If you’re thinking of doing a thruhike, especially on the Pacific Crest Trail, you probably have a lot of questions for what to bring and what to buy. And understandably, gear is a big part of any thruhike. Not only is it literally attached to your back, but it’ll be what keeps you alive out there. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the major topics of conversation thruhikers discuss when they get together (outside of other hikers, miles and water sources).
Reading back to our PCT gear list I can’t help to laugh at our naivete when choosing what to take on our hike. While we got some things right we also made classic beginner mistakes such as taking too much stuff, taking stuff that is too heavy, and spending too much time researching because most items would have done just fine on the trail. If you already have gear that isn’t incredibly heavy and meets your requirements then there probably isn’t much reason for you to replace it just for a long distance hike.
Towards the end of our hike we asked people what they thought it meant to be an “experienced” backpacker, and the best answer we got was “When you know the REI people are full of shit.” So when judging conflicting advice, it’s probably a safe bet to ignore REI staff’s opinion on what you need in favor of what you read online from the thruhiking community.
Keep in mind, we didn’t complete all 2,650 miles of trail, but I don’t think there was anything we’d change about our gear for the remaining miles of trail. This is a master summary of what worked and what didn’t during our 1,500 mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.
We are using the very official grading system: LOVE – LIKE – MEH – HATE
If you’re not looking into thruhiking a trail like the Pacific Crest Trail, this list will most likely be extremely boring and meaningless for you. Just FYI.
A word on price. Backpacking is an expensive hobby, especially upfront. While we had quite a bit of our equipment already, we had to buy or ended up swapping things for new gear whilst on the trail. Sticker shock is possible when you look at the cost of even a few of the items you’ll need.
We are not millionaires. Once we decided we wanted to hike the PCT, we spent almost all of our free time researching preparations, including what gear to get and how to get it at the best price. Here’s a post we wrote reviewing discount gear and outdoor websites. The prices listed are the manufacturers prices, but looking back, I know we paid nowhere near that for most of the items listed, instead getting them in flash sales, finding coupons, or finding older models on discount websites. Hell yeah for deal findin’!
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Table of Contents
- Tent & Sleep Set Up
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3
- ZPacks Twin Quilt
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
- REI Backpacker Pillow
- Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner
- Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner
- Hiking Packs
- Deuter ACT Lite 60+10
- Osprey Exos 58
- Osprey Aura AG 65
- Gregory Contour 60
- Hiking Poles
- REI Traverse Trekking Poles
- Food and Water
- Outdoor Gear Ratsack
- Ursack S29
- MSR Whisperlite International
- JetBoil MiniMo
- GSI Dualist Ultralight Cookset
- Water Treatment
- MSR Sweetwater Water Filter
- Aquamira Water Drops
- Marmot PreCip Jacket
- Montbell UL Down Jacket
- Her Clothing
- Under Armor UA Tech V-Neck
- WalMart Slip Skirt
- KMart Jogging Shorts
- ExOfficio DryFlyLite Shirt
- Smartwool Long Sleeve Crew
- Under Armor GoldGear Leggings
- ExOfficio Give-N-Go Undies
- ExOfficio SolCool Hoodie
- ExOfficio Bugs Away Pants
- Mountain Hard Wear Epic Gloves
- His Clothing
- Stoic Merino 150 Long Sleeve
- Under Armour ColdGear Leggings
- Icebreaker Merino Woold Tech T Lite
- Under Armor UA Tech Tee
- Columbia PFG Tamiami Long Sleeve Shirt
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
- Her Footwear
- Salomon XA Comp 7
- Injinji Socks
- Darn Tough Socks
- SuperFeet Women’s Berry
- Crocs Classics
- His Footwear
- Salomon XR Mission
- New Balance Trail Runners
- Salomon XA Comp 7
- Darn Tough Socks
- CurrexSole RunPro Medium
- Victorinox Swiss Army Classic
- Peppers Sunglasses
- Sony A7II
- Sony 35mm FE f/2.8
- Sony 24-240 FE f/3.5-6.3
- B+W Circular Polarizers
- JOBY Gorillapod
- Pedco UltraPod II
- BOOM Swimmer
- Kindle Paperwhite
- OMOTION Ultra-Slim Keyboard
- Emergency Communication
- DeLorme inReach Explorer
- Battery Charging
- RAVPower 3rd Gen 15000mAh External Battery
- RAVPower 9W Solar Charger
- WordPress iPhone App
- PlayMemories Mobile
- Pic Collage
- Halfmile PCT
- Guthook’s PCT
Tent & Sleep Set Up
Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3
LOVE. At 54 ounces the Copper Spur UL3 is a relatively heavy shelter compared to ultralight options available, such as tarps, poncho tents, etc. That being said, the Copper Spur, UL 1-3, was by the far the most popular tent on the trail, though our ultralight friends referred to it as a “backcountry mansion”. We preferred this tent over those other options for its stability, ease of use, and ability to actually shelter us from all of the elements, something the ultralight structures don’t do so well in inclement weather. The tent is very well designed, with plenty of functionality for your thruhiking needs.
Sleeping Bag: ZPacks Twin Quilt
LIKE. Sally was skeptical about this sleeping choice when I suggested it to her. The idea of carrying around a quilt on the trail just seemed foreign. Wouldn’t we be cold if we didn’t have a mummy style bag? After sleeping under this bag for over 100 days we can say that this bag holds its own in the warmth department as well as a traditional sleeping bag.
For starters, the quilt is very economical for what you get: the insulation is 900 fill power and the two person quilt weighs less than most single person bags, while costing less than two. The quilt surface you treat just like a blanket, making it easy to regulate temperature. The ZPacks website suggests moving up a size or two from their height recommendations if you want the bag to cover your head, and we recommend following their advice.
There are some cons to the ZPacks quilt, however. After an entire summer of use, the down fill has started to seep away from high contact areas, mostly the ends, and needs to be manually smoothed back and fluffed in order for those areas to stay warmth.
The biggest problem is the bag’s vulnerability to moisture. If there is any humidity in the air or the temperature falls below the dew point, the surface of the bag will be damp or nearly wet by the morning. Because too much moisture can damage the bag, this always necessitated us drying it out in the sun at some point in the day. I’ve heard this excessive moisture retention may have something to do with the high fill power of the bag, 900 fill, but I suspect it has something to do with the ultra-light nylon material.
Sleeping Pads: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
LOVE. Best. Sleeping Pad. Ever. Prior to purchasing the XLite we both owned different variations of sleeping pads that left us without a good night’s rest in the woods. Most of the sleeping pads we’ve used are either too heavy for long distance hiking, don’t allow you to comfortably sleep on your side, or both. The XLite weights just 11 ounces and has plenty of cushion for side sleeping. The only complaint some people have is the amount of noise that it makes, but it did not bother us and the noise fades with use. If you’re planning on using two of these pads we recommend buying some straps to hold them together- voila, backcountry bed.
DITCHED. REI Backpacker Pillow
HATE. I can’t believe we carried these for so long, they’re so heavy. Once we got to Washington, these pillows were losing their fluff and provided almost no support. Your best pillow at night is a stuff sack full of clothes or your puffy.
Sleeping Bag Liners
His: Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner
LIKE. We brought sleeping bag liners with us on the trail to avoid having to wash our down sleeping bag while on the trail. The Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner was lightweight at only 5 ounces and did its job well. Alternatively, you can sleep in your base layers to keep your sleeping bag clean if you wish, but I enjoyed having the liner.
Hers: DITCHED: Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner
HATE. There were probably only 2 nights on the trail where I felt this bag was necessary- it just doesn’t get cold enough. I originally planned to use this liner for a little extra warmth (I’m a cold sleeper), but combining this liner with the 20 degree sleeping bag proved to be too warm and made my legs sweat all night. Ew. In the end I just slept in my base layers to keep the sleeping bag clean. I wish I had gone with Indiana’s Cocoon Mummy Silk Liner.
Hers: SWAPPED: Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 for Osprey Exos 58 for Osprey Aura 65
MEH. Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 (no longer available, but the 70 + 10 model is). I used to love this pack. It was functional, comfortable and less expensive than the alternatives. Unfortunately, the frame went to complete shit on the trail and I had to get a new pack.
LIKE. Osprey Exos 58. The pack I got next was the Exos, a popular choice for thruhikers. It was definitely light and comfortable enough, but the sizing is a problem. At its tightest, the hip belt hung off of me from the start and as I lost more weight this became more uncomfortable and difficult to carry. I already had the smallest size available, so I switched to the Aura in an XS as soon as I had the opportunity. It’s strange to me that this pack is geared towards thruhikers, but doesn’t allow for the inevitable skinny waste. I’m the third person I know on the trail whose ditched this pack because of the too-loose hip belt. If you’re on he heavier side, I definitely recommend this pack.
LOVE. Osprey Aura AG 65. This is probably the only pack I would use, backcountry adventuring or traveling. The Aura is on the heavier side for a thruhiking pack, but it makes up for it with great design and unbeatable comfort. I love all the functional pockets, but it’s the frame and load support that make it great. The hip belt is built for the female form and really hugs my waist and hips and the robust, soft mesh on the back stays comfortable and keeps the frame off my lower back no matter how steep the terrain or how much weight I’m carrying. Well worth the difference in price between it and the Deuter ACT Lite, trust me.
His: SWAPPED: Gregory Contour 60 for Osprey Exos 58
LIKE. Gregory Contour 60. The hip belt on the Gregory Contour ripped at the seam that connects it to the backpack right when we started hiking in the Sierras. Gregory customer support was very helpful and the company ended up replacing my backpack for free, but I still had to wait two weeks to receive the replacement backpack. The backpack was heavier than your average pack on the trail and had more bells and whistles than a long distance hiking pack required. I ended up replacing the Gregory with an Osprey Exos, but only for the thruhike. The Gregory is much more functional and travel friendly, so it will be my world travel pack.
LIKE. Osprey Exos 58. The Osprey was fairly durable and lightweight compared to the Gregory, but still provided everything I needed in a hiking pack. I also liked that it was just 2 lbs compared to the 5 lbs of the Gregory. The Osprey was not very comfortable to wear, but it was comfortable enough for the task at hand. Like most thruhikers, I have the hip belt pulled as tight as it will go. So if you buy this pack, make sure you have plenty of room to tighten further, because you will lose weight on the trail.
Hiking Poles: REI Traverse Trekking Poles
His: REI Traverse Trekking Poles
MEH. The hiking poles were essential to our being able to do many miles in a day. They help you power through the ups and preserve your knees on the downs. These trekking poles performed just fine for us, but there were many people on the trail with cheap ski poles that probably performed just as well. I don’t think there is a lot of value in expensive hiking poles, we only have one remaining pole tip between the two of us.
Hers: REI Traverse Shocklight Trekking Poles
LOVE. Where would I be without poles on this trip? They helped me basically hack my way up steep peaks and saved my knees on steep declines. On rough downhills, I could really feel the “Shocklight” springing and absorbing a lot of the impact. I really liked these REI brand trekking poles, but they are actually made in Austria by the brand Komperdell and are way more durable and functional than the Black Diamond brand pair I had previously. I’d recommend these over more expensive poles because they get the job done. The only problem is the foam grip, which turned my sweaty hands black after days of use.
Food and Water
Food Storage: SWAPPED. Armored Outdoor Gear Ratsack for Ursack S29
MEH. Armored Outdoor Gear Ratsack. We got a rodent proof bag for the desert that was basically a bulky, strangely-shaped chain mail sack. Do you need a rodent proof bag? I think so, but many hikers will disagree. I’ve seen rodents (and raccoons) chew through regular food sacks, they’ve been known to chew through tents to get to food, and have chewed holes in smelly clothes, i.e. my $25 pair of Darn Tough socks (of course). If we had known that the Ursack was an option for rodent-proofing, we definitely would have gotten it first.
LIKE. Ursack S29 Kevlar Bear Bag. The Ursack is a bag to keep all of your food and smellables in while you sleep. It claims to be bear proof when tied properly (not difficult to do), and is lightweight and simplistic. The Ursack needs to be tied to a tree branch, or else the bear will just run off with the bag, even if it can’t penetrate it. While we always hated hanging bear bags at night, the Ursack doesn’t need to be secured up high with the throw-a-rock method, just tied where you can reach it. Fortunately, we didn’t have any encounters with bears, but there were a couple nights where small bite marks were clearly visible on the Ursack with no damage.
One Ursack S29 should carry enough food for one hiker for 4-5 days.
*When you enter into Yosemite National Park in the Sierras, a bear canister is required, and park rangers have been known to check. So even though an Ursack is bear proof you won’t be able to use it through that section of trail.
Camp Stove: SWAPPED. MSR Whisperlite International for JetBoil MiniMo
HATE. MSR Whisperlite International. Everyone on the internet said that we shouldn’t bring our MSR WhisperLite on the trail. Everyone said it was heavy, slow, and hard to use. We said we didn’t want to throw away fuel canisters constantly and the refillable bottles appealed to us. In the end everyone was right. We decided to make the switch when we were camping with a friend one night and he was able to boil water and eat his entire dinner before we had boiled water ourselves. The WhisperLite was slow, heavy, and hard to use. We’ll keep this stove for international travel, where we may have less options for fuel, but on the trail canister fuel is the way to go, unfortunately for the waste.
LOVE. JetBoil MiniMo. Maybe it was just that we upgraded from the heavy and slow WhisperLite, but we love our JetBoil. We really do. JetBoils boil water very quickly, about 2 minutes, and use less fuel in doing so. For most thruhikers, boiling water for freeze dried food and ramen noodles is all that’s necessary, anyway. The Jetboil was a great addition to our evening routine and the MiniMo was a good option for the two of us and for cooking food (it is wider and shallower than the original JetBoil, making it easier to actually cook with).
Cooking Wear: SORT OF DITCHED. GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Ultralight Cookset
MEH. Once we got rid of our heavy, bulky, inconvenient stove, we had no need for a pot- our JetBoil Minimo came with one. We kept the bag, two of the cups for hot drinks and sent the rest home.
SWAPPED: MSR Sweetwater Water Filter for Aquamira Water Drops
MEH. MSR Sweetwater Water Filter. We used this filter on all of our weekend backpacking trips. It worked mostly well then, but that was because we weren’t worried about things like weight and long-term usability. It also added to the fun and adventure of being in the wild before we’d become desensitized to it, i.e. “Look there’s water! Now we have to pump it out with this nifty filter before it’s safe to drink!” Contrary to our initial PCT gear list, we ditched this filter even before heading out to California in favor of something lighter and easier.
LIKE. Aquamira Water Treatment Drops. Many people used the Sawyer Squeeze filter system on the trail on account of not wanting to put “chemicals” in their water. Many people also struggled with the Sawyers after they became clogged up after hundreds of miles. Aquamira just seemed much easier to use. Just mix some drops, add them to your water, and get moving. Don’t worry, you are rarely, if ever, able to taste the Aquamira. We have heard people say that Aquamira is a bit of a rip-off and that regular bleach can be used to purify your water. This seems like a it could be a bad idea (so much of what thruhikers recommend often does), but the Clorox website actually provides directions.
Rain Jacket: Marmot PreCip Jacket
MEH. We already owned these rain jackets prior to starting the PCT and could not justify purchasing new ones. Luckily for us there was very little rain on our PCT adventure. These jackets are bulky and have a reputation for losing their waterproof coating. They began to let water soak through during any precipitation heavier than a drizzle, especially on the hood and shoulders, making you feel very cold in those places and unsure if you were actually staying dry. We don’t recommend shelling out for these shells (heh). I would advise getting a jacket that is guaranteed waterproof, for a little more temperature control and a lot more piece of mind.
Down Jacket: Montbell UL Down Jacket
LOVE. We used these superlight jackets almost everyday on the trail, even in the desert! Though the jacket isn’t as warm as alternatives, but it makes up for it in weight; it’s only 5 oz. I found that at night, it was enough to keep me warm, and in really cold situations, I could layer my rain jacket over it to really lock in heat. Nikita recommends getting one with a hood, because he was a bit cold without one. While the jacket is a little dirty after the long trip, with a little clean up, it’s durable enough to have a lot of life left in it and it’ll be a great piece to take on our global travels.
Price: $124 for jacket; $140 for parka
*Neither of us bought rain pants. We didn’t really need them because we were out of Washington before the characteristic rainy weather rolled in. Let me tell you though, hiking through the few downpours we experienced in regular pants was pretty sucky and rain paints would have been nice- if only they weren’t so heavy.
Hot Weather Shirt: Under Armor UA Tech V-Neck
LOVE. Isn’t it weird that one of the best performing things I brought with me was a mass-market polyester t-shirt not specifically made for the outdoors? Pack straps have faded the color around the shoulders, but this shirt is still kicking it. It’s lightweight, very cool, comfortable and didn’t smell at all- what merino shirts claim polyester does. Nikita bought one after his $70 Icebreaker tee went to shreds (it also smelled to high heaven).
BUY THIS SHIRT.
Hot Weather Bottoms: SWAPPED: WalMart Slip Skirt for KMart Jogging Shorts
In theory wearing a skirt seemed like a great way to stay cool and comfortable, but the material on my slip skirt was so cheap it barely lasted a few days. Running shorts are the way to go- they are comfortable and you stay cool. I wore regular running shorts I already had, and once those were on their last leg, got some snazzy shorts in the Girl’s department at KMart. Sometimes it’s good to have a little pizzaz.
Warm Weather Shirt: ExOfficio DryFlyLite Button Up Shirt
LIKE. I used this shirt throughout the trail, especially in the desert. It’s light enough that I wasn’t too hot with the sleeves rolled down to protect my arms from the sun. When I did get too hot I could just unbutton some buttons (hiker trash) and/or roll up the sleeves. I also liked the option of using this shirt when it was too cold for my tee.
Price: $37 (depending on size and color)
Base Layer Shirt: Smartwool NTS 195 Long Sleeve Crew
MEH. Warm and fit my petite torso well, but it’s noticeably itchy. I wish I had shelled out for the next higher thread count. Even though it was twice the price, the MidWeight 250 was so much softer, warmer and just as wearable.
Base Layer Bottoms: Under Armor ColdGear Cozy Leggings
LIKE. Fit wasn’t perfect and they really pill on the butt, but these leggings added a lot of additional warmth on nights when I needed it. I never hiked with them, they made me too hot, instead I wore them (and my SmartWool shirt) as sleep clothes, because my sleeping bag liner was too hot to sleep in. I probably could have used thinner leggings for a base layer, but these were relatively cheap compared to other options like merino wool.
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Undies
LOVE. I had three of these, but wish I had more, because they weigh nothing compared to the niceness of clean undies. The bikini and lace bikini fit well, even if the regular bikini is more like a brief. They wash easily and dry better than cotton, so a quick wash in the sink with some hand soap and they’re 100% fresh again. Every hiker uses the give-n-go’s and they’re the best travel-friendly undies out there.
Price: $18 – 20
Sun Protection: DITCHED. ExOfficio SolCool Hoodie
Death to the ExOfficio SolCool Hoodie.
HATE. I don’t know if it’s that I’m not the type of person who sweats buckets in extreme heat and that I couldn’t get the shirt wet enough, or if it actually just doesn’t do what it says it’s does. I wasn’t at all cool in the hoodie, I was baking inside of it. I wore it on the first day and never again, after I got heat exhaustion. Bummer, because I was really looking forward to not have to slather on sun screen every day.
Bug Protection: ExOfficio Bugs Away Damselfly Pants
MEH. These pants were lightweight, and I liked the option of having pants (that weren’t zip off!) on the trail that I could roll up into capri or Bermuda short length. As for the bugs away? Maybe bugs away in that mosquitoes landed on the pants but had problems biting me through them. ExOfficio sizing sucks, so when I started with smallest size available the pants were a bit big, and by the end of the trail, they only fit because of the draw string waste band. Overall, bugs on the trail aren’t that bad and I think regular pants will keep mosquitoes from biting your legs, all you really have to worry about. Just get some lightweight pants that you like.
Mountain Hard Wear Women’s Epic Gloves
LOVE. It was rarely cold enough on the trail to warrant wearing gloves, but when it was I was so glad to have them. I bought these gloves after going through a frigid rain storm about 100 miles in, when my hands (being exposed while gripping the poles) quickly became cold, numb and unworkable. They were expensive, but the only option available. I’ve only used them a few times, but they are warm and importantly- waterproof while being very light. I recommend something similar.
Base Layer Top: Stoic Men’s Merino 150 Long Sleeve Crew
LIKE. This shirt served its purpose just fine. It kept me warm on cool days and remains in great shape. The wool was a little itchy at first, but it itch faded after a little while.
Base Layer Bottom: Under Armour ColdGear Leggings
LOVE. I went with Sally’s recommendation for Under Armor bottoms, instead of the pricier SmartWool ones. I’m starting to learn that Under Armour makes clothing that works very well, but is a fraction of the price of a lot of the “performance” clothing that you can buy at REI. These leggings were warm, comfortable, and durable.
Hot Weather Shirt: SWAPPED. Icebreaker Merino Wool Tech T Lite for Under Armor UA Tech Tee
HATE. Icebreaker Merino Wool Tech T Lite. Contrary to popular belief, merino wool is not the magic anti-smell material it claims to be. After hundreds of miles on the trail, this shirt smelled like wet dog despite washing it whenever I was in town (and whenever we washed clothes, it made the rest of our laundry smell like wet dog!). It pilled right away on my back and shoulders, and eventually started to shred itself in the arm pits. What a waste of money.
LOVE. Under Armor UA Tech Tee. After my Icebreaker fell to pieces (literally) I settled on this shirt, which is what Sally started with and turned out to be extremely durable and comfortable.
Warm Weather Shirt: DITCHED. Columbia Men’s PFG Tamiami Long Sleeve Shirt
MEH. This item of clothing was helpful in keeping the sun off you of in the desert, but after 2-3 weeks of sun exposure with sunscreen my skin got used to the sun and I no longer needed to worry about keeping it covered. This shirt ultimately tore after only a few hundred miles.
Hot/Warm Weather Bottoms: Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
LOVE. These pants worked great and I used the convertible feature everyday on the trail. I put them through the ringer, and they were getting really nasty until they finally ripped through the crotch after 1,000 miles. It’s all good though because I bought a replacement pair!
Shoes: Salomon XA Comp 7 Trail Running Shoes
LOVE. I almost bought Brooks Cascadia 10s, one of the most popular shoes on the trail, and I’m glad I didn’t they fall apart after just a couple hundred miles. The Salomon XA Comp blur the lines between trail runners and lightweight hiking shoes. They’re supportive in the sole, but breathable on top. They’re also crazy durable- my first pair lasted about 800 miles and my second pair is still going. I recommend any shoe by Salomon, but especially these shoes.
Price: $110 (only at REI)
Socks: SWAPPED: Injinji Sock Liner + Darn Tough Socks for Injinji Run 2.0 Toe Socks
MEH. Injinji Liner Crew Socks. I bought 4 of these pairs, expecting that I would wear them underneath Darn Tough socks to prevent blisters. While the two-sock method is cool, you need huge shoes to accommodate both pairs of socks and the inevitable foot swelling. Grizzly, another hiker I met swore by the two-sock method, but wore shoes 4 sizes too big, going from size 9 to 11. Once my blisters healed, I ended up wearing liners alone, both because I liked the feel of toe socks and because with two socks my shoes were too tight and too hot.
MEH. Darn Tough Socks. These socks stand up to their reputation of being crazy durable. Though they’re tough and comfortable with all that padding, they can get pretty hot and soaked with sweat. In the end, I got used to wearing Injinjis and felt weird wearing normal socks where my toes rubbed skin-to-skin. I did keep one pair to wear at night, because my feet were so dirty at the end of each day and I needed something to keep all that dirt and grime off the bag.
Price: $17 – 24
LOVE. Injinji Run 2.0. I’m a toe sock convert now, odd because I’ve always found them to be uncomfortable. The Injinjis are another story though. They give peace of mind that I won’t get toe blisters, are lightweight (they dry fast) and durable enough, though less so than Darn Tough. I’ve noticed that a lot of hikers’ socks fall into one of two camps: Darn Tough or Injinji, both are very popular. I’m in the latter.
Insoles: SuperFeet Women’s Berry
MEH. Be careful with insoles. There’s a tool they’ll to measure your arch, but it doesn’t seem that scientific. I got them because I was concerned about support in my trail running shoes and haven’t walked without them. They didn’t feel uncomfortable, but in retrospect, maybe I should have tested them more somehow, because my feet still hurt. I’m talking throbbing and localized pain at rest and swelling on the days I wasn’t hiking. I also had a lot of arch pain towards the end of my hike, a very intense, burning pain, that may have been the overall stress on my feet from so much hiking or incorrect insoles.
Camp Shoes: Crocs Classics
LOVE. Some people wear camp shoes when they’re not hiking, some people don’t- and they’re crazy. Especially in the desert, it feels so good to let your feet breath. I wore Crocs at camp instead of flip flops, because with the hiker hobble I wasn’t exactly graceful and kept stubbing my toes. You can imagine how that felt. Crocs are a great choice; they’re lightweight and helpful for stream crossings!
Shoes: SWAPPED: Salomon XR Mission for New Balance trail runners for Salomon XA Comp 7
LIKE. Salomon XR Mission. I bought this first pair in a flash sale online, and they performed well until they stopped fitting because his feet had gotten bigger.
MEH.New Balance Trail Runners. The model of these shoes doesn’t matter, as I was just trying to get the cheapest shoes I could find. The New Balances didn’t last more than 400 miles, and my feet were really hurting in them by the time I bought my next pair.
LOVE. Salomon XA Comp 7. After two unsuccessful shoes, I was ready to try Sally’s Salomons. They’re comfortable, supportive and still going after more than 700 miles.
Socks: Darn Tough
LOVE. Nikita doesn’t blister easily and isn’t picky, so he loved his Darn Tough socks. After 1,500 miles he still has all the pairs he started with and they’re in good shape.
Price: $17 – 20
Insoles: CurrexSole RunPro Medium
LIKE. I started to develop numbness in my feet around the beginning of the Sierras. It gradually increased and started to really concern me, so I got the insoles at the recommendation of another hiker, who said the numbness is due to consistent impact. These insoles stopped the numbness from increasing, and now that our hike is over, feeling is gradually coming back. I picked these over SuperFeet because these felt “squishier,” which was more important to me than support.
Victorinox Swiss Army Classic S-D
Teeny scissors, blade, nail file and tweezers. I dare you to need more than this.
LOVE. You need a multi-tool on the trail. I’ve used this for years, before hiking, and I can vouch for its usefulness. I think guys tend to go overkill with the tools, getting huge multi-tools with corkscrews, pliers, big blades, the works. This little thing is lightweight and has a small knife, a flathead edge, tweezers and scissors- the only functions you really need. Indiana sent his heavy multi-tool home at mile 40 because he knew mine worked just fine and was lightweight.
LOVE. The first time we tried on a pair of Peppers, all we could say was, “Whoa.” The polarizing filter in the lenses removes a lot of the brightness of white light and minimizes a lot of the blues, creating a much more vivid world right before your eyes. These were indispensable in the desert. I went with frames that covered my entire eye area for protection (they were also the only ones that fit my tiny head), and Nikita picked a similar pair. I wore mine until I lost them in the Sierras and I was too cheap to buy another pair. We recommend going with Peppers instead of the more expensive brands of outdoor-oriented shades.
Camera: Sony A7II
LOVE. Coming into the hike many people told me that I would not use my camera enough and that the weight did not justify having it. Even 800 – 1,200 miles in, people were telling me that my camera was too heavy to warrant bringing it, despite the fact that I’ve taken thousands of photos while hiking the PCT. High-quality photos that I am happy to have and proud to put on Overland Undersea. The Sony A7II camera focused very fast on any object I pointed it towards and allowed me to take some great photographs, although wildlife on the PCT was less frequent than I had hoped.
There was one downside to this camera and I’m not sure if it has to do with durability or with a faulty part. About 150 miles into my hike my camera stopped working and it turns out the shutter mechanism broke. Since my camera was still under warranty they were able to fix the camera for free. I received my camera back in Wrightwood (about 350+ miles in) and it worked perfectly for the remainder of my trip, but I did spend a bit of effort keeping the camera clean and out of harms way after that. Time will tell if the durability of this camera lives up to expectations.
Price: $1700. No, the Sony A7II, part of Sony’s new mirrorless camera technology series, is not a simple point and shoot. But this is a camera that goes beyond simply capturing moments, which is what we wanted for our website.
Lens: Sony 35mm FE f/2.8 – $700 (loved)
LOVE. A very lightweight and high quality lens. I took extra sharp photos with this lens and because it was paired with my Sony A7II I could crop photos significantly if I captured something far away with no ability to zoom in on it, with minimal decrease in picture quality. This lens was also perfect for landscape photography giving me just enough wide angle to take great shots. I also think the 35mm is perfect for taking town and hiker photos while hanging out. Some people may be bothered by the f/2.8, but with the stabilization I’m able to take handheld photos with a 1/15 shutter speed.
Lens: DITCHED: Sony 24-240 FE f/3.5-6.3
MEH. This lens was largely a disappointment on the trail. It was so heavy compared to the quality of photos it took, which were . I don’t believe there was a single occasion where I wished I had this lens after I sent it home. If there was wildlife that I wanted to capture, I just photographed it with my 35mm and cropped the photo. The cropped 35mm photos were usually clearer than any photo I took at 200-240mm. In the future I may substitute this lens with a fixed telephoto or macro lens, which would help me capture more distant wildlife on any trail I find myself on in the future.
B+W Circular Polarizers – $50-70 (1.3 stops) (liked)
LIKE. These circular polarizers were great for capturing the real beauty of the wilderness especially in harsh sunlight. They did not seem to add to any haziness or remove clarity from my photos. My only downside with these filters is that I kept forgetting to take them off in towns and at night. They remove 1.3 stops of light from your photos. When shooting indoors that’s the equivalent of taking your shutter speed from 1/100 to 1/50 when you are in a room with dim lighting.
Tripod: SWAPPED: JOBY Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Tripod for Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod
JOBY Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Tripod
MEH. I sent the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Tripod home almost immediately after beginning our hike during the famous Mt. Laguna shakedown. After a couple hundred miles I began to regret not having a tripod and found the Pedco UltraPod online, which weight just x ounces.
Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod
LOVE. This tripod was an excellent choice for the trip as it was lightweight and still able to hold my full frame camera up even with the zoom lens attached. The tripod was easy to use and remains functional to this day. The price and weight make this a go-to accessory for any backpacking trip I venture on in the future.
BOOM Swimmer Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
LOVE. We reasoned before we began the trail that we would eventually get bored on the trail and we would need something to listen to in order to occupy our minds. Nikita is terrified of rattlesnakes so headphones were not an option because it would be too difficult to hear them rattle. We ultimately settled on this speaker and it performed perfectly, letting us listen to podcasts and audiobooks together as we walked.
The sound quality is great even at the high volumes necessary to sustain a hiker trash hotel party! The rechargeable battery would last through an entire day of hiking. The speaker underwent multiple hard shocks with no issue and the waterproofing was helpful on rainy days. The plastic attachment was also perfect for attaching to a loop on one of our backpacks. I have no complaints with this product and plan on taking it to Asia with us.
LOVE. I think most hard core thruhikers would classify a Kindle as an unnecessary luxury item. I sent it back at mile 40, thinking I would never use it, but had it shipped back from home after 300 miles. I read almost every night to help me unwind and fall asleep, and ended up reading for entertainment once I found thruhiking to be a bit lacking in the mental stimulation department. I read almost 8 books over 1,200 miles. The Kindle weighs less or about the same as most books, but can hold hundreds of them.
DITCHED: OMOTON Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard
MEH. The keyboard itself works great and is light enough, but even before I started the trail, I had a feeling I wouldn’t use this that much. Still, I wanted to give myself the benefit of the doubt that I would be somehow productive on the trail. Quite a few hikers write their trail journals at night, some with wireless keyboards, I just wasn’t one of them. I carried this around needlessly until finally leaving it in my bounce box to use in town. I don’t feel too bad about ditching this, because it was so inexpensive.
DeLorme inReach Explorer Satellite Communicator
LIKE. Prior to our trip my mom purchased us the DeLorme inReach Explorer to take with us on our trip. The inReach is designed to communicate via text message to GEOS, a 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center in case of emergency. The inReach is also able to send and receive text messages to email addresses and phone numbers. Prior to purchasing the inReach I read many reviews that complained about the sky visibility needed to send and receive text messages, claiming that only an unobstructed sky will do. We did not experience this on our long distance hike and were able to send and receive text messages under dense tree cover. The inReach sometimes took a long time to send a message inside of our tent or under a heavy canopy, but it always worked when we pointed it towards the sky. The inReach does need to be outdoors to function, but why would you ever use it indoors?
The battery life felt less than advertised, but we noticed that there was substantial drain on the battery when we left the inReach in our tent at night (I’m assuming because of the tent barrier between the inReach and the sky). The inReach battery would last for 5 days of hiking provided that I turned it off at night and used it only once or twice a day to send a message.
The Explorer version of the inReach is $80 more expensive than the basic SE version and comes with features that allow you to navigate your surroundings. We did not use any of these features on the PCT because we had all the navigation tools we needed from the Halfmile and Guthook apps on our iPhones. The inReach interface is clunky and we found that using the iPhone was much easier for navigation and had no signal issues.
Overall the inReach performed as expected, but if you are taking an iPhone with offline maps then you probably do not need the Explorer edition.
Price: $380 (DeLorme inReach SE – $300)
External Battery: RAVPower 3rd Gen Deluxe 15000mAh External Battery
LOVE. The number of times that this battery was able to charge a gadget fell in line with what is advertised, frequently not the case with external batteries. This was the only battery we needed on the trail to keep our DeLorme inReach, iPhones, BOOM Swimmer, camera, and Kindles charged while on trail. We were heavy users of technology on the trail and this battery would keep everything on trail charged for 6-7 days provided that we started the hike with fully charged gadgets.
Solar Charger: DITCHED. RAVPower 9W Solar Charger – ~$40 (hated)
HATE. Many PCT blogs mentioned ditching solar charges during the hike, all for similar reasons. For whatever reason, we declined to take this advice, thinking things would work differently for us. We ditched this solar charger within 250 miles for three reasons:
1. The external battery provided sufficient energy
2. the solar charger was heavy, weighing over 1 pound
3. the solar charger barely functioned as we’d hoped
What we learned very quickly on the trail was that all solar chargers are not created equal. Some solar chargers will automatically reset charging your gadgets if there is cloud cover or if you are walking through shady spots. Other chargers will completely stop charging your gadget until you are in sufficient sun again and you must unplug and replug your gadget back into the solar panel. So basically if you are not walking in a straight line in full sunlight the solar panel will cease to be in any way useful if you are trying to charge on the go. This was the problem with the RAVPower charger. We were never sitting around in the sun long enough to charge anything and when we were on the move the solar panel was useless.
*Looks like this item has been discontinued.
All apps we used were for the iPhone.
The iPhone already comes with iTunes and a native Podcast app. Of course we used iTunes frequently to listen to music, but also the Podcast app to download a variety of free podcasts to listen to while hiking.
Photos and Blogging
Unsurprisingly, we used our phones to keep up with media for the blog. Besides the obvious Instagram app, here are some additional apps we used for media and photography.
WordPress iPhone App
HATE. WordPress software is usually so reliable, but this app was completely useless. In between locking up constantly and going from glitching to lagging, I couldn’t type or edit without frustration and wasn’t able to tell if my work was saved or not (it usually wasn’t). I had to stick with typing out posts on the Notes app, and then uploading the final draft to a post on the actual WordPress site.
LOVE. This is a free app that allows you to upload photos from your Sony camera to another gadget that can connect to the camera via wifi, like the iPhone. With PlayMemories we could take great photos with our Sony A7II and upload them to Instagram in only a couple of minutes. The app worked perfectly every time we used it.
LIKE. This is a simple photo editing app helps you manipulate any photo loaded on your iPhone. The app provided all the basic functionality we needed to make edits to photos we uploaded to the internet the fly. It was easy and intuitive to use from the moment that we downloaded it.
LIKE. Pic Collage does exactly what it sounds like: creates collages of your photos. There’s a free version that prints a watermark on any collage you create with this app so we spent the $1 for the full version. This app was intuitive to use and we had good results with it.
When it comes to navigation on the Pacific Crest Trail, the iPhone is an indispensable tool. On trail navigation is accomplished through the use of GPS, which does not require cell phone service, and the interface of a variety of map and navigation apps. The iPhone can already do so much, and it makes your PCT experience that much smoother and easier.
MEH. This app was very clunky and not easy to use. The only benefit we had from this app was being able to type out messages on our iPhone that we sent through our DeLorme instead of having to very slowly type out a message on the satellite phone.
Price: Free with DeLorme
LOVE. You could hike the entire trail just using Halfmile as your primarily source of information, filling in the blanks from your fellow hikers. This app cannot be beat for the price and the fact that Halfmile makes it available for free is pretty astounding. Halfmile is used by the majority of hikers on the trail and it is an absolute daily thruhiking essential.
LOVE. Guthook’s PCT guide was a great addition to the free Halfmile app. Although you could hike the entire PCT with just Halfmile there were some things that Guthook provided that we really appreciated, mostly the elevation profile.
The price is also very reasonable considering you will use it every day for the next 4 to 5 months of your life. In terms of miles and waypoints, Guthook provided additional information on water sources and campsites than what is found on Halfmile, but it did seem like there was the occasional error. The elevation maps were not always 100% accurate (more like 99.5% accurate), but they were good enough and an indispensable tool. The ability to download offline maps and the additional information on each trail town were also extremely helpful. The comments that anyone could provide for each waypoint and landmark were also very helpful especially when it came to where to stay and what to eat in trail towns. Comments as to the availability of water at certain points on the trail were also helpful and kept you from carrying more water than necessary in certain sections.
Price: $6, for each section
LIKE. maps.me is an app that downloads and stores offline open source maps. The offline maps are no where near as good as Google Maps, but you can search for and navigate to landmarks, restaurants, gas stations etc. A lot of hiking trails are also on the maps. The app also allows you to pin locations and save them. While maps.me is unhelpful for backcountry use like the PCT, but it’s helpful for getting around towns and planning out routes to take on highways when internet is not available.
I am happy I have this app and plan on using it on our adventures outside of the United States since maps are available for every single country. I will probably search for a better option with more functionality and better maps prior to setting off, but this app should be sufficient if nothing better can be found.
So here it is, our full, updated gear review. We’re exhausted, but you don’t have to be! Let us know if you have any questions about the items and apps listed here in the comments section, please!