Since I was 14 I have been on countless backpacking, camping, and hiking trips. I thought I was educated on gear and how to pack, but this last trip completely changed the way I view my gear and pack.
I learned so much more on my time on the John Muir Trail than any other trip and I will be traveling much differently in the future.
Below is a list of what I took on my trip, what I sent home, what I could have ditched, and what I will most likely pack in the future. All of this is based off of my experiences and is only an opinion!
The overall lesson I took away is that I plan to cut WAY back on weight, gear, and what I was carrying. There is so much new “ultra light” gear and I plan to go that route.
- Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Shorts– These are absolutely wonderful. I love hiking in these shorts. They’re light weight, water resistant, UV protecting, and they are long enough to where my thick thighs (that definitely save lives) don’t chafe.
- Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Boot Cut Pant – Love these pants just as much as the shorts. They are comfortable, stretchy, they clean easily, dry fast, and are the perfect pants for changing weather. Highly recommend both these shorts and pants. Future trips I hope to find a pair of convertibles that I LOVE so I can reduce my clothing to only one pair of bottoms.
Columbia Women’s Zip Up Fleece Jacket– While I am not sure the exact one I wore is still for sale (it is about 6 years old), I love wearing my fleece jacket on backpacking/hiking trips and it is a great article of clothing. The down coat I brought was light, so I was forced to double up on jackets. In the future I will purchase a warmer down coat, that is lighter in weight and only carry the one puffy rather than layering. So on a thru-hike I would ditch this, but still a great piece of gear.
- REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket –A great down coat that I have worn for years. While I love this jacket, I restate what I said above – I would ditch this and the fleece for a single warmer down jacket to save on weight and space.
- Quarter-zip long sleeve hiking shirt – The shirt linked here is not the exact one I wear. I have had my black shirt for so many years that the tag is gone and I honestly am not sure where it came from, but this is a good example of what I had. It dries quickly, is lightweight, UV protecting, and great for layering.
- Eddie Bauer Women’s Resolution T-shirt – This was an awesome hiking shirt that was quick to dry, light, UV protecting, and an low cost purchase. I would most likely only bring one shirt on future trips, rather than both the long sleeve and the t-shirt. One of the two would be ditched; dependent on the trip and weather.
- Smartwool Heavy Crew Socks – These are most everyone’s favorite socks and for good reason. I carried two pairs of socks, but could have done with only one pair. It is nice to have a back-up pair in case of emergency or getting the first pair wet, but if you are looking to save space/weight then I would drop down to one pair of socks.
Warm winter hat –brought one, but never wore it. Unless I was cowboy camping or facing serious cold weather I would ditch this – especially if my down coat/puffy has a hood.
- Buff – One of my favorite multi-use clothing items.
- Ball Cap Hat – Wore everyday to protect myself from too much sun.
Rain pants– never wore – if pants are wicking then they will eventually dry… right? I mailed mine home.
- Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket – One of my favorite pieces of gear. In the future, I would possibly carry a lighter weight poncho on thru-hikes to save on weight.
- Undies (duh)
- Osprey Ariel 75 – While I absolutely love this pack, I would go with a lighter and smaller sized pack. I initially had too much weight and gear and ended up mailing a lot home, and could have downsized even more.
- Vasque Breeze III GTX – These are the same style and brand that I have worn since I was 19 years old. They are reliable, sturdy, and fit well with my feet. In the future though, after downsizing my pack I plan to also switch to trail running shoes for thru-hikes. While trail running shoes may not handle snow or be waterproof, they dry much quicker (which helps with crossing creeks and not having to switch shoes) and are lighter, and often times more comfortable.
- REI CO-OP AirRail Plus Sleeping Pad – This sleeping pad works well and compresses to a smaller size, but I will be using a foam egg-crate style sleeping pad from here on out. There are less chances for it to pop or to become damaged and they weight less (especially if they are cut down in size).
- Bear Grylls Zero Degree Sleeping Bag – This bag is an older one I have had for years (can’t even find it online) and while it is extremely warm and good quality, I will also be getting a new quilt, probably a 20-30 degree, that will weight less and still keep me plenty warm.
- Jetboil Flash Cooking System – This was the perfect backpacking cooking system. While it weighs slightly more than a pocket rocket, it is so much faster that you would save on carrying extra gas/propane. One thing I did learn about thru-hikers, is that most do not eat hot meals. They cold soak or simply carry items that they do not have to cook. This is another area to save on weight.
- BearVault BV 500-On the JMT you have to carry a bear canister, and I was very happy with my BV500. It could easily fit food for the trail sections with no re-supply, and is light and easy to use.
- Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Pro – We only carried this for the first few days of our trek. If we had arrived on the trail a few weeks earlier we would have utilized it a lot more, but with the snow melting we didn’t need it. I still would recommend this axe as it is reliable and extremely lightweight.
- Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons-For this specific trail I would swap these out for microspikes – they are lighter and easier to switch on and off.
- Crocs – BEST CAMP SHOES EVER.
Sleeping bag liner- Ditched this
- Sea to Summit Pillow – I would most likely not carry this on a future thru hike, but for a short term camping or hiking trip this is an awesome luxury item.
- Trekking poles – I carry old ones from when I was 14 years old, and while they work and do their job, and will also be purchasing new lighter weight ones.
- Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel – This is an easy and good go to for a quick phone charge, but doesn’t have enough power to charge much else. If you are looking to only charge your phone and no other gear then this light weight option is better than a heavy power battery pack (in my opinion).
- Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – Weighs only 3 oz and was extremely handy in filtering quick water. On the JMT there is water everywhere so it is easy to carry less water (and weight) and to fill up often on the trail.
- Toiletries – I could have even cut back here. Using travel sized EVERYTHING and cutting things out.
- Bars – I love bars in my normal daily life, but if you are someone who is not a fan or protein/fruit bars then I suggest not relying on them. They are also heavy in weight, so it is good to really example the calorie vs. weight ratio when sorting through your food.
- Favorite bars: Lara, Quest, Snickers, One, Pure Protein, etc.
- Jerky/cheese – This became a trail favorite. Having REAL food that is easy to eat and full of calories is extremely important.
- Trail mix – I also love nuts, dried fruit, candy, and anything else I could mix in to my trail mix. This is also a heavy choice and while it is good and calorie dense, be sure to mix it up with varying options because I got tired of trail mix pretty quickly.
- Nut butters – these are quick, easy, and high in calories. I love PB and almond butter so this is on of my favorite snacks.
- Candy – Snickers, Reeses, Skittles… etc. Any candy is great on the trail.
- Freeze Dried Dinners – This is something that I carried (out of habit) and was grateful for. I purchased a large portion of my meals but would love to research making more of my own. These are expensive and if you are consuming hot, then require you to carry more gear.
As you can see, I plan to LIGHTEN my load. By weight, items, food, and just unnecessary gear.
My packing list going forward will look more like:
- Ultra light pack
- Foam sleeping pad
- Ultra light tent
- Trail running shoes
- Bear Canister
- Goal Zero
- Rain gear
- One extra pair of socks
- One extra pair of underwear
- Sawyer Squeeze
- Microspikes (maybe)
I plan to not carry any clothes other than what I am wearing, and to cut back on my weight in almost every area.