Gear Reviews

PCT Section J – an alternate kit list

If you’ve read Jake’s trip report, and his PCT section J kit list, you might be interested to see what a mildly alternative hiking philosophy looks like.

pct section j - my alternative kit list
kit I carried on section j of the PCT

The same disclaimers apply – I don’t claim to be a perfect packer, or that this kit list is complete (I may have forgotten some things). However, it’s been developed through the experiences of numerous overnight and day hikes and a 10 day unsupported hike in Patagonia that led to a more lightweight philosophy.

On that note – weight. I am by no means an ultralightweight hiker by the categories the community uses:

Weight Class / Base Pack Weight
Traditional: >20lbs (9.07kg)
Lightweight: <20lbs (9.07kg)
Ultralight: <10lbs (4.54kg)
Sub-Ultralight: <5lbs (2.27kg)

My own pack base weight is 17lbs (7.7kg) which puts me at the top end of the “lightweight category.”

However, I am a significantly lighter packer than Jake, whose base weight is somewhat over 20lbs. Military training heavily influences his philosophy, with a focus on redundancies, canoe bags, meticulously organized packs-within-packs, and a well-equipped first aid kit.

Let’s look at my kit for this 7 day unsupported hike, and see where I could lose some more weight – a self inflicted shakedown, as they call it over on the ultralight subreddit.

Sleep System

  • Tarptent Rainbow: this is a single-walled tarp like tent, whose pros and cons can be found at length elsewhere on the Internet. All I’ll say here is that it is pretty light, but not light like you get if you spend $700 for cuben fiber kit, and it performs well and is easy to set up, but suffers from excessive condensation when there is not a good deal of wind.
  • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm: this is the best bit of kit I own. Ultralight, ultrawarm, the pinnacle of sleeping mats.
  • Tyvek Ground Sheet: $20, light, reduces concern about abrasion on my tent and sleeping mat.
    Enlightened Equipment Revelation 10F(-12C) Quilt: This thing is ultralight, very warm, and very packable. Nothing but good things to say about quilt camping in general.
  • Amazon Pillow: Can’t even remember what brand. It’s small, and moderately comfortable.
  • Bag liner: I was worried about nighttime temperatures. Never used it.

Worn Wear

  • Osprey Exos 58 (2016 model): Recently made even lighter, I like this model a lot for it’s lightweight philosophy, but inclusion of hip and strap pockets. Tough to imagine packing for 7 days with less the 58 liters, and I appreciated every bit of the stretchy material Osprey includes on the outsides.
  • Prana Zion Pants: For sleep and cold days
  • Patagonia 7” strider shorts: For maximum testicular exposure, get the 7” seam. For everyone else, 9” would be fine. But seriously, great shorts, extremely light, dry very quickly.
  • Patagonia merino tee: Merino is everything – this barely smelled bad after I wore it for 6 straight days and could smell myself.
  • Patagonia longsleeve merino: Slept in this.
  • Darn tough socks, 3x pairs: The only socks, in my opinion. Did I need 3 pairs? No.
  • Merino underwear: Worn most days
  • Underarmour underwear: Worn when had swum in merino boxers.
  • Tilley Hat: The airflow version. Very nice and lightweight, excellent sun protection.
  • Crocs: Camp shoes are a necessity.

Weather Kit

  • Rab Fleece: the lightest of fleeces. Not necessary on this trip, but has been of so much value elsewhere I would never go without.
  • Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody: Possibly made redundant by Patagonia’s recent tech advancements, this was when purchased their best warmth-for-weight hoody, and it still performs exceptionally well. Great in evenings/mornings.
  • Patagonia Synchilla: A last minute pack throw in due to fears over temps, as with the bag liner. Necessary, no. Cozy, yes. Slept in every night.
  • Rain jacket and pants: Necessary always. Could get lighter versions.


  • Bear bag: Necessary evil. But seriously, the item I least looked forward to every day.
  • Ultralight towel: I forgot this, and wished I hadn’t. We swam a lot and sometimes you just want to be dry.
  • Poop kit: Deuce of spades, wet wipes, hand sanitizer.
  • Jetboil: It heats water very quickly.
  • Petzl headlamps: I have 2 for redundancy. I used them not one single time.
  • 2 ltr camelback soft water carrier: Great for weight purposes. Interestingly, we came across someone who needed water because their soft bottle had burst. Made me think.
  • 1ltr Nalgene: great for drinking from, sturdiness, stability. Quite heavy.
  • Titanium bowl/mug/spork: Didn’t need the bowl, as we had all dehydrated food.
  • Odor barrier trash bags: Great, could have used slightly larger ones.
  • First aid kit: Basic meds, bandaids, disinfectant.
  • Compass: You never know!
  • Garmin InReach Mini: Amazing piece of kit worthy of separate review. Should be carried by everyone thru-hiking, IMO. $300 + subscription is nothing compared to the lives it could save, and the approx 5K to 10K cost of a thru hike overall.
  • Anker Powerpack + cables: charges phone many times, also in case of heavy Garmin use.
  • Sawyer Squeeze x2: For redundancy. Also carried purification tablets just in case.

So, what could I lose weight through? Well – I now know I’m more than happy down to below freezing night temps with that quilt, so I can largely ditch the liner. I really need a pair of zip off pants to save carrying shorts and pants. I didn’t need the second fleece. I should trust petzl enough to carry only one headtorch, given that my iphone with powerpack would make for a temporary solution. I don’t really need a groundsheet or a towel, and a jetboil is a luxury that could be replaced by a mini msr heater.

But, overall, I think it’s a fairly decent middle-of-the-road, some compromises but not too many kit list.

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