I was really happy with my gear choices overall. However, as I didn’t have a huge amount of experience, was going solo and hadn’t hiked in the region before, I definitely erred on the side of caution and started with a very heavy bag.
I learnt – and ditched – a lot along the way, and next time I’d be setting out a lot lighter from the beginning.
To help you with your choices, I’ve broken it down into:
- The gear that I would take next time.
- The gear that I didn’t need and ditched along the way.
- The gear that I didn’t need, but kept hold of ‘just in case’. And that I would most likely leave at home next time.
1. The gear that I would take next time
|Sleeping bag||Rab Womens Ignition 3 Sleeping Bag||
My sleeping bag was just the right level of warmth and it was super comfortable. The only downside is that it was quite bulky, so if I had the budget, I’d try and get one that packs down smaller.
|Sleeping mat||Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Mat||I tried a couple of smaller and thinner ones first, but I slept so badly that I ended up going a little heavier for greater comfort. No regrets; I slept like a baby every night.||I always kept the mat inside the tent, and swept away any stones or debris when rolling it up, which I think helped me to avoid punctures.|
|Pillow||Outwell Memory Pillow||I probably need to wean myself off this long term as it’s so heavy, but I love it.||I’ve tried blow up pillows, or putting clothes in a stuff sack. But in the end went for comfort over weight.|
|Backpack||My pack was really comfortable and I had no issues. It’s really easy to organise your gear with the different sections and external pockets. It also comes with a pack cover, which I used a few times.||Next time, I’ll take the top section off, but I just couldn’t quite squeeze it all in this time, especially with the bear can!|
|Tent||Wild Country TentsZephyros 1 EP Tent||I really love my little tent. You can sit and read, or even sit and cook (keeping the stove well outside) in it. It also has a little vestibule which I kept my bag and boots in at night.||I like the look of the ultra light single wall tents, but I don’t like the idea of dealing with condensation. Or the price tags.|
|Poles||Poles are such an important item for me! Partly to protect my ankles, but also as it makes slogging up hills and over passes so much easier.||I’d say they are pretty essential gear for the John Muir Trail too – I’d really not have felt happy crossing the ice and snow on some of the passes without them.|
Clothing and footwear
|1 x short sleeve t shirt||I used an old running top. You only need one.|
|1 x long sleeve t shirt||Another old running top, worn over the short sleeve one. It was the perfect amount of warmth for me for most of the day. The long sleeves also helped protect my skin from the sun.|
|1 x shorts||I used my old running shorts. Super light, dry and comfy.|
|1 x bikini top||I ditched my sports bra as it was so heavy and didn’t dry. Not an option for more blessed ladies than I, but it worked for me.|
|3 x pair underwear||Nothing special. In fact, I’m probably wearing a pair of them now! You just need something super comfortable in a quick drying fabric. I probably could have got away with having two pairs. I also swam in these.|
|3 x Stance Altimeter Trek socks||I love these socks. They are so comfortable and mould to the feet. The general advice is that you only need two pairs, but I found that the ‘drying’ pair didn’t always dry in time, and for me, having clean dry socks is key to not getting blisters.|
|1 x knee brace||I packed and wore this out of caution due to an old running injury.|
|Northface waterproof jacket||I used this fairly frequently and it’s pretty perfect. This one comes with an integrated fleece, which I didn’t take with me.|
|Berghaus Deluge Overtrousers||These are the best waterproof trousers I’ve ever owned. Very light, easy to get on and off, and available in different leg lengths (I’m a short-arse).||I could potentially have got away without these as I was fairly lucky with the weather, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk.||They were also really great for Whitney as extra insulation.|
|Gaiters||I had a lightweight pair similar to the Dirty Girl brand. They’re ideal for keeping out dust and little stones.|
|1 x pair gloves||I used a pair of old running gloves. I barely wore them day to day, but they were essential for Whitney.|
|1 x fleece headband||I wore an old skiing headband every morning, in the evening and at altitude.|
|Prescription glasses and sunglasses in a case big enough for both of them||Plus a dorky little chord to stop me dropping them!|
|1 x merino wool long sleeve top||1 x long johns||I really like having something ‘clean’ to change into in the evening. These were cosy and they didn’t smell (too bad) either!||I also wore them for the Mount Whitney ascent.|
|1 x pair sleeping socks||Again, it’s a little pimp. But so worth it. I kept them stored in my sleeping bag.|
|1 x wool hat||I wore this when camping high up and on Mount Whitney.|
|1 x Rab Women’s Microlight down jacket||This little guy was pricey but worth it for the warmth and comfort at night, early in the morning, or at high altitude.||Definitely get one with a hood, and go for the best quality that you can afford.|
|Merrill Energis Mid Waterproof boots||I love my boots. They are mid-way between a trail shoe and proper hiking boot – not too heavy and quite breathable.||I broke them in thoroughly ahead of the John Muir Trail and only got two tiny blisters.||I would have liked to wear trail shoes as they’re lighter and dry quickly after stream crossings. But for me this wasn’t an option, as I’d broken my ankle a year before the trail.|
|1 x flip flops||These weren’t the most practical choice I’ll be honest. They are great for the immediate camp area, as I wanted as little as possible on my feet once they were out of the boots. But you have to give yourself a little camel toe to wear them with socks (so attractive) and they’re not very stable for walks down to water, or wherever else you need to go.||Something like a lightweight Teva would probably be better, but I did love putting these on at the end of the day.||On that note…|
|1 x river shoes||I ended up buying some cheap river shoes in Mammoth (c. $20) after my first week.||The river crossings were pretty nerve wracking due to it being a high snow year, and I was more comfortable with these than bare foot.||I was a veritable trail Imelda Marcos.|
Cooking and water filtration
|Jetboil ZiP Cooking system||I love this stove. It’s pretty compact, speedy and efficient with fuel. I only used two and a half of the smallest cans of fuel and was pretty liberal with the hot drinks.|
|Sea to Summit Delta Spork||This is a great little tool and the knife is surprisingly sharp.|
|OSPREY Hydraulics Reservoir 2 Litre||I like being able to drink as I go and this was pretty perfect.|
|Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Flow plus syringe to flush||I used the Flow ‘inline’ on the bladder and had the mini as backup and for use in camp for drinking water. They both worked brilliantly and I loved not having to wait for my water to filter. I only flushed them both once or twice and didn’t have any issues with clogging.|
|Lifeventure Titanium mug||This was a little bit of luxury, as I could have used the Jetboil. However, I loved having my hot drinks in it (and it only weighs 54g).|
|Source Liquitainer 2L||This wasn’t great. I was only able to fill it with the little 1L single-use plastic bottle that I’d bought along, or from a faucet, so it would have been pretty useless on its own.||However, it was necessary to have something to carry extra water back to camp. I found that 5L was enough for drinking, dinner, breakfast and to have enough water to start walking.|
|Spare fuel can|
|iPhone 6s||I used this for photos, reading, note taking and for navigation.|
|Charger pack (four full charges), two chords and iPhone charger head||Each full phone charge lasted 2 – 3 days|
|Petzl Tikka 200L Headtorch with fresh batteries||Powerful head torch|
Navigation and safety
|Tom Harrison maps and a Silva compass.||I didn’t get them out once, but I felt good knowing I had them. Both are very good quality.|
|Life systems Survival Bag||I think a smaller sized blanket would have been fine. Although better safe than sorry!|
I trimmed down my first aid kid, and fortunately only needed the blister plasters. I resupplied the plasters and pills.
- Compeed blister plasters – applied at the first sign of a blister. They’re amazing.
- Normal plasters
- Ibuprofen and paracetamol
- Gauze, bandage and tape
- Antiseptic wipes
I took mini versions of toiletries and resupplied most items.
- Unscented wet wipes
- Toothbrush and paste
- TP and bags to store it
- Pee rag – felt like a gross idea at first, but works so well
- Biodegradable soap
- Small tube E45 – I really liked putting it on my face and hands in the evening
- Block deodorant – this was optimistic, but I did use it
- Factor 50 sun cream
- 2/3 hair elastics
- Trek towel – I could have got away without this, but I liked having it for when I had a wash or a swim.
- Coghlan’s Backpackers Trowel
- 2 x XL Exped Fold Drybag (for sleeping bag and clothes)
- 1 x XXS Exped Fold Drybag (for electronics, lighter)
- Length of duct tape wrapped around half a straw
- Tent pole repair splint
- Bear canister – I hired mine from Yosemite NPS. Easy and cheap, but you can get much lighter ones!
2. The gear that I didn’t need and ditched along the way
I ditched all of this gear in hiker buckets. I could have posted it home from Tuolomne, MTR (without being a guest), or by going into Mammoth from Reds.
I didn’t miss any of it, but I may have needed some if it had I gone at a different time. So do check the weather that you’re likely to encounter.
|Paper diary and pen||I wrote in the notes app on my phone|
|Sports bra||Too bulky|
|Second t shirt||Not necessary|
|Fleece body warmer||Not necessary|
|Sun gloves||Not necessary (although some people swear by them)|
|Buff||Not necessary (and I did already have a hat and a headband…)|
|Shampoo||It’s available at the places where you’ll find a proper shower|
|Ankle support brace||I figured that the boots had it covered|
|Wash bag||Too heavy and everything ended up in Ziploc bags anyway|
3. The gear that I didn’t need, but kept hold of ‘just in case’
There were quite a few things that I didn’t need, but which I held on to out of a thought that I might need them. I would leave most of it at home next time.
|Solar charger||I didn’t use it but kept hold of it ‘just in case’. My battery pack lasted for ages and I was able to charge it at Reds and MTR.||I don’t think I’d bring it next time.|
|Titanium bowl||I ate from Ziploc bags at every meal so would definitely leave it at home next time.||I’m not sure why I kept it – I think as it was too expensive to leave behind and I was too lazy to post it!|
|Nail clippers||Next time I would send them in my resupply (if I was able to make up my own).|
|Small camera||I barely used it and the iPhone pictures came out great but I kept it ‘just in case’.||I’d feel very sad not to be able to take pictures if my phone died, so I’m torn on whether I’d take it next time.|
|Mosquito net||Not used and I would probably leave it at home next time, depending on the time of year that I went.|
|Spare batteries for my head- torch||Not used but I would probably still take them, given that I’m a worrier.|
|Victorinox Classic SD Knife||Ditto.|