GEAR UP: 10 Must-Haves for PCT Hikers
As I’ve been traveling around the Northwest presenting my new guidebook, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon, one of the most common questions I’m asked is what kind of gear I recommend for the PCT. I usually preface my responses with the fact that I am not an ultraliter or minimalist. I don’t mind indulging in a few creature comforts or extra accessories to improve my experience on trail—even if it means adding an extra pound or two. Here are 10 gear items currently in my pack that I like to suggest for increased safety, convenience and/or comfort on trail.
Tenacious Tape is like duct tape on steroids. This super-adhesive tape adheres to any surface and is ideal for semi-permanent repairs to just about anything. Patch a pinhole on a leaky sleeping pad, fix a tear on a tent fly or rain jacket, or reattach a split boot sole. I keep a pack of mini-patches in my Ten Essentials kit, and a few larger patches in my first-aid kit. That way, I’m prepared to handle small and large repairs on trail as needed. Available in clear, black and reflective. $3–$5
I’m a bit of a stickler for keeping my gear organized, as I like to know where everything is and have quick and easy access to whatever I may need on trail or in camp. That’s why I love the Gobi Gear SegSac. This ultralight stuff sack has internal dividers that let me keep my apparel essentials neatly organized. It’s especially nice to keep dirty, smelly items separated from clean items. Is it frivolous? Yeah—but I like it! $22–$26
I’m pretty slow-going in the morning until I get my morning dose of Stumptown. Now I can get my fix with the X-Brew Coffee Dripper—and it’s just as good as making it at home. This lightweight (2.9 ounces), collapsible coffee filter has a micro-mesh strainer for smooth, delicious java without the need for paper filter inserts. Best of all, it’s compatible with a variety of cups and bottles—no pot or kettle required. $18
If I don’t sleep well, then I don’t hike well. This is where I indulge a little by carrying a portable pillow instead of wadding up my puffy jacket. My pillow of choice is the NEMO Fillo Elite. This delightfully comfortable pillow packs down to about the size of a tennis ball, and weighs less than 3 ounces. When a good night’s sleep is this packable and portable, there’s no excuse not to enjoy an extra creature comfort. $40
This one’s a no-brainer. Over the years of my hiking career, I’ve been stung, bitten, burned, scraped, cut, poked, sick and strained, and every time I’ve been able to attend to these incidents because I carry a first aid kit—with more than bandages. The Adventure Medical Hiker Kit is a good start. Add in personal items like allergy medications, insect repellent wipes, pain relievers, digestive aids and extra moleskin and bandages. $25
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Bear canisters are not required in Oregon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of critters who would love to get into your food supply. Certified bearproof, the 650-cubic-inch Ursack AllWhite S29.3 weighs just 7.8 ounces and can hold 5–6 days of food, and makes food storage practically effortless. Just tie off the top with the included high-tensile cord, hang or stash away, and rest easy knowing your food is safe and sound. Also available in 925-cubic-inch Major S29.3. $80–$95
This was one of my top picks for last year’s holiday guide, and it’s still one of my favorite new backpacking items. Filtering water with the Trail Shot is a breeze. The small intake valve lets you take advantage of the smallest springs to easily fill your bottles and bladders—no clunky attachments required. Plus, with its compact size and light weight (5.2 ounces), I can stash it in any pocket for quick access when I need it. $50
Confession: mosquitoes make me lose my sh-t. And mosquitoes in Oregon’s moist forests and lake basins in early summer can be especially aggravating. Because of this, I’m taking extra measures to repel the little buggers—without resorting to sticky repellents. One of my favorite items for this is the affordable Bugs Away Bandana. It makes a great scarf, do-rag or head covering that keeps the blood-suckers away. $18
Looking and smelling offensive is not a requirement for hiking the PCT. This lightweight (less than 5 ounces) trail washing machine is perfect for keeping shirts, socks and underwear fresh and clean. Just fill the Scrubba Wash Bag with water, squirt in some soap, roll up the top and shake for a few minutes. Repeat with no soap to rinse.† It’s also versatile as a drybag for your clothing, tent or sleeping bag. $55
After a few days on trail, I’m pretty sick of GORP and energy bars, so I make sure to add some variety to my trail snack menu. Some of my favorite new items come from Alpine Aire’s new snack selections. Their freeze-dried grapes are crunchy, sweet and delicious. They also have two new snack mixes: Mango Fire, with spicy chunks of chewy mango, and Toffee Break, with nuts, toffee, chocolate, peanut butter and caramel—yum! $6–$9
*While certified bearproof and approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, the Ursack is not approved for use on many portions of the PCT/JMT in California, including Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Lassen national parks, in addition to the Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness areas. These areas require hard-sided bear canisters.
†When washing your clothes in the backcountry, please exercise Leave No Trace practices by keeping soaps and cleansers—even biodegradable ones—out of lakes and streams. When dumping dirty wash water, please scatter it at least 200 feet from trails, camps and water sources.