11 months away from the start of the trek I thought it would be useful to my future self to lay out what I am currently intending to take with me.
I was pretty happy with most of my gear last year on the AT (see here for that gear review) so the TLDR version of this article is to say: it’s my AT gear list plus extra insulated clothing.
The trail can usefully be thought of as 3 distinct sections: the mostly hot desert section up to mile 700 which has several high and snowy peaks and is prone to the occasional significant snow storm in April and May; the 300 mile high altitude Sierras where icy conditions rule (crampons and an ice axe are necessary) and a bear canister is legally required; and then the rest which is mixed conditions until Washington when AT-style cold and wet weather threaten hypothermia for several weeks.
The expected low (night) temperature on the AT that I planned for was 0-5c and for the PCT it will be 10c colder than that (-7c or 20f), so in place of my Borah Gear Down Vest (99g) I will take my 3-year old Arcteryx Cerium LT (230g) and additionally my Goose Feet Gear Down Pants (167g). The most common sleeping bag rating used by thru-hikers on the PCT is a 10 degree bag so most people are packing a bit more warmth in their bag than my trusty Zpacks 20 degree bag so I am toying with sending it off to Mountaineering Designs to add another 2oz (57g) of down to bring it up by 16% from 343g to 400g of down.
Another likely addition starting with the Sierra section is a Rab Paradox Pull-On in small (317g) which I have been testing recently. It is basically a fleece but with more ability to breathe and thus to not get (as) soaked with sweat when actively hiking with it. Now, I’ve never been so cold that I’ve ever had to hike with anything other a baselayer and maybe a rainjacket but a test hike in foul January conditions in Yorkshire earlier this year showed me that a basic fleece under a burly rainjacket made for a comfortable day. The basic Polartec 100 fleece I wore was wet by the end of the day and didn’t dry overnight but these issues should be somewhat addressed by the 60gsm Polartec Alpha material used in the Paradox. While a fleece layer is very pleasant to have around all the time, I’d like to avoid carrying one during the “desert” section simply to drop the weight. I won’t need to hike with it there and at camp and at night I will wear my down jacket. When it comes to the Sierras I may need to hike with more insulation and if not then it will an important third layer to keep me warm at night in the colder temperatures found at altitude.
I’m still undecided about my hiking outfit. Pencilled in right now for legwear are the Arcteryx Lafroy pants which I’ve gained some experience with, in a 32/32 which are only 280g and lighter and tougher than they may first appear. I’ve never been one for hiking in shorts and it wouldn’t be hard to find a pair en route if I did decide to try that.
On top I would start with the same Outdoor Research Echo LS Tee in small if I was starting today. Despite being incredibly light (102g) it held up well over 1000 miles of the AT so is still functional enough to use. But I don’t love it so will likely keep looking for something light and breathable but with a high UPF.
For my shoes I am currently trialling the popular La Sportiva Ultra Raptor in UK size 9 (736g per pair). They are not as cushioned as my (worn-out) Hoka One One Tor Ultra Low (696g per pair), and therefore not as comfortable, but right now Hoka are not offering a hiking-specific low shoe other than the quite old Tor Summit WP, a pair of which I have owned for a while now. I am keeping an eye on Hoka this year to see if they get back into the low-cut market (in fact they have never once offered a non-waterproof hiking shoe of any type, which really would be ideal and I would buy 3 pairs immediately if they released some!).
For the Sierras I may use the Nortec Trail Micro Crampons (188g) although they may be a little under-powered if 2018 turns out to be a high snow year like this year in which case I could switch to Nortec’s Nordic Micro Crampons (294g) or even the standard-but-heavy Katoohla Microspikes (394g).
And if I slip and fall down icy mountain slopes despite the crampons then to try and avoid, like, dying I will carry an ice axe which specifically may be the Suluk46 TiCa Ice Tool (140g) though the cheaper and easier-to-source Camp Corsa (205g) would be just fine instead.
On the more experimental front I recently purchased a Marmot Graviton 38 backpack to see if it could improve on the Osprey Exos 38/48 which is the current incumbent. On paper it boasts some of the key features of the Exos: trampoline back to help avoid heat exhaustion in the desert, holster-style side pockets for easy (and weightless) water bottle access, a stretch front pocket and a removable quick-access top pocket (“brain” in Osprey parlance).
I have worn the Graviton 38 on several day hikes but have not yet weighed it down with a typical PCT weight to include 5 days of food and 6 litres of water. Initial impressions are mixed: the holster cut-outs are way too small to be useful for anything other small 500ml bottles (and even then it’s hard to get them back in especially once the pack is packed); the hipbelt pockets are really excellent – large and easy to access; the pack is completely waterproof (I tested this out in 5 hours of wind-driven rain) at least while the DWR treatment holds up; the lumbar foam padding seems to poke into me a bit but not enough to cause a problem; the front pocket is not all stretchy as 90% of it is solid material and therefore it cannot carry half the gear of the Exos. Finally, I’m not sure the hipbelt is fitting snugly enough to transfer the weight properly but the real test will be with 25lb, not 12. Anyway, it’s nice to try something new out knowing I can go back to the Exos 48 without a worry.
PCT California Gear List (Click here for full list on GearGrams)
PCT Sierras Supplemental Gear List (Click here for full list on GearGrams)
PCT Oregon/Washington Supplemental Gear List (Click here for full list on GearGrams)