Gear for the PCT

Here is what I am currently using:

  • Backpack: Hyperlite Windrider. It is light, waterproof and fits me very well. I use a Dyneema liner for my sleeping bag to keep it dry (replacing the dry sack stuff sack I used).
  • Tent: Triplex. Great for two people and much lighter than the Copper Spur 3p. I have two pole cups to improve interior volume:
  • Bags: we have matching Feathered Friends bags that zip together.
  • Pads: we both use XLights. I have no idea why it bounces around in the ratings so much. We tie them together with Dyneema cord.
  • Puffies. Win and I both have puffies that are warmer for the weight than Ghost Whisperers. Basically puffies with better down.
  • Shells: that is in flux. We used on the Appalachian Trail with a lot of rain. The PCT has less rain and our packas have some wear on them. I wasn’t happy after recoating them with silicon.
  • Rain gear: we have used rain kilts/rain gaiters and rain pants. have really served us well. But we are considering some DIY dyneema pants. Full zip breathes so much better.
  • Fleece: we used the Terramar Ecolater full zip. It has been discontinued but we are looking at its replacement and some other alternatives. Have ordered them. The company claims 6-7 ounces. I’m hopeful.
  • Sun layer. We got ours from Yogi. She charged us less than Black Diamond charges for them when they are on sale. I also have sun gloves and sunglasses.
  • Stove: we’ve been using a snow peak for years.
  • Water treatment: We each have a Sawyer Micro with CNOC bags. I also carry drops as a back up.
  • Poles: the Black Diamond Ergo cork. Aluminum bends instead of snapping and we’ve both had that work out for us.
  • Ice Axes: we have Black Diamond Axes. I’m not sure why they bounce around in the ratings. One regular and one pro raven.
  • Spikes: Snowline. We have used them to walk in the Virginia weather. The lightest of the well rated spikes. They worked well on shakedowns.
  • Bear Canisters. We both have BV 500s and we also both have LightAF flat bottomed bear bag kits.
  • Socks: we have a variety plus trying out some.
  • Emergency beacons? We have one that we’ve used to reassure everyone and for the insurance.
  • I’m using a that is really light and recharges from my 10k Anker battery pack.
  • Other: pillow. Titanium spoon. Hat. Quesadilla pan. Win carries a titanium pot. I have a Frogg Toggs rain hat. Clothing is another topic. But a buff is a great gear item.

To analyze alternatives I thought I’d start with recent gear surveys and how I made other choices. This is a long and rambling post with my comments intermixed with survey data from several years.

I present 2019 as the baseline since 2020 had a disrupted season and a skewed sample size.

In Salt Lake City area for altitude training.

This is the highest rated (from the 2019 survey):

  • Backpack: ULA Circuit—like much of the highest rated gear it is heavier than many alternatives.
  • Shelter: MSR Hubba NX—I looked at the MSR tents but they are heavier than alternatives and too small. The Copper Spur is sometimes first in the surveys and we really liked ours.
  • Sleeping bag: #1 is Western Mountaineering Versalite—Feathered Friends are bags on par. Their biggest problem was a lack of affiliate marketing kickbacks until recently.
  • Sleeping pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm—Again the heavier choice. It is heavier than the pads we both ended up with deciding to use after trying one (from an REI garage sale).
  • Insulated jacket: Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket—Meh is my thought for this change from the usual Ghost Whisperer. I like my Eos and Win’s Montbell is best in class. The Rab has 700 fill power down. The fill is not even the 850 of the REI Magma (which is a great product line).
  • Shell: Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Jacket—Ok. I can believe that. Win and I have both used Arc’tryx rain jackets. They are great—but heavy like most other #1 choices.
  • Stove: SOTO WindMaster—I have stove envy for this stove.
  • Water treatment: Sawyer Squeeze—spot on though we are carrying Sawyer Micros paired up with CNOC bags. I also carry drops for a backup and for faster access to water.
  • Trekking poles: Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork—best choice too. The carbon version is much more expensive and .4 ounces lighter.
  • Ice axe: Black Diamond Raven Pro—Great choice.
  • Traction device: Snowline Light Chainsen Crampon—I’ll be. That is what we have.
  • Bear canister: Bearikade Weekender—so expensive. The ones we bought are $200 apiece less. AND, you can rent them for even less. If the canister stretch was longer I’d consider spending the money to save ten ounces.
  • Shoes: HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat—I’d be wearing them but they don’t fit my feet right (the arch is long and slow). But I did buy a pair and tried with them.

Compare to 2020:

This is the most common (from 2019):

  • Backpack: Osprey Exos—I’ve used an Exos. It, the ULA and the Hyperlite are very popular on the trail and on the Appalachian Trail. They are also close in the way users rate them. The way an Exos carries on me, my posture is better with the Hyperlite. 2019 and 2020 had the same results for most popular.
  • Shelter: Zpacks Duplex—we have a Triplex. For two people it works much better. For the weight, especially on the Appalachian Trail it was really superior. Year in and year out the most common tent on the PCT is the duplex.
  • Sleeping bag: Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20—again always the most common.
  • Sleeping pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite—lighter than the XTherm. Warm enough all the way down to 17 degrees in our experience.
  • Insulated jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (Hooded)—Win (Happy) has one. She has given it a lot of use. She did let me talk her into getting a better puffy for Christmas. This puffy has long the most common on the trail.
  • Shell: Outdoor Research Helium II—Not waterproof enough for me. For comparison, these are truly waterproof and very light. So I’ve moved to Lightheart Gear from my The Helium and Frogg Toggs are generally the most common on any trail.
  • Stove: MSR PocketRocket 2
  • Water treatment: Sawyer Squeeze
  • Trekking poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
  • Ice axe: C.A.M.P. USA Corsa
  • Traction device: Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System
  • Bear canister: BearVault BV500—what we have. x2 (one each).
  • Shoes: Altra Lone Peak—Altras throw my knees out. Win has gone back to them.

If you want to rent or buy gear, I’ll just cut and paste a notice here (I get no referral fees from any purchases so you don’t need to let them know I sent you).

The following is a quote:

TCO’s Black Friday sale is live! You can visit hundreds of different websites to purchase your gear. Please visit our website to see if we carry the gear you want. Each sale helps us continue to operate here in Kennedy Meadows and to stay available to answer questions both on the phone and online.

PRICE MATCH — We would like to earn your business! If you see something advertised at a lower price than TCO, please call, message, or email me. We almost always price match other sales.

ICE AXES, SPIKES, and BEAR CANISTERS — Buy them now with Black Friday prices, we hold your order here in Kennedy Meadows, you pick up when you arrive. If you need to cancel for ANY reason prior to pick up, you receive a full refund. You can’t lose!

BEAR CANISTER RENTALS — $20 off with Black Friday prices. Reserve now, you can always cancel with a full refund if you don’t make it to Kennedy Meadows. Bear canister rentals are a VERY POPULAR item.

INTERNATIONAL HIKERS — Buy your gear now with Black Friday prices, we can either hold your order until you get to Kennedy Meadows, or we can hold it for a few months and then ship it to wherever you stay in San Diego, Campo, or another destination before you start your hike. If you need to cancel, you get a full refund (excluding closeout items). We only ship orders to USA addresses.

CLOSEOUT ITEMS — These are products that have been discontinued by the manufacturer. We have priced these items way below our cost, many are 50% or more off. Once you purchase a closeout item, it is yours, there are no refunds even if we hold your order and then you cancel your order. I hope that makes sense.

Again, I really appreciate your support! Feel free to reach out to me in this FB group or privately if you have any questions.

Home phone (8am-5pm Pacific only) 559-850-4453

From Yogi

Postscript the 2016 data.


… asked hikers which piece of gear they would most like to UPGRADE and came up with the following list:

  1. Sleeping Bag (Nobody with a Western Mountaineering UltraLite said they would upgrade their sleeping bag.)
  2. Rain Gear
  3. Backpack
  4. Shelter (Nobody with a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 said they would upgrade their shelter.)—this is one of the reasons I bought a Copper Spur for the AT.
  5. Down Jacket
  6. Sleeping Pad (Nobody with a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm said they would upgrade their sleeping pad.)

See also from earlier years:


LEAST LIKED gear out on the trail.

Here’s what I came up with.

NOTE: an appearance here does not necessarily mean that this gear was not liked by other hikers.

  • LEAST LIKED BACKPACKS: Osprey Atmos AG 65, ULA Circuit
  • LEAST LIKED SLEEPING BAGS: ZPacks 20°, Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20, REI Igneo
  • LEAST LIKED SHELTER: MSR Hubba NX 1, Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1

And here are a few more stats I managed to harvest from the data mound:

  • 62% of hikers who would upgrade their WATER TREATMENT were using a Sawyer MINI.
  • 33% of hikers who would upgrade their SLEEPING PAD were using a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol.
  • 33% of hikers who would upgrade their SLEEPING BAG were using a ZPacks or Enlightened Equipment bag.
  • 52% of hikers who would upgrade their SLEEPING BAG were using a bag with a temperature rating of 19°F (-7.2°C) or higher.


  • There was a surprising amount of distaste for ZPacks – particularly their 20 degree bag and backpacks.
  • Again, the Sawyer MINI was a much-hated piece of gear. If you’re thinking about bringing it, I would definitely consider sucking it up and bringing that 1 oz / 28 g extra and getting the Sawyer Squeeze.

This is kind of a rebuttal to some of the quirkier results in the 2020 survey (eg the Sawyer Mini suddenly coming up as the best filter).

And compare with the Appalachian Trail statistics.

On preparing for the PCT

That essay actually seemed more useful than aimed at trying to sell me something.

Additional links: