View Full Version : Clothing and Filters

11-24-2008, 20:19
I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what clothing I need for a PCT thru. I mean, the desert is obviously pretty hot, but it also gets cold at night right? In the Serrias there is snow everywhere, but apparently it is not that cold during the day.

For northern california and Oregon I believe I'm pretty set...supposed to be warm/hot by then?

Washington I know can go either way..if you get there too late it's going to be darn cold and snowy.

1. I'd love to know what you guys took clothing wise for the desert and serrias.

2. Is a water filter a good idea or would chemicals be fine?


11-24-2008, 20:26
1. I'd love to know what you guys took clothing wise for the desert and serrias.

2. Is a water filter a good idea or would chemicals be fine?


Desert clothes: Marmot driclime, emergency poncho, botton down poly long sleeve shirt, running socks, 1 pair long johns (forgot to mail them ahead), balaclava

Sierras: Added precip, seal skin socks, 1 pair of wool socks, wool gloves, gaitors, and a 100wt fleece jacket.

FWIW, I had to get off before KM, but spent a week in the Yosemite high country. It never got cold enough that my dri-clime didn't keep me warm, so I'm fairly certain that the fleece/driclime combo would have worked.

Water: I prefer Aqua Mira, I've had a filter park break in the field and contaiminant the setup, chemicals are lighter and more failsafe in my opinion. However, some people do like their gravity filters.

11-24-2008, 21:05
Chemical treatments - iodine, Aqua Mira, etc. - do nothing for the color or taste of the water; they just kill the "bugs". A filter or purifier can mitigate but not totally remove color, odor, and taste elements. A bandana or coffee filter makes a good screening tool to take the "floaties" out of the water you're going to treat.

Mechanical and gravity filters have a nasty habit of plugging at inconvenient times. Many are not field-cleanable. On the Tahoe Rim Trail, I watched 6 new filters from 4 different manufacturers all blind completely in less than a minute while taking water from what looked like a pristine stream. The water was crystal-clear but was loaded with "rock or glacial flour" - very fine grit common in high mountain streams. They also have parts that can break or get misplaced.

I too prefer AquaMira (NOTE that by law you can not buy it in CA so bring it with you and ship more in the appropriate re-supply box), but would also carry a filter from Campo to at least Mojave. Some of the water sources between Campo and Mojave are reportedly highly contaminated and/or just plain gross. I'd use the AM routinely, the filter if it looked suspicious, and both if it's really gross. Filter first then add the AquaMira just for safety's sake.

There are some water sources which are adviseable to skip entirely. The horse bridge crossing of the Kern River north of Kennedy Meadows has long been linked to hiker illnesses. Swallows under the bridge and lots of free-range cattle grazing up-stream in the valleys. I carried both AM and a filter from Mojave to Cottonwood Pass.

11-24-2008, 22:59
The water quality on the PCT is pretty high and you don't have a lot of places where you have truly disgusting water. Personally, I would go with PolarPur (iodine crystals). Very cheap and long lasting. This is what I took on the PCT in 2003, though I drank straight a lot as well. I used the ULA H20 Amigo on the PNT this summer because I knew that I'd have to drink cowass water frequently. This is a gravity filter that weighs about 8 oz. I liked it a lot and have some more words to say about it at


For clothing, take a look at my PCT gear list from 2003:


Basically, long pants, long sleeve shirt, big hat for SoCal. Include warm hat, gloves, thermal underwear, and an insulation layer because it gets really cold in the desert at night. For the Sierra, this was my same gear and there was nothing to swap out. If I did it again, I'd do it the same, though now I have a warmer primary insulation layer (a down jacket vs primaloft pull over). I might change into slightly heavier, warmer when wet pants, but this isn't really needed.

Lastly, don't skimp on cold weather gear in SoCal or the Sierra. I would err on the side of precaution until you clear South Lake Tahoe or so. Being cold is miserable, especially for a sissy, fair-weather hiker like me.

11-25-2008, 15:45
Iodine for water treatment.

It is high desert, so I did take some warmer gear.

Pretty much this list:


My PCT 2002 gear was slightly different, but very similar.

11-25-2008, 16:25
This is awesome. Thanks.

I'm sure I'll have plenty more questions later.:)

11-25-2008, 19:10
You will be fine in Oregon for clothes, but if you hit Washington after Labor Day be prepared. Even then, still be prepared once you get to the Goat Rocks. This year it snowed for the week of Labor Day and was miserably cold on August 31st. Rain gear and insulation is important in Wa.

11-28-2008, 23:52
The deserts can be really hot during the day (90s to 100s)and then at night can drop below freezing due to the low humidity levels. This isn't even the mountains where the temperatures can be even colder. You will encounter high winds as well.

Last year in late May, it snowed hard for more then 2 days while many were crossing the San Gabriel Mountains. SoCal isn't all desert. You cross some significant mountain ranges which have peaks over 10,000ft and the trail itself climbs to more then 9000ft elevation. As a long time resident of the area, I can tell you that spring snow isn't unusual as an April and May storm or two are always a good possibility.

However, in many years, people have nothing but warm weather and pass through SoCal without any trouble and they then tell everyone how easy it is and to leave the warmer gear at home; bad advice. My advice, carry some sort of rain gear and be prepared for below freezing temperatures while hiking. Everytime we get a big spring storm, there are always some PCT hikers who mailed ahead their rain gear and some don't even have a tarp for shelter since it "never" rains/snows.

I'm planning on hiking next year and will be starting earlier then most. I'm taking a Rail Riders Adventure Top (long sleeve shirt with mesh) that vents really well but protects against the sun and Long pants, a wide brim hat (Tilleys' Airflow LTM6), Lightweight long underwear, Fleece Balaclava and waterproof mits, Golite Wind Pants and a rain jacket. I'll also add my 2.5oz windshirt(no hood) and my MontBell UL Inner Down Jacket (<7oz).

I've done enough gear testing this past year in a variety of conditions to know that I can survive hiking in snow at 24F temperatures with 50mph gusts (adding significant wind chill) with the above gear so I'm not likely to change anything at this point. However, your mileage may vary so test your gear out first in conditions you think you may encounter. Nothing worse then trying your gear for the first time you need it and finding it inadequate for the job.

For the High Sierras, I'll change the wind pants for real rain pants but thats about it. Any more is not likely to be needed if the weather is typical, but a late season snow storm (I've been snowed on in the Sierras as late as early July) may require just a little more then I'd normally carry since you are several days from a TH so I may increase the insulation just a little more. I have hiked in the Sierras in May and June before, but there is a difference when you are only going out for 2-3 days and can check the weather ahead of time and going out for almost 2 weeks.

12-05-2008, 06:17
2. Is a water filter a good idea or would chemicals be fine?

Depends on what you're happy with. I took a water filter plus some iodine tabs as back up. I filtered or treated my water pretty much all the way through, mainly because I didn't want to take the chance of a bug taking me out of the equasion before I made it. I didn't want to drink chemicals for that period of time, so I took a filter. Used the tabs only occasionally when it was too much hassle to filter, or in one instance when the water was pretty suspect so I used a combination of filter and tabs.
So if you don't mind the chemicals, then they are the lighter option, but for that length of time I'd personally take a filter.

Erik The Black
12-20-2008, 14:48
In southern California a filter is a pretty good idea because some water sources can be kind of nasty. I used a Sawyer inline filter (http://www.rei.com/product/778041) in SoCal. It only weighs about 2 ounces and goes in your drinking tube so you don't have to worry about lugging a big heavy pump filter and spending time pumping (which is no big deal when you only need a liter or two but imagine pumping 2 gallons for some of those long waterless stretches!)

By the time I got to Kennedy meadows the Sawyer filter was hopelessly clogged (there is supposed to be a way to back-flush them which I never figured out) but by that time I didn't really need a filter anymore. I just tossed it and started carrying the MSR Sweetwater Drops (http://www.rei.com/product/671113).

I've heard that those Sweetwater drops aren't supposed to be used as a standalone water purification method and they are supposed to be used after filtering, but I know a lot of hikers, including myself, who used them as our only line of defense. They are easier than Aqua Mira because you don't have to mix drops and also Aqua Mira is illegal (or at least really hard to find) in California.

I have to admit. I didn't treat 50% of the water I drank on the PCT at all. If it was coming from a nice mountain stream I just drank it, and I know a lot of other hikers who did too. But I also know quite a few who got Giardia. So you'll decide when you get out there what kind of risks your willing to take.

But to sum it up: Filter in Socal and Chemicals the rest of the way and you should be fine, and it won't weigh more than a couple of ounces.