Smokebeard Hikes

PCT2018 Gear List

(Originally published at The Trek)

I have a few purchases left to make, but right now my gear list is pretty solid. Pack weight is just at 13 lbs, and that includes a 1 lb fudge-factor for things like chapstick, extra clothes added at the last minute, the weight of my pen, money, and other trinkets. As I mentioned in my other post, when I started at Katahdin in 1997, my big four weighed 18 lbs. Adding in a stainless steel pot that weighed 1lb, my trusty MSR Whisperlite, 2L of fuel, sweatpants, a flannel shirt, extra clothes, raingear, and enough canned food and fresh vegetables to last the 100 Mile Wilderness, the total weight was around 70 lbs. The pack felt as big as I was.

In 1997, at mile 281, still easily 50 lbs on my back. I still have the walking stick!

Fast forward 20 years later, and except for my compass, everything is new.

The Big Four


In 2017, a daintier pack, probably here around 25lbs loaded, and a more Leave No Trace friendly outfit.

Food and Water


Nerdy Stuff

Personal Care


Decision points

Big Four

The trick is flexibility and adaptability. For instance, in the Sierra and northwards, I need the ability to keep bugs out of where I’m sleeping. For that, I’ll add the actual tent part instead of just the fly. Many hikers opt for either a tarp or a high end ultralight tent, but a tent where you add the floor separately. By the time you buy and assemble all that, you have … a tent.

I’m happy to swap out the sleeping bag for a quilt, as I tend to toss and turn, and always end up face-first in my mummy bag. Plus, in warm weather, it’s a quilt anyway. I used to carry a silk liner along, but I found that I got tangled up in it, and if you change over into your thermals for sleeping, you keep the same level of warmth.

I’m going with an inflatable pad this time around. I had a gift card for it, it’s more insulating, packs smaller, and is lighter than my good old foam Ridgerest. The only thing I worry about is puncturing it. Also, the Ridgerest was a handy seat, and bullet-proof. We’ll see how this goes.

On the pack front, I’m sticking with the old Exos because it fits me, holds a bear can sideways, and I own it.  But I’m leaving the lid/brain home, saving four and a half ounces.   At 61L, the pack is more than big enough, and having the big brain on top just encourages you to fill it, which I find unbalances the pack.

Lost & Found

Many people don’t carry a compass, or paper maps, instead trusting to the obvious well-worn trail, their phones, and the presence of other hikers. I prefer to have paper maps so I can see where I am, where I’m going, and plan my days. While you can use the sun and stars to navigate, especially in the desert, I carry the compass for certainty.


This year I’m bringing a smaller battery pack, weighing just a hair over 4 oz, instead of the bigger, 10050 mAh battery I brought last year, weighing almost 8 and a half. It will bring my phone from 1% battery to 93%. Since my phone will go 3-4 days on airplane mode with camera use and not too often checking Halfmile or email, my total endurance is 7, maybe 8 days. I think I’ll get the additional battery when I hit the Sierra – not the best time to add weight, but since it’s also the battery pack to recharge my headlamp, so better safe than sorry. I’ve thought about going solar, but the weight and fiddliness is just too much to deal with.


No stove – I tried this last year and I think I’m sticking with it. Even if you have a stove, you’re not cooking gourmet meals. Food is not why I’m out here, so I’ll stick to basic stuff and put up with less-than-perfect pasta, to save weight, time and space. I picked up some 2L water bladders to replace my 1L bottles; each roughly weighs the same, so I gain almost 3 ounces back. Plus they roll up and compress down when I empty them, super handy for packing.  In general, the daily routine is:

  1. Get up, eat poptarts & PB, place 2 packs oatmeal in PB jar half full of water.
  2. Hike
  3. When the sun rises above the brim of your baseball hat, stop and have Second Breakfast – the soaked oatmeal.  By then you need water anyway.
  4. Hike
  5. Eat lunch – tortillas, cheese, fruit, maybe an avocado
  6. Hike
  7. Afternoon snack break – load the PB jar with dinner, i.e. lipton pasta with TVP bits added, and fill with water
  8. Hike
  9. Break for dinner, eat soaked pasta
  10. Hike?
  11. Sleep


Trust your gear

There’s nothing magical about this gear list, except it is mine. It fits, I like it, and I know its capabilities. There’s plenty of gear lists out there that you can copy, grab your credit card, buy, and you’ll probably do ok.  Know your gear, know what it does, and trust it. When you whittle down individual pieces to their bare essentials, and skip the things you don’t need, everything fits like a second skin.  Then you can get down to business and enjoy yourself.  The real point is not to geek out about pack weight and calorie density, the real point is to be out enjoying yourself and experiencing things.  When your equipment stays out of the way, you know you’re in a good place.

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