10 Must-Haves for PCT Hikers

It’s that time of year again. Time for holiday shopping and wish list making. Whether you have an aspiring PCT hiker on your shopping list—or you’re the aspiring PCT hiker—here are ten hand-picked, trail-tested gear items selected for improving the long-distance hiking experience. Each of these items were selected for their usefulness on trail and in camp for adding a little extra comfort and convenience. Treat the hiker you know—or yourself—to one (or more) of these great gear items and get ready for all your 2018 trail adventures.

Whether you’re planning a weekend, section- or thru-hike, Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon will provide you with all the info you need. This comprehensive guide is full of trail data, topo maps, elevation profiles, historical info, regional resources and tons of color photos to get you amped for your own PCT journey. Go even farther with the guides for WashingtonSouthern California and Northern California.

What goes in your boots (besides your feet) is just as important as your boots themselves. This can be a painful lesson to learn on trail. Balega Blister-Resist Socks are woven with a blend of mohair and Drynamix fibers that wick away moisture to keep feet cool, dry and comfy. They also feature a seamless toe to avoid friction spots and a deep heel pocket to keep them in place over long distances.

PRICE: $13–18

At just 15 ounces for the pair, Cnoc’s Vertex Carbon Trekking Poles are super-lightweight and super-sturdy on the steep grades—and can easily support some heavy leaning. Folded up and stowed, they’re super-small and can be stashed away in a pack pocket. What we really like is that they’re made by a local Portland company that strives to keep their gear simple, functional and affordable—all nice!

We like being comfy on trail. That’s why we never hike without our Chair Zero. Weighing in at a single pound, this compact, ultralight camp chair sets up in just seconds. No more searching for rocks and stumps, this little chair provides a comfy seat anywhere on trail and in camp. We use ours for lunch breaks on trail, kicking back at viewpoints, and cooking and relaxing in camp. We can’t recommend this item enough!

PRICE: $120

There’s nothing quite as refreshing on a hot summer day on trail as a big drink of icy-cold mountain stream water. But fill a regular bottle with icy-cold water and it doesn’t stay icy-cold for long—and drinking tepid water is just not quite as refreshing. That’s why we carry this 20-oz. Insulated Bottle. Sure it weighs a few ounces more than a regular bottle, but it keeps our water icy-cold and refreshing for more than eight hours!

Yeah, it may seem a bit foofy, but when slogging across mile after mile of scorching desert and lava beds where shade is scarce, it’s nice to carry some of your own. The Sun Block Umbrella features a UPF-50 silver exterior that reflects sun and heat, while the black interior material keeps things cool underneath. Weighing just 6 ounces, it’s a small concession for what can be a big reprieve from the sweltering summer sun.

The Noctilight is a small, 3-ounce headlamp case that converts your headlamp into a tabletop or hangable lantern that provides nice, diffused lighting for camp and in tents. It’s also a convenient little container to store your headlamp when not in use. It works best with several Petzl headlamps, but is also compatible with some Black Diamond and Princeton Tec models.

Okay dudes, this one is just for you. Hiking long distances in the same underwear can be pretty rough on the junk. Especially when it gets sweaty down there and chafing becomes an issue. Take care of your tenders in the high-performance Quest 2.0 Boxer. They’re made of lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking mesh fabric to keep things cool and funk-free, and feature Saxx’ patented BallPark Pouch. Best. Underwear. Ever!

For section-hiking, thru-hiking or basecamping, packing along the Ultra-Sil Daypack is super-convenient for side trips and trail errands. Use it to fetch water away from camp, bagging off-trail peaks, or just packing your lunch and heading for a nearby viewpoint. Stuffed, it’s smaller than a tennis ball, and weighs less than 3 ounces. It also serves as a convenient stuff sack for spare clothing and sleeping bags.  

We call our All-Season Blanket our 11th Essential: tent footprint, rain fly, rain tarp, pack cover, sun shade, blizzard shelter, gear cover, poncho, insulated wrap, picnic blanket, seat pad and more. The uses for this thing are practically endless—including as a heat-reflective emergency blanket. It weighs just 12 ounces and folds nice and neat into a little roll. With so much versatility, this item is a no-brainer.

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