View Full Version : Gear List Shakedown

11-09-2009, 00:13
Hey everyone, I thru hiked the AT in '08, trail name Marathon, and now my fiance and I have decided to give the PCT a shot next year. I am looking for some gear advice, or advice in general on making the transition out west.

The biggest challenges seem to be adapting to the desert and the high Alpine. I have some experience up high but haven't done much hiking without water. Any thoughts by anyone who has done the PCT would much appreciated.

I posted my gear list on my website and would love get any feedback you guys might have.


Thanks a ton in advance.

Matt Abbotts
ASuperiorAdventure.com (http://www.asuperioradventure.com)

Jack Tarlin
11-09-2009, 00:33

You might wanna run your list by Jester2000 who posts here. He recently hiked the PCT plus he runs an Outfitter shop so I'll bet he has all sorts of ideas for you.

11-09-2009, 00:40
Said it before, will say it again. The most helpful aid in managing your water on the PCT, especially in the desert, is to get up to date water reports put out regularly by the PCT during typical PCT thru-hiker season. You can also get them at the PCT Kickoff. With the water reports also get snow reports. They will help you immensely!

The PCTA has a lot of free info about preparing for the the PCT and what to expect where. You will also find decent prep material in the PCT Trail Description Books which you should have anyway.

11-09-2009, 11:23
Looked for your gear list. Didn't find it. How about cross posting here if you want comments.

11-09-2009, 12:09
The link didn't work for some reason. It should be up now if you want to check it out:

Gear List (http://www.asuperioradventure.com/superioradven/?p=206)

or you can see the google doc:

HERE (http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ArkqMV4fqPaTdDZlcl85UGxRc1U4bkFYUFl0TnpLN Wc&hl=en)

Again sorry about this and thanks again for any advice.

ASuperiorAdventure.com (http://asuperioradventure.com)

11-10-2009, 10:36
Might want to repost this in PCT forum.

11-10-2009, 11:31
Said it before, will say it again. The most helpful aid in managing your water on the PCT, especially in the desert, is to get up to date water reports put out regularly by the PCT....

True, but I think he meant how to manage water as you hike, not where to actually get it.

And that is an excellent question. I hiked the PCT before I hiked the AT, learned tons about water management in the desert, and was really surprised at how much water I saw the typical AT hiker carry. I met at least one person who would filter three liters (of excellent spring water, usually) in the morning, every morning, and carry it for the day, no matter she was walking past excellent water sources literally all day. That's about seven pounds of excess weight. My whole base weight was little more than that. Conversely, I remember dumping a liter of extra water before an AT climb, knowing there was a good spring a mile or two away at a shelter. Another hiker saw that, and you would have thought I was dumping fine liquor by the reaction. But I lowered my pack weight by well over 10%, and it makes a difference.

In the beginning desert stretch of the PCT, I would often carry up to seven liters of water for a 30-mile dry stretch. That's murder. About 1000 miles later, on the Hat Creek Rim, a 35-mile dry stretch, I did very well with only four liters, much more manageable. Up in Oregon, where several water sources are a bit off trail, I would carry a little extra water to avoid the side trip. I learned in that terrain and that weather I could hike 10 miles on one liter, not counting camping.

I wish there was one formula that works for everyone, but there isn't. Runners (I assume you are one, given your trail name) generally drink less than hikers. You'll need to find what works for you in dry country. You need to not be too afraid of getting a little thirsty. It's really OK to have slightly yellow pee once in a while, contrary to what the fitness people tell us. Generally, you want to sip small amounts at a set interval, say two ounces every 15 minutes, to avoid getting really thirsty. You need to hyper-hydrate at good sources, too.

Your gear list looks fine from an overall viewpoint. It's certainly a typical total weight for the PCT. You'll figure out the fine details as you hike.

I think you were a couple of weeks ahead of me on the AT last year. If so, you were the only person I couldn't catch up with! I started April 4 and finished July 16. I heard a lot of slow hikers talking about the crazy guy going fast, and how he'd never finish at that pace. Congratulations, and good luck on the PCT.

11-10-2009, 22:29
Garlic. Thanks for the advice. If you finished on the 16 I would have been 10 days ahead of you on Springer. I started on March 24th and no one caught me the whole way North. It's funny to hear that people were talking about me after I passed. I never really hiked that fast, just put in long days for big miles.

Matt Abbotts
www.ASuperioradventure.com (http://asuperioradventure.com)

11-10-2009, 22:32
Sorry, I meant 10 days ahead of you on Katahdin, but I guess I was 10 days earlier than you on Springer too. It would be interesting to see how close we came to running into each other.

Matt Abbotts
www.ASuperiorAdventure.com (http://www.ASuperiorAdventure.com)

11-10-2009, 23:22
True, but I think he meant how to manage water as you hike, not where to actually get it.

I must be having a brain fart garlic08. Maybe, I'm not seeing something you are, but I would think managing water as you hike is directly effected by where you are capable of finding it?

Mattabbotts, that looks like a well thought out PCT thru-hiking gear list. Are you planning on using Vasque Mercury shoes the whole way? One thing that really stands out in my mind though - that .72 oz. nailclipper - it's a back breaker - ditch it and buy a new one in town every 3 wks or so or just discretely drop it in your girlfriemd's pack! Have a good time!

11-13-2009, 01:10
Yeah, the water report is integral to managing your water. The report will tell you if a source is dry (or you might be able to guess if it will be dry by the time you encounter it) and it will often give you good directions on how to find the water if it isn't right on the trail. If you know a water source is dry, then you know you need to really tank up at the source before.

Managing water on the PCT is something you can do. Like Garlic said, don't worry about being a little thirsty. You'll survive.

Try not to drink too much water. This can be almost worse than not drinking enough. Eat salty food so you don't get to the point where you can't quench your thirst. (Hyponatremia). This will help you manage your water.

I believe people should avoid gatorade or similar sugary drinks. If you really want a hydration drink, get a higher-tech one that isn't too sweet or just make some crystal light and dump a pinch of lite salt in it. I think too much sugar makes it harder to get hydrated.

Drink your fill at the source. Carry drink mixes to make it easy to drink a whole liter of water at the source. With a liter in your belly you can go with that much less on your back. But don't drink only sweet drink mixes. Plain water is best with a sweet drink as an extra.

When water is hard to find, you might consider carrying food that doesn't take a lot of water to prepare. You'll likely be dry-camping so you might prefer food that doesn't require more than 2 cups of water to perpare.

You'll learn a lot about water management in Southern California. You'll be surprised when you get to Oregon and have to rely on that knowledge. Same goes for the last few days in Washington. But you'll laugh at yourself worrying over 13 mile stretches without water when in So Cal you got used to 20 miles or more between water.

Remember, 20 miles is a day or less of hiking. Don't burden yourself carrying too much water. Carry what you need to get to the next source and no more. And even the 35 mile stretch above Tehachapi has water off the trail in two places if your desperate, not to mention the two water caches (which you ought not to rely on but may be there to help you.)

11-13-2009, 10:59
I'm in the opposite situation --- did the PCT in '08, planning for the AT in '10. One nice thing about the PCT is that for most of the trail it rarely rains on you ...

+1 to Asabat's water report; of various pieces of trail data paper I carried for the first 700 miles, that was the most often referenced. Print a copy just before leaving or get one at the kickoff (ADZPCTKO), perhaps find an internet connection some 300 - 400 miles along the trail and pencil in updates. Or in your case, download the webpage onto your iPhone periodically --- best cellphone coverage on the PCT is in SoCal (see halfmile's data on where you can get cell coverage). I did this and found it comforting to have most-recent water data along with me. It sucks to carry multiple liters of water that it turns out you didn't need to lug along on a hot day.

Some people will suggest that a platypus is a bad thing to carry in SoCal, opining that they often end up with leaks due to various pokey things, needles, etc. My guess is that much of this is based on people carrying them externally so they're exposed when walking through brush, throwing the pack down, etc. I carried mine inside the pack and never had a problem. Collapsable water bladders of whatever brand are quite light and make it easy to have substantial water carrying capacity; I suggest something like 8 liters worth of capacity in SoCal. Unless a particularly dry year hopefully you'll rarely and perhaps never be carrying that much, though a related issue is your personal stance on using water caches.

I suggest you either "hang out" on the PCT discussion list (http://mailman.backcountry.net/mailman/listinfo/pct-l), or just go in periodically and peruse the archives.

Your gear list in general: you've done a long trail so you're not likely to be too far off (!), though less outfitters near the PCT to adjust that way as you go. I did the first 700 miles of the PCT with no tent, just a poncho I could pitch as a tarp and a really light bivy, and hardly used either of those --- I'd go that route again with a late April NOBO start. Something like the Gatewood Cape might be ideal, and maybe add the associated bug net tent after Kennedy Meadows. I expect it could be hard to feel secure about rain after the AT, but it really doesn't rain much until you get into WA in a normal year, and sometimes not much there. Not even much dew fall in much of California, just cowbow camp a lot --- very nice. Bottom line is that a double wall tent isn't needed, except perhaps as a nice-to-have then in WA state.

I liked having a 20 degree sleeping bag until I finished the Sierras and was happy with a 32 degree bag for the rest of the trip; my major gear swap points where Kennedy Meadows at the start of the Sierras and Sonora Pass at the end, though in my year most of us mailed some stuff home (ice axe, some extra warm clothes) earlier once we saw the actual conditions.

I would ditch the rain pants --- I just don't think you'll use them, or at least, I didn't.

Definitely get Yogi's book, carry the relevant "take these along" pages from that along with your data pages. Up to you about carrying maps, but I suggest some sort of map, perhaps just what can be loaded onto your iPhone, depending on what resolution that is. It's possible to lose the trail under snow or going around blowdowns or when cairns aren't visible or missing, or when lots of local trails criss-cross the PCT, etc, so you might also play with the GPS on your iPhone, depending on which version of iPhone you have.

The PCT Faq (http://postholer.com/faq.php) is starting to grow to be big/complete enough to be worth looking at.

Best of luck!

neighbor dave
11-13-2009, 11:05
don't worry about the water.
general guide= 1 liter-5 miles

11-14-2009, 10:16
Thanks for all the info everyone. Being from Upper Michigan on the shores of the largest body of fresh water in the world it is tough for me to imagine going 30 miles without running into a water source. You can't go that far without hitting a lake around here. It sounds like I will be able to handle it though. I am capable of big mileage days and my pack should be pretty light.

Is it really unnecessary to bring rain gear? I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. On the AT it rained like 80% of the time and on my kayak circumnavigation of Lake Superior last summer we rarely saw a day without at least a little precipitation. How often can I actually expect rain? Even in a wet year is it pretty infrequent?

Matt Abbotts
www.ASuperiorAdventure.com (http://asuperioradventure.com)

11-14-2009, 19:07
To be clear, I didn't suggest that it's unnecessary to bring raingear --- just that it very infrequently rains. My understanding is that you can get gullywashers in SoCal (that song about it never raining in SoCal is apparantly not to be taken literally ...).
My approach was to combined rarely needed raingear with rarely needed overhead shelter at night in a single item (poncho), relying also on the fact that there are few bugs in SoCal. I had two (non-adjacent) nights I was hassled by bugs. I brought a very light water resistant (not "proof") bivy as insurance, and used it I think one night to keep the bugs off my face. I think I put the poncho up as a shelter once and got a few drops on it. I did get my bag somewhat damp once from camping close to a creek (normally there's no condensation). Being SoCal, even if you do get your bag wet, it's easier to dry things out there.

So do bring some sort of rain gear (and note that wind can be somewhat fierce sometimes too), but don't allocate a ton of weight to this if you can avoid it. Ditto shelter --- it certainly could rain (hard) on you at night, it's just that it rarely does at that time of year.

I should also mention that last year was my one and only time walking through that area --- folks who hike more frequently in the area can perhaps give a better sense for the range of conditions that different years can offer.

11-14-2009, 20:37
Metabbotts, working off what BrianLe and what some other posters here have alluded to about gearing up for the PCT, you may want too look at a thread discussing wind/rain jackets titled MontBell U-L wind parka started by Atbound recently.

11-14-2009, 20:44
I picked up rain paints in Oregon and they may have saved my life in Washington. Late August in WA there was a five-day storm, windy and cold, that was the nearest to physical danger I've ever come in my life. 40 degrees and windy, non-stop rain for days, the worst combination for hypothermia. I had a good rain jacket, and wish I had a better one then. Based on my experience, bring the best rain gear you can get hold of for the Cascades.

I carried a rain coat the whole way. It was my wind protection, too. It only weighed 7 oz (Marmot Essence).

11-14-2009, 21:11
Dogwood, thanks for the heads up on the Montbell Wind Parka thread. That is a big point of contention on my list. I hear it doesn't rain that much and might just try the windshirt.

I think I might use the rainpants for windprotection and to wear when I am doing laundry. I used the same plan on the AT and it worked fine but I am looking for a lighter system.

Matt Abbotts
www.ASuperiorAdventure.com (http://asuperioradventure.com)

12-13-2009, 12:57
I moved some stuff on our website so the links above don't work anymore. I noticed I people were still checking it out so I figured I would post the new location. Again thanks for all of the advice and any more you have would be helpful.


12-15-2009, 10:27
first 90 days on the trail - I didn't experience any rain.
Slept out under the stars for the most part thru the first 700 miles.
In the Sierras - I used a tent more for the bugs then anything else.
During the dry desert sections - I carried water in my hand. Used one of the multi - liter msr bags. My buddy used a typical plastic 1 gallon water jug.
Milage is much bigger out west. 20s are nothing and my biggest day was a 35 with very little effort and it was still light out at the end of the day.
I felt logistically the PCT required more thought and planning on trail then the AT, but the actual hiking was a lot easier.

12-15-2009, 11:05
A good start. Here are some random thoughts:

- Use a trash compactor bag instead of a regular garbage bag. Compactor bags are much stronger--my first one lasted over 1000 miles.
- Definitely bring a pack cover or compactor bag in southern CA. It can rain down there!
- You may not need rain pants in the Sierras. We had one of the coldest and wettest Junes ever in '09, and I was fine in my nylon hiking pants. I didn't pick up (or need) rain pants until Cascade Locks.
- I would bring a rain jacket and a windshirt in southern CA. It will get cold, windy, and wet before the Sierras.
- Don't bother with a bear rope. I used a canister in the Sierras and slept with my food everywhere else. No problems.
- Other things missing: compass (full disclosure: I only used mine once on the whole trip, but if you get lost, you won't regret it), spare light (a photon light weighs well under an ounce), sunscreen, lip balm, gaiters (unless you're okay with having to dump rocks out of your shoes every hour or two), mosquito head netting, DEET, hand sanitizer, spare matches, body glide (for blisters/chaffing).