THIS. This is the ever-thought-about question. I can’t tell you how man blogs and posts I read on the subject. Here are links to the ones I found particularly helpful:
- PCT Gear List
- Before and After Gear List
- Ultralight Gear List
- How to Pack for the AT – REI
- Gear List
- Gear List 2.0
Like I mentioned before there are MILLIONS of lists to sift through and read.
Tentative Packing List:
What I Ended Up Taking:
Things I Wish I Had Done Differently:
Of course having lighter gear in general would have been nice, that stuff is EXPENSIVE though! I’m a bit embarrassed to say how heavy our packs ended up being. Honestly I don’t know for sure because we didn’t weigh them at the start. It had to have been around 50 pounds though. Way, WAY too heavy for any thru hike, and not very comfortable as a section hiker either. Here are a few things I would have left behind, or done differently:
- Hiking Poles: Had I been going longer I definitely would have invested in some. We lucked out and found a pair stashed away in a bear box, free for the taking. My friend was able to use them for the remainder of the hike and we found they definitely help save your legs in the long run; especially when going downhill.
- Camp chair – Leave at home. Was it nice to have? Sure. Was it needed? Absolutely not.
- Tent – Just bring the rain fly, ground tarp, stakes, and poles to save weight
- Sleeping Bag – maybe invest in a warmer one; I got cold a few times
- Filtration System – Rather than bring the two large bladders for the gravity works, I’d leave the “clean bladder” at home and bring a Camelbak Quick Link to filter right into my camelbak bladder. That or buy the ever-popular Sawyer Squeeze to cut some weight.
- Fuel – we only used one canister.
- Compression Sack, 50 feet of Paracord, and Carabiner – Rather than a compression sack I’d get a light weight dry bag, and 20 feet of paracord would have been PLENTY!
- Rain Poncho – I actually loved this! I may invest in getting one specifically designed to go over a backpack. Since returning I’ve looked into The Packa, which seems awesome, but is just so dang pricey! Wearing a rain jacket under your pack gets you super hot while hiking. Having the nice air flow a poncho provides is ideal. Plus it has many other uses…. and is so fashionable.
- Rain Jacket & Pants – These were very nice to wear around camp, especially when it was cold and drizzly. I didn’t use them at all while hiking though, which makes me wonder if I could do without them, especially the rain pants.
- Base-layer leggings – I wish I had brought them.
- Underwear – The compression shorts were TOTALLY awesome and I never had any major chafing issues. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for another girl on the trail; she started chafing so bad she thought she had started her period! If I could swap these out for a similar product made with a Merino Wool blend with anti-microbial properties that help with odor I would. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a product like that. *sigh*
- Synthetic T-shirts – Swap out for 2 merino wool blended shirts, again, to help minimize odor.
- Fleece Hat – Would have been nice, but I survived.
- Mascara – while it was nice, and helped me look pretty, if I was doing a thru hike this definitely would have been left behind.
- Bag Balm – I think Body Glide was a bit easier to work with; the girl who backpacked with me brought a small travel sized stick that was really convenient. I would have brought one small container of bag balm and a small travel sized Body Glide stick.
- Bug Spray – leave at home or get a smaller bottle. I didn’t use this at all.
- Biodegradable Soap – The soap I brought didn’t work very well, especially when it came to washing clothes. The one my friend brought, however, was awesome! I’d get one of these bars and cut off a chunk to take with me instead.
- Overall the BIGGEST change I would make is to our food menu. Check out the post geared specifically towards food for more info on that.
How To Pack Your Bag
Each person seems to have their own way of packing all their gear into a backpack, and to each their own. Every pack itself is made slightly differently; so, depending on what kind of backpack you have, you may want to switch things up. Here’s a packing strategy that worked really well for us though:
For the main compartment of the backpack you generally want to put your tent and sleep system (bag, pad, pillow, etc.) at the very bottom. The rational behind this is you won’t be using these things except for at the very end of the day. On top of the sleep gear goes all the miscellaneous gear like rope, stuff sacks, etc. Again, things you won’t be needing to use during the day. Next in the pack goes all the clothing (except for any rain gear). The food and anything needed to eat the food (ie. cookware) is next. Ideally you’d grab the food/snacks that you’ll be eating on the trail that day and position them in an even more convenient place. Lastly we placed the water filter and first aid kit on the very top; the water filter because we stopped most frequently to use this, and the first aid kit, because it’s just smart to have it easily accessible.
In an accessible pocket or pouch (most backpacks have one on the front of the pack) we placed our rain gear and poncho (you can see the blue poncho peeking out in the picture above). We wanted these to be super accessible in case of any unexpected rain. Most packs also have a pocket on either side; ours were full of our camp shoes one one side and camp chair on the other. Water bottles and tent poles are another good option for these pockets. Strapped to the pack was a trowel and hand sanitizer (via carabiner), and a bandana. Again, for easy access. Do you sense a theme hear?
Lastly we have the top pouch and the belt pockets. Most new packs have these belt pockets, and if yours doesn’t I’m very VERY sorry. They’re so convenient. In one belt pocket I kept my pocket knife, my spork, a small bottle of bug spray, and a small container of Bag Balm. In the other belt pocket I kept my phone and a snack for the trail. Super handy being able to easily reach into these pockets and pull things out on the go. The top pouch of the backpack contained all our personal items. Things like toiletries, camp towel, journal, wipes, toilet paper, external battery, maps, money, ID, credit card, headlamp, lunch/snacks… you get the idea.
It took a day or two to iron it all out, but this system worked really well for us. One thing I would suggest is putting EVERYTHING in some sort of waterproof bag. All of our personal items were grouped together and packaged up in ziplock bags. My clothes were put in gallon sized ziplocks (both to compress them and keep them waterproof). The tent was rolled up in a large trash compactor bag, and my sleep system and fleece was also wrapped up together in another compactor bag. Our food bags were waterproof, so we didn’t have to worry much about those; plus everything was individually packaged in a ziplock or some kind of waterproof wrapping anyway. Not once did we have an issue with anything getting wet, and we had two full days of rain while on the trail. Win!
As always, I hope you found this helpful!