Gear I Ditched on the PCT
Trust me when I say that if you think you’re dialed in for your first ever thru-hike, you’re not.
When I stepped down the PCT for the first time in 2017, I honestly thought I knew what I was doing out there. I had backpacked before and I figured this would just be a repeat of that, but for a longer period of time. What I failed to realize was that backpacking is actually an exercise in efficiency and I had some serious work to do. By the time I reached Canada after 2000 miles (full transparency on my hike: I had to reroute around the Sierra Range due to snow and wasn’t able to go back before I had to go back to work), I looked like a completely different person, hiked totally different, and had an entirely new outlook on backpacking.
With that said, I figured I’d jot down some of the items that I ended up ditching along the way in the name of efficiency.
And away we GO!
Gear I ditched (in order)
Yeah so, this one kind of blew me away. When I arrived in SoCal, we were doing a bit of a gear dump and it was brought to my attention that thru-hikers don’t use deodorant. The reason being was because no amount of it would cover the smell of a hiker so it was basically dead weight. I remember tossing out my travel sized deodorant thinking “weird…I never really thought of it that way.” It made sense to me at the time, but I was still kind of in awe that it had never occurred to me that it was a silly idea to bring such a thing with me on a backpacking trip. For 5 months, I didn’t use deodorant and never once did I wish I had. It extra weight, takes up space, and pointless.
My Nice Big Camera
This on hurts. I bought this badass camera to take with me on the trail. I wore it on my chest for the first day and and a half until I hurt my foot and needed to offload as much weight as possible. I gave it to someone to give back to me in a day or two at Mount Laguna, where I promptly sent it home. I fully intended on sending it back to myself, but I was getting such great shots from my iPhone and enjoying the freedom of not having a big camera on me along with the gear that goes with it that I just never had it sent back to me. I sent it home because in total the weight of the camera gear was probably 5 lbs and that’s a LOT of weight. It sucked not to have my camera, but honestly, it made my life easier. To this day, I’m not sure I would hike with it if I were to go on another long trail. My phone was there for me when I needed it and I was able to capture some incredible moments.
I like to journal, but at some point on the trail I was trying to get rid of everything I didn’t NEED or that wasn’t essential. I was blogging via my phone anyhow so the journal took a flight home…and it was tiny!
All Extra Baggies and Pouches
Basically every single thing that your gear comes in has a baggie. Tent, sleeping pad, stakes, etc. Unless I NEEDED the baggie, I threw it out. By the time I got to Canada, I think I had three or 4 total baggies. One for hygiene gear, one for tent poles, one for accessories, and one for my first aid kit. I forced myself to get creative with how I was going to organize my gear so I could make up for NOT having these organizational pouches. As a result my kit got lighter because I had to toss things out I didn’t have room for and I became far more efficient on the trail with getting to my gear.
These are overkill. I swapped them out for SMART water bottles and never looked back. I still have them somewhere, but literally have no use for them even on a day hike. Too big, too bulky, and too expensive considering you can buy a water bottle from the store that does the same thing and better. By switching to SMART bottles, I was able to ditch the baggy my filter came in and just attached it to one of the bottles. One was clean and one was dirty; simple, easy, effective.
My Jetboil came with this plasic cup and a fold up base to help make it a little more secure when boiling water. I ditched them both and never once wanted them back. It shaved some ounces and increased efficiency.
I had this scarf I always took with me. It was like a big square bit of fabric that always came in handy. I kept it on me forEVER until I realized I hadn’t used it but a time or two. The only reason it was on me is because I was stubborn…so I ditched it.
I sent my pants home in Northern California and hiked in shorts for the first time ever. It was AMAZING. I had shorts and running tights - that’s it. From Nor Cal to Canada, I never once longed for my pants and to this day prefer to hike in shorts. Yes, my legs got scratched, yes they were bitten by mosquitos, and yes, they were cold from time to time, but it wasn’t enough for me to wear my pants again. I don’t even think I wore my leggings much either unless it was going to be really cold. My body adapted and the freedom along with comfort those running shorts gave me was amazing. If I ever hike a long trail again, I’ll be in shorts for SURE.
You know what pack lids are good for? Storing all gear you probably don’t need. So I sent it home and reorganized my gear again. I used to LOVE those pack lids, but it turns out I didn’t actually need it. It was creating space for non-essential gear and weighed probably a pound. When I finally sent it home I felt yet again, AMAZING. My efficiency on trail went up, pack weight went down, and my overall enjoyment skyrocketed.
My Pack Cover
I drank the “gotta have a pack cover” juice right up until the time I got rained on and everything soaked through regardless of my cover being on. Epic fail! Pack covers suck and really only work in light rain, which doesn’t make sense anyhow. When it actually pours, the pack cover fails and your stuff gets wet. You also can’t access your gear very easily and they’re a pain in the ass to put on. I swapped mine out with an Osprey dry bag that is a pack liner and never looked back. I could literally dunk that think in a river or lake and my stuff would stay dry. It was light weight and I kept my essentials in it at all times. On days when I knew I’d get soaked, I’d button everything up in it, seal it off, and roll out. One of the best decisions I could have made! If it started raining, I just let it happen and kept moving knowing my gear was dry.
There was a moment in Oregon that I had to let it go. I carried this damn favorite cup of mine for over a thousand miles and only used it a handful of times. It DID come in handy from time to time, but I realized one day that I was making coffee in my Jetboil and then transferring it to my mug when I could have just drank it out of the Jetboil instead. Yeah…brilliant Emory. Just brilliant! I ditched my trusty mug, cried about it, and never looked back. I felt bad it was at home all alone not on an adventure, but my cook stove was doing the job just fine without it. I still look at that mug and ask for its forgiveness knowing that it’ll never again see another trail. So what do I do? I fill it with coffee at home and sip on it while sitting in my favorite chair. Long live my favorite mug that will forever be a homebody.
Check it out. I wore one pair of underwear through Oregon and Washington. Before that I had two on me at all times (not at the same time…don’t be weird). In yet another effort to reduce pack weight and increase efficiency, I sent one pair home and again never looked back. I washed them on weekends and survived just fine. I will say that a lot of people crap themselves on trail (it’s true) so they have two pair just in case, but I never had this problem. I apparently have strong control over my bowels. So yeah, from here on out it’s one pair of undies for me.
There’s no right or wrong way to backpack. We all have our way of doing things, but I think if there’s one thing we should all strive for when we’re out there it’s to be efficient with our kit. Whatever that means to you, do that. Backpacking is a process of refinement and over the years you’ll learn to get better and better at it.
I’ve found that for me, the less clutter I bring with me, the more enjoyment I have. I see backpacking as a time that I get to live with only the essentials and it’s nice to do that from time to time. The list above reflects my process of getting down to those basic essentials and as I refined my load out, my enjoyment went through the roof.
What do you no longer bring?