For most of my life now I’ve been a gear nerd, even as my hobbies and adventures change, I can almost always tell you all about the gear used, whether I use it or not. When I worked in theatre as a sound engineer I knew almost every sound console on the market, and exactly which one I would want to use if money were no object! The same most definitely goes for my gear as a through-hiker and backpacker in general. After my first PCT hike in 2015 I had a very good idea of what I wanted to upgrade and what really worked for me. As you can see from my current chart at the top of this article, and the chart at the bottom of the article I have lost about 2.5lbs right now off my base weight. I am still playing around with a few ideas to lose even more weight. I would say my goal this year is a sub-15lbs base weight.
I’m just going to go through and talk a little about any changes from the two years and any particular stand out mentions.
Straight off I lost 1.4lbs off my base weight by just upgrading my backpack itself. I feel as though this problem has become a forefront though of thru-hikers these days, a lot of people talk about just how much weight you can save if you just get a lighter pack. However, I feel as though the average backpacker still looks at many of the packs with all the bells and whistles. (Please keep an eye for my article later this week on my love of, and struggles with minimalism.) I feel as though once you learn to embrace the minimalism ideas of backpacking you will learn that a simple top-loading backpack with water bottle pockets is really all you need for a successful and most enjoyable thru-hike. Now don’t get me wrong, my highly upgraded Crest Trail 48 was a wonderful pack, I had gone to REI the day I bought it with $600 in my pocket to buy the best backpack I could; and at the end of the day I had tried on virtually every pack in the store this the REI Crest Trail 48 simply fit me best. At the end of the day that is what matters most for your body and your comfort. Now as I have gotten more in shape and my body more adjusted to hiking every day for my current job, I have been able to find a much lighter pack that is very comfortable. The Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 is a truly almost artistic blend of function, simplicity, light-weight, and durability. I look forward to both praising and cursing this pack as I hike the PCT this year.
My tent will not change (probably) and deserves a very high honorable mention! The Copper Spur UL 1 served me very well last time and I intend on using it again. I stayed dry, it did great in the wind, and the nice nights it did a wonderful job at keeping the pesky mosquitoes away in the High Sierras (and Oregon, and honestly just everywhere. There are bugs everywhere.) It was light-weight enough, I started the trail without trekking poles, actually I went all the way to Ashland, OR without trekking poles, and almost all of the truly ultralight shelters rely on trekking poles for setup. At 2.5lbs it was a good comprimise of comfort, and function. I lived out a couple storms hiding away within the walls of my Copper Spur UL 1 and aside from being a little lonely from time to time it was the perfect home for storms. I was able to cook under the rain-fly, and not get soaked from condensation while I sat for two days at one point in my tent.
Sleeping bag this year got a serious upgrade! I am so pleased to be using a ZeroGram High Sierra, complete with a pertex shell to keep out the moisture and 850 fill power down to keep me nice and toasty warm and weighing only 1.94lbs. While my Mountain Hardware Ratio 15 was a solid bag, the down treatment was great, because your bag will get wet on this trail. The fact that the down gets damp though means that your bag takes a much longer time to dry, costing you precious time on the trail. I am very hopeful that this problem will be resolved by the fact that the pertex material should keep the down from getting wet, and should allow the bag to dry very quickly. Also, it has the bonus of being over a half pound lighter that my Ratio 15.
Clothing in general is pretty simple I feel, you need some clothes to wear when you’re hiking and something dry to change into when you’re sleeping. Other than that, something to keep you warm, and maybe something to keep you dry on the trail are the other concerns. I started my 2015 hike in a cheap REI brand synthetic t-shirt and I learned that after about a week on the trail that after only 3 or so days on trail the shirt was almost completely un-wearable, the smell, it was the most odor absorbing shirt I had ever owned. I ran back to REI and said “give me something that won’t smell!” Well, obviously nothing is perfect, but my Kuhl shirt is treated with an Anti-Microbial and man does that make a world of difference! My pants worked great, the OR Infinity Guarantee is most definitely worth reading into. I did fall in love with my Patagonia Cap 3 long sleeve shirt, my mother actually bought it for my about 200 miles into the trail after I got super cold one night sleeping in just a t-shirt. I also started with compression tights for the night time right from the start, they were lighter than a lot of sleeping pants other people carried, and my legs felt good a night, not much problems with cramping with the compression tights. I am also super excited to have upgraded my Montbell UL Down Jacket (which has been incredible and served me very well) with the ZeroGram Nevermind Puffy.
Onto the Camp Kitchen. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a bit of a chef and a professional baker, I love to bake and cook and while baking on the trail is almost impossible, my trail kitchen has been a bit of a matter of obsession for me. I am actually nervous about the Evernew Titanium .9L Pot this year. It’s super light and I’m stoked about that, but it is small (I love trail quesadillas and I don’t know if tortillas will fit yet!) and no non-stick coating. So we’ll see how it works for me. I am far from a just boil water and rehydrate kind of back country cook. While many hikers comment that they don’t carry a stove with them, or even if they do, rarely use it cause cooking at the end of a long hiking day is too much of a chore. I truly enjoy it! I find it relaxing and a wonderful way to relax from a day of pounding my feet into the ground. I’m super excited about the Soto Windmaster, it is supposed to be the best canister stove on the market for windy conditions, and has excellent flame control. I carry a slightly larger knife than most, mostly just for cutting fresh veggies that I love to carry out of town, as well as a small light-weight cutting board. I have also found that bead bags (or dime bags) make excellent little spice bags, and very often restaurants are totally willing to give you a little refill. Lastly, the pourover filter is a must for me. I love coffee, and real coffee and I was never sad to have it with me on my first hike.
For electronics I go pretty simple, I take my phone to use as a phone, music and sometimes a notepad. A camera for photos and recording vlogs, and a solar panel/power brick charging system. I know I could lose almost a pound by going to a SunTactics solar panel, I will just have to wait and see how it goes financially.
Lastly, if by some miracle you’re still reading this, hydration. Perhaps the most important category of all. In the desert it is sometimes necessary to carry up to 8 liters of water! (Yes, that weighs roughly 18lbs.) In total my water system is 1, 3 liter MSR Dramotergy Bag, 1, 2 Liter Evernew water bag and 4, 1 liter smart water bottles. I went though many lighter water bladders before settling on the MSR bags after every other bag failed on me. Usually soaking the contents of my backpack.
And that’s pretty much it, what I’m carrying and why. Thanks for reading!