The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles of some of the most scenic and varied landscapes stretching from Mexico to Canada. As the trail winds its way through California, Oregon, and Washington the natural environment features desert, glaciers, forests, and even volcanoes.
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most loved expanses in the Western United States. Each year thousands of people experience the bounties it has to offer. If you’re one of them then you’re in for a treat. Whether you’re hiking only a few miles or challenging yourself to tackle all 2,650 you’ll want to be well prepared for the journey.
This list serves as a handy checklist for everything that you might need to hike the trail. With enough preparation and planning you can enjoy one of the best experiences on the planet.
If you plan on hiking the trail straight through you’ll need adequate shelter along the way. Most hikers prefer to carry a tent, while others keep it light and carry a bivy. While it may mean a bit of extra weight, you might be grateful for the extra space of a tent should you get stuck in a days-long storm.
When selecting a tent its strength and weight should be prime considerations. You also want to consider the fact that it needs to stand up to the elements, including rain, snow, and wind, while it is still portable enough to carry around on long walks.
Your backpack is your friend on this trip. While bag technology is improving to make bags lighter, many long hikers prefer packs in the 45L to 65L capacity range. Of course it all depends on what gear you plan to carry, how much you can compact it, and how many days of food rations you plan on taking. Some places on the trail require you to carry a bear canister, so make sure that your backpack has enough space for all your gear and the canister.
Make sure whatever backpack you pick has a fit that is right for you. Your pack will literally be strapped to your back day in and day out, so you want to make sure you’re comfortable with it. It’s helpful to ask an expert (we recommend REI) so that your pack doesn’t pinch or rub you the wrong way.
Fluctuating temperatures along the PCT mean that it can go from warm to very cold along the way. Your sleeping bag should be able to keep you comfortable throughout, so it’s best to choose something in the 0- to 15-degree range so that you aren’t left shivering when you hit the Sierra.
As well as temperature rating, when you’re out shopping, make sure that a bag suits your height, shoulders, and hips. A bag should fit snugly around you, but not be too tight.
A sleeping pad is an often overlooked product, but it can be crucial to your comfort. While sleeping pads provide some extra padding, they also keep you warm from the freezing cold ground.
Stay healthy on the trail by treating your water. There are a lot of options out on the market, but be sure to pick one that is both lightweight and doesn’t take up a lot of time to work.
You don’t want to get lost on the PCT, or any trail. Packing a good navigation system can literally save your life. While there are a lot of good apps out there, it’s a good idea to also pack a paper map and a compass.
Your packing list may change according to your tastes and needs, but this should give you a good basis to begin with for a fun and safe experience on the trail.