Before hiking 1,833.3 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, I was by no means an avid backpacker. I had a total of four backpacking trips under my belt before taking my first steps on the PCT, three of which were overnight ventures. Basically what I had going for me was a decent fitness base, a naive yet much-needed sense of confidence, and the willingness to read practically every blogpost about gear, resupply strategies, and how to use an ice axe.
So with this piece, I thought I’d start to pay it forward and offer personal experience with my gear. I tried using only pictures I took while on the trail, so you can see it in action. Hopefully someone as inexperienced and gleefully excited as I was will gain something from this.
If you are looking for a specific gear recommendation, I suggest you ctrl/command-f (find) to jump to what you want to see (e.g. “base layer” or “water filter”) as this is a lengthy post that took me hours to put together.
Before we get into it, I highly recommend you use Honey (non-referral link) and Priceblink extensions to help you find the best prices when shopping online. Also always check eBay! I was able to save over $800 off the MSRP of the gear I bought using these tools.
GEAR I LOVED
1. MY PACK: ULA Circuit
Weight: 2 lbs 4.1 oz (with extra bells and whistles taken off and a few ounces shaved from cutting extra length on certain straps)
Price paid: $235.00
Why I loved it: So in total honesty, I originally planned to go with my Osprey Aura AG 50L, but about a week before our start date, I freaked out about how heavy that pack was and made an impulse buy on the ULA Circuit. And, I’m so happy I did! The Osprey is great for carrying heavy loads comfortably, but at over 4lbs it is unnecessarily heavy for a thru-hike (or a 1,833.3 mile section hike). My ULA Circuit, lovingly nicknamed “My Sweet Burden,” was perfect for what I was carrying, around a 15lb base weight including the pack. In the Sierra section, it initially was a bit uncomfortable with the additional snow gear and eight days of food, but the temporary discomfort is by no means a dealbreaker. Additionally, it is durable as hell. I dropped this pack roughly on the ground the whole hike, and no major parts broke. The fabric is tough, the straps are big enough that they won’t rip, and the mesh never tore on me. I did somehow shatter a cord stopper on the back, but the ULA company is awesome and sent me a replacement part for free when I got home. This is not an “ultra-light” pack, but if you’re not obsessed with shaving grams and want something that will last longer than a ZPacks Arc Blast, I wholeheartedly recommend the ULA Circuit.
2. MY SLEEPING PAD: Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite Women’s Regular
Weight: 11.7 oz (including the stuff sack)
Price paid: $119.95
Why I loved it: It was mad comfortable, and it was light. Sleep is absolutely precious, especially on the PCT, and this pad was amazing to lay on after a long day. If you’re a side sleeper, this one is for you. There were complaints about it causing loud, crinkly noise whenever you moved. I didn’t mind that, but your hiking friends might. It does take a minute or two to blow up, but the minor chore was totally worth the comfort. If you hate blowing things up, there is a 2.3 oz pump available, and it sounds like a tiny vacuum cleaner. Final thought on this pad: it takes up very little space in your pack.
3 and 4. MY STOVE & POT: MSR Pocketrocket stove & Snow Peak Trek 700 pot
Why I loved them: Going stoveless is an option that many people choose to do on trail, but I anticipated that I’d love a hot meal at the end of the day. With that in mind, I tried to get the lightest cooking set I could possibly get. This stove is amazing — so simple, so fast, so light. Unlike some other stoves, there is no spark feature, so you have to bring a lighter. Not a huge deal. This pot was also amazing. Titanium is one the lightest metals out there, and I also found that it retained heat really well. Like so well that I would routinely burn my tongue because I was too hungry and impatient to wait for my food to cool down. Because of how expensive titanium is, the pot is pretty pricey, so I recommend you scour a used one on eBay to save money like I did.
5. MY PHONE CASE: LifeProof Waterproof FRE Case
Price paid: $14.00 (another clutch eBay find)
Why I loved it: This case saved my phone when I fell in a creek, the phone fell out of my hip belt pocket, and I spent a full two minutes trying to find my completely submerged phone. I was stunned to find it still fully functional with absolutely no water damage. You really want a heavy duty phone case on trail. Everything gets dirty, sandy, and wet, your phone included.
6. MY BATTERY PACK: Anker PowerCore 10000
Weight: 6.4 oz
Price paid: $32.58
Why I loved it: I never ran out of power. Now let me qualify this by saying I was using my phone conservatively, and I didn’t have to charge other electronics like a camera or GPS device. My phone was always on airplane mode, I only used it to take 5–15 pictures a day, listen to music/podcasts, and navigate maps, and I turned it off at night and used my watch as an alarm. If you do these things, the Anker PowerCore 10000 will work for you. My only complaint is that it does take a long time to fully charge, but, on the flip side, it charges my phone faster than public outlets.
7. MY TREKKING POLES: Leki Corklite DSS Antishock Trekking Poles
Weight: N/A because you’re not really carrying your poles
Price paid: $89.58
Why I loved them: These are super durable poles. When you’re hiking through snow and sometimes putting your full weight on your poles, you want something that will not break. These didn’t break. Also I am clumsy and definitely stepped on these a bunch of times. Didn’t break. The cork grip was a huge plus on hot, sweaty days. Black plastic foam grips would likely rub off on your hands, but the cork did not. Poles are also a great place to stash your duct tape, a must-have repair item.
8. MY SHOES: Altra Lone Peak 3.0
Prices paid: $48.49 – $76.00 (I purchased four pairs before the hike)
Why I loved them: Honestly it’s hard to put shoes in the “Love” category since I associate them with sore feet, but these shoes worked out well for me. Foot pain and soreness is just a factor of the PCT, but I believe that’s more to do with the fact you’re walking over a marathon a day rather than wearing these specific shoes. The benefits of Altras, which are undoubtedly the most popular shoe on trail, include how light they are compared to traditional hiking boots, how quickly they dry (very important when you are crossing multiple creeks every day in the Sierra), and their zero-drop design which is more minimalistic than a shoe with a raised heel. I highly recommend you find an insole to replace their factory one as I found the material wore down to almost nothing after 500 or so miles. This is the insole I used. You’ll want to replace these shoes after 400–700 miles of use. Another perk of the Altra Lone Peak: They have a gaiter trap on the back which is a piece of velcro so you don’t have to superglue your own velcro to your shoes.
9. MY PUFFY: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (hooded version)
Weight: 7.2 oz
Price paid: Preowned
Why I loved it: Super light. Super warm. Simple as that.
10. MY BRA: Patagonia Barely Bra
Weight: N/A because worn
Price paid: $27.34
Why I loved it: This bra is so freaking comfortable. When hiking, small-chested women like me don’t really need the support of a traditional sports bra. This bra is soft, has no clasps, and never caused me chafing. Also, I could easily swim in it.
Weight: 1.9 oz
Price paid: $20/pair (I carried two pairs)
Why I loved them: They were tough (I only got holes in the final days of the trail). They were not too hot. And they have an unconditional warranty. This means that if/when your socks get holes or get too thin, Darn Tough will take back old pairs and give you new socks for free. On trail, there are many retailers that do this in-person.
12. MY BUFF: Buff Original
Weight: 1.2 oz
Price paid: $0.00 (this was a gift from my wonderful brother)
Why I loved it: Is it a headband? Is it an eyeshade? Is it something you can you use hold down an emergency blood-clotting bandage when your hiking partner stabs her head on a Joshua tree? The buff is all of the above and more. This is a great piece of equipment that you can use for just about anything.
13. MY RAIN PANTS: Patagonia Houdini Pants
Weight: 4.9 oz
Price paid: $73.99
Why I loved them: These were my go-to pants for just about anything on trail. I used them when glissading to keep my butt from freezing. I used them at camp to protect my legs against bugs. I used them when it was raining and snowing in Washington. I used them when crossing frigid, thigh-deep creeks at 6am in the Sierra. I used them when packing up camp in the morning when it was too cold to just wear my shorts. I used them when I was washing all my other clothing in town. Aside from my daily hiking outfit, this was probably my most-used piece of clothing. Also, they are ridiculously light.
14. MY BABY WIPES: Literally any baby wipes I could find in town
Weight: Who cares about weight? These are worth their weight in gold, my friend.
Price paid: IDK, a few dollars for a pack of 25 every few hundred miles
Why I loved them: Okay, so I may have been more hygiene-focused than the average thruhiker, but baby-wiping my face, neck, and feet made me feel so good at the end of the day. Also in hot, dusty, sweaty Northern California, I developed a foot rash from being dirty all the time. Airing out my feet at lunch, washing my socks, and baby-wiping my feet before I went to sleep helped cure my rash. Baby wipes forever. Don’t listen to the haters.
15. MY COLD SOAK JAR: Talenti
Weight: 1.9 oz
Price paid: $3.99 + sorbet!
Why I loved it: I cooked the majority of my meals, but sometimes it was easier to cold soak my dinner so that I could eat and then crawl into bed or get back to hiking. Also, this jar was my coffee cup at lunch. Oh, and a great vessel to store wild huckleberries. I ❤ my Talentini jar.
16. MY SPOON: GSI Outdoors table spoon
Weight: 0.7 oz
Price paid: $0.75
Why I loved it: I thought the idea of paying $12 for a fancy, titanium spoon was ridiculous – maybe even more ridiculous than deciding to hike the PCT in the first place. So I opted to buy this cheap, plastic spoon from REI instead. I loved how long it was (7 in.) so I could reach deep into my pot and the occasional Backpacker’s Pantry pack without getting my hands dirty (or get my food dirty with my gross hands). Sure, it’s 0.4 oz heavier than a titanium alternative, but I am not that stir-crazy when it comes to grams. It did melt a tiny bit if I left it at the bottom of my cooking pot, but that wasn’t an issue.
17. MY KNIFE: Swiss Army Classic SD
Weight: 0.7 oz
Price paid: Preowned
Why I loved it: I used this knife practically every day. I liked having a knife to cut loose threads, cheese, and Knorr’s rice sides packages, the scissors to cut my nails and blister skin, the file to file down my nails after cutting them, and the tweezers to pluck my eyebrows when I got to town because I love plucking my eyebrows. I always kept it handy in the hipbelt pocket of my bag. It also comes with a toothpick, but I never found a use for that.
18. MY HAT: Cal running hat
Price paid: Preowned
Why I loved it: This hat just holds a lot of sentimental value for me. I think it’s good to have a piece of gear that makes you think about a nice memory or your home. Clearly, I went to Cal (go bears), and I bought this hat after my freshman orientation. I wear it on almost every run I do and it’s been with me to the Grand Canyon, D.C., and Vietnam, so of course, I wanted to take it with me on the PCT. The velcro strap in the back was broken before I started, so I fashioned a safety pin to hold it together (side note: carry a safety pin for popping blisters). I was certain the hat would disintegrate by the time we got to the border, but, the mice who ate the back of it be damned, it made it, and I still wear it on my runs. My god, it smelled terrible when we finished, though.
19. MY GAITERS: dirty girl gaiters (Spacin’ Out design)
Price paid: $28.84
Why I loved them: They are a simple, lightweight tool to keep dirt, rocks, and snow out of your shoes (also, I loved my design). Dirty Girl gaiters are very common on the PCT, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of designs to choose from. So they are a great conversation starter, especially when you find your gaiter twin. They did develop a hole at one point and I had to re-sew my velcro patch in the back, but overall, these did a great job on trail for me. Make sure you measure your calves according to the website. I saw some people that had too loose gaiters, and it didn’t look like they were as effective.
20. MY UNDERWEAR: Patagonia Barely Bikini Briefs
Weight: 0.8 oz
Price paid: $22 x 2 pairs carried
Why I loved them: These pairs of underwear are really comfortable, lightweight, and they honestly never felt super dirty – even after several days of use. To keep things fresh, I would wash a pair every two days in a creek by hand and strap them to my pack to dry in the sunlight, like I did with my socks every day.
21 and 22. MY SLEEP SOCKS: PATAGONIA MIDWEIGHT MERINO WOOL HIKING CREW SOCKS & DRUGSTORE SOCKS
Weight: 2.2 oz for the Patagonia pair; 0.9 oz for the drug store pair
Price paid: Preowned for the Patagonia pair; gifted from Blis in Burney Falls, CA
Why I loved them: I loved the thick Patagonia pair because they really kept my feet warm during cold nights. On especially cold nights, I would wear a pair of my regular hiking socks underneath them. I also loved the cheap, lightweight pair of ankle socks that Blis gave me when he bought a pack of them at a drugstore in Burney Falls, CA. This was an especially hot section on the PCT, and these socks were great for nights where I couldn’t fathom wearing thick socks, but I still wanted a barrier between my dirty feet and my sleeping bag. I never hiked in either of these pairs of socks so that they never got very dirty or wet.
23 and 24. my sweat rag and my pee rag: Two halves of a ripped bandana
Weight: 0.5 oz x 2
Price paid: $1 for one bandana (dollar store purchase)
Why I loved them: Sweat rags and pee rags (if you’re a woman) are crucial for the trail. At the very start of the trail, I both didn’t have a sweat rag and had an allergic reaction, so I was forced to wipe my snot on my shirt for four days. It was nasty to say the least. Having a rag to wipe sweat and snot was a gamechanger. I tied my sweat rag (half bandana) to my left side strap, so I could grab it very easily. You only need half of a bandana for this rag. Additionally, having a pee rag (also only need half) was lifechanging. I tied it to the back of my pack to dry (and sterilize) in the sun and made sure to only use the bottom half for its purpose. I would wash both of these rags in town or a creek pretty regularly.
GEAR I LIKED
1. MY TENT: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2
Weight: 2 lbs 13.9 oz
Price paid: $257.55
Why I liked it: It was very easy to set up, even in sandy, rocky terrain. Others who did not have freestanding tents would sometimes have trouble pitching their tents, whereas I never had issues. The two-person size is ideal for one person who does not want to feel like they’re sleeping in a coffin. I was able to lay out my gear inside my tent and still have space to sleep. But, when we needed to make it a two-person set up, we could squeeze two people in there. Also, it’s definitely not the lightest shelter out there, but I thought it was pretty darn light.
Why I didn’t like it: It wasn’t as durable as some other shelters. I got a hole at the foot of the tent while setting it up one night, and my zippers deteriorated over the course of the hike. (I will note that Big Agnes has totally hooked me up now that I’m off trail, and they sent me a replacement tent because the zippers were totally broken. Great customer service.) I also envied my hiking friends’ cuban fiber tents since they didn’t have to throw over an extra rain fly on a wet night. Finally, some might find the door’s location awkward, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
2. MY SLEEPING BAG: Mountain Hardwear Phantom Flame 15 Sleeping Bag
Weight: 2 lbs 5 oz
Price paid: I was generously gifted this bag.
Why I liked it: It was WARM. On the majority of nights, I was toasty in my bag, especially if I wore my puffy and hat. In my opinion, a 15 degree is just the right amount of warmth for the PCT.
Why I didn’t like it: It was much heavier than my peers’ sleeping quilts, and it was my bulkiest item.
3. MY HIKING SHIRT: REI Co-op Sahara Long-Sleeve Shirt — Women’s
Price paid: $18.99
Why I liked it: I had never hiked in a long sleeve, collared shirt before, but I wanted something that protected my skin from the sun. This shirt was great for that as it has a 30+ UPF rating. The collar also helped to protect my neck when I popped it up. Additionally, despite it being long sleeve, I was rarely too hot in this shirt, and I found it to be quite breathable. It was also quick-drying which is important when you are the queen of back sweat or when you try to do “laundry” in a river. I would routinely lay out this shirt in the sun at lunch to dry it.
Why I didn’t like it: I’m not the most fashionable person, but this is not the nicest shirt to look at. Also this is not the shirt’s fault, but as I lost weight, it became very baggy on me.
4. MY HEADLAMP: Petzl Tikka Plus 2 — LED Headlamp
Weight: 2.9 oz (with batteries)
Price paid: $18.99
Why I liked it: This is a fairly lightweight headlamp for its brightness and price. Also the red light feature was great for saving battery power and not blinding you early in the morning.
Why I didn’t like it: I was disappointed with how often I had to change out the batteries. Supposedly on this headlamp, an indicator light will turn on when it’s time to change the batteries, but I found I had to put fresh ones in earlier because the light got so dim. In retrospect, I should have bit the bullet and gone with a more expensive, rechargeable headlamp.
5. MY RAIN JACKET: Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket
Weight: 5.8 oz
Price paid: $86.12
Why I liked it: It is an incredibly lightweight rain jacket, and keeps you pretty dry. Pretty dry is about as dry as you can hope to be when it’s raining on the PCT. Also, I got the men’s version because they were having a sale, but I ended up appreciating the sizing. The sleeves were long on me which added more coverage and the waist was tighter which kept me drier and was useful as I lost weight. Also the color is bomb!
Why I didn’t like it: The hood. The hood is dumb. Unlike a normal rain jacket which tightens around the front of your face, this jacket hood tightens by pulling it towards the back of your head. I could never keep the hood on when it was windy.
6. MY SUNGLASSES: Tifosi Jet Wrap Sunglasses
Weight: 0.9 oz
Price paid: $30.48
Why I liked them: These glasses protected my eyes incredibly well in the Sierra when we were staring at bright white snow all day. They’re not polarized, but they have 100% UV protection. I also appreciated the wrap design because it prevented light from entering on the sides.
Why I didn’t like them: The design is super sporty and makes you look like the Terminator. I always made a point of taking them off when hitchhiking so I didn’t look threatening.
7. MY SPIKES: Kahtoola Microspikes
Weight: 11 oz
Price paid: $59.95
Why I liked them: The microspikes are great for giving you traction on icy, snowy slopes. I have no idea how I could have done the Sierra mountain passes without these. Also they could be worn on granite rock which was a major plus because the Sierra Nevadas are just that: snow and granite. People with crampons had to take them on and off a lot more than we did.
Why I didn’t like them: The rubber broke on my and my friend’s pair. The traction we got from the spikes was vital when doing dangerous passes, so this gear failure was not welcomed. But, I will note that when I called Kahtoola and let them know that this happened, they immediately sent me and my friend new pairs of microspikes.
8 and 9. MY WATER FILTER: Sawyer Squeeze AND adaptor
Why I liked it: Overall, I was satisfied with the filter. Compared to pump filters and iodine tablets, it is a much more convenient system – pretty much as convenient as it can get. It would take me about five minutes to filter a liter of water (as best as I can recall). Plus it was fairly light and small. I also paired it with this adaptor piece (HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS EXTRA PURCHASE) so I could screw the output side of my filter directly on to my water bladders and bottles and not have to worry about delicately holding it in place (see this video for a better display of what I mean).
Pro tips for the Sawyer Squeeze: Not only should you backflush routinely (every time you go into town is a good rate), but you should tap the filter on the side of a sink after doing so to get out all the gunk that has built up inside of this. It makes it filter faster, and you won’t be horrified like me in WA when you learn how to do this and a swamp of black muck comes out of your filter. Here’s a video of how to backflush using a Smartwater bottle.
Why I didn’t like it: Eventually it became very slow (probably due to me not tapping it against a sink when I backflushed). Also, you need to sleep with it if you anticipate below freezing weather at night because the water inside of it can freeze, expand, and shatter the filtration system. There is no way for you to know if this has happened. Finally, the washers that create a seal to the input side of the bladder can get lost easily, especially if you screw your input side directly on to a Smartwater bottle. Be warned: carry an extra (I hear they sell them at hardware stores).
10, 11, and 12. MY WATER STORAGE: Evernew 2L then Platypus 2L Bladders and Smartwater 1L Bottles
I carried 2 Evernew 2L bladders and 5 1L Smartwater bottles with me when we started in Tehachapi – this is too much water by the way (you drink a liter every 3-4 miles depending on the weather, plus more for camp and cooking). Eventually, I dropped a water bladder and 3 Smartwater bottles (total storage capacity 4L). I had to replace my water bladder twice.
Why I liked them: Both of brands of water bladders are fairly durable. I liked the Evernew ones slightly better because it had the cap on a leash (d o n o t l o s e y o u r c a p), but they were effectively the same product in my opinion. Smartwater bottles are great because they are very durable and slender, so I could put one in my front strap water bottle ties and keep for easy access all day. I highly recommend you pair a Smartwater 1L bottle with the cap from its 0.75 L brethren so you can use the active sport flip cap.
Why I didn’t like them: The water bladders break, unlike Smartwater bottles. Also the cap on the Platypus is easy to lose.
13, 14, and 15. MY DRY BAGS: Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sacks (15L, 10L, 2.5L)
I used my 15L one to stuff my sleeping bag, the 10L one to store my extra clothing (which I used as a pillow), and the 2.5L one to store my wallet and electronics.
Weight: 1.9 oz for the 15L; 1.7 oz for the 10L; 1 oz for the 2.5L
Price paid: $13.21 for the 15L; $17.02 for the 10L; $12.50 for the 2.5L
Why I liked them: Light, waterproof when not torn (see below), easy to roll and clasp. Plus, the different colors, helped me differentiate them. Also, you can machine wash these if you want them to dazzle.
Why I didn’t like them: Unfortunately, my 15L and 10L got rips in them somehow early on into my hike. I tried to patch them up with duct tape, but it didn’t seal them. In hindsight, I should have patched them with Tenacious Tape, which is a must-have item in your repair kit.
16. MY BEANIE: Patagonia Women’s Pom Beanie
Weight: 2.8 oz (with the pom cut off)
Price paid: Preowned
Why I liked it: It was cozy and kept my head warm! I would even wear the hat to sleep on really cold nights (and the top of Mt. Whitney).
Why I didn’t like it: It wasn’t the lightest option out there (cutting off the pom helped though).
17 and 18. MY BASE LAYERS:
Smartwool Women’s NTS Mid 250 Bottom & SMARTWOOL WOMEN’S PHD LIGHT LONG SLEEVE SHIRT
Price paid: Preowned
Why I liked them: They were cozy!! The shirt was already one of my favorite winter running shirts, and I knew I’d love the soft, warm fabric at night. I ended up hiking in this shirt once we got to Washington because my Sahara shirt was too cold. This wouldn’t have been a good hiking shirt for the previous sections because it would have been way too hot. I also loved the bottoms because they were very soft and warm as well. I ended up sending these home in NorCal because it was too hot to sleep in them and having them sent back to me in Washington.
Why I didn’t like them: They were heavy. I could have gone for something lighter, but I really did like these pieces and didn’t want to spend more money.
19 and 20. MY GLOVES: SMARTWOOL SmartLoft Gloves then Generic fleece gloves
Weight: 1.6 oz for the SmartLoft; 1.3 oz for the generic fleece gloves
Price paid: SmartLoft were preowned; ~$25 for the fleece gloves
Why I liked them: I used the SmartLoft gloves exactly once over the course of almost 1,000 miles before sending them back home in hot, hot, hot Northern California. On that one day I used them in the Sierra section, it was nice to have them, but not necessary. The reason why I switched to the fleece gloves in Washington is because I’m an idiot and thought I still wouldn’t need them in Washington … where it ended up snowing on us. I was extremely glad I picked up these fleece gloves in Leavenworth, WA before that snow storm.
Why I didn’t like them: I had no issues with the SmartLoft gloves because I only used them once, and they did fine. The fleece gloves did cause me trouble. They weren’t waterproof, which was a major issue during the rain and snow. Plus, they started to develop holes quite soon after I bought them.
21. MY CAMP SHOES: Xeroshoes (sent home)
Weight: 6 oz
Price paid: $71.61
Why I liked them: During the Sierra section, we were crossing creeks multiple times a day and trekking through snow. So our feet were constantly wet for a couple weeks. I really enjoyed having something else to wear around camp after a long day. My feet were like raisins from being wet all day, so I think it was healthy to air them out during the evening. Plus, these are a very lightweight pair of sandals.
Why I didn’t like them: After the Sierra section, I didn’t really need them anymore since my feet were no longer always wet. It was still nice to change into something besides my hiking shoes at the end of the day, but it was a luxury I didn’t want to carry any longer, so I sent them home in Northern California.
22. MY MOSQUITO NET: sea to summit Mosquito Head Net
Weight: 0.8 oz
Price paid: $2.14
Why I liked it: It was a relief to put this on when gnats were attacking my mouth, eyes, and ears. Interestingly enough, I never used this when there were mosquitos because it was truly the gnats that came out in full force. Plus, this is an incredibly light piece of gear, so why not carry it?
Why I didn’t like it: Bugs could still get right up to your ear outside the net. Using my hat bill helped them not be able to reach my eyes and mouth.
23. MY ice axe: Petzl Glacier Ice Axe
Weight: 12.4 oz
Price paid: $87.51
Why I liked it: It felt super badass to carry an ice axe, and it’s like your seat belt when walking on steep, snowy mountain faces. I also found it was useful when clearing the snow to set up my tent. REI has good information on how to size yourself for an ice axe. You’ll want a straight, not curved axe. I also recommend getting a leash with your ice axe so you don’t lose it if you drop it.
Why I didn’t like it: It was just one more heavy thing we had to carry in the Sierra section.
24. MY BEAR CANISTER: BearVault BV 500
Weight: 2 lb 9 oz
Price paid: $55.96
Why I liked it: Um. It kept bears from eating my food.
Why I didn’t like it: It was bulky, heavy, and a pain to open (I’m just really bad at opening them). If you have a ULA Circuit, I found the best way to store it was to put my tent into it during the day and keep my food in a separate bag in my pack. Then after dinner, I would put my food back in the canister. I know what you’re going to say: “But then then bears smell food on your tent!!” Yes. Well, you try putting 8 days of food strapped to the top of your pack. It was my best option.
25. MY WATCH: SKmei Solar waterproof wrist watch
Price paid: $0 (the watch arrived with a factory defect, so the eBay seller gave me a full refund, and I was able to fix it myself)
Why I liked it: I think it is absolutely crucial to bring a watch with you on the trail. I looked at my watch multiple times a day, which would have been annoying if I had to take out my phone each time. Plus it had an alarm feature that allowed me to not drain my phone battery at night.
Why I didn’t like it: It had a weird “chime” setting that would make the watch beep every hour. I accidentally turned it on a bunch of times when trying to set my alarm. It was very annoying when I realized it was on at 10pm (waaaaay past hiker midnight).
GEAR I LOATHED
1. MY SHORTS: Patagonia Women’s Baggies
Price paid: $24.00
Why I loathed them: It’s not the shorts’ fault. I’m the dumbass who bought shorts that were clearly too big for me at the start and way too big for me at the end. I had to roll the waistband twice and tie the string as tight as possible. Don’t be like me and buy shorts that fit you.
That’s it. I didn’t loathe anything else. I very meticulously researched and tried out my gear, like you probably are now, and it worked out pretty good for me.
WHY GEAR DOESN’T REALLY MATTER
Warning: Controversial take ahead
Look. Your gear is not walking thousands of miles. You are. Your strength of will is what is going to take you to Canada. Not your fancy, -4 oz sleeping bag.
Try not to sweat these details too much. Everything will work out. I promise.