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Five Things I Wish I Had Left at Home Before Thru-Hiking the PCT

A wise person once said of backpacking, “the more you know, the less you need.” After two thru-hikes and decades of multi-day trips I’ve become more confident in choosing the gear that works for me, but I’ve made some poor choices along the way. It took a lot of experience to dial in my perfect gear list and looking back even as recently as one year ago, there are things I wish I’d done differently. By considering these alternatives, you too can save weight, carry less, and live a little more simply on the trail.


1. My traditional tent

During my Appalachian Trail thru-hike I’d seen my fair share of tents, and by the end I’d decided which one I was going to purchase and take with me on every backpacking trip for the next five years, including the PCT. While I love the tent I had purchased and carried with me (it’s made by a small family-run business in North Carolina), I’ve since accepted the fact that there is not one single tent that’s going to be best for everything. On the PCT where there is usually very little precipitation, mild temperatures, and not too many bugs, a tarp such as the Deschutes Tarp by Six Moon Designs is the way to go. Those willing to splurge can go with a cuben fiber tarp made by Zpacks or Hyperlite Mountain Gear. For any tarp tent, it’s a good idea to carry an insect net attachment, at least for the buggiest sections.


2. An Osprey backpack

To save money, I brought a trusty Osprey backpack on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. It was the same one I’d purchased years before to travel around Southeast Asia in my early 20’s, and for that purpose it was great. But for a thru-hike it was too heavy and came with too many bells and whistles. I left it at home and instead bought a 2.5 pound ULA Catalyst which had all the features I needed and none I did not. And instead of carrying a rain cover, I opted for a trash compactor bag, which costs almost nothing and weighs even less.

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