A Woman’s PCT Gear List Explained

A Women’s PCT Gear List Explained

The PCT Continued…

In the spring of 2019, I set out to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) solo from Mexico to Canada. It was a very big snow year for Northern California and the Sierra Nevada with a lot of snow to hike over and high and potentially dangerous river crossings. I happened to meet another thru-hiker named Mark (aka Potatoes) close to Walker Pass and we grew rather sweet on each other. Once we got to Lone Pine, we decided to flip up to Washington and the Canadian border together.

By late September the days were getting shorter and it was getting colder. We ended up finishing our hike short of the Sierra Nevada, with the goal of completing it at another time so we could enjoy it more. Rather than rush through the section, we wanted to savor what may be one of the most beautiful regions of the PCT.

That ‘another time’ happens to be this summer, starting in late June 2021, picking up from Donner Pass and walking south to where we got off. We’d hiked 2,250 miles of the PCT in 2019, so I guess you’d called our journey a really big section hike. And we’re okay with that.

Pacific Crest Trail Marker
Pacific Crest Trail Marker

Gear List Summary

With all my gear together, my base weight is 17.46 pounds, which includes 2.5 those pounds of a bear canister. There are surely ways I could decrease weight from my pack, by spending money on more ultralight gear or eliminating things, but I’m content with where I’m at.

The tables below show what I’m heading back to the PCT with this June. My commentary includes what I may have switched to from 2019 and why I like particular gear choices.

Baggage

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L BackpackLightweight, great pockets129.8
Gregory Rain Cover 65-75LFull coverage, silicon 40D polyester14.7
Trash Compactor Bag LinerTo keep my pack contents dry12

I started using a Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack when I’d hiked the PCT in 2019 and I plan to use it again in 2021 because it weighs in at just under two pounds. I really dig all the side pockets and compartments for easy storage and access. Plus I find it to be very comfortable to wear. I use the medium frame and small hip belt; Gossamer Gear lets you mix and match these components for your body size.

I love all of the pockets and external storage on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 backpack
I love all of the pockets and external storage on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 backpack.

My only complaint is that one of my shoulder straps started ripping early on in my 2019 hike. Gossamer Gear says you can comfortably carry up to 30 pounds with the Mariposa and it can handle up to 35. I was never anywhere near 35 pounds and maybe on a few occasions with extra water close to 30, so I didn’t understand why it was tearing. With the use of a heavy-duty sewing machine, Mark repaired it for me in town and I never had any other issues the remaining five months on the PCT.

Rather than buy a new rain pack cover, I’m just keeping the hot pink one I have from another pack that I used when I thru-hiked AT, the Gregory Deva 70. It’s big for the Mariposa 60 but works fine when I need extra waterproof protection.

House

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
Tarptent Double RainbowHybrid, single wall tent + stakes143
Sea-to-Summit Flame IV Sleeping BagWomen's specific mummy bag, 850fp down131.4
Sea-to-Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack Med. 14LFor my sleeping bag15.2
Thermarest Z Lite SOL Sleeping PadFoam pad, R-value 2.1114

When Mark came into the picture on the PCT (in 2019), we decided to purchase and share the Tarptent Double Rainbow together. We changed the stakes out to six MSR Groundhog stakes that are durable, bringing our two-person tent setup to 43 ounces. We split this up as we hike together, with me carrying the stakes and poles (11.8 ounces total). We love this tent for its roominess and durability and have used it on many trips since, so we’re stoked to take it back out again.

Didn’t know I’d meet this face on the PCT!
Didn’t know I’d meet this face on the PCT!

A big switch I’m making this year is my sleeping bag choice. I was disappointed in the Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt 10 I used in 2019 and I froze my butt off every single night I used it. Mark had a Western Mountaineering 20 degree down sleeping bag and because he sleeps hot and I run very cold, he was often happy to use the quilt as a blanket while I snuggled warmly in the Western Mountaineering bag. Once it started getting colder though, I sent the quilt home and got my trusty REI Joule 21 down sleeping bag shipped to me. I had been trying to cut weight by going with a quilt that is considerably lighter, yet because I chill easily by nature, it wasn’t the right choice for me and I ended up selling the quilt.

This time out I’m using the Sea-to-Summit Flame FM IV 15-degree women’s sleeping bag. It’s lighter than my REI Joule 21 and I’m betting it will keep me warmer on those cold Sierra nights at higher altitudes. The fact that it’s down 850+ loft makes me warm and cozy all-over just thinking about it.

I’m actually not planning on using the Sea-to-Summit eVENT Compression Dry Sack…but I’m bringing it with me. To explain, another thru-hiker I met on the PCT who lives here in Boise recently introduced me to the ‘cloud method’ of packing your bag. Basically, it’s a way to have more space in your backpack, especially when carrying a bear canister, which is required for the Sierra section of the PCT.

For the cloud method, you put a compactor bag as the liner in your backpack to keep your gear dry. Next, you fill your sleeping bag with all the clothes you’re not using and stuff it down in the bottom of the compactor bag. Third, you put the bear canister in and add extra gear items around it. I like this technique because stuffing a sleeping bag in a dry-bag compression sack can be a substantial waste of space with a hard bear canister in your pack.

On the flip side, a dry sack has huge value in making sure your sleeping bag stays dry. I trust that the cloud method will keep my bag dry if it rains, but question whether it’s effective for high water crossings. The dry sack is my insurance.

The Thermarest Z Lite SOL Sleeping Pad isn’t the most comfortable bedding choice, but it’s nice because you can just toss it on the ground for a lunch break. It’s not as thick and insulated as a blow-up pad, but I like the freedom to use it wherever.

Kitchen & Hydration

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
MSR PocketRocket 2Stove12.6
Vargo BOT 700Titanium pot with sealable lid14.4
LighterFor flame10.4
Storage BagTo keep pot, stove, lighter, fuel inside10.6
Sea-to-Summit Alpha Light Long SporkLong spoon/fork combo10.4
Platypus Platy Bottle 70 oz.Water resevoir bag11.3
Sawyer Squeeze Water FilterWater's ready when you squeeze it13
Smartwater Bottle 1LEasy to attach to a Sawyer water filter22.4
Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack 20LFood bag - can fit a lot11.8
Swiss Army ClassicBasic, lightweight, multi-tool10.7

I started off my 2019 hike with the capacity to carry up to six liters of water because that’s what
I thought I’d need the southern desert section of the PCT and NorCal. Early on I realized I didn’t like having a water bladder hydration system anymore – takes up too much space in your backpack and isn’t user-friendly for filtering water into.

I got rid of it after 450 miles and switched to carrying two, one-liter Smartwater bottles and kept the Platypus Platy 70L Soft Water Bottle. It had been a wet season for the southern region so water sources weren’t as scarce as in other years, which meant I never found I needed to carry more than four liters. I’ll be using this same setup in June.

You can use the Vargo BOT to cold soak food or as a cookpot.
You can use the Vargo BOT to cold soak food or as a cookpot.

Another big switch is my cooking setup for this time around. In 2019 I had wanted to try out cold-soaking on the PCT but didn’t want to give up my stove, so I carried both a Talenti jar and the Snow Peak Trek 900 cookset. Cold-soaking allowed me to ‘cook’ and go, rather than wait around for making food. Hiking bigger mile days is more of the rhythm on the PCT because there’s a short weather window, so time was often of the essence for me.

Keeping with that theme, I’m downsizing a bit in weight and bulk by carrying the Vargo BOT 700. It’s a titanium pot that has a lid which seals completely so I can both use it to cook AND cold-soak. Weighing in at only 4.4 ounces, it’s lighter than the Snow Peak Trek 900 and I don’t have to carry the 1.9 ounces Talenti jar.

Office

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
Phone (iPhone 6 Plus, cord)Old-school style, not light16.77
Lifeproof FRE Waterproof, durable phone case11.65
Guthook Guides AppNavigation - maps and other info for the PCT0
Black Diamond Spot 350Headlamp - weight includes batteries13
Anker PowerCore II 10,000Charger/Power bank with cord17.2
PowerPort Speed 2 PortsCan charge two devices quickly with two ports15
Large Ziploc bagActs as a storage bag for electronics10.3
iPod Shuffle & cordSo I don't have to run my phone battery down if I want music10.7
EarbudsBasic, no frills10.4
Extra batteriesFor headlamp31.2
Hiker WalletSmall ziploc bag with ID's, cards, permits11

For the PCT, I had an iPhone that I put the Guthook Guides app on for my navigation. You can buy the guide just for the PCT and it gives loads of details on water sources, camping sites, what to expect in town, road crossings, trail angels, etc. Hikers can post notes to a shared message board, which acts as a useful way to stay updated with current info on important facts, like if that water source you’re counting on is dry or not. I found it to be a truly valuable resource for planning my hike and will definitely use it again this time out.

Having a phone you use more often than a physical book or map means you drain battery life more, which is why I went with the Anker PowerCore II 10,000 Portable Charger (the new models have 20,000 mAh). I could get a couple of charges worth for my phone type and this was enough for the time I was on the trail between town stops, while often having it in airplane mode. I opted for the PowerPort Speed 2 Port Fast Charger because I could charge both my phone and the portable charger quickly and at the same time while doing a layover in town.

The classic thru-hiker wallet consists of simply a small Ziploc bag with your personal IDs and a credit card inside, nothing more.

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains

Clothing Carried

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
Black Diamond Women's Stormline Stretch Rain CoatHigh-quality, with pit-zips17.9
Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Thermal LeggingsWarm and soft-to-skin16.5
Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain MittsHelps keep you dry and blocks wind11.1
BuffMulti-use for head, neck, face11.4
Smartwool 250 Cuffed BeanieMerino wool hat, covers ears fully12.2
Smartwool 200 Crew Base Layer TopMerino, insulating, not prone to being smelly15.8
Smartwool 250 Crew Base Layer TopWarmer than the 200 model for me to sleep in or layer16.6
Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Cushion Women'sMedium cushion socks, low-cut12
Farm-to-Feet Damascus Crew Women'sLight cushion socks, high crew-style12.3
Sea-to-Summit Bug Head NetMesh, with insect shield10.8
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Bikini BriefsBreathable, lightweight, nylon/spandex undies11.2
Small Stuff SackFor clothes10.7
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody Jacket Women'sLighweight but very warm111.1
Stretch PantsPolyester; alternative to hiking skort when cold, bought at a thrift shop14.4
Outdoor Research Women's Vigor Heavyweight GlovesPolyester and fleece1 pair2.3
Handmade Wool GlovesTo double layer with when cold1 pair3

Quality hiking clothing can be expensive so I really try to use what I already have from other trips. I’ve found that it can be worthwhile to make the investment and make it last. For example, I’ve had my Smartwool Merino Base Layers since 2006 and they are still fine to use, minus some holes and wear.

Another important change I’m making in my gear is from the Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Coat to the Black Diamond Women’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell. I adore my Patagonia Rain Coat, it’s just seen better days in terms of still being waterproof. I chose the Black Diamond because I love having pit-zips and a jacket with a long back. It’s also lighter than what I had, at 7.9 ounces. I contemplated getting one more lightweight, like the popular thru-hiker favorite Outdoor Research Helium but it doesn’t have pit zips and I don’t like its elastic wrist cuffs.

The Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody Jacket has been with me since the AT and some other long hikes since and it’s never disappointed me for super insulation without bulk. My snazzy, red Icebreaker Leggings are still going strong and didn’t fail me on the PCT.

It was a common sight to see my ExOfficio undies drying on my Mariposa backpack while hiking the PCT
It was a common sight to see my ExOfficio undies drying on my Mariposa backpack while hiking the PCT

Regarding my underwear choice: I found that the ExOfficio Give-N-Go Mesh Sport Bikini runs big, so buy them as small as you can because they will stretch out. I met other hiker women who wore them and they said the same thing. They’re still in good shape though for me to take again this trip.

I’m a fan of Farm-to-Feet socks from when I first came into contact with the brand at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia while hiking the AT. I often like hiking in low-cut socks, but at night it can be nice to have a warmer pair that goes further up the calf, like leg warmers. The Damascus Crew does just that, so I like carrying them as part of my kit. I tend to always carry three pairs of socks when on long backpacking trips because you just never know if wet weather or river crossings will set you back and it’s so darn important to keep feet dry. It’s been a low snow year for the Sierra compared to 2019 so I’m hoping for lower river crossings, but I’m sure I’ll have to deal with wet feet nonetheless.

Handmade wool gloves are extra insulation - and infused with love!
Handmade wool gloves are extra insulation – and infused with love!

I discovered the Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Mitts when I thru-hiked the AT and they are a lifesaver when it’s raining, windy or just cold for extra insulation on top of gloves. They were vital to me during rainstorms on the PCT and when I needed to take down a snowy tent. Because I have Raynaud’s Syndrome (See Hiking with  Raynaud’s Disease), it’s essential I keep my hands warm at all times. That means I’m taking the rain mitts, a pair of Outdoor Research Women’s Vigor Heavyweight Sensor Gloves, and a sweet pair of wool mittens Mark’s mom made me that are big enough to slide on top. That may seem like a lot, but I don’t mess around when it comes to my hands getting cold.

A head-net is a game-changer and can change your mood from bad to good real quick. Mosquito season was at its peak for us when we flipped to Washington and there were some days we even had to set up the tent to eat lunch because the bugs were horrific. Having the Sea-to-Summit Bug Head Net with insect shield was a life-saver for me at times, especially for parts of Washington and Oregon. The Sierra can also be buggy depending on when you hit it, so I’m surely taking the bug net with me.

Clothing Worn

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
Fila SkortSkirt and shorts in one, aka 'the pink tutu', polyester/spandex15
Columbia Silver Ridge Long Sleeve Shirt Women'sNylon, roll-up sleeves, wicking16.3
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Bikini BriefsBreathable, lightweight, nylon/spandex undies11.2
Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Cushion Women'sMedium cushion socks, low-cut12
Leopard-print sports braNo brand, polyester, got at thrift store for $211.7
Hair tieGotta keep your hair back!10.1
Dirty Girl GaitersHelpful for keeping stones and sand out of shoes11
Rainbow Unicorn Mesh Trucker HatMy signature piece of clothing!12
Altra Timp Trail-Running Shoes Women'sModerate cushion, mesh, dries fast120

These days I prefer trail-running shoes to hiking boots. I went through a few pairs on the PCT, and I would alternate between the Altra Timp and the Altra Lone Peak, depending on what was on sale because they both felt good on my feet. I like trail-runners because my feet feel lighter, the shoes breathe and dry quickly if need be. Overall I was really pleased with these shoes on the PCT and have stayed with buying them since. I will say that I go up a size (my normal size felt cramped) and that was never the case when using hiking boots, even on previous long trails.

My pink tutu skort and Rainbow Unicorn hat in full flair when I hit the California & Oregon border
My pink tutu skort and Rainbow Unicorn hat in full flair when I hit the California & Oregon border

I’m a fan of Dirty Girl Gaiters to my footwear, which is rather common to see hikers wear on the PCT. There’s a lot of loose sand and scree on the PCT, and those little stones are downright annoying when hiking. Having gaiters helped to block that junk out of my shoes and kept my socks a tad bit cleaner. Dirty Girl is known for all the zany patterns and colors, which adds some fun to your hiker-trash look.

The PCT can be extremely exposed to the sun in many regions; this led me to use a long-sleeve, lightweight shirt to hike in. I bought the popular and affordable Columbia Silver Ridge Women’s Shirt which I found to be breathable and soft. It has OmniShade sun protection, you have the option to roll up the sleeves, and it dries out so fast. I got a medium that was too big for me, so note that you may want to size down. It’s still in great shape so coming with me again.

Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington
Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington

For the PCT, I happened to find the cutest hot pink skort (skirt with shorts built-in) that had ruffles like a tutu in a thrift shop for only three dollars. Combined with my treasured Rainbow Unicorn Mesh Trucker Hat that I wore on the AT and hiking through Europe, I felt like one rad gal rocking a pink tutu as I hiked the PCT.

I’m sharing this for two reasons:

  1. If you have to wear the same thing every day for months at a time, it might as well be fun and make you laugh.
  2. Second-hand gear or clothing is a great way to save money; not everything has to be new to work. My tutu was in good shape (still is!), was very comfortable for hiking, and wearing a skort is way more practical than a skirt for sitting purposes.

Toiletries, Hygiene & First Aid

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
The Tent Lab The Deuce #2 UL TrowelDurable, aluminum hole-digger for your poop10.6
Alba Botanica Towlette WipesNo harsh chemicals, useful for freshening up13.5
EO Hand SanitizerOrganic, natural12
ToothbrushDidn't cut the handle off!10.6
Dental FlossCan serve as thread also10.6
Lip Balm with SPFNeed to have SPF for the PCT10.5
Plastic RazorBecause I don't want to buy a razor every time I go to town.10.3
ToothpasteTom's of Maine12.3
Alba Botanica SunscreenSPF 4513.5
Saalt Menstrual CupReusable, silicone menstrual cup product11
MirrorSmall size10.6
TweezersMetal10.4
CombPlastic10.7
Extra ziplocsAssorted sizes, because you never know when you need one11
Ditty BagTo carry all this miscellaneous stuff10.6
First-Aid Misc. in a small ziploc bagBand-Aids, alcohol wipes, gauze, sewing kit, duct tape1 kit1.5

Like many thru-hikers, I’m basic with this category. In terms of First Aid, I don’t ever take over-the-counter meds at home, so why would I carry them on trail?

With toiletries, I’m particular with what I put in or on my body, so a few choices I made here in terms of hand sanitizer, cleansing wipes, toothpaste, and sunscreen are bigger than your normal travel sizes. I don’t mind carrying that extra bit of weight since I feel good about the contents of the products.

Some would skip carrying a comb, but let me tell you that occasionally it’s nice to feel somewhat human again when you wake up in the morning and brush your hair. You do you in terms of luxury items, but a comb helps keep me sane.

I’m tickled pink that REI is now carrying the Saalt Menstrual Cup. I highly recommend this product as an alternative to lugging around pads and tampons through the woods that you have to pack out when used. It’s better for the Earth and for your body.

Miscellaneous (But Important!) Stuff

Item NameDescriptionQuantityWeight (oz)
Leki Cressida Trekking Poles Women'sAluminum, cork handles1 pair15.6
Suncloud Hook Polarized SunglassesGood quality, not super high-end11.1
Leopard print Crocs Camp ShoesSlip-on, stylish, Mom got for me at a thrift shop1 pair6.2
Gossamer Gear LiteFlex Hiking UmbrellaReflective, UV Protection 50+18
Snowflake Obsidian StoneMy good luck charm10.8
BearValut BV 500Large food canister141

The Gossamer Gear LiteFlex Hiking Umbrella was a new addition on my previous PCT hike and it’s probably my favorite piece of gear now. I used it from day one in the desert and it was a welcome relief of shade that kept me protected from the sun and much cooler under my canopy of happiness. I will absolutely take it with me on this trip, especially when I’m above treeline.

I mentioned earlier that for the Sierra section of the PCT, you have to carry a bear canister for your food. Most hikers groan because of the 2.5 pounds of additional weight it adds to your pack, but it’s necessary and required. I’m going to carry the BearVault BV 500 rather than the smaller 450 version because I don’t like to skimp on calories while hiking!

The Gossamer Gear Liteflex Trekking Umbrella is my favorite piece of trail gear
The Gossamer Gear Liteflex Hiking Umbrella became my favorite piece of trail gear.

Final Thoughts

It can be fun to try out new gear for the sake of it, and sometimes you need to upgrade or replace an item that’s worn out or too heavy. However, there’s something to be said about using what you know works. I believe I found a happy medium with the gear I carried on my 2019 PCT hike and will be staying with most of it when finishing the trail this summer.

Editor's note: If you’re thinking about buying gear that we’ve reviewed or recommend on SectionHiker, you can help support us in the process. Just click on any of the seller links above, and if you make a purchase, we may (but not always) receive a small percentage of the transaction. The cost of the product is the same to you but this helps us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides. Thanks and we appreciate your support!

About the Author

Heather Daya Rideout has been a life-long outdoorswoman. Her pursuits and passion for hiking and camping have taken her around the world for many long-distance trips; such as backpacking in Nepal, India, South America, Morocco, Europe, and North America. Heather has hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and a route of 1,500 miles combining several Camino routes through Spain and Portugal. On any given day she would rather be outdoors than anything else and her lifestyle is a direct reflection of that deep love affair with nature. Heather currently lives in Idaho and she’s having a wondrous time experiencing the beauty it offers. You can read some of her other writing at www.wanderyoga.com.

Most Popular Searches

  • womens pct gear list

9 comments

  1. One of the few gear lists that I remember seeing that includes an item I always take with me: a comb!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • I know, right?! It can really help at times to feel cleaner, haha.

      Another thru-hiker I know swears by carrying a small mirror to make sure she doesn’t have boogers hanging out her nose each morning when on trail. Plus, it can be used in an emergency as a reflection device, so multiple uses!

  2. Thank you for this in depth breakdown of what gear you use on your hikes. I am wanting to learn how to backpack and your article is so informative, thank you for that! I sincerely appreciate this SectionHiker newsletter, I always gain knowledge every time I read it.

    • Annie, your words made my day, just to know this article could be of assistance to you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out directly through my website if you need any more support!

  3. This is a great article! I love your down to earth attitude. I want to try the cloud method of packing my bag. Question: you list a small stuff sack for your clothes. I’m assuming you use that inside of your sleeping bag for clothes to keep them all together? Thanks for your well written, informative article!

    P.S. Looking forward to checking out your website!

  4. Hi Joni and thanks for reading! I’ve done different things with my stuff sack for clothes: when not cloud packing, I would keep my sleeping bag in a stuff sack and clothes in another.. The idea with cloud packing is you stuff your clothes in your sleeping bag loose and then stuff it all down. With thru-hiking, I don’t have much clothing with me, and some of it is kept accessible in pockets with weather shifts (gloves, buff, hat, raincoat, etc.)

    The whole point of this is to not take up space in your bag with football sized bags. So keeping things all together is either in the sleeping bag or stashed in the easy access places on your pack.

    I appreciate you looking at my website as well!

  5. I second the worth of carrying an umbrella.

    One amazing benefit of an umbrella: it’s so much more comfortable to relieve one’s self under an umbrella as opposed to expecting a jacket & hat to keep you dry. If you’re at a camp area that has a backcountry toilet, admiring the view while you stay dry under your umbrella makes for a memorable pooping experience.

    I carry baking soda for tooth brushing, body de-stinkifying, and pot scrubbing. It takes some getting used to to use baking soda as tooth powder — I used to hate it — but I started doing it at home to reduce the acidity in my mouth for health reasons, so now doing it in the backcountry doesn’t require an adjustment.

  6. Thank you! Makes sense for sure.

  7. Great article! I’m curious about your pack: does the Mariposa have a women’s fit version, or at least does it fit well for narrow-shouldered individuals? It looks like your shoulders are pretty narrow, as are mine, and I’ve been lusting after a Mariposa for years but wasn’t sure if it would work for narrow shoulders. Do you have any thoughts about this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *