Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike Gear List

I have done a number of thru-hikes including the PCT, CDT, AT, the Desert Trail and an Alaska Traverse. Here is what I would carry if I hiked the PCT again. What I actually carried from day to day varied, depending on how close I was to supply, where I was along the trail, and so on. When I was carrying one liter of water and three days worth of food (2 lbs a day for me) my pack weighed about 19 pounds, 12 ounces, “average.” On my heaviest carry between Kennedy Meadows and Vermillion Valley Resort, I started out with about 18 pounds of food and about three pounds of extra gear, like bear canister and an ice axe. That made my heaviest pack about 32 pounds.If you notice any errors, please let me know.
Item Brand Name Comment Oz.
The “Big Four”
Backpack ULA CDT The CDT is going to be too small for most people when they are using a bear canister. I’d put my canister horizontally on top. Osprey packs are very popular on the PCT. For men, check out the Atmos or the Exos 58. For women, check out the Ariel 55 or the Aura 50 Make sure your pack fits YOU and your load before heading afield.
Shelter/Stakes Hexamid Solo then…
Lunar Solo
Includes 2 oz of stakes and guylines
Includes 2 oz of stakes and guylines
Note, I own and love these shelters. I’d use the Hexamid without groundsheet then switch to the Lunar Solo at Cascade Locks. If buying new for the PCT, I’d buy a Hexamid Solo (adding a groundsheet at Cascade Locks) if I had the money or the Lunar Solo to save some $.
Sleeping Bag Marmot Hydrogen I use with my warm down jacket when it’s really cold. Get cold easily? Consider a warmer down bag like a Western Mountaineering bag if you can afford it or the Cosmic if you can’t. 25
Sleeping Pad Thermarest Prolite Plus
RidgeRest SOLite
Thermarest if using a groundsheet
Ridgerest if not using a groundsheet. Small size.
Clothing in Pack
Thermal Bottom Patagonia Midweight Capilene Part of my sleep system 7.0
Jacket Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket Also part of my sleep system 12.0
Rain Shell Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket Replaces my loyal Red Ledge Jacket 6.4
Sleeping Socks Acorn Socks Light, warm, saved for sleeping only 2.0
Underwear Under Armour Boxerjock 6″ legs prevent chafing 4.8
Socks Darn Tough, 1/4 Sock, Mesh I’d switch to the 1/4 Cushion sock once I hit the Sierra. 1.4
Warm Hat Turtle Fur Micro Fur Balaclava 1.1
Gloves Possum Blend Gloves Light and warm but abrade easily 1.5
Cooking Items
Stove Jetboil Zip Alcohol stoves might be banned on certain stretches
Consider going stoveless, too!
Fuel Jetboil fuel Weight when full 7
Utensils Lexan Spoon Might carry a spare .2
Ignition Mini Bic Lighters(2) No “survival toys” needed. 1.0
Water Carriers Platypus Two, 2.5 Liter 2.4
Water Bottle Generic Empty Liter Water Bottle 1.1
Water Treatment Aquamira Water Drops ‘A’ and ‘B’ bottles. Giardia is no myth. 3.0
Maps Halfmile Maps, from Yogi Much easier than printing myself. I’d have Guthook’s App on my iPhone. 2.0
Compass A tiny compass Worn on watch band and/or hung from your pack. .1
Lights Photon II Micro-Light x 2 LED lights are awesome. I don’t carry a headlamp. .3
First Aid Sunscreen, lip balm with sunblock, ibuprofen, prescriptions, Leukotape P Tape for blisters, Benedryl, Imodium, Bodyglide to prevent blisters and chafing (small size).
Pocket Knife Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Has scissors, blade, toothpick, tweezers .7
Cordage Parachute Cord For bear bagging, etc. 1.0
Duct Tape 10 feet For blister prevention, gear repair, etc. 2.0
Sanitation and Hygiene
Toilet paper Standard Partial Roll 2.0
Floss Standard Small one .6
Toothbrush Generic/w cap Yes, I cut the handle in half .5
Toothpaste Generic Small tube .5
Hand Sanitizer Prefenz Weight estimated 2.5
Sleep Bag Sack Generic With Turkey Oven Bag liner for waterproofing 1.0
More 2 ballpoint pens, 2 safety pins, super glue, needle
Food Sack Generic Silnylon, with food. :) .8
Pack Liner Husky 18-Gallon Trash Compactor bag 2.2
Permits Government Issue Fire, Thru-Hike, Canada entry .5
Bandana ADZPCTKO Get it at Kick-Off, or any cotton bandana is fine 1.0
Data Yogi, etc Yogi’s Handbook section , etc. 3.0
Spare Glasses Or sunglasses With case and clip-ons 2.5
Phone iPhone With cords 5.1
Smartphone Tripod GorillaPod To put me in those panoramas 1.0
Trail Charger Solar or Battery I’d carry a Suntactics sCharger-5 until Cascade Locks, then switch to a PowerGen 12000mAh The latter will do about 5 iPhone charges. My sCharger has provided countless charges. If you want to chose just one, get the PowerGen. 8
Wallet Generic Credit Cards, Cash, Driver’s Lic. in ziploc 1.0
Worn or Carried Outside Pack
Underwear Under Armour Boxerjock 6″ legs 4.8
Shirt Long sleeve nylon ExOfficio Air Strip is awesome. 9.0
Pants/Shorts Mountain Hardwear Mesa Pants Convertible to shorts 13.0
Socks Darn Tough, 1/4 Sock, Mesh Mixed and matched w/ 1/4 cushion socks 1.4
Socks Darn Tough 1/4 Cushion Mixed and matched w/ 1/4 mesh socks 2.4
Shoes Asics Gel Kayano Highly subjective. Try on many models and brands ~20.0
Sunglasses Your choice Mandatory 1.0
Sun Hat Ball cap with bandana, Foreign Legion style I’d recommend a light, wide-brimmed hat with chin cord, like the Helios Sun Hat ?
Trekking Poles Yana Poles If you are hard on gear, get beefier poles like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork , a great all-around choice or the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Quick Lock, an excellent value. 6.8
Wristwatch I’m old school Can use a phone, etc instead if you prefer. 1.0
Carried in the Sierras, Washington or as needed
Rain Pants Montbell Versalite Pick up at Cascade Locks 3.6
Rain Mitts eMountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Mitts 1.2
Ice Axe CAMP USA Corsa Ice Axe For the Sierras 7.0
Bear canister Bear Vault BV500 Kennedy Meadows to Sonora Pass (see Yogi’s Guidebook) 41.0
Bug Repellant Repel 100 Picked up at Kennedy Meadows 1.0
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  1. You Can Call Me Dave

    July 10, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Hey Bucktrack,

    Thanks for posting your gearlist. I hiked the AT and the JMT using a GoLite Breeze rucksack (this was years ago). My Breeze pack has finally come to an end and I am likely getting the ULA CDT which is very similar to the Breeze though the CDT has a couple more options. My only hesitation is that I’d like to hike the PCT over the next couple years and am concerned about fitting the bear canister for the stretch that a canister is required. (When I hiked the JMT it was with a friend and he carried the canister and I carried the shelter). I have a very similar gear list as you. You say that you were able to fit the BV500 canister sideways in the top of your pack. Though, I want to make sure this will work for me. I need to make sure I can fit the food I need into this size canister. On the PCT I plan to average around 25 miles / day (based on my average on the JMT). What is the longest stretch one is required to carry a canister? Thanks for your help!

    • I carried a Pinnacle on the PCT but would use a CDT if I hiked the trail again. I did strap the BV500 on top of the pack and it worked well. I just tried it with the CDT and I’m confident it would work, with a vertical carry inside the pack another possible option.

      My longest carry where a canister was required was from Kennedy Meadows to Vermillion Valley Resort, about 190 miles I think. Some people break up that stretch with a resupply but I liked the simpler option of a longer carry. It worked well. I packed the canister carefully and carried the first day’s food outside.

      Have fun!


  2. You Can Call Me Dave

    July 15, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Thanks Bruce for such a thorough answer. Here’s another question for you if you don’t mind. I’ve never needed to carry a down jacket on any of my long distance hikes. Though, I know you and most others carry a down jacket through the Sierras and the Cascades. Why is that? Is it just for camp and sleeping in if it’s a cold night/morning? I couldn’t imagine needing it while backpacking. I typically get into camp late and leave early. I usually eat dinner and hike another 3-4 miles so my body heat is up when I get to camp (the Ray-Way). The same with breakfast. I wake up, take down my tarp, and backpack an hour before I eat breakfast. It seems a down jacket is more of a luxury for those that want the comfort of taking their time around camp or for added warmth for those that are using sleeping bags rated 30 degrees or higher. Though, maybe I’m wrong about this. It’s difficult for me to know since I don’t live out west and my JMT thru-hike was in July. If I don’t spend much time outside my quilt at camp and use a 20 degree quilt do you think I need a down jacket? Thanks!

    • With few exceptions experienced PCT/CDT/AT hikers find the comfort provided by an insulating layer easily justifies carrying the weight. I carried a jacket the length of five thru-hikes and would do so again.

      As mentioned, for me a jacket is part of my sleep system. I can bring a lighter bag by supplementing it with my jacket. I very often use that jacket during the day, mornings, evenings, during breaks or very cold conditions. Many times I’ve worn my jacket while hiking. Sure, insulating jackets are usually far too warm to actually hike in, but I can remember times on the PCT when it was cold, windy and rainy and I wore my jacket under rain gear. I remember many times putting it on at the top of a pass when a cold wind was blowing and I was tired and chilled. It was raining and snowing on me my first day AND my last day on the PCT and other times in between.

      Warner Springs Monty talks about thru-hiking the PCT with a five pound base weight and the next time hiking with an 8+ pound base weight. The addition of an insulating layer was one thing that he said made his second hike much more enjoyable.

      It doesn’t necessarily need to be down, it doesn’t need to be as warm as the jacket I carried, but I highly recommend bringing a a jacket.


  3. Hey Bruce,
    I am seriously getting close to hiking the PCT. It will be this season or next, and I have a question to ask you. In all your miles of thru hiking (on any of the trails), have you met any thru hikers that brought their dog along? I have a 2 year old 35lb malamute/german shepherd mix who has been day hiking and doing moderate backpacking trips with me in the areas surrounding the Montana sections of the CDT. He is great on rugged terrain and very healthy. I realize my biggest problem is figuring out how to get him through or around the parks. All I can think is to find trusted people to pick him up at a point before a nat park and then drop him off when I get through, or else some way to have him be allowed to accompany me in the parks. Thoughts?

    • Hi Jake,

      I have seen a handful of dogs on thru-hikes. On the CDT, one dog got sent home early in the hike. It was too rough on her. I’ve never seen a dog with an owner near the end of a thru-hike as far as I can recall although it has been done.

      I like dogs a lot. That said, I would probably not bring a dog on a thru-hike of the PCT. The Park issue is certainly one consideration, but a bigger one is that most dogs have trouble keeping up with the consistent big miles that the PCT requires. I think this is an especially big issue in the heat of the desert. Dogs have died trying to stay with their people. Having never hiked more than a hundred miles or so at a stretch with a dog (who wore himself out and had to quit early!) I’d suggest Google to see what others have said.

      Good luck!


      • Thanks for the reply! I will definitely look into this more. I can’t say I’ve hiked hundreds at a time with my dog, but we have definitely hiked close to 60 in 5 days and he didn’t bat an eye. I found a blog, as well as some other articles, on people who have thru-hiked with dogs. I’ll keep researching and do some bigger trips before I decide. He seems up for the task, and I have no problem quitting anytime I see deterioration in his ability to do it. Thanks again!

  4. I am 65 years old & female, and although not in the best shape, I have no significant medical issues. I live in Oregon about 30 miles from the section of the PCT that runs near the Olallie Lake area. I would like to spend this fall and winter thinking seriously about hiking at least a portion of the PCT. Do you have any advice me? Or perhaps you could put me in touch with someone else?

    • Hi Ruth,

      I think that sounds like a fine idea! I’ve got a few ideas that should be useful for you…

      If I were you I’d hike a section of the Oregon PCT. I think ALL of the PCT is beautiful, but the Oregon PCT tends to be a little easier terrain than the Sierra, or parts of Washington, for example.

      Make sure you have footwear that works well for you.
      I would shoot for a very light pack, maybe 15 pounds without your food and water.
      Depending how far you are planning to hike, think carefully about timing your hike to avoid the bad weather of late fall, and lingering snows of the prior winter. If I were going to hike all of Oregon I’d likely start around August 15.
      If possible I’d recommend setting a mellow pace with flexible goals. It’s much easier to slow down than speed up.

      “Mags” has some good info on the PCT.

      Whiteblaze has a pretty good PCT forum as well.

      Have fun planning!


  5. I have thru-hiked the AT and plan on thru-hiking the PCT 2017. In my experience with the AT, I only used my rain jacket twice. Wondering why you are suggesting to bring rain gear and mitts? Is the PCT different in weather (i.e. rain?) Thanks.

    • I think most people would say there is less rain in general on the PCT but when you get it it tends to be colder, and there are less bail-out opportunities and very rarely shelters.

      Many PCT hikers have become hypothermic or nearly so. I remember days so cold and wet that I had no option but to keep walking or to set up camp, even with rain jacket and rain pants. It’s like anything, you never know what kind of weather you might hit. I know a guy who thru-hiked my year who never got rained on all summer. I know many more that got miserably cold and wet and wouldn’t dream of not packing rain gear. I got rained and snowed on shortly after leaving the Mexico border, and I was rained and snowed on the last day (a drenching, bonechilling day) and many days in between.

      I believe I only carried rain mitts in Washington, and many people would consider them optional, but for me it would be foolish to not carry rain gear the whole trail. I use it for wind, rain, warmth and to wear for laundry.

      The below photo was June 10. The snow turned to rain and it was freakin’ cold.

      Good luck!


      Days like this taught me the value of rain gear.

  6. Trying to update to ultralight, I was thinking of replacing my heavier Ariel 55 for a ZPack Arc Blast until I saw your pack recommendations. As a 69 year old woman I’m more concerned with weight and staying in the game than price. Please comment.

    • Hi Laura
      I’d recommend ordering the Arc Blast, loading it up with your stuff, including a bear canister full of food, and seeing how it feels for you. If it’s comfortable the weight savings will make it a clear choice for you.

      Have a great hike!


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