Here is my gear list for my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail (JMT) in 2021. The list isn’t exactly ultra-light. Including food and water, the pack weighed in just under 40lb (18kg). I certainly was conscious of weight, but it didn’t necessarily dictate what I brought along. Hopefully this helps you decide what might work for you on your journey.
If you have any questions about the gear in this list, or want to share your own gear suggestions, reach out in the comments below!
Of course the more detailed version of the list is below, but for a little visual guidance, check out this video version!
Hyperlite Southwest 3400: This 55L pack is Hyperlite’s medium-sized version in this range. I chose this size for flexibility, knowing I could pack what I wanted for the JMT and it would all fit. At the same time I still had the option to roll the top of the pack down to make it smaller on shorter trips in the future. I like the Southwest’s large outside pockets, finding them able to fit an enormous amount, when needed. I also like its weight and the fact that it is largely waterproof, meaning I would not need to worry about a rain cover for the pack. That said, I still wrapped everything inside the pack in their own waterproof sacks/pods.
I chose the Southwest over the very similar Windrider because of the privacy of their outside pockets. Windriders have fairly transparent mesh pockets, which the Soutwest has addressed with its more solid ones.
Lastly, I went with the black model over the white, partially to keep it looking good over time (I understand the white gets dirty fast), but partially also to provide that extra rugged protection. I found that even when on training hikes, branches scraping against packs as I hike has been a problem. The peace of mind for me is worth the extra cost to upgrade and I was happy with this pack overall.
Nemo Hornet 2P: This tent is super easy to put up, packs down nice & small and is light-weight. Really I was on the fence between the 1 and 2 person versions. Obviously the 1P is smaller and lighter, but damn is it tiny inside! The 2P allowed just enough space to sleep me and also my place my pack/gear inside. And I’m glad I did! There were many times where the bucketing rain would have meant some serious problems, if I was forced to leave my pack outside in often puddles of water forming around my tent.
Anygear 7075 Ultralight Tri-Beam tent pegs: I swapped out the stakes that originally came with the tent. There’s nothing wrong with the ones it came with, but I was looking to cut ounces where I could and this was a good place to do that. These were cheap and worked really well for me. I liked the three-tier grooves on the side, which allowed more space to wrap lines around. It helps when you needed to run multiple lines on the same stake. The only issue I had was that I only brought enough for the tent requirement and I wish I’d brought a few spares. One bent when hammering it into rock and I almost didn’t have enough. Thankfully I ended up finding an abandoned stake at a campsite and took it with me. It saved the day!
Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt: This trip was my first time using a quilt over a sleeping bag and I really liked the flexibility of wearing it loose & open or tight & closed. Especially given the varying temperature changes on the trail. I went with 850 down, 20 degrees (more than warm enough for summer months in Sierras) in the regular-wide. I toss and turn a lot at night, so the wide allowed me the extra space in the bag for that. I also included a draft collar. Very happy with this quilt!
ALPS Mountaineering Mummy Liner: Some would call this a luxury item, but I brought this sleeping bag liner for two reasons (and am glad I did). Firstly, it allowed my a thinner sheet to sleep in on hotter nights, especially in Yosemite Valley. Secondly, and most importantly, I would go up to a week without a shower and this liner protected my quilt from, well, my filth. Best part. When I get into a town, I just throw the liner into the laundry and it’s as clean as I am after a shower.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite: I went with this is the regular wide. Again, I toss a lot at night, so the wider cut meant I wouldn’t be falling off my mat. I was originally tossing up between. this and the Nemo Tensor, which is warmer and quieter, but ultimately chose the Uberlite to cut weight. It was comfortable and easy to inflate with the air sack (glad I opted to bring that thing!). It also packed down nice and small, about the size of a drink can. My only gripe about the mat is that it’s loud! The slightest move on it sounds like an annoying child torturing balloons at a boring party…amplified! It’s fine for those nights you’re camping alone, but for any time you need to consider other campers, you’re putting them through quite an ordeal each time you turn at night.
Sea To Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow: In the regular size. I tried a bunch of different pillows, before landing on this one, including the Klymit Pillow X and the Big Sky Dreamsleeper. I like that it’s super light, folds down tiny and the fabric coating on the sleeping side is nice and comfy. I found it took a few goes at deflating it a touch to arrive at the neck support I was most comfortable with, but once I found my inflation sweet spot, it was a perfect fit for me. The pillow also comes with an anti-slip feature, which is nice for keeping it on the sleeping pad on not on the floor! Very happy with this pillow.
MSR Pocket Rocket 2: I originally hit the trail with the JetBoil MiniMo. I loved how quickly the Jetboil boiled water and how it could do so in pretty much any weather, Wind, rain, you name it and that bad boy soldiers on, like an afterburner in the kitchen. I ended up swapping it out about a third of the way into my trip (in Red’s Meadow) however. For my setup, I found it clunky and awkward in my pack. The plastic measuring cup at its base also kept cracking. I tried to duct tape it back together, but it would find new places to crack and basically became trash I needed to carry. I exchanged it instead for the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 at a supply store in Mammoth Lakes, ditching the plastic box it came with and ending up with a super light-weight, easy-to-pack cook system. I needed to combine it with a lightweight mug, but found this system WAY easier to pack.
Vargo Titanium 450 Travel Mug: A late edition, once I swapped my stove. This mug is super lightweight that comfortably doubles as a container for your stover, lighter & gas canister, when finished with your meal. Comes with a light mesh pouch to help packing away easier. My only issue is that the measuring lines on the side of the mug are only in millilitres and most instructions I had for my freeze-dried meals were in ounces and cups. Not a big deal at all, just meant constantly converting. Would have benefice to have both options, like on modern rulers. 😊
TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon: Having an extra long spoon becomes super important when digging out the last crumbs of your freeze-dried meals. It helps you avoid the mess of dipping your entire hand into the pack. I actually tried out a whole lot of different utensil options in the month leading up to my trip. landed on the this one because it’s super light, super comfortable and super simple to use. All good things.
Hyperlite Repack: Since hiking the JMT requires the use of a bear canister, I’d be carrying up to a week in food at times (up to 10 days plus for some). To make this possible, I needed to repack all my freeze-dried meals into quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags. I’ve found that by the time your meals have rehydrated in boiling water (sometimes in as long as 20 minutes), they are often cold. This really simple, if not over-priced pack is specifically designed for quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags. You just pop the re-packaged meal into the pack, pour in the boiling water, close the latch and it keeps your meal perfectly warm while you wait. There’s even a little flat base to make the meal stand up while you do. Is it extra weight? Sure, but after a long day of hiking, the last thing I want is a cold meal.
HikeGoo 5.5oz: This strange goo would be lathered on my feet every morning, before putting my socks and shoes on. It would be heaped between the toes, under the balls of my feet. Weird and sticky, but I got no blisters on the trail, so this turned out to be one of the most important items I carried…if not a little heavy.
Aurelle TOOB Brush: A perfectly light and convenient travel toothbrush. There is a hidden compartment to place toothpaste, but I ended up not using it. Nice to know it’s there though.
Hand Sanitiser: Good for what ails ya.
Dr. Bronner’s Toothpaste Peppermint: along with travel-sized toothpaste, which I can resupply in town as needed.
The Tent Lab The Deus #2: No poop kit is complete with it! Super lightweight. Does the job.
Sea To Summit Wilderness Wipes (XL): Perfect for helping freshen up at the end of a sweaty hike day and for bathroom wipes.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap: I suppose some people would consider this a luxury item, especially since I also brought some hand sanitiser. Hand sanitiser feels like it’s more for when I’m about to eat and have regular dirt on my hands, but the soap just seems like a smarter option after you’ve, you know, been to the bathroom. So there you go.
Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent: My all-important insect repellent. I’ve had this container almost explode on me once on a day hike, so have it bagged separately in a Ziploc bag to protect against any accidents.
Katadyn BeFree 1L Water Filter: For water filtration, I chose this over the Sawyer Squeeze. The flow rate is great and I love the idea that I have can carry extra later of water, if I need it. That said, despite regular cleans (swishing it back and forth in the creek), the flow rate definitely slows down. Still, love the convenience of this thing!
Smart Water 1L Bottles: I carried two of these bottles for all my water on the trail. The JMT thankfully offers lots of water sources along the way, so I never needed more than these (and I had the extra liner in my water filter, if I needed that little bit extra). I chose Smart Water bottles specifically as backup, just in case I had issues with the BeFree filter, needing to perhaps borrow someone’s Sawyer Squeeze (it will fit right onto these bottles) and I’d be good to go.
Amazon Essentials Men’s Tech Stretch Sun Hoodie: It’s light, soft and breathable, wearing this white-grey colour to reflect light and keep me cooler. It does a great job of protecting me from the sun and I wore the hell out of this thing!
REI Merino Midweight Base Layer Crew Top: A very new edition to my clothing set up, this base layer snuck underneath my sun hoodie. The merino wool keeps the ‘lack of shower’ odours at bay and also gives me the option of wearing just a t-shirt, while relaxing at camp or whatever.
Patagonia Terrebonne Jogger Pants: These were strictly for camp, so I would have something clean to crawl into at the end of a hike day.
PLTIFONE Mens Gym Quick Dry Shorts: These dry super fast and are light as hell. I just brought one pair and they were all I wore the whole time I was hiking.
Zowya Breathable Sports Cap: I went with white to select the sun. I’ve worn the hell out of this thing and is pretty bloody great for $15 on Amazon.
Brooks Cascadia 15: I don’t know what to say about these shoes. They are extremely comfortable and had the hell beaten out of them on the trail, always coming up swinging. Total work-horses and I’d buy them again in a heartbeat. Also, I prefer trail runners to boots. Just a personal choice. They’re lighter and allow my feet to feel more agile on the trail beneath them. Anyway, love these shoes!
Superfeet Green Insoles: After having my feet checked by a sports shoe specialist, I replaced the insoles with these on recommendation and found them brilliant for arc support (apparently what my feet needed). Glad I did. For what I put my feet through, I was able to keep them well-looked after.
Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Socks: I have two pairs to wear on the trail, plus an additional pair of socks for camp. Something clean I can lounge in at the end of the day.
Injinji Toed Sock Liner Crew: Another brand-new addition to my gear. These slip on underneath my Darn Tough socks, combining with the Hike Goo (which I religiously put on my feet every day) to keep the blisters at bay. I was fortunate that this combo worked, not getting a single blister on the whole trail. So it made the extra work and pack weight well bloody worth it!
Patagonia R1 Pullover Hoody: For my fleece layer, this does a great job of keeping me warm, keeping it at the top of my pack for constant, easy access. It fit a little tight, but hopefully those Sierra miles trimmed my belly a bit and it fit better towards the end.
Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer: Super lightweight, packs down nice and small and I love it! ‘Nuff said.
Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket: Again, super light, very breathable. It has some pit zips for airing. I tried a bunch of options for my rain jacket and this one just felt great on me. I also like that it folds down small into its own hoodie.
Sunski Headlands Polarized Sunglasses: Comfy, eyes well-protected. They do the trick.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles: These are tough tough as nails and easily one of my favourite items on the trail. I have some Leukotape tape wrapped around each in case I need to battle any blisters. Love these things! They truely save my joints and act as a great stand to lean on when climbing particularly hard passes.
BUFF: Good for keeping sun off my head/face or using as a sweat band. I didn’t use it much, but it’s so light I’m glad I had it for those times it did come in handy.
EVEN Naturals Premium Mosquito Net: I brought a head bug net for the notoriously bad bugs on sections of the JMT trail. Thankfully I only had bug issues once, on the ascent of Selden Pass. I didn’t end up using this head net at all, but hey, better to have it and not need it, right?
Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleecie Beanie: Super lightweight, not itchy. Added a little extra warmth at those high altitudes though next time I might pack something even warmer.
Dirty Girl Gaiter: I brought these foot gaiters to keep the dust out of my shoes, but they required my velcro’ing them to clean shoes. Since my shoes were far from that, I tried hiking without them. Like I said, I didn’t end up having any blister issues, so ended up mailing them back to myself at Mammoth on a zero day. In short, didn’t need these at all!
Nike Thongs/Flip Flops: For camp shoes I bought my regular, everyday pair I have lying around the house.
MeUndies Boxer Briefs: Two pairs. These are what I wear in everyday life and I love this underwear. Comfiest I’ve ever worn and they did great on the trail!
Unigear Lightweight Running Gloves: I really only packed these for my final days (including Mount Whitney ascent) to stay extra warm. It perhaps would have made more sense to mail them to myself in my last resupply than to carry them the whole trip, but hey, live and learn. Next time I’d go with warmer gloves. The one and only time it ended up being cold enough to need to wear these on the trail was for my brutally cold early morning Mount Whitney ascent, summiting in time for sunrise. Honestly these gloves did nothing. My hands were too cold to function on the top of Whitney. Though to be fair, these are not really designed for those temperatures.
Anker 20000mAh portable power bank: I ended up going with a large 20,000 milliamp hours power bank as opposed to the smaller, lighter 10,000 milliamp version (which everyone recommended), because I’m bringing a lot of electronics and just didn’t want to worry out there on the rail. This is a little heavier than I’d like, but I ended up needing every morsel of power this bad boy had to offer, between my phone, headlamp and Garmin GPS needing regular charges, so am glad I went with the gruntier size.
iPhone 12 Pro: With a leather case with MagSafe. I was really weighing up bringing my DSLR camera, but given my pack weight decided to test the limits of the phone for photos instead. The photos and video were gorgeous on this device and the new iPhones allow you to shoot in RAW format, giving you even more detail to play with in post. Is it a replacement for my DSLR? No, of course not, but given the ease in which I was able to access this much lighter option, I’m very happy with my results. The phone of course also was my navigation (through the Guthook app) throughout the trail, my note book and my entertainment, watching movies at night in camp. Easily one of the most important items I carried the whole trip and worth a last-minute upgrade to a newer, larger drive capacity model.
Fotopro Flexible Camera Tripod: Great little phone tripod with bendy legs that will wrap around damn-near anything! I mounted this tripod to trees, telephone poles and fences, all with no problem. It also comes with a bluetooth portable button that allows you to snap pics remotely. Perfect for nabbing pics of yourself in front of the mountain you just climbed, though I really didn’t end up using that a lot.
Jaybird Vista Waterproof Headphones: Now, I brought two pairs of headphones (go on, get your eye-rolling out of your system). Firstly, I have these bluetooth wireless headphones, which I wear all the time. They’re comfortable, sound good and are noise cancelling, which is great at camp when listening to something over loud nearby conversations. I love these things!
Apple EarPods: I also brought my regular wired headphones in case I ran into any power issues, or have connectivity problems. They weigh next to nothing and take up no space, so just sit at the bottom of my pack for if they’re needed.
Nitecore NU25 Headlamp: Super lightweight, easy-to-use, waterproof, nice and bright and rechargeable (so I don’t need to worry about carrying batteries). It also has a nice “red mode” light feature, which allows you to see in the dark without blinding you (or others). The battery life is good on each recharge and it is water resistant. Before this I was using a battery-powered Black Diamond Spot 350 and found the buttons complicated to operate. I much prefer this lamp.
Anker USB 24W: This very handy wall charger allowed me to charge two items at once, for when I had limited time back in civilisation.
Various charging cables: Speaks for itself.
Garmin InReach Mini GPS: For emergency situations, this GPS has an SOS button for calling the cavalry, if it’s ever needed. It also has a handful of nice features, such as sending texts from the trail, allowing loved ones to track your movements online (this is optional, of course) and getting location-based weather updates. All brilliant, though require a paid subscription. Honestly though, the peace of mind of all of the above was worth every penny, while out there on the trail.
Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .5: I like that this kit is so small and inside it has a plastic sleeve to act as an extra layer of protection. I’ve tweaked its original contents of course to less of what I don’t need and more of what I do need.
Gear Aid 550 Paracord – 30′: Hanging on the outside of my bag, it’s there for, you know, whatever I need it for.
Rawlogy Ultralight Cork Massage Ball: For my tight hips I brought this massage ball. The idea was to massage my hips and legs every night at camp. It didn’t go exactly as planned, so maybe I’d leave at home next time, but it’s still a great item. Super lightweight.
SOL Emergency Blanket: A just-in-case item for for if I happen to find myself in an emergency situation and need to fight off hyperthermia.
Leukotape: Some extra Leukotape for blisters.
Hot Hands Hand Warmers: Again, for emergencies. Lightweight backup in case I’m in a situation where I need them.
Coghlan’s Featherweight Signalling Mirror: Allows me to signal for help in emergency situations. Did I need to bring it? Maybe not, but it’s so lightweight the peace of mind it brings is well worth it to me.
SOL Slim Rescue Howler Whistle: My Hyperlite pack comes with a whistle built into the chest strap, but I found it’s sound to be pretty tame. This emergency whistle is loud as hell and is mounted to my pack, close enough to my mouth for if I need it in a hurry.
Bear Vault BV500 Bear Canister: Unfortunately required on the John Muir Trail, this bear canister is heavy, bulky and is the biggest pain in the ass in my pack, but hey, you gotta have it. I went with this model because I like that you can see the food/items inside. I also like that you can open the canister without any tools, which I know some other brands require.
Helinox Zero Chair: Next comes my biggest luxury item, my camp chair. This was a total last-minute addition and I was totally on the fence about bringing it, but on a short trip prior to the JMT I only brought a seat pad to sit on in camp and found it a literal pain in the ass after 5 mins of sitting on it. I know I’m supposed to be roughing it in the wild, but after a long hike day, a little comfort under my backside and some back support goes a long way. This chair is reasonably easy to assemble and is the lightest sturdy option out there. Am I glad I brought it? Definitely in the moments I was using it. Would I bring it again? I would depend on the trip for sure.
PackTowl Ultralite Microfiber Towel: I brought this just in case and it proved to be an absolute godsend. I once had a flooding situation with rain making its way into my tent and this towel pretty efficiently soaked it all up making my shelter habitable again. Am I glad I carried the extra .5 ounces? DAMN RIGHT I am! Other uses included handling hot items, wiping out my kitchenware and washing my body when jumping in a creek or whatever.
Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Journal: A waterproof journalling pad, for those times I was contending with the elements and didn’t want to lose all my precious written memories of the experience. You can check out a blow-by-blow of my adventure here, by the way, proving the use of this pad for me on the trail. Along with this, I brought a regular pen and also a black marker to write on Ziploc bags for resupplies along the way.
Compass: A backup to my Guthooks navigation app of course.
RediTape Travel Size Pocket Duct Tape: Some duct tape for general repairs.
UCO Stormproof Matches: Just packing a small handful (3 or 4) in a small plastic babe, along with their striker pad, as backup in emergencies.
John Muir Trail National Geographic Topographic Map Guide: Again as backup is my paper map, which I ended up referring to daily, along with my Guthooks app. Super helpful!
Hyperlite Pods: A little expensive, but these pods are brilliant, especially for Hyperlite packs, which they are designed specifically for. They fit snugly into the pack, creating a layered internal organised tower, which also weatherproofed the items inside. Using 3 total, I used a large pod for my entire sleep system, another large pod for clothing & cook system and a small pod for my tent (except for the frame, which soloed on the outside pocket of my pack).
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Nano 4L: I brought along 3 x 4L and 2 x 2L models for organising items into various categories and for weatherproofing everything inside the pack. I colour-coded for ease of finding things in a hurry. There was a blue bag for toiletries, black for electronics, orange for first aid & repair (tent, pack, sleeping pad) and green for miscellaneous.
Sea To Summit Ultra Mesh Stuff sack 2.5L: A small mesh bag to carry my poop kit items, on the outside pocket of my pack.
Nite Ize S-Biner Dual Carabiners: Great for hooking items to the outside of the pack. I hung items like my camp shoes and hand towel off mine.
So there you have it! Like all lists, mine will continue to evolve. Hopefully though it helps you on your own travels.
You can read all about my JMT adventures from my journal entries and be sure to share your own experiences in the comments below.
Reach out with any questions you have about my JMT gear or let me know about your own trail gear preferences!