My 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 2P– 1050 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.
Here is a list of Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks
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
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.
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.
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After completing the Hiking Triple Crown I learned a lot about gear. You should check out my current lightweight hiking gear list (Link below). It is around 6kg (13lb).
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