This is an ultralight PCT Gear list for those thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2023.
I have thru hiked the PCT and completed the thru hiking triple crown so my recommendations come backed with a bit of experience on the trail when it comes to recommending the best Pacific Crest Trail Packing List.
The biggest financial investment will be in the big four. The Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Mat.
What to pack on the Pacific Crest Trail takes a little time and a little investment in money but everything on the Ultralight PCT List is easily available and reasonably priced.
Table of Contents
- PCT Thru Hike Gear List 2023
- the best Tent for the PCT 2023
- Best Backpack for The PCT 2023
- Best Sleeping Bag for the PCT
- Best Ultralight Quilts for the PCT
- Best Sleeping Pad for the PCT
- Best Hiking Shoes for the PCT
- Best Clothing for the PCT
PCT Thru Hike Gear List 2023
The Pacific Crest Trail is tough. Starting in the dry desert with long dry sections require you to carry heavy amounts of water. For this a you need a quality ultralight backpack for the PCT.
Then comes the cold high mountains of the Sierra which requires cold weather gear, bear canisters and potentially snow gear like an ice axe and microspikes.
Later comes Northern California which is tough on the feet. You will need to choose the best hiking shoes for the PCT to prevent injury.
Towards the end of the trail in Washington State you may encounter lots of rain or maybe snow. You will need the ultralight rain gear for the PCT.
Below I have all the best gear for the Pacific Crest Trail.
the best Tent for the PCT 2023
Overall there are several great lightweight tents to use on the PCT. You will need a tent that is ultralight and able to withstand potential storms on any section of the trail. Some of the Best Ultralight Tent for the PCT is listed below.
The Best 1P Tent for the Pacific Crest Trail
- Nemo Hornet 1P – 32oz (907 grams)
- Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Carbon 1P – 21oz (595grams)
- ZPacks Plexamid – 16.55oz (469 grams)
- Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo – 26oz (740 grams)
I love the Nemo Hornet 1P. I’ve used the tent a lot and think it is one of the best tents for the PCT. But one of the most popular 1P tents on the PCT is the ZPacks Plexamid, it is ultralight and one of the best 1P ultralight tents for the PCT. On a budget and want ultralight, take a look at Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo.
Best 2P Ultralight Tent for the Pacific Crest Trail
- Nemo Hornet 2P – 35oz (1003g)
- ZPacks Duplex – 20.75oz (588g)
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultramid 2 -18.85oz (534g)
- Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo – 45oz (1270g)
I like the Nemo Hornet 2P which is a good 2P tents for the PCT. If you want the best ultralight tent for the PCT then look at the ZPacks Duplex. The best budget tent for the PCT is the Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo.
Read the review of the Best Ultralight Tents for Thru Hiking.
Best Backpack for The PCT 2023
The best ultralight backpack for thru hiking the PCT is one that is not only lightweight but durable enough to last thousands of miles of abuse. Below are the best thru hiking backpacks for the Pacific Crest Trail.
What Size Backpack for the PCT
The best size backpack for the PCT is around 50 liters. However, when backpacking in the Sierra you are required to carry a bear canister and they become a tight fit and a larger rucksack is better.
One of the best backpacks for thru hiking the PCT os the Osprey Exos 58. It fits the bear canister into the pack horizontally. All the other packs mentioned below will need to pack them vertically or strapped to the top of the pack. I prefer to strap them to the top of the pack.
Ultralight thru hikers will prefer something lighter from the list below. And don’t forget a cheap trash bag to use as a pack liner to keep things dry.
Best Ultralight Backpacks for the Pacific Crest Trail
- ZPacks Arc Air – 50 Litres – 19.2oz / 544g
- ZPacks Arc Blast – 55 Litres – 19.9 oz / 565.0 g
- Osprey Exos 48 – 48 litres – 36oz / 1030grams
- Osprey Exos 58 – 58 litres – 37oz /1060 grams
- Osprey Levity 45 – 45 litres – 28oz – 780 grams
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 – 50 litre – 30oz / 852g
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 – 50 litres – 30oz / 851g
I like the Osprey Exos 58 because it is comfortable and can fit a Bear Canister inside sideways. But the ZPacks Arc Blast and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 are hard to beat for their lightweight and water resistant material.
Read the full review of the Best Ultralight Backpacks for Thru Hiking
Best Sleeping Bag for the PCT
The best ultralight sleeping bag for the PCT is lightweight, tough and with a temperature rating of down to 20F / -6C.
When Thru hiking the PCT the first nights in the desert can be very cold. So can the nights in the High Sierra. Some nights in Northern California will be so hot that you will not need your sleeping bag so much.
Here are a list of very highly recommended ultralight Sleeping Bags for the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Feathered Friends Hummingbird – 20F / -7C – 24oz – 680g
- Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20F / -7C – 29oz / 820g
- Rab Mythic 400 – 20F / -7C – 23oz / 660g
- Sea to Summit Spark 4 18F / -8C – 31oz / 880g
All the sleeping bags on this list are awesome and will serve you well on the PCT. If you need more info check the full reviews on sleeping bags.
Best Lightweight Sleeping Bags
Best Ultralight Quilts for the PCT
Ultralight Sleeping Quilts for the PCT are becoming more popular. For most thru hikers on the PCT they are a better ultralight alternative to a heavier sleeping bag.
They are lighter but have limitations in really cold weather. When the temperature get below freezing they are not as efficient at keeping you warm. Having said that, I prefer using one on the PCT.
The best ultralight quilt for the PCT is listed below.
- Feathered Friends Flicker UL 20 Quilt – 20F / -7 – 26oz / 748g
- Sea to Summit Ember EB3 Quilt – 14F – 25F / -10C/-4C – 25.5oz / 725g
- Enlightened Equipment Revelation – 20F / -7C – 22.5oz / 639g
- Katabatic Sawatch – 15F / -9C – 25.1oz / 712g
Honestly, any of the backpacking quilts mentioned on this list is awesome and worthy of use on the PCT. If you need more info check out the full reviews.
Best Backpacking Quilts
Best Sleeping Pad for the PCT
The best ultralight sleeping pad for the PCT is comfortable, durable, reasonably priced and lightweight.
If you are like most thru hikers you will be exhausted every night and experience legendary nights sleep on the trail.
An Ultralight air mattress is more comfortable but some people prefer lightweight foam, specially the budget conscience backpacker. Side sleeper will certainly need an air mat like the Sea to Summit Ether lite Insulated.
Here are a list of all the best ultralight Sleeping mats for the PCT.
- Thermarest Uberlite – 8.8oz / 250g
- Thermarest Neo Air Xlite – 12oz/340g
- Thermarest Z Lite Sol – 14oz/410g
- Nemo Tensor Insulated – 14oz/410g
- Thermarest Thermarest X-Therm – 15oz/430g
- Sea to Summit Ether lite Insulated – 15oz/425g
Read the full review of the Best Ultralight Sleeping Pads
Best Hiking Shoes for the PCT
The best shoes for the PCT are lightweight and breathable. Waterproof shoes are not so good for this thru hike. We all have different shaped feet and different preferences, therefore what shoes you take will depend on many things.
Firstly, buy shoes one size bigger than normal. Your feet will swell over the days weeks and months of thru hiking. Wrong fitting shoes will cause blisters or hotspots. You have been warned!
I also love Altra Trail running shoes as my lightweight shoe option. But all these options work best for people with wider feet. These are the most popular shoes on the PCT and highly recommended.
For narrow feet the better options are Soloman and Brooks.
Here are my 3 recommendations for the best shoes and boots for PCT thru hikers with wide feet.
Here are my 3 recommendations for the best trail runners for PCT thru hikers with narrow feet.
Best Socks for the PCT
Darn Tough are the most popular. They will wear out and with their lifetime warranty there is nothing better for thru hiking the PCT. And maybe you might want some gaiters to stop the small rocks and sand getting into your shoes.
Best Clothing for the PCT
The best clothing for thru hiking the PCT will include items for the extreme heat of the California Desert and the sweaty heat of Northern Califonia. And extreme cold of the desert mornings, the High Sierra and Washington.
Ultralight layers work best including an ultralight rain jacket, puffy down jacket, mid layer and baselayer.
Best Down Jackets for the PCT
The best down jacket for the PCT will be ultralight and pack up very small. Below is a list of all the best down jackets that you will need for the PCT:
- ARCTERYX – Cerium LT Hoody – 280g / 9.9oz
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded – 249g / 8.8oz
- Feathered Friends – Eos – 300g / 10.6oz
- Rab Microlight Alpine – 470g / 17oz
Read the complete guide to the Best Ultralight Down Jackets
Best Rain Gear for the PCT
You might not see much rain on the PCT. But when it does rain you will need a high quality ultralight rain jacket. Not only will it protect you from the rain, but they make a great wind breaker on those cool days and you may find yourself wearing it more often than you might think.
Here is a list of all the best rain jackets for the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Enlightened Equipment Visp – 5oz / 142 grams
- Outdoor Research Helium – 6.3oz / 178 grams
- Marmot Precip Eco – 10.3oz / 293 grams
- ARCTERYX – Zeta SL – 10.9oz / 310 grams
- Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 – 12.5oz / 353 grams
- Patagonia Storm 10 – 8.3 oz / 235 grams
You will also need Rainpants such as the Outdoor Research Helium Pants.
I love the Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Ultralight Hiking Umbrella. At only 6.8 ounces it is well worth the added weight and very popular in the desert to shield you from the intense sun. Consider taking one. You will not regret it!
Best Trekking Poles for PCT
The best trekking poles are ultralight and strong. Your body will appreciate it when you use them on this trail. The best trekking poles for the PCT are:
Read the full review of all the Best Trekking Poles for Thru Hiking
Cooking Gear to take on the PCT
Light and strong cooking gear is need for thru hiking the PCT. It does not need to be expensive, nor does it need to be the highest quality. It just needs to work. The list below is all you need to cook and eat on the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Evernew Ti DX Stove Titanium
- Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cookset
- Sea To Summit X-Mug
- Titanium Spoon
- Gerber STL 2.0 Knife
- Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System
- Katadyn Micropur Water Purifier Tabs
- Platypus Bottle 2-Litre
- Nalgene Water Bottle 1 litre
- Bic Lighter
- 600ml Coke Bottle to store alcohol for stove
- Instant Coffee for Backpacking
- Hiking Coffee Maker
Electronics and Camera
Will you take all your best photography gear? Will you blog or make a youtube video? Answer these questions and decide what to take.
A good quality smart phone such as the latest iPhone will do everything you need. But if the highest quality os important to you then consider the upgrade and resultant extra cost and weight.
Don’t forget a high quality battery brick such as the Anker 20000mAh battery pack and the Anker USB Wall Charger. These will be super important to keep things charged, and these things charge up very fast.
Consider the weight and packability of the clothing you will take. Thermals or some form of baselayer such as Smartwool Base Layer Pants and Smartwool LS Shirt will be important. So will a pair of pants of shorts such as PrAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pants.
Winter Gear & Bear Canisters
You may need some winter gear for the Sierra section of the PCT. A lot will depend on what kind of snow season it is. Some people will not need any of this, specially if you are not entering the Sierra until late. Southbound hikers will almost certainly not need any. And don’t forget your compulsory Bear Canister.
First Aid and Misc
- Plastic zip lock bags
- Money / ID / Credit Cards
- Blister pads
- Strapping Tape
- Giardia anti-biotic
- Foot infection anti-biotic
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Safety Pin
- Deet insect repellent
- Lip Balm
- Toilet tissue
Total = 375 Gram
Aim for a total weight of less than 15lb / 6.5kg. If you choose quality items that I have list above you should have less than 12lb / 5.5kg as you baseweight.
Food and cooking fuel will add about 1 kilogram per day on average. Water weight is extra again, at 1 kilogram per litre!
Read Next : Complete Guide to Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail – including a daily hiking journal.
Read all the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.
Consider sharing this post or downloading my ultralight gear list.
Enjoy the trail.
Cheers Shepherd – PCT15, CDT16, AT17, TA18-19 and still thru hiking.