Part 1 of my gear list for my 2018 southbound thru-hike of the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the things that I will be wearing on the trail while I hike, sleep and confront the various weather conditions the PCT will hurl at me.
In case you missed it, I’ve written a few articles already about my upcoming SOBO thru-hike of the PCT this year; first a post regarding why I’m hiking the trail again, and then another regarding my budget for such an undertaking. If you have already read these posts, thank you for your continued support as I attempt my second thru-hike of the PCT. Please consider donating to my charity campaign ‘Hiking for Hope and Healing’ with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I will be trying to raise at least $1 for every mile that I hike. I’m happy to announce that I’ve already raised over 40% of my goal, and all before I’ve even set foot on the trail!
Donate to Hiking for Hope and Healing
Since I’ve already thru-hiked the PCT, I am in a unique position to offer a comparison to what I used previously to hike in, and what I am planning on wearing on my SOBO hike. Hopefully, my post is informative to those interested in hiking the PCT and comes off less like a vapid fashion editorial.
Here are my measurements so you can get an idea as to how I’m built:
- Height: 5’7″ / 170 cm
- Weight: 125 lbs. / 56.7 kg (give or take 5 lbs.)
- Chest: 34″ / 86 cm / Bra size: 34 C (U.S.)
- Waist: 26″ / 66 cm
- Hips: 32″ / 81 cm
- Pant Size: 2 ( Women’s U.S)
- Shirt Size: Women’s Small
- Shoe Size: 9.5 (Women’s U.S.)
As you can see, I have a pretty slim build with narrow hips. However, I do have a larger chest, broad shoulders and some booty. My weight is from my commitment to fitness, and I now have a healthy relationship with food (f*ck diet culture). It does fluctuate like any other human being, usually around 5 pounds in either direction. I’m posting my measurements to help others who may be of a similar build and are looking for suggestions regarding hiking gear. If you feel like trolling me, go for it; just know that I moderate all my comments before approving them so your post won’t make it to public view (oh the joys of being a lady on the internet, am I right?).
This is the clothing that I will be hiking in daily, and will be worn in nearly all weather and trail conditions. The number one rule that I live by when it comes to choosing hiking clothing is “cotton kills.” What does this mean exactly? Synthetic materials for everything I wear. Cotton takes too long to dry and causes you to become cold once you stop hiking (from sweat saturation). I also avoid rayon/modal fabrics for the same reason. I look for a polyester/nylon blend because it is quick dry and breathable. For warmth, I shoot for merino wool or wool blends as its breathable, usually quick dry, and also keeps you warm when its wet.
Please note: I am an ambassador for the brands ‘Wild and Roaming’, and ‘Runner’s High Herbals.’ Some products from these companies were given to me so that I can represent these brands while hiking. All reviews are my own opinions.
Here’s what I’m wearing while I hike:
REI Sahara Pattern Long Sleeve Shirt
REI clearly got the memo about women’s gripes about hiking clothing when they designed this hiking shirt. It has two deep functional breast pockets that are large enough for a phone, a map and other small items. It also has long sleeves that protect your skin from the sun and bugs, and which can be rolled and then secured with snap button taps. It features a pop-able collar to protect your neck from burning, a vented upper back and mesh under arm area to prevent swampy feelings.
Another thing that I really appreciate is its color; I know it’s not a fashion show out there but I’m seriously sick of women’s hiking shirts that only come in pinks, purple or some other horrible pastel color. Just because I’m a lady doesn’t mean that I want to wear Easter Bunny colors while I’m in the outdoors. Bravo, REI. Way to listen to your consumers.
I found that this shirt runs a bit large, but I still purchased a size small, which still gives me plenty of room for movement (not tight anywhere on my body).
Materials: 94.5% Nylon, 5.5% Spandex. Mesh panels are 100% polyester.
Where to get it: Women’s Sahara Shirt or the Pattern Sahara Shirt (the pattern that I have has been discontinued, but it seems that they have some new patterns). Also comes in a plus size.
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I wore a cheap performance T-shirt by Reebok combined with a long sleeve nylon henley made by Marmot (currently discontinued). They worked alright, but I prefer the REI Sahara shirt because of the pockets, and the vented back and under arms.
Under Armour Running Shorts
What I like:
They have a drawstring waist, which is good for when I will inevitably drop some weight from hiking. I don’t want to have to constantly keep pulling my shorts up, so the drawstring is a must. I also love the mesh liner that allows me to do away with the need to wear underwear 24/7. There is a small internal pocket, but it is so tiny that I likely won’t use it for anything.
Materials: 88% polyester, 12% spandex
Where to get it: I bought my pair at Fred Meyer, a department store local to the PNW. Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI and Amazon all have similar shorts.
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I wore a pair of Nike Dri-Fit shorts that had a drawstring band and mesh liner on the inside. My new Under Armour shorts are very similar, and I don’t like one over the other. I feel these style of shorts are a dime a dozen, and easy to find at any outlet shop or online.
Wild and Roaming Sitka Spruce Leggings
What I like:
I love that these are high-waisted, creating an extra buffer between my skin and my pack’s hip belt. They’re made of soft, stretchy material, and movement in them is easy and comfortable. I’ve always preferred the feel and comfort of leggings over hiking pants, and these are no exception: the material is thicker than most leggings, which will make them warmer for chilly days, more durable, and protect me from mosquito bites. They’ll be great for on trail performance, as well as for lounging in camp in the evenings. I’ve used them on several training hikes now, and I’m very pleased with them.
Since I don’t wear rain pants in inclement weather, these will be nice under my rain skirt since they are quick dry (see my section below on rain gear for more information).
Materials: 85% polyester, 15% spandex
Where to get it: Wild and Roaming (Capri length also available)
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I wore a pair of Prana Halle hiking pants initially, and then switched to a pair of running tights from REI just after the Sierras. I do like my Prana hiking pants, but I struggled with the button closure constantly becoming loose and then falling off, and the inseam was too long on them. They had a few pockets, which is more than most leggings have, but I didn’t find them very functional (too small and shallow to actually store anything). The REI running tights were just okay, as the waist band was too big and sat only on my hips. They fell down a lot, and I had to eventually tuck my shirts into them just to keep them in place.
I don’t like to wear underwear when I’m hiking, as it makes my butt sweat and then I end up with some unfortunate chafe in areas that should never experience such discomfort. I’ve also struggled to find decent bra that doesn’t squish the girls together, which in turn causes heat rash in between my ‘Grand Tetons.’ I’ve decided to use something a bit unconventional instead; here’s what I’ll be wearing:
Hurley Quick Dry Garden Tri Surf Top
I guess what makes it a ‘surf top’ instead of a bikini is that the triangle bra doesn’t move around and there are no ties on the back. It’s more for athletes that move around, rather than for sunbathing poolside.
I chose this surf top over a sports bra for a couple of reasons. Hiking doesn’t warrant a high impact sports bra, at least for me anyway. I like this top because it keeps my breasts separated, and the keyhole in the center lets air flow in and helps prevent heat rash. When I discovered this surf top, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had no ties in the back, which would have been a deal breaker for me. I didn’t want the extra bulk of the ties between my back and my pack causing irritation as I hiked.
I’ve worn this top on a few occasions now; at work where I’m very active and also on long day hikes. I have yet to wear it on a backpacking trip yet, but so far I’m very pleased with its performance.
As I mentioned above, I wear a size 34 C bra, and I bought a size medium in this top. It fits really well, providing full coverage in the cups.
Materials: 89% nylon, 11% spandex
Where to get it: Zappos.com
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: When I began the trail, I used a cheap Nike bra that I had bought at an outlet store. It did its job until I reached Bend, Oregon. By then, it was pretty grimy with sweat stains and had lost most of its elasticity. I wasn’t thrilled with the fit (it created uni-boob). In Bend, I purchased the ‘Patagonia Barely Bra’ from REI and finished the trail in that. I did like the fit of this bra more, although it still didn’t keep the goods completely apart. The fabric on this bra was outstandingly soft and it was a much more comfortable wear than the previous Nike bra. I do still own the Patagonia bra, as it was in really good shape by the end of the trail, and I wear it when lounging around my home. The Nike, however, went straight into the bin in a motel room in Oregon.
ExOfficio Women’s Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Hipkini
I got these when my go-to sport briefs from Champion were no longer available. The ExOfficio briefs have rave reviews on both REI and Amazon, so I decided to give them a try despite the somewhat expensive price tag.
I don’t regularly wear underwear briefs when I’m hiking, as I had stated above, due to them causing me to sweat too much. These will likely only be worn as an extra layer for when I’m on my period, and as a swim bottom for when I take a dip in lakes and rivers.
They fit me really well, given that I have narrow hips and booty, and the mesh makes them fairly breathable. I’ve worn them on a few overnight trips, and so far, so good!
Materials: 93% nylon, 7% spandex
Where to get it: Amazon
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I used some cheap Champion boy-short style underwear that came in 2-pack from Target. They’re no longer available, which I’m pretty bummed about. Underwear is one of those things that I hate spending a lot of money on, because it is, without a doubt, going to get worn out on the trail and then tossed. These held up nicely though, and lasted the length of the PCT, as well as all my adventures hiking overseas. I just recently wore a hole in my last pair, and sadly had to retire them.
My rain gear is tried and true, and best of all, it’s super light! Here’s what I’ll be wearing in downpours:
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket
I’ve used this a lot since I bought it, since I live in the Seattle area and the stereotype about it raining a lot is absolutely true. I love this rain jacket! It packs down small, weighs very little and is waterproof. It also doubles as a nice wind jacket when needed, and I am all about gear that is multi-functional! To save on weight, it only has one pocket on the left breast, but it is big enough to fit my phone and a lip balm.
Materials: nylon, with Pertex Shield+ 2.5 layer waterproof breathable laminate
Where to get it: REI
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I used a bulky GoreTex rain jacket from Columbia, and I absolutely hated it. I rarely used it, as it rained very little until I reached Washington. It took up too much room in my pack, and when I actually had to use it, it was worthless. It did little to protect me from getting wet, and by the end of the day I was drenched and cold.
ULA Rain Kilt/Skirt
I actually bought this when I was in the UK, for my thru-hikes of the South West Coast Path in England, the West Highland Way and Cape Wrath Trail in Scotland. I wore quick dry leggings under them, and the combination worked brilliantly. It’s also great for when you need to laundry in town; simply wear this and your rain jacket while your hiking clothes are in the wash and avoid offending the families at the laundromat. The best part: it weighs less than 3 ounces!
Materials: silicone impregnated nylon
Where to get it: ULA Equipment. Also available in the UK from ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I first used a pair of Frogg Toggs rain pants that I bought online, and I hated them. It was one of the first things that I sent home from the trail. They were bulky and had a really weird fit, and I sweat profusely in them as if it was a sauna suit. I hiked the rest of the PCT without rain pants, and simply wore my quick dry leggings to get me through. It was an okay situation, but sometimes I got pretty cold. Previous to that, I owned a fancy pair of GoreTex rain pants from The North Face, and I wore them on my thru-hike of the Oregon Coast Trail. I hated those also, as I ended up more damp from sweat than I did from rain. I think it’s safe to say that I despise rain pants in any form, and I’m a true convert to the rain skirt.
REI Minimalist Waterproof Rain Mittens
What I like:
I received these as a gift for my birthday, but I have yet to use them. They seem sturdy and warm enough, and are considered ultralight as they weigh only around one ounce.
Materials: Nylon, with EVent waterproof laminate
Where to get it: Sorry folks, at the moment REI has discontinued these. However, ZPacks makes ultralight rain mitts.
In Comparison to what I used on my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I didn’t have a pair of waterproof gloves or mittens, and I really wish that I had. They were incredibly hard to come by at the time, and my fingers were like icicles every time it rained or snowed.
I’m a cold sleeper, so merino wool is my best friend come night-time. I also wear different clothes than what I hike in to keep my sleeping bag clean and it’s loft at a premium. Here’s what I’m taking to stay toasty as a marshmallow on chilly nights:
Helly Hansen HH Warm Base Layer Pants
What I like:
I bought these on clearance from REI awhile back and used them on a quick overnight trip to the Washington high desert, where it got below 40 degrees at night. They worked out nicely, kept me warm and weren’t itchy.
They are a midweight layer, and on extra cold nights I will likely layer them over my Wild and Roaming leggings.
Materials: 57% Merino wool, 43% Polypropylene
Where to get it: Amazon
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I used a pair of hot pink Helly Hansen wool base layers on my previous thru-hike, and accidentally left them behind in the UK. Oh well. I’m returning to them because I like them, although I chose to go with the more low-key color of black this time around.
Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Drape Neck Hoodie
What I like:
This is a rather thick wool top, but not too heavy. I’ve owned it for some time now, and it’s incredibly warm and cozy. I love the hood for extra cold nights in camp. The wool is soft, a bit stretchy and not itchy in the least bit.
Materials: 100% Merino wool
Where to get it: This shirt has long been discontinued by Smartwool, so you may have a bit of trouble finding it. Campsaver seems to have a few left, although in very limited sizes.
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I wore this on my 2016 thru-hike, as well as on thru-hikes in England and Scotland.
REI Midweight Merino Wool Crew Socks
What I like:
These socks are soft and thick, and very warm. Since I’m a cold sleeper, they’ll do very nicely. I’ve tested them out a few times now on chilly overnighters on the Olympic Peninsula, in southern Oregon on the Rogue River Trail and in the high desert of Washington State. Toasty toes, every time. And the price was right too!
Materials: 69% merino wool, 29% nylon, 2% spandex
Where to get it: REI
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I wore a midweight wool sock by Smartwool for my sleep socks, but I made the mistake of hiking in them towards the end of my 2016 thru-hike and wore a hole in them. They were great socks, but the REI brand I picked up seems just as good, if not better.
Dakine Veronica Beanie
What I like:
I picked this up at REI, and what really caught my attention was how soft it was. I’ve pretty much been wearing this beanie all winter and it keeps my noggin really warm. I hadn’t originally planned on using this on the PCT, but it’s far too cozy to leave at home.
Materials: 100% acrylic
Where to get it: REI
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I used a run-of-the-mill knit beanie by Columbia. It was a bit on the thin side, and not warm enough.
Taking care of your feet is the most important thing you can do on a thru-hike. Here’s what I’m putting on mine to help get me from start to finish.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5
What I like:
These are trail running shoes that have a serious fan-boy type of following in the thru-hiker community. So what’s the rage all about? For me, it’s that oh-so roomy toe box and comfy zero drop cushioning. I was a skeptic at first, but after using them on the John Muir Trail last year, I’m totally sold. Finally, my toes have the room they need and my issues with plantar fasciitis are finally gone.
Materials: (See AltraRunning.com for more info)
Where to get it: Altra Running
VS. 2016 PCT thru-hike:
I used several different brands of trail running shoes while on my first thru-hike, and I wasn’t very satisfied with any of them. They all lacked the proper support that I needed, or had narrow toe boxes. The brands that I used: Merrell, Topo, Adidas and Nike.
Darn Tough Vermont Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks
What I like:
These are hands down the best hiking socks I’ve ever used. They’re made of the toughest merino wool on the market, and are super breathable. I’ve used them on nearly all of my thru-hikes, and on my 2016 PCT hike, my two pairs lasted me past the halfway point; that’s over 1300 miles! Amazing!
So what happens when they do wear through and finally develop a hole? No worries, Darn Tough Vermont stands by their product. Simply fill out a form, mail them the damaged socks and they’ll replace them for free. I can’t recommend them enough!
Materials: 59% Merino Wool, 39% Nylon, 2% Lycra
Where to get it: Darn Tough Vermont
VS. my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I used Darn Tough socks.
Dirty Girl Gaiters
What I like:
These sassy gaiters keep sand, dirt and stones from getting inside my shoes while I’m hiking. I love them so much, I might just wear them everywhere I go!
Materials: 100% Lycra
Where to get it: Dirty Girl Gaiters
VS. what I used on my 2016 PCT thru-hike: I used a pair on my 2016 hike. Definitely tried and true!
Prana Down Puffy
I’ve had this jacket for a while now and have used it on several thru-hikes and short trips. Honestly, I kind of hate the color of it (remember when I mentioned looking like an Easter Bunny earlier?). However, it serves its purpose of keeping me warm in camp in the mornings and evenings, and it also packs down into its own pocket. If the night is extra cold, I sometimes wear it while I sleep. It’s still warm, so I’m keeping it for now.
I’ll be using a pair of sun protective gloves by Mountain Hardware to prevent the tops of my hands burning while I hike. I bought mine at REI, and wish that I had used a pair on my 2016 thru-hike (my hands resembled a leather couch once I finished). As far as cold weather gloves goes, I found a decent pair of fleece gloves on the ground while I was hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland, but they are really nothing to write home about and something similar can be found on Amazon.
Basic Cotton Bandana
I always like to have one on hand for this or that; great for sponge baths in creeks, keeping my hair out of my face, and for wiping the sweat away. I’ve used a Half Buff previously, but I don’t like the tightness of them on my head (causes mild headaches).
I bought a couple of cheap-ish pairs from Amazon. I won’t spend a lot of money on high-end sunglasses, as I have a fairly consistent track record for losing them while hiking. I found a couple of pairs for around $25 each that have plastic frames; I try to avoid wire frames as they are flimsy and more likely to break.
I’ll be sporting a brand that I represent: Runner’s High Herbals.
I prefer trucker hats because of the mesh back, which keeps my scalp from becoming an itchy , sweaty mess. I mainly wear trucker hats for sun protection for my face (and perhaps a little bit to look cool). I’ve worn them on every thru-hike and don’t plan on switching it up. I’ve tried to wear straw, wide-brimmed hats in the past and I don’t enjoy them very much; the under chin straps always cause my skin to break out, and they never retain their shape after they’ve been crushed a couple of times.
Updates and Gear Changes:
At some point on the trail, and possibly even before then, I will change my mind about some piece of gear that I’m planning on using. When that happens, I will do my best to provide an update on this post, as well as in my hiking journals. I am also planning on doing a post PCT gear review.
My thru-hike is nearing, and I’m frantically trying to get all my pre-hike posts in order before I head out. My second gear post is coming soon, and will feature all my other hiking gear (pack, shelter, sleeping bag, cook system, etc.).
If you have any questions regarding my gear, please don’t hesitate to ask! Feel free to leave a comment on this post, shoot me an email, or DM me on any of my social media platforms.
Hi – if you’re going to be packing some Heel the Sole, can you let us know how it worked out, please? And, as you walk along Section K, am dying to hear how you find the Altra Lone Peaks. Are they stiff enough to kick steps if you had to, and at midday, if the snow gets slushy, do they keep your feet warm?
Thanks for taking time to descend into the details.
Hi Stephen, I’ll be taking along and using Heel the Sole, as taking good care of my feet is a must. And I will definitely get into the Altra’s performance in the snow, as well as the rest of the trail. I’ve previously used them on the JMT and a few other trails, although not much in the snow. Thanks again for having a read!