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Thru Hiking PCT Gear Review

Ultra Light Backpacks

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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 # 1 – Big Agnes – Fly Creek Ul 2P– 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.
  • Tent # 2 – Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL 2 Person TENTThe second tent I used on the PCT. 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. But is on the heavy side, there are lighter options out there.

If I hiked the PCT again – I like the following tents for ultralight thru hiking on the PCT:

Read about the best lightweight tents for the PCT in 2021:
Best Lightweight Tents.

Pack – PCT Gear Review

  • Backpack – Osprey Packs Exos 58L – Lightweight and comfortable, able to carry heavy loads and still be comfortable, bear barrel will easily fit inside pack both vertically and horizontally.

If I hiked the PCT again – I like the following Backpacks for ultralight thru hiking on the PCT:

Read more about the Best Lightweight Backpacks for the PCT in 2021:
Best Lightweight Backpacks.

Sleeping Bag – PCT Gear Review

  • Sleeping bag – Sea to Summit Traverse Xt1 -7C (20F) – Note: This sleeping bag is no longer available. There is a lot of choice of very high quality Sleeping bags or ultralight backpacking quilts.

If I hiked the PCT again – I like the following Sleeping Bags and Quilts for ultralight thru hiking on the PCT:

Read more about the best Sleeping Bags and Quilts for the PCT in 2021:
Best Lightweight Sleeping Bags and Quilts

Sleeping Mat – PCT Gear Review

  • Sleeping Mat – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir – Lightweight and it just works great for a comfortable nights sleep.

If I hiked the PCT again – I would use any of the pads listed below.

Read more about the best Sleeping Pads for the PCT in 2021:
Best Lightweight Sleeping Mats

Pillow and Stuff Sack for Clothes – PCT Gear Review

If I hiked the PCT again – I now use and love the Nemo Elite Pillow

Kitchen – PCT Gear Review

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

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.

A waterproof and drop proof case is a must for thru hiking the PCT.

If I hiked the PCT again – I have changed some of my gear and recommend the following:

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 have used and personally love all of shoes mentioned below:

Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks  x 3

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.

Clothing – PCT Gear Review

  • Short sleeve smartwool shirt 150 grams and Long sleeve smartwool shirt – Awesome, I love everything (except it’s durability) about Merino for hiking on the PCT
  • Kathmandu Barga zip of shorts/pants – Below average stay away from them. Better options are: PrAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pants 
  • Patagonia running shorts – Awesome
  • ExOfficio underwear – Great. Long lasting, they reduce bad body smell and feel great

Down Jacket – PCT Gear Review

Check out this review of all The Best Ultralight Down Jackets

Other Clothing – PCT Gear Review

  • Sunhat Sea to Summit 55 grams – Good lightweight
  • 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
  • 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 – Great and needed for the cold mornings
  • Bandana 66 Grams – Great but I’m not much of a bandana user

RainGear – PCT Gear review


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.

I hope any future PCT hiker finds this helpful.

Follow my journey and get involved on my Facebook Page

After completing the Hiking Triple Crown I learned a lot about gear. You should check out my Current Lightweight Hiking Gear List – Currently around 6kg (13lb).

You might like to read:

The Best information about the Pacific Crest Trail:
Complete Guide to the Pacific Crest Trail
Resupply Guide for the PCT
PCT Gear List

PCT Gear Review

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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32 thoughts on “Thru Hiking PCT Gear Review”

  1. 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.

    • 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

    • 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.

  2. 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…?

    • 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.

      • 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

    • 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

    • 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.

  7. 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!

    • 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.

      • 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.

  8. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  9. 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!

    • 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.


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