PCT Recommended Gear

We are going to cover what you need to hike the pacific crest trail successfully along with what you can ship back home or ahead to help cut down on weight and gear over the trail by section.

PCT Gear Sections

The Desert
The Sierras
Northern California

What Gear is Needed for the Pacific Coast Trail?


Pacific Coast Trail Data

The data below is helpful for a thru hiker planning to leave and looking at planning their costs and the timeframe they can expect to be gone from their homes. This will help ensure you to make smart decisions based on your savings and estimations.

Thru Hike Data For the Pacific Coast Trail

The data below is helpful for a thru hiker planning to leave and looking at planning their costs and the timeframe they can expect to be gone from their homes. This will help ensure you to make smart decisions based on your savings and estimations.

Southern California - The Desert

The start of the trail on a NOBO hike will begin in the desert, a very dry and arid area with a trail devoid of much shade, eventually taking you to the incredible desert to follow the viaduct while trying not to bake.
The Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT, begins about 80 feet from the border of Mexico and as you can see above the corrugated metal wall is all that splits the two countries. The Southern Terminus monument stands like a beacon to the start of your incredible journey and marks mile 0, touch it and begin your trek.
You will hike through high dry lands which will lead you up higher and higher to the San Jacinto mountain top at around 10,000 feet. It is at this point that you will begin your descent back to lower lands and set your eyes on the fierce Mojave Desert.
The Mojave Desert portion will test your mental resolve with its lack of water along with intense heat. This causes many to switch and decide to night hike and cut the temperature that they have to be out in. The goal being to travel as fast as possible and to reach Kennedy Meadows and look into the high Sierras.

Central California - The Sierras

The mountains you will climb will amaze you for years after you complete this section. You will learn to love microspikes and learn that post holing is a horrible pastime and exhausting on your mental and physical game.
This is where you will start to figure out how tough you are, both physically and mentally, you are going to be climbing high peaks and you will be cold. The fun thing is that you will be enjoying every minute of the adventure and your heart will be beating in your throat at times!
The route for the PCT will continually enter and then drop out from the alpine zone, taking hikers up and over eight passes at over 10,000 feet. , including Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT at 13,153 feet above sea level.
One of the most outstanding points of this section is that with good weather you have AMAZING views of the wilderness and something akin to our ancestors when they were travelling west away from civilization.
One of the core difficulties will be that with snowfall following the trail can be very difficult as the markers get buried and unviewable. Using a tool like Guthook to stay on trail can pay off large dividends in this area where many hikers can spend weeks.

Northern California

Breaking out of the Sierra's will be a welcome change for all thru hikers as you move lower into a more lush green landscape.
You will begin now to drop out of the mountains and come down into what will feel like lush greenery and rolling hills. The beneficial part of a thru hike NOBO is that you should reach here after the cool winter but before the summer kicks into full gear allowing you cool nights.
This will be where you will want to look at starting to swap out some gear and drop out the mountain gear like microspikes and maybe switch out to lighter sleeping bag or quilt. 
This stretch of California is one of the nicest sections of California with the more mild weather and terrain, it can become easy to get complacent and waste days playing and exploring. This is the area where many will trek out to Tahoe to see the lakes and enjoy a break from the hard mountain work.


Full of some of the most amazing green forests and amazing views of places like Crater Lake, take time to absorb the views and enjoy the forest and greenery.
Oregon has lots of peaks and valleys but the trail winds through in a mostly flat approach compared to the Sierras and the rest of your trek to this point. The start of Oregon is when many have recovered from the Sierras and hikers start to slam out higher mileage days trying to stay ahead of snow in Washington.
As with much of the Pacific Crest Trail the overall trail space through the state is much more remote than anything the Appalachian Trail has you hike, including towns and hotels or motels.
The culmination of the beautiful views is Crater Lake, you hike the rim of one of the most beautiful spots in the entire west coast. As you move north you will see more and more mountains including Mt Hood ad the Three Sisters.


For most thru hikers you will be reaching Washington towards the end of summer and into the fall and winter. This means being damp almost 24/7 and your gear to be warm after a day of cold will be drastically important to your survivability. 
The NOBO hiker will leave Oregon state and enter Washington state through crossing the Bridge of the Gods, a bridge that spans the Columbia Gorge to get traffic across. From here you will enter into the Cascade Mountain range, one of my favorite places.
I grew up in the Washington forests and they can be painful in ups and down but also in consistent moisture in the air, for most hikers this is the most dangerous part as you are tired and exhausted from the months of hiking, this is why many seem to go missing here.
The constant wet environment will seep into everything, your clothing and shoes, your gear may wet out and if you aren't careful with your gear this can lead to dangerous nights. In addition, this is close for many to the time when the snow will start to fall and temperatures will begin to drop.
While you may have seen mountains when you get your first view of Mount Rainier you may be totally awestruck at the sheer size of it, I have seen it from many people while I grew up.
The end of the PCT is a empty clearing and a treeless path is cut through the forest. This is called the 49th parallel and the US/Canadian border. Next to a historic border marker stands the Northern Terminus, Monument 78 and completion.

Next Stop: Proper Gear For The Pacific Crest Trail

Now that you have a broad understanding on the Pacific Crest Trail we can dive into the gear that will be necessary for you to properly hike and complete the entire trail. 
Continue to PCT Suggested Gear
Welcome to thru hiker guide, helping those who hunger for travel.
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