IMG_1044My PCT gear review is an honest report on how I thought my gear performed while hiking the PCT.

PCT Gear Review

Shelter – PCT Gear Review

Tent – Big Agnes – Fly Creek Ul 2P1050 Gram – I started with this tent but I’ve never really liked the tunnel tent. Its light, simple to erect and was one of the most popular tents on the PCT. Great tent for most people but just not for me. Would be a great lightweight option for couples. The Fly Creek 2 Person Platinum version is even lighter, but more expensive!

Tent – Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL 2 Person TENT– 1417 Grams – Pros – I love the side entry, great for comfortable camping (hiking the PCT is not a camping trip) and cooking while in the tent when the weather is bad. Stable in bad weather, double wall and very waterproof. Would be ideal for 2 hikers as a couple. Cons –  Too heavy for 1 person thru hiking.

If I hiked the PCT again – I like the Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL 2 Person TENT, but I would take a lighter tent with the following specs, less than 1kg (1000grams), side entry, double walled. My next tent will be a Nemo Hornet 1P Tent at 910grams.

Pack – PCT Gear Review

Backpack – Osprey Packs Exos 58L 1200 grams – Pros – Lightweight and comfortable, able to carry heavy loads and still be comfortable, bear barrel will easily fit inside pack both vertically and horizontally, good ventilation, internal frame, lifetime warranty from Osprey and great customer service, they stand by their product. Cons – I broke the chest strap (replaced under warranty), most people (myself included) had to bend the waist section of the frame to fit my waist shape, I bent many other hikers waist frames while hiking and all found the pack to be a perfect fit. As I lost a lot of weight the waist strap extended to its limit and was about 1-2 cm too large (get a smaller waist strap than you think, you will loose weight).

If I hiked the PCT again – There is a reason this is the most popular pack on the PCT. Its a great pack able to carry heavy loads comfortably when needed, think big water carries in the desert or heavy bear barrel and food loads in the Sierras. Several times I swapped packs with several other hikers on the PCT to try out many of the well known lightweight brands, I wanted to like the lighter weight brands but honestly they were to uncomfortable for me. I would recommend this pack to anybody without hesitation and will continue to use it on future hikes. The ultra lightweight packs just didn’t feel comfortable enough to carry several litres of water, several days of food and my gear. I will be using Osprey Packs Exos 58L.

Sleeping Bag – PCT Gear Review

Sleeping bag – Sea to Summit Traverse Xt1 -7C (20F) = 1085 grams Pros – I was never too cold, it was just the right temperature rating for me. I could unzip the bag and use it as a blanket during the hot nights on some sections of trail. Cons – There are lighter bags out there with similar temperature specs.

If I hiked the PCT again – I was very happy with the bag. I washed it several times on the trail (Lone Pine, Ashland) and damaged one of the internal baffles on the chest section of the bag (I used Down wash detergent as recommended and used only large front loading washing machines and large tumble dryers, look up YouTube and do a search to learn how), so the down entered another baffle. It was and still is an annoying process to regularly transfer the down from one baffle to the other on a regular basis, but things like this happen to any bag no matter how careful you are.

The most popular high end bag on trail is from Western Mountaineering, if I had the money (they are expensive) and needed a new bag I would consider the huge investment. I will continue to use the Sea to Summit bag on future trips, I like it, its a tough bag and it has many, many more adventure left in it, highly recommended.

Sleeping Mat – PCT Gear Review

Sleeping Mat – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir 350 Grams Pros – Lightweight and it just works great for a comfortable nights sleep. Cons – Expensive compared to a thin foam mattress and I would prefer a bit more thermal protection to keep me warmer at night.

If I hiked the PCT again – I would use an inflatable mat with a bit more thermal protection.

Pillow and Stuff Sack for Clothes – PCT Gear Review

Therm-a-Rest Stuff Sack Pillow 77 Grams – Pros – light and comfortable. Cons – Is it a luxury? I don’t think so!

If I hiked the PCT again – I have tried many brands of hiking pillows in the past, none work for me or if they do they were  too heavy and bulky. I will continue to use the stuff sac as a pillow, it has nylon on the outside and fleece on the inside. Turn it inside out at night and fill it with my down jacket and I have a comfortable pillow. Loved it, will continue to use it in the future.

Kitchen – PCT Gear Review

Evernew Ti Dx Titanium Stove 86 Grams

Lighter and waterproof matches 24 Grams

600ml empty coke bottle to store alcohol for stove 27 grams

1 litre Titanium pot and lid 174 Grams

Sea to Summit foldable X-Cup 45 Grams

Titanium Spoon 12 Grams

Gerber STL 2 knife 28 Grams

2 x 2 Litre Platypus collapsible bottles 72 Grams

Sayer Squeeze Filter System 85 Grams

Water treatment tablets 20 Grams

Pros – I started with my titanium alcohol stove, I love it, but swapped to an MSR gas stove due to fire bans that prevent the use of alcohol stoves in many areas. I could have been naughty and continued using it but that’s a bad example of not respecting the trail. I loved all my gear and wouldn’t change a thing. Cons – I broke my Sawyer filter thread and exchanged it for a new one. The sawyer filter must not be allowed to freeze so on cold nights I packed it inside my sleeping back at my feet.

If I hiked the PCT again – I wouldn’t change anything, I would love to use the alcohol stove but they are illegal in many areas. I might consider a Jetboil if the bans on alcohol stoves continue.

Also, initially I stored my food in a LockSac smellproof plastic zip lock bag. They were constantly breaking and a spent too much money replacing them. I stored my food in large zip lock bags on all sections of the trail except the Sierras where a Bear Proof, approved, barrel is necessary. There were no problems with bears or mice attacking me or my food. I did have a rodent (or similar) make a hole in my tent one night (I slept through it) but no food was eaten and I can’t even be sure it got entered my tent. Zip Lock bags worked fine for me and I will continue to use them again in the future to store my food. Oh and by the way, almost every hiker keeps their food inside their tent at night.

 Electronics and Camera – PCT Gear Review

Iphone 5S + headphones + Lifeproof case 149 grams

Canon PowerShot G16 + Memory Card + Case + Spare Batteries473Grams

Petzl Tikka rechargeable headlamp 85 Gram

PowerGen 12000mAh USB Battery 425 Gram

USB electrical charger + Cables 105 grams

Pros – Loved all my electronics and camera. Cons – I broke 2 x cameras (one with a badly scratched lens, one I dropped in the snow in Washington and the rear screen stopped working, but it still took great photos). I used 2 lifeproof cases. The first was so badly scratched I couldn’t see the screen very well. I purchased another one in Ashland, Oregon.The microphone adapter for the 2nd lifeproof case stopped working after only 3 weeks, I will return and exchange it. Some sort of waterproof, drop proof case is a must.

If I hiked the PCT again – While I loved all my gear I would be more careful with my camera (which I loved) and search for a waterproof cover or similar. I would buy and use an Anker USB battery and wall charger when/if my PowerGen stops working. Anker is lighter for the same price and quality. Other than that I was happy with my gear.

Shoes and Socks – PCT Gear Review

Merrell Moab Ventilators with custom orthotics 780 grams Pros – Great price and long life (I was getting 1000 miles out of these shoes), they make a wide version which is great for my wide feet. Cons – Not as light as some of the Trail running shoes. I lost many toenails. Is it from the shoes? I don’t thinks so but thought I’d mention it anyway.

If I hiked the PCT again – I will continue to use these shoes again, they fit me and just work for me. Shoes are a personal thing, try on many different brands (but not Brookes Cascadias, they were the biggest disappointment of all gear on the PCT in 2015) and see what works. Make sure you buy a size bigger than normal!

Darntuff Merino Wool Socks x 2 96 grams – Pros Everything, lifetime warranty against holes and you will get holes. Many outfitters along the trail will exchange them if you get holes, no questions asked (just wash them before returning them. Just buy them. Cons Nil, well I did get holes after 2400 miles!

If I hiked the PCT again – Highly recommended. Just buy these socks. They are great, you will get holes (as I did). Even if its the only thing out of all this review that you listen to, buy them!

Clothing – Shirts – PCT Gear Review

Short sleeve smartwool shirt 150 grams and Long sleeve smartwool shirt, 255 grams – Pros – The smartwool shirts are great in both the heat and the cold. Smell resistant. Cons – I exchanged both shirts just after half way due to holes and tears in the fabric.

If I hiked the PCT again – Highly recommended, worked great despite getting holey! I will continue to use them in future adventures.

Clothing Pants, Shorts and Underwear – PCT Gear Review

Kathmandu Barga zip of shorts/pants 340 Grams – Pros Umm, nil, maybe they kept me from hiking naked. Cons – Poor quality, ripped in multiple places, stitching fell apart, very dissapointing. Stay away from them at all costs.

MEC Instrum Long Pants 184 grams and Patagonia running shorts – Pros Both the shorts and pants are comfortable and high quality, long lasting and lightweight.

ExOfficio underwear x 2 85 grams – Pros Everything, quality, long lasting Cons Nil

If I hiked the PCT again –

The Kathmandu Brand pants were poor quality, stay away from them.

The MEC pants are high quality and cheap, quick drying, highly recommended, I will continue to use them. Wish they made a convertible pants/shorts version.

The Patagonia shorts were great, high quality, I will continue to use.

ExOfficio underwear, I’ve owned the same 2 pair of underwear for several years and I think I might just get several more years out of them. They have taken me on many adventures and will continue to in the future. Highly recommended.

Down Jacket – PCT Gear Review

Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket – 371 grams – Pros Lightweight, high quality Cons Nil

If I hiked the PCT again – Highly recommended. There are times I wished I had a bigger jacket or one with a down hood, but on the whole I think this is the best jacket versus weight versus warmth that I could have used. I will continue to use this jacket in the future.

Other Clothing – PCT Gear Review

Sunhat Sea to Summit 55 grams – Pros Good lightweight hat Cons Nil

Sunglasses 50 grams I broke 2 pair of sunglasses on this trip but I need them and they are needed by all in the Sierras in the snow

Merino long pants 150 grams – Pros Light and needed for the cold Cons Nil

REI Merino Wool beanie 60 grams Pros Everything Cons Some brands shrink when washed and dried in a dryer. I had no problem with the REI brand (so far).

Gloves 65 grams – Pros Great Cons Not waterproof

Bandana 66 Grams – Pros Great (when I used it) Cons Unnecessary and hardly used it.

If I hiked the PCT again – All recommended, but I wouldn’t take a bandana. I hardly used it and it spent almost all the time in my bounce box not being used.

RainGear – PCT Gear review

Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket – 180 Grams – Pros Great windproof and waterproof jacket, great choice of colours, lightweight Cons It lost its waterproof coating when dirty, I think it needed to be washed regularly. I sweat a lot so it did get wet on the inside on wet days while climbing hills.

If I hiked the PCT again – Recommended, I would wash the jacket more regularly.

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants – 153 Grams – Pros Lightweight, windproof and waterproof Cons Both inner seams ripped within a day of each other after only minimal use. The pants were replaced free of charge by the company, great customer service.

If I hiked the PCT again – I wanted to like the pants but they did fall apart on me when I was depending on them. And not due to wear and tear! There is a lifetime warranty so I will exchange them and continue to use them. Hopefully they won’t rip at the seams a second time. If so, then they are a bust.

Overall

The gear I have is almost all high quality. Despite a lot of wear and tear is still good enough to start another thru hike with. Some gear will be replaced or repaired under warranty. There are many other brands that are lighter than the brands I used. Some of which is higher quality, some is less durable, some more expensive.

If I was to hike the PCT again tomorrow I would change the following equipment. I would take a lighter tent (I’m not sure which one yet). Maybe, I would change to the Thermarest Neo Xtherm mattress. I would use an Anker battery and wall charger.

I hope any future PCT hiker finds this helpful.

Follow my journey and get involved on my Facebook Page

32 Responses

  1. Sally

    Hi Brad! You have been so generous with sharing your experience, tips, and helpful information. I have enjoyed your blog very much. Thank-you Shepherd!

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      No probs Sally. Thanks to you and Paul for looking after me in Vancouver and meeting me at the end of the hike. Any more questions let me know. In coming days I’ll have another PCT blog post on other bits of useful information then it’s onto writing and posting about the cycle trip.

      Reply
      • Sally

        It was our pleasure. You are always welcome here Brad. We will continue to be keen followers of your blog.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks Alison. It’s easy enough to move from traditional backpacking to lightweight backpacking. That’s where I’m at now. Moving from lightweight to ultra light, that’s the step I just can’t make.

      Reply
  2. Mike M

    Great info, Brad. I’m always looking at gear, both in magazines and online, and your reveiws will be helpful.

    I have a question unrelated to gear. How often, if ever, did you get ‘runner’s highs’ while hiking? I get them regularly while on the trail (and at home working out), and just wondering if others get them.

    Thanks again for an entertaining summer!

    Mike M, Riverside, CA.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Very rarely. If you are talking about the endorphins buzz. Most of the time I’m just plodding down the trail so it’s not very intense. Not sure if others on trail got it, whether regularly or occasionally. Not something we really discussed while hiking.

      Reply
  3. northboundhiker

    Thanks for this update Brad. I’ve been anticipating this post of yours as I review my gear for next years PCT onslaught.

    Great tip on the Fly Creek UL2 which I’m using on the PCT next year but I’ll just have to put up with the cave syndrome. I selected it for it’s weight a while back. I have tried similar designs and yes they are annoying getting in an out of. The Anker pack, Canon G16 and OR Helium II Jacket are now on my list along with the Osprey Exos 58lt which I ordered last week through Paddy Pallin. I’m having some amends done on the pack and will get the hip belt taken in too. I will no doubt read this post of yours again as I make my way through my list. It’s valuable independent information – so thank you very much! If you were in Sydney I’d shout you a few Fosters, oh uhmm, better make them top shelf premium seeing as you’re now a PCT thru-hiker! 🙂

    Enjoy your ride down to Panama! I’ll be following you all the way! – Cheers!

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I hope my comments on the BA Fly Creek UL2 weren’t too negative. It’s a great lightweight tent that is very light and the most popular tent on trail for good reason. It just didn’t work out for me personally. Keep the camera in a good case away from that desert dust and even worse the volcanic dust, oh and the rain and snow of Washington. Make sure you wash the helium jacket more often than I did. I think layers of sunscreen, deet, sweat, dirt and dust could have been better managed than what I did.
      The pack was/is awesome, good idea to take in the hip belt. You WILL loose weight!
      Good luck with your planning and with next years hike. Any other questions let me know. Just one more PCT related post to go.

      Reply
      • northboundhiker

        I didn’t see it as a negative comment of yours but rather an honest review which I agree with in every way. I knew the entrance to the BA Fly Creek UL2 would be annoying but I went for it’s overall package deal. Like you said in this post, the PCT isn’t a camping trip. So I’m set with my choice and I’ll be happy carrying less weight for every mile that passes me by. Overall I like the sturdiness of the design when comparing it to other brands and it most probably has better three season insulation than others I have looked at. I ordered mine from REI (on sale) in California and had it posted to Scout and Frodo in San Diego, so I’ll spend the first night in it on trail. I hope they sealed it properly – I’ll soon find out. Good tip on the care of camera and keeping that dust off. There is a repairs shop here in Sydney where I’m getting a camera case partially attached to the shoulder straps of the Exos so it sits in front of me. It’s just the right size to not obstruct my view of the trail either. I’ve had this done to two of my packs in the past and it works out really well for ease of access. I will post some images on my site along the way. My details are on my gravatar.

        Your food tips below I have taken note of too! Thanks Brad.

  4. AR.

    Very informative, thank you.
    I’ve been think about the Tarptent-Notch 770g (27oz) with 2 side entrances.

    What trail foods did you like/dislike?

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      The tarptent seems to tick all the boxes. I’ll have to look at it closer and contact some other hikers who used tarptents to ask their opinion.
      As for the food I liked almost all of it. I had oatmeal almost every morning, I love it. I never got sick of honey oat granola bars. I constantly swapped and switched foods as my taste buds desired so never got sick of any food. Sometimes I craved salty foods, sometimes sweet, but always high calories in any shape or form. I had freeze dried meals most nights when I could find them, otherwise packet pasta sides mixed with powdered potatoes worked well. I think I would get sick of them if forced to eat them every night. Late in the trip I discovered no bake cheesecake in the jello isle of the grocery store, wish I discovered that earlier!
      One thing I really disliked, anything made by ‘Alpine Air’. Their freeze dried meals were disgusting, really disgusting. Nobody on trail seemed to like them.

      Reply
  5. BeeKeeper

    Great review! My wants for a tent match yours. My Tarptent Rainbow finally died this summer after 5+ years of service. I wanted to replace with something lighter but hadn’t found the perfect choice and everything I considered had a long wait time so settled temporarily for a CS1. So do share when you find that tent which meets your specs.

    Reply
  6. hikeinspired

    Shopping list!!! So far my only hiking investment has been a pack. I got the Asprey aura AG 65. It was the only one I found after my research that had all the things I wanted PLUS fit me right now (extra fluff) and would still fit me if I were to get down to my smallest adult weight. You never know…it could happen right? I thought this pack might be bigger than I would need but per the reviews with all the straps it can shrink down for lighter loads and still wear comfortably. It is heavier than some others that are out there though. I guess you can’t have everything.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      It was also a very popular pack on the trail. You are correct it is slightly larger than most other hikers were carrying but they seemed fine with it. You will appreciate a bigger pack in the Sierras carrying a bear barrel!

      Reply
  7. John B. Abela

    Great write-up!!

    Especially loved your “If I hiked the PCT again” comments… those are the real gems of your article!

    Totally agree on the double wall shelter. I am trying to do the same… find a super light double wall shelter that is side entry.

    Anyway, yeah, thanks for sharing all of your thoughts, and congratz on the hike!

    Reply
  8. Donna Catterick

    This has been a wonderful journey to follow. My question for you regards the photos. The ones posted on the blog – did you take them with your camera (as opposed to your iphone)? How did you write and add photos and post the blog? I had guessed that you did them all on the iphone, but maybe not…?

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I used my Canon G16 to take the photos then transferred them to my phone every night. So they were in my photos folder. The camera has wifi so I could pair them together using the canon app. I wrote the blog offline every night using the WordPress app and posted the photos when I had cell phone signal or wifi. The photos can’t be transferred to the WordPress app offline. I then posted the blog. Only 2-3 of the total of the photos on the blog were taken by the iPhone. Does that make sense? It’s actually a very quick and efficient way to blog.

      Reply
      • Donna Catterick

        Thanks, that explains it well. I didn’t know you could transfer from the camera to the phone. And I have a Canon – probably know a tenth of what it can do.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Hi Carol, I used the Patagonia down sweater jacket, I just updated the link on the blog post if you refresh the page you can take a better look at the jacket. I’m very happy with it considering the rough treatment it has received.

      Reply
  9. josephshall

    Hey mate, we are planning our PCT hike for 2017 (coming from New Zealand) and your blog has been a goldmine of information – thank you. We are thinking about a tarp vs a tent, leaning towards a tarp due to condensation (as there is two of us) and lightweight. What are your thoughts? Also, did you buy your gear in the US or back home? And, did you have someone in the US sending you extra gear when you needed it or would you just recommend buying online over there? Did you bother with extra clothes for while you were in town or find you didn’t need it? Thanks for all the great info.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Both tarps and tents are popular. Be aware it can snow anywhere, anytime. I had several snow storms in the desert, Sierra and Washington. People in tarps suffered, some quit the trail. I guess it depends on your tolerance for the weather and your financial situation, maybe wait out the storms in hotel rooms in town, I just hiked straight through them.
      I bought most of my gear here, it’s cheaper and there’s more choice.
      Any gear replacements etc can be ordered online/over the phone and delivered to post offices on route or hotels you plan to stay at.
      Don’t worry about extra clothes in town. While your clothes are being washed wear your rain gear, every hiker does this, wearing raingear at restaurants, bars etc is very acceptable.
      When I’m finished hiking the CDT I can offer more help if you would like, resupply, gear etc. I plan on helping and mentoring some hikers on the PCT next year. Hope that helps

      Reply

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