Electronics: Anker Astro E5 16000 mAh External Battery, Charging Cable, Wall Plug, Headphones, SPOT Device
The external battery is one of the heavier things I carried – at 10.9 oz – but I would do it again in a heartbeat. One full charge would last about a week, and charging it even a little every time I got to a town stop meant that I never ran out of juice once on the trail. Solar chargers only really work in the desert – though I did find myself looking longingly at them a few times, and using Outro’s once – but if you’re looking to save cash (~$35 vs. ~$100) or for a solution for the entire trail (godspeed with sun in Washington), I’d consider something like this. Anker just keeps getting better and better, so I hear, and I also hear they’ve got great customer service.
The headphones are pretty self-explanatory, and while I started out with some SkullCandy over-the-ear types that I loved, I lost them somewhere between Donohue Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. Sprinkles’s dad gave me some trail magic in the form of his iPhone headphones at the campground at Tuolumne. (Also, food. Lots of food.) I carried a SPOT device on my pack strap in case of emergencies, and to tell my mother every night that I was alive.
Notebook: Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book + All-Weather Black Bullet Pen (4 oz for both)
While I used these a lot on the Colorado Trail and loved them, I carried but didn’t use them on the PCT. I ended up tearing out a few pages in Washington, wrapping them around the pen with a tiny rubber band, and mailing the notebook proper home. The pages survived the whole trip, so if you want to journal on paper, I’d recommend these..
Maps: Halfmile Maps (Paper + Phone) + Halfmile App + Guthook App
I carried paper maps most of the way through SoCal, but between figuring out my battery was reliable and not doing mail drops and having nowhere in a small town to print maps, I ended up giving up on paper altogether. I don’t necessarily recommend this – I think it’s smart to have paper in case electronics get wet/fail – but since my phone is also waterproof, and I took extra special care of my other electronics, it ended up working out for me. I do recommend both Halfmile and Guthook in terms of apps, as both have markers the other one does not. Halfmile is a little less user-friendly to start, but I ended up liking it a lot because you could use the “simulate location” feature to try to plan out your hike for the next few days, or until your next resupply, or things like that.
Insect Repellent: Sea to Summit Head Net with Insect Shield
In my opinion, a mosquito head net is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself, and at less than an ounce, it was well worth it to me. It was nice in SoCal for the gnats that immediately go for your eyes/nose/mouth, and in the Sierra it was essential for keeping madness as well as mosquitoes at bay. I sent mine home at Ashland, but shit got real a little further north – I’d probably keep it through Bend, or even Cascade Locks, next time.
Headlamp – Petzl Zipka Plus 2
Three white settings (strong, weak, flash) and two red (steady, flash). What I particularly love about this model is that the strap actually “zips” back into the casing, so you don’t have to deal with a strap flopping around and taking up space all the time. It’s also simple to wrap it around your wrist for being able to better see things you’re like to trip on in the path when it’s dark out. Runs on AAAs; brought backups in repair kit; had to replace batteries every 1000-odd miles. Loved it.
Pocket Knife – Kowell Multi Nail Clipper
The size of my pinky. Has a knife, scissors, a nail file, and fingernail clippers on it. Was good at all of those things, and honestly, it was really nice to have a nail clipper around on trail, both for clipping nails, and as a makeshift set of tweezers. You can get these on eBay.
Compass – Suunto
Tiny-tiny. Enough for declination and general reference. Didn’t use it – but that 0.2 ounces could’ve saved me in a pinch.
Underwear – Patagonia Active Hipster Briefs (California)
So. Comfortable. Barely there, and dry rather quickly. I switched them out every day with the worn pair, which was cleaned before re-wearing. I experimented with going commando through NorCal, and liked it enough that I ditched these in Ashland.
Hiking Socks – Injinji Trail Midweight Mini-Crew Toesocks
I have paddletoe (my toes like to overlap) and these helped with the blisters – I only ended up with one the entire time, right at the beginning, and it never got too bad. I switched mine out every day in the desert, and cleaned the pair I was carrying, hanging them to dry on the back of my pack; further north, I got away with up to two days between rinses. I used the mini-crew rather than a longer sock – which would’ve kept my legs cleaner – because I have monster calves, and rare is the sock that will fit over them. Only trouble with these I had is that they developed holes like every 200-300 miles, and I ended up replacing them more often than I wanted to. I’ve also heard that these tend to really help with blisters or really stack them on; your mileage may vary.
Water Storage and Treatment – Smartwater Bottles, Gatorade Bottle, Evernew Bottles, Aqua Mira, Sawyer Mini
I carried as few as 2x 1L SmartWater bottles and 1x 20 oz Gatorade Bottle. In the desert, at one point, I had two 2L Evernew bladders – Evernew rather than Platypus, because they threaded with the Sawyer Mini – and another 1L SmartWater-ish bottle. The literage dropped when I got into the Sierra, but there are still longer carries through Oregon and Washington. I never had to prefilter, and while I ran out of Aqua Mira once – in the Sierra, where I used my backup Sawyer Mini – I want to stick to Aqua Mira in the future. The Mini is convenient when you’re thirsty, but slow, so slow.
Toilet Kit – Backcountry Bidet, Dr Bronner’s, Hand Sanitizer
No spade/trowel; I carry trekking poles, the tip of which is made of tungsten carbide. They make drill bits out of those. That and my hand’s enough to get a 6x6x6 cathole dug out, so there’s one concern. And me, the last thing I want to deal with out in the woods is carrying out my sh*tty toilet paper. And you should carry out your sh*tty toilet paper, lest some animal come and dig it up and eat part of it and leave the rest of it on the trail to see. So I use a backcountry bidet instead – a 3oz GoTube filled with treated water. One clean hand, one dirty hand; spray with the clean hand, wipe with the dirty hand – the water does most of the work for you. Afterwards, I use the rest of the water to clean any remaining matter off my hand, and then slap three rounds of sanitizer on. People freak out about how “unclean” this is, but this video (I’d mute your computer before watching, the music is too much) shows that water is way, way cleaner than just wiping with toilet paper. Plus, it’s like getting a mini shower down there once a day.
I started out with Dr. Bronner’s, which was nice, but without a consistent way to resupply it, I ended up just getting rid of the bottle.
As a lady, there are more concerns – I’ve found the most effective way to deal with menses on the trail is a menstrual cup. Again, I don’t like packing out pads/tampons – and again, you should pack out pads and tampons – so being able to pour everything into your cathole for the day (and rinse it out with your bidet, if you go that way) is super handy. Health reasons made me take it one step further, though, and I now have a Mirena – an intra-uterine device that, by giving a low-dose hormone, can stop one’s cycle altogether. That’s definitely a medical procedure/something to talk to a doctor about, though, where the menstrual cup is $30 for 5 years of protection.
Sunscreen, Aleeve (10), Multivitamins (5), Contact Solution (travel size), Contact Case, Extra Contacts, Glasses, Toothbrush (cut in half), Toothpaste (travel size), Bug Repellent Wipe (2). I have extras of all of these, and I’ve been taking Glucosamine to give my joints a little help at the beginning of the trip.
I was a terrible person and didn’t use sunscreen, rarely took painkillers or multivitamins, and didn’t take my contacts out – although I did brush my teeth with relative frequency. I should have probably done better, although I didn’t come back with cavities.
First Aid/Repair Kit
4x Bandaids, 4x Alcohol Swabs, 3x Gauze Pads, 3x Butterfly Closures, 2x Needle, 5ft Floss (thread), 3ft Medical Tape (get Leucotape instead, you’ll thank me), 5ft Duct Tape (restock on this whenever you can, you’ll thank me), Klymit Repair Patch, 3ft Extra Tent Line, Superglue, extra AAA batteries (headlamp), extra mini Bic lighter. After surface-chipping my tooth, I also ended up carrying an emergency dental repair kit, just in case – dental pain is terrible pain. Anything crazier than this happens, and you’re in more trouble than even the most bulky first aid kit could help you through without a medical professional.
I used pretty much everything except the dental repair kit, the floss, the air mattress repair stuff, and the tent line. I ended up replacing things more often than I thought I would, because I was anal-retentive about keeping wounds clean. A friend got sepsis – which can kill you if left untreated – from blisters, so I’d take wound care seriously.
Pack Liner: Trash Compactor bag
Better than a pack cover, and a fraction of the price. Everything that needs to stay dry goes in here; twist and fold down to seal. Works great, patch with duct tape (inside and out) or replace when ripped.