.” - Pedi.

I wore these stupid heavy canvas pants I bought for $2 at a thrift shop until I stopped worrying about getting sunburned behind my knees then I tied the pants to the bottom of my pack and forgot about them. Seriously… I left these things tied to my pack for 200 miles or so until I threw them away in Bishop, CA when I was doing a shakedown. I wore some elastic Prana shorts I found on Steep and Cheap the rest of the way. Sometimes I wore compression shorts or running tights.

Compression shorts - Nike something.

Personal decisions are hard. 

Underwear - Ex Officio / Give-n-go boxer brief


I really can’t improve upon Jonathan’s review. I hope to own these boxers for a long time and I intend on taking them all over the world. And damnit, for $20 they better last forever.

Extra shirt - Stoic / Breathe Composite (pretty light?)

Warm long sleeve. Especially nice to have in the Sierra otherwise useful as a pillow or sleep shirt (protect your sleeping bag/quilt from getting dirty). Personally? I don’t use sleep clothes and I ended up getting rid of this after the halfway point. Probably could have gotten by without it the whole way.

Sleep pants - I had running tights but definitely did not sleep in them more than a few times. I am a warm sleeper.

Socks - Stoic Synth / Trail Crew Sock

I used Injinjis and Stoics almost exclusively. Stoics were the best; I went through six pairs or so the entire trail and still have a few of them. Injinjis were nice early on to help prevent blisters, but they wore out within 100 miles and were a pain in the ass to get my weird toes into. I only picked these because I found them on Steep and Cheap for a great price.

Interesting side note - Injinjis make great sun gloves if you cut holes in the toes once you wear them out as socks. I started the trend and Pedi picked up on it pretty fast. You’re going to want to wash them before you put them on your hands…

Shoes - Solomon / Sense Mantra (16 oz) AND Brooks / Cascadia (13 oz)

I had very few foot problems the entire trail. I went through 3 pairs of shoes, but only two different models.  In general, I think shoe choice is very personal and you'll know what is right when you try them on.

Brooks Cascadia: Join the Brooks Club! If the PCT had a fork in it, we'd search for Cascadia shoe prints. It was usually the right way. A very popular shoe for a good reason. I hiked 1300+ miles with one pair. 10mm heel-to-toe drop

Solomon Sense Mantra: Really loved this trail runner while I was in the desert. I was able to get 800+ miles out of them. I trained in them then wore them to Kennedy Meadows, CA. Solomon has a great manufacturer guaranty as well. I think if you are hiking with under 25 lb, this is plenty of shoe and it's light, dries very fast, and is pretty durable. Note: the synch shoestring never broke, someone told me it definitely would. It did not. Also, I think this is a 6mm drop shoe.

Gaiters - I’d wear 'em if the whole trail was in the snow, but otherwise they make taking my shoes off too much work.

Jacket Mountain Hardwear / Ghost Whisperer (7oz)

Expensive, but worthwhile, I think. This lasted the entire trek and I washed it with Nikwax and it’s like-new (minus the hole and lack of branding/logos). The material is very delicate. Wear something over it if you are being active, I climbed a tree and the bark caught and ripped a hole instantly. No bueno. That said, all down is an investment. It lasts if you treat it well.

Rain Jacket - Outdoor Research / Proverb (13oz)

Another Steep and Cheap find. Great value when found on sale. Certainly not the best jacket on the market, but it served its purpose.

For "next time": Jonathan said in his review, consider: Outdoor Research / Helium 2. I'm also researching some Marmot-made options like the Mica and the Essence. Check out Snarky Nomad's reviews.

Rain pants - Mountain Hardwear / Alkane Pant (9oz)

Great pants. They saw heavy use in WA when we were in the rain for days on end. Also great for in the Sierra. Not sure if they are essential, but it was nice to have them, particularly in the multiple day long downpours.

Warm hat - Some outdoorsy hat, you need a hat. It's just a hat. There are many like it.

Gloves - Nope.

I thought about buying gloves every time I went into an REI or outfitter… But I never bought them. I would have worn them in WA if I had them. In the desert and in the Sierra I would cover my hands with a bandana, cut up injinjis, cut up sleeves from a cotton shirt. Whatever. HYOH.

Sunglasses - Solar Shields

Solar shields. Solar shields. solar shields. They may get worn out, scratched, or lost, but never stolen. Don’t get attached to your shades because you’re going to lose them at some point. Or break them. Probably both.

Happy hiking,


Soapbox's gear review: pt 1

I’m a gear head, and I can obsess about gear, but by the third day of the Pacific Crest Trail I was exhausted with all the gear talk. It’s one of the most popular topics on the trail. It’s great to learn the ins and outs of the materials, the weight, the costs. Learn to compromise size, durability, and comfort for weight, speed, and simplicity. Many PCT hikers spend tons time researching every single thing they choose to carry (certainly not all of them). Naturally, people tend to have opinions about what to bring. These discussions were not always constructive and after awhile I kind of toned gear talk out.

Either way, I hiked the PCT and lived out of a backpack for five months and these are the things I took and what I thought of them.
Jonathan, three days from the Canadian border, was still giving me grief about carrying a harmonica I hardly played. I was not a UL master. No one is perfect.

The Big Three and essentials:

Pack - The Osprey Exos 58 (2 lb 6 oz for a medium pack with brain. 2 lb 2 oz without the brain)

Loved my pack. I loved the suspension system and that aluminum frame. I loved how easily my kit fit into it. I loved that I could put things I wanted in the hip belt pockets, shoulder strap pockets, back pouch or in the brain. Many ultralight backpackers tend to go for more minimalist packs, but I liked having the extra support for the long stretches and first few days out of town when my pack would be loaded to 40 lb or more. The Exos fit a Bear Vault bear canister with ease, and I often had extra room in the pack.

To shave weight you can elect to cut extra straps, remove the brain (which is adjustable, detachable and works as a fanny pack or something like that), or get a smaller size. I saw people using an Exos 48 and even the 38, the compromise is a dedication to minimalism. Also, Osprey is an extremely hiker-friendly company and will honor a lifetime warranty on their gear.

For "Next time": Saw a ton of ULA / Circuit (2lb 6oz), the most popular pack on trail. Our friend, Mongo had a completely stripped down Z-packs pack (this was literally a bag with straps).

Sleeping bag < QUILT!!! - Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20ºF (26 oz)

The specs: Revelation 750 fill goose down, 20ºF rating

Prior to the PCT I only used mummy bags, but now I am in love with Enlightened Equipment quilts. Great idea, functional, lightweight, great company. Within the first week of hiking the trail I knew I had made the right choice. The general idea is that you save on material because you don’t need down underneath you when you sleep - that just wastes down because down needs to loft in order to provide warmth. The quilt has fasteners or straps that keeps it tight around you on cold nights and you can sleep with it loosely covering you on warmer nights.

For "next time": Would have sprung for the 850 fill goose down to get an even lighter quilt, but 26oz for a 20ºF sleep system is a great deal. Plus you cant beat the manufacturer's prices considering the great quality of the product.

Sleeping pad - Thermarest / Prolite 4 (1lb 8oz)

Lighter options are out there. Smaller options are out there. This was one of the first things we each bought and we found it on Steep and Cheap so it was quite affordable. Bottom line: it’s durable, it’s warm, and it’s comfortable.

For "next time": Thermarest / Neo Air XLite, Were I to do the trail again, I'd get this in a Small and use some z-lite or my pack for my legs and feet. I thought about using my Thermarest Z-lite, but when I used it I noticed I had to be strategic about where I slept. If the ground was wet or soft or muddy or snowy my body heat would get sucked out of me. I pay attention to the "R value", which describes the thermal resistance of the pad (higher is better, but weight and size are directly related). A great table comparing sleeping pads makes picking easy.

Groundsheet - 2' x 7' sheet of Tyvek (4oz?)

I bought a single sheet for 9$ in Wrightwood. Split it with Jonathan, cut it in the hardware store. Bing, bang, boom. Done. Protect your tent and your sleeping pad.

Tent - REI Quarter Dome (2 lb 10oz)

This is another piece of gear where you can find lighter and cheaper options. The trade off: this tent is spacious and bomb-proof (not literally, but it's stable). The people I hiked with got tired of hearing me talk about how much I liked it. Easy to put up. Plenty of room for activities. Big vestibule for those gross nights where everything has to be stored under it. Complaints are mostly that, like with all ultralight gear, the material is delicate. If I were to hike again I would consider lighter shelters if I could find them at low enough prices. I bought my Quarter Dome on sale at REI so it was a great buy.

For "next time":  For the right price I'd try out the Notch or go waaaay UL maybe with something like the Hexamid and buy a big piece of Tyvek to protect my pad.

Headlamp - Some old Black Diamond thing (?oz)

Bring a light. Make sure it's bright if you plan on night hiking.

Knife/multitool - Multitool (?oz)

I went most of the trail without a knife and I lost my spork in my backpack every day. I made it from border to border. Without a gun. Without a sword. I bought a comically tiny multitool in Bend because it had a bottle cap opener on it.

Power - Goal Zero / Nomad 7 and Guide 10  (13oz) and (6.4oz) respectively

The Nomad 7 is a solar panel. I used it for charging my phone and camera. It worked, but it may not be the best power solution.

For "next time": I'll buy a little auxiliary battery pack for my iPhone and make sure to charge that in towns. Solar panels work and work well sometimes. But not all of the time. And they aren't the most convenient thing to strap to your pack while you glisade (slide down snowy mountains) and stuff.

Trekking Poles  Black Diamond / Distance Z-Poles (13 oz)

I still don't know if I like hiking with trekking poles that much. I bet that as I get older I'll use them more. I've been camping and backpacking for a long time and I'm still not sure how I feel about some gear.

Bottom line: I'd say grab a set on sale and if you don't like them return them.

Stove JetBoil / Flash (15 oz)

An incredibly fuel efficient water boiling device is what this thing is. You can kind of simmer, but you have to be careful. If you are going to cook full meals you may want to look at larger pots and a different stove. I like cooking on the trail quite a bit. Bottom line: I'd use this again, but if I found a cheaper/lighter stove + pot system I'd go for it.

For "next time": If I stick with canister stoves I would consider the gnat (1.6 oz) and a 4 - 5 oz pot or find a stove similarly minimal. Save money upfront and save weight. You wont beat the Jetboil for fuel economy.

Stuff sacks

There are tons of options. I mostly used gallon/quart zip-locks. My food bag? Grocery bags or a trash bag. Lots of other hikers went for the roll top sacks. HYOH. End of the day - everything you carry should be in some kind of bag in a bag (in a bag… BAG-CEPTION).

More to come on gear because it's Gear Week 2! Don't worry, we have more cool pictures and stories, but these are questions a lot of people had about the trail and we wanted to share it.



I walked really far with a bunch of stuff and this is what I think about that stuff: Navigation and Water

I guess you could also call this post "PCT gear review."

Note: UL means ultralight. There is a trend among backpackers to carry gear as light as possible. 

Note II: Always look for gear at a discount. Steep and Cheap is my favorite, but you get almost any piece of gear for a discount. Just because someone has a pack full of nice new gear doesn't mean they shelled out for it.

Note III: There is almost never an end all, be all for any single piece of gear. See what fits for your style and budget. These are simply my observations and opinions. 


Yogi's Guide

As someone who had never really hiked before, it's a nice primer for the PCT and lightweight hiking. The 'book' section of the guide helps you figure out if this trail is really for you. The 'trail guide' section is a nice supplement to Halfmile while you're actually hiking. It's by no means necessary, but I don't regret buying it. Remember to hike your own hike (HYOH) and not simply follow Yogi though.

Halfmile maps

I personally didn't use Halfmile maps, but they are great if you are a visual person who likes to see topo maps. The elevation profiles at the end of each section are the best. They're free to download, but you still have to print them.

Halfmile app

Indispensable. This was the No. 1 way for me to get trail data. You get distances and up/down to pretty much anything on trail, especially towns and water. It doesn't do everything, but the features it does have work very well. Free. Available for iPhone and Android.

Guthook app

At $6 per section ($30 total), I found the Guthook apps a useful and worthwhile companion to Halfmile's app. I did most of my navigation via iPhone, and Guthook was helpful as a map and for finding campsite locations. Available for iPhone and Android.


Water storage

Smart Water bottle and wide mouthed Gatorade bottle.

Smart Water bottles are great because they use space well on the side pockets of your pack since they are tall and slender. They are less fussy to get in and out while you're walking too. Having one wide-mouthed bottle was handy for putting in drink mixes like Crystal Light or Nuun tablets. Each of these are lighter than your heavy duty bottles like a Nalgene. You will get laughed at if you carry a Nalgene. They're so heavy.

Platypus / SoftBottle 1L (1.4 oz)

During the desert you may need to carry five liters of water at any given time. During certain sections, you may even need to cary six (coming out of Tehachapi, Hat Creek Rim and leaving Crater Lake). It's nice to have an extra liter or two of storage that is compressible when you're not using it. This is a great choice and pretty much everybody uses them.

Water purification


You mix seven drops from two different bottles, wait five minutes, put it in your water and then wait another 20 minutes. I loved these for the desert where we would get three to five liters at a time, but found them a bit more tedious for the rest of the trail where you only need to get between one and three liters at a time. I didn't notice much of a taste either.

Sawyer / Squeeze (3oz)

The plus side of the Sawyer is that it fits on a SmartWater bottle. You can fill up your bottle and drink straight from the bottle with the Sawyer on it, if that's your thing. Also, it filters out debris that you might have picked up your water. Otherwise, I found the Sawyer to be slow and inconvenient. I didn't use it much and we ended up sending it home. 


Regular, unscented bleach. Two drops per liter. Wait half an hour and you're good to go. I switched to bleach somewhere in NorCal and never regretted it. Just don't add too many drops or it'll taste terrible and can destroy your stomach lining.




I walked really far with a bunch of stuff and this is what I think about that stuff: Clothing

PCT gear review part 2: CLOTHING

There are always more things you could bring on trail, but this should help you find best options to limit the number of items in your pack.

Note: UL means ultralight. There is a trend among backpackers to carry gear as light as possible. 

Note II: Always look for gear at a discount. Steep and Cheap is my favorite, but you get almost any piece of gear for a discount. Just because someone has a pack full of nice new gear doesn't mean they shelled out for it.

Note III: There is almost never an end all, be all for any single piece of gear. See what fits for your style and budget. These are simply my observations and opinions. 


Shirt REI / SaharaTechShirt

This shirt made the hike as awesome as it was. I bought it the day before we left and it's the best purchase possible. Breast pockets, a collar to look less trashy in town, durable fabric and sleeves that roll and button up make this shirt the ideal hiking top. The brand and model don't matter. You can find those features in a shirt from any brand, but dammit get a hiking shirt. 


I can't begin to care. If you must know, I did the desert in 3/4 capris, the Sierra through Oregon in running shorts and eventually ditched those to only wear compression shorts on bottom. 

Compression shorts - Under Armour


Underwear - Ex Officio / Give-n-go boxer brief

BEST. UNDERWEAR. EVER. I wore them the whole trail and they still look brand new. Hell, I even shit my pants once on trail and I'd wear the same pair for another thru-hike.

Sleep shirt - Under Armour / Cold Gear compression shirt

Nice and warm. Long sleeve sleep clothes are also good for keeping your disgusting skin from touching your sleeping bag. This helps keep your bag cleaner for longer. Mine might have been a bit heavy.

Also consider: Icebreaker long underwear. Like SmartWool's merino wool products, they are not cheap, but they are incredibly light and super comfy.

Sleep pants - SmartWool / Microweight long underwear

Merino wool is kind of expensive, but it's great quality. Lightweight, warm and very comfortable. Most any tights will do I guess.


Injinjis, Darn Toughs, Wigwams, Stoics and Balegas all worked well for me. Darn Toughs and Stoics were the best. I like the lighter weight running socks as opposed to the thicker, taller hiking socks.

Smartwool can suck it. Instant holes. 


They can't make your hike, but they can break it. My feet swelled a size and a half almost instantly. I like my shoes light and with a wide toe box. Don't wear boots. Trail runners are the way to go. 

La Sportiva / Wildcat

Way too narrow for my feet and those of most hikers.

Brooks / Cascadia

The most popular shoe on trails. Solid shoe. Decently wide and wears well. A great go-to. Highly recommended.

Altra / Lone Peak 2.0

Wide toe box and great fit for my foot. Another bonus: they have Velcro for gaiters built in, in case gaiters are your thing. They are for me. Note: these shoes are zero drop and can require a little getting used to. Perhaps not as well suited for the Sierra Nevada or Washington sections. They wore out way faster over rough mountain terrain.

Gaiters - Dirty Girl

I really loved having gaiters. What kind you have doesn't matter, but the variety of designs Dirty Girl offers is cool. Not everyone likes them, but I found them great for keeping large amounts of sand and rocks out of my shoe. Yes, you're feet will still get filthy, and sand will still get in your shoes, though it won't be as bad as it would be otherwise. 

Outdoor Research Gaiters

Pretty much the same as dirty girls, but plain looking.

Jacket Mountain Hardwear / Ghost Whisperer (7oz)

This is hands down my favorite piece of gear. It's so light, so comfy and so warm. Not cheap, but I love it. As always, respect down and keep it dry.

Rain Jacket - Outdor Research / Proverb (13oz)

A solid rain jacket that was neither too expensive nor heavy. Not exactly the most breathable, but what good rain jacket is? There are lighter option out there, but I can't speak for how water resistant they are.

Also consider: Outdoor Research / Helium 2. It's lighter than mine.

Rain pants - Mountain Hardwear / Alkane Pant (9oz)

Great pants. Only really needed them for the Sierra and Washington, but boy were they great in Washington. The zipper up the side makes them easy to get on and off even with shoes on, they're very water resistant and surprisingly breathable for rain pants. 

Warm hat Outdoor Research / WinterTrek Fleece Hat

It was a nice, warm hat. Plus it had a wind-stopper in it.

Gloves Seirus / Soundtouch hyperlite

Only really used them in the Sierra, but they work just fine. For the rest of the trail I used a pair of Injinji socks that I cut up into hobo gloves. Very hiker trashy, but they worked. I thought the ability to use my phone was going to be nice, which is why I got these gloves. Were I to do it again, I'd get some lightweight liner gloves that are easier to get on/off.


Yup. Preferably polarized. You WILL lose or break at least one pair on the trail. 




I walked really far with a bunch of stuff and this is what I think about that stuff: Pt. 1

I guess you could also call this post "PCT gear review."

Note: UL means ultralight. There is a trend among backpackers to carry gear as light as possible. 

Note II: Always look for gear at a discount. Steep and Cheap is my favorite, but you get almost any piece of gear for a discount. Just because someone has a pack full of nice new gear doesn't mean they shelled out for it.

Note III: There is almost never an end all, be all for any single piece of gear. See what fits for your style and budget. These are simply my observations and opinions. 

Pack Granite Gear / VC Crown 60 (2lb 2oz)

Your pack needs to do two things. It should hold your stuff and ride comfortably. That's about it. That's exactly what the Crown 60 does, and it does it well. It does not have tons of bells and whistles, but it doesn't need to. It's comfy, light and reliable. One of my favorite pieces of gear. If it has a shortcoming, it's the lack of hip-belt pockets, but you can buy them and add them if you like. A very popular pack this year.

Also consider: ULA / Circuit (2lb 6oz), the most popular pack on trail. If you're really UL try out a Gossamer Gear or Z-packs pack.

Sleeping bag North Face / Blue Kazoo (2lb 6oz)

My sleeping bag is slightly heavier than average, but not by too much. It kept me warm almost every night but the most bitter cold and did so at a cost that was impossible to pass up. Not the fanciest piece of gear I own, but certainly one of the best values. 

Also consider: Mountain Hardwear / Phantom (2lb)or Western Mountaineering. Expensive, but incredible bags.

Sleeping pad - Thermarest / Prolite 4 (1lb 8oz)

My pad is an inflatable one, so you have to blow it up. Not a big deal, since it is one of the more comfortable options out there. It doesn't pack down as small as other pads, nor is it as light as most others, but it performs well and was cheap.

Also consider: Thermarest / Neo Air , the Cadillac of sleeping pads. Expensive, but the most comfortable and definitely UL. Requires lots of blowing up. Were I to do the trail again, I'd get this in a 3/4 length and use my pack for under my feet. (8oz for the shorty)

Also: Thermarest / Z-lite. Very popular, UL, durable and inexpensive. Doubles as a sit pad. Not exactly the cushiest pad though. (10oz for the shorty)

Groundsheet - 2' x 7' sheet of Tyvek (4oz?)

Totally necessary. I bought mine for $5, it weighs next to nothing, adds mild insulation and protects both your tent and sleeping pad from punctures and abrasions. 

Tent Easton / Kilo 1p (1lb 14oz)

I loved my tent. It's light, reliable, kept me warm and dry, has a decent size vestibule, and doesn't take too long to set up. Add the great price at which I purchased it, and it is a great buy. The big downside was that it is a monopole tent and, therefore, not freestanding, which means you have to be careful how you set it up in the wind, but that was never really a problem for me. Unfortunately nobody seems to have it in stock anymore. 

Also consider: Big Agnes / Flycreek UL 2, a very popular tent on trail and with good reason. (1lb 15oz)

Don't consider: Tarptent / Contrail. Everyone I knew who had one if these hated it. 

Headlamp - Petzl / Tikka XP 2 (3oz)

While the headlamp can be a pretty inconsequential piece of gear, I loved mine. Bright/dim, beam/diffused, white/red lights. It's got all the features and doesn't weigh much. 

Also consider: I can't be bothered to care. 

Knife/multitool Leatherman / Style CS Multitool (1.4oz)

Great little tool. Not too heavy and just the right tools, which include a knife, scissors, clip/bottle opener and a file.

Backup power

Goal Zero / Nomad 7 and Guide 10  (13oz) and (6.4oz) respectively

These worked well for the desert and Sierra, but their effectiveness dropped off rapidly by time we hit dense forest in NorCal and Oregon. Useless in Washington. Plus, they aren't exactly UL, especially not with the Guide 10 attached.

EasyAcc / 5000mAh Ultra Slim Power Bank (5oz)

At only $20 and and 5 ounces, I think this is a much better option for recharging your phone. It'll give my iPhone two charges, which should be enough for pretty much any section of the trail. It's also much smaller and less cumbersome than dealing with a solar panel.

Trekking Poles Black Diamond / Ultra Distance Z-poles (10oz)

These are among the lightest poles available on the market and worked well for me. One broke, but Black Diamond had great customer service and immediately replaced it. Poles are actually one of the few pieces of gear where weight doesn't seem to matter so much. Even having poles is up for argument. The lighter your pack, the less necessary they are. Sometimes I wouldn't use them for most of a section and find them irritating, especially over rocky terrain. Other times I found them invaluable. Mostly, I recommend looking for a pair that are affordable.

Stove JetBoil / Flash (15oz)

The JetBoil is faster than anything else out there, but it's really only effective for boiling water. If you try to cook pasta and stuff in it you're going to burn stuff to the bottom, which is a major pain in the butt to clean. It's also slightly heavier than other options. If you cook a lot of Mountain House, Ramen or instant potatoes, though, it's awesome.

Also consider: MSR / Pocket Rocket with an Evernew / Titanium pot

Nothing is going to be perfect, but this setup allows for actual cooking if you have things like Knorr sides or Mac'n'cheese. Not as fast as a JetBoil, but it's a little more versatile and lighter. Remember, variety is key when it comes to eating on the PCT.

Stuff sacks

A small one for odds and ends like toothbrush, permits and Ibuprofen. Also for sleep clothes. You could honestly just use a gallon ziplock bag though. Why didn't I think of that while I was still on trail