My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List

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Putting together a gear list for the John Muir Trail can be one of the most difficult parts of the planning process. The goal for most is to go as lightweight as possible without leaving behind any essentials or being unnecessarily uncomfortable. My backpacking base weight (pack weight without consumables, water, food, gas) is usually between 15 and 20 lbs, but for the JMT, my base weight was 24 lbs. Where did the extra weight come from? I carried a full camera setup with batteries which added about 2 lbs. I had a 2.5 lbs bear canister. I also carried a shelter for two, and a cooking setup. If I were to hike the JMT again, I would aim to be closer to 17 lbs. That being said, I think the extra weight was worth it on my first JMT, as I wouldn’t trade the photos, video, and warm meals for a lighter pack. Also, Julia and I walked at a pretty relaxed pace, finishing in 11 days. If we were aiming for a 7 or 8 day JMT,  I would have definitely gone lighter. For those planning to hike their first JMT, I’d suggest to start with a target base weight of 15-25 lbs.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List

Below you will find a full list of everything I brought with me on the JMT, along with their weight (oz) and a rating. I’ll break down each section and give insight for gear items that worked well, gear that didn’t work well, and why. Here is a table showing the categories I used to organize my gear:

Category Weight
Backpack And Poles 4.2 lbs
Shelter And Sleep 6.7 lbs
Electronics 3.4 lbs
Clothing 4.3 lbs
Bear Canister, Water, Cooking 3.7 lbs
Miscellaneous 1.7 lbs
Total: 24 lbs

*Item links go to Amazon where all purchases support Trail to Peak*

Rating System: 1= Avoid at all costs, 2= Would not recommend, 3= Did not work for me YMMV, 4= Would recommend, 5= Great product and irreplaceable

You’ll notice I have a lot of high scores in my ratings. I did a ton of training and gear vetting before the JMT. This is critical. Your first time using your gear should not be your first day on the JMT. Just look at this list of gear failures from 2015 to see how quickly things can go south.

What I Packed:

Backpack And Poles Rating Weight
Osprey Exos 58  4 39 oz
Osprey Pack Cover  4 4.8 oz
Black Diamond Trail Pro Poles  4 23 oz
Totals:   4.17 lbs

I’m pretty happy with how my gear performed in the ‘Backpack And Poles’ category. The Osprey Exos 58 was a nice lightweight pack, that fit all of my gear with ease. My only issue was the comfort of the hip belt. It was an issue that I never experienced in training, but on the JMT, the back portion of the hip belt rubbed and irritated my but and hips. It was due to a rough piece of fabric, and was remedied with duct tape. The Osprey Pack Cover worked well and as advertised. It fit a bit large on my pack, but that wasn’t an issue. My Black Diamond Trekking Poles worked great as well. They are heavier than carbon poles, but more durable. I use trekking poles a lot when pitching a tent into different configurations, so I decided to go with the durability of the aluminum shafts. I might go with carbon next time to save a few ounces.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
Full JMT Gear Setup On My Way To Tuolumne Meadows
Shelter And Sleep Rating Weight
Tarptent Double Rainbow  4 41 oz
MSR Groundhog Stakes  4 4 oz
Reflective Guylines  4 4 oz
Sierra Designs Zissou 23  4 33 oz
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Trekker  4 17 oz
Homemade Tyvek Groundsheet  4 4 oz
Sea To Summit Pillow  5 4 oz
Totals:   6.68 lbs

I was very happy with ‘Shelter And Sleep’ category, but it is definitely and area that I can shave a few pounds. The issue is that the marginal cost to do so can be fairly prohibitive. The Tarptent Double Rainbow (read full review here) was a great shelter for the JMT. It was lightweight, comfortable, and help up well in thunderstorms. The only issue was incessant condensation, which is going to be an issue with any single wall tent. The TT Double Rainbow has  nice “Porch Pitch” option, which opens up the vestibules for full ventilation. This allowed the tent to dry quickly if we had to pack it up damp in the morning. My sleeping pad a sleeping mat were a great combination, providing adequate warmth and comfort each and every night.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
TarpTent Double Rainbow At Thousand Island Lake
Electronics Rating Weight
Sony a6000 Camera Body  5 12 oz
LowePro Camera Bag  5 6 oz
Sony 10-18mm Lens  5 9 oz
LG G3 w/ Bose Headphones  4 8 oz
Delorme InReach  4 7 oz
Camera Batteries X4  5 8 oz
Lipstick Charger X2  5 5 oz
 Totals:  3.4 lbs

My electronics category is maybe a little overdone, but I was very happy with what I brought. My Sony a6000 with Sony 10-18mm wide angle lens performed brilliantly capturing both photo and video. My LG G3 was decent, and worked well with the Guthooks JMT Map app. I was able to keep my family updated using the Delorme InReach (read full review), and my extra batteries provided just enough power.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
Before Donahue Pass, Camera By My Side
Clothing Rating Weight
Trail to Peak Nike Hat  5 2.1 oz
Arc’teryx Motus Longsleeve  5 4 oz
Salomon Hooded Jacket  4 4 oz
Marmot Precip Rain Jacket  3 13 oz
Outdoor Research Voodoo Pant  4 12 oz
Patagonia Down Sweater Hooded  4 15 oz
Exofficio Brief X2  5 4.4 oz
Darn Tough 1/4 Sock X2  5 4 oz
Homemade Tyvek Rainkilt  5 2.5 oz
Outdoor Research Gloves  4 5 oz
Alpaca Wool Beanie From Peru  5 2 oz
 Totals:    4.25 lbs

These are the clothing items that I had packed in my bag. Below you will find the clothing items I wore while hiking. My packed clothing worked out very well on the JMT, but I probably only needed one extra pair of socks and underwear. My Marmot Precip Rain Jacket worked well in thunderstorms, but took up a ton of space. I’m going to look for a replacement rain coat with a smaller footprint next time. I also brought along an extra hat. I wore a wide brim, and had my Nike hat as well. That was very unnecessary.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
Muir Pass
Bear Canister, Water, And Cooking Rating Weight
 BV500 Bear Canister  4 41 oz
 Sawyer Mini Filter  4 2 oz
 1L Smartwater Bottles X3  5 5.4 oz
 MSR Pocket Rocket  4 3 oz
 Snow Peak Cookset  4 8 oz
 Totals:   3.7 lbs

I chose the BV500 over the Garcia bear canister for the JMT (see why here). The BV500 worked well, but took up a ton of space in my pack. That being said, a bear canister is a requirement on the JMT, so there is not much I could have done to remedy that. The Sawyer Mini was a great lightweight filter that worked flawlessly when paired with a Smartwater bottle. The only issue was the filter time to get 1L and the effort required for each clean bottle. I only scooped water from clean streams, and because of this, only had to back flush once. The MSR Pocket Rocket worked well, and it was nice to have warm meals, but I would probably go stoveless next time.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
Bear Canister And Food Guide
Miscellaneous  Rating Weight
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp  4 4 oz
Toothbrush, Paste, Soap, Deodorant  5 2 oz
Tissue And Wetwipes  5 4 oz
Microfiber Washcloth X2  4 1 oz
Tom Harrison JMT Maps  5 2 oz
Suunto Compass  4 1.1 oz
Firestarter And Lighter  5 2 oz
Multi-Tool  5 5 oz
First Aid Kit and Ibuprofen  5 3 oz
Neutrogena Sunblock  5 1 oz
Burt’s Bees Lip Balm  5 1 oz
Sea To Summit Stuff Sacks X3  4 1.5 oz
 Totals:   1.72 lbs

This miscellaneous category is a hodge podge of items with varying use and necessity. My Black Diamond Headlamp very useful and indispensable for late night, early morning, and that final day ascending Whitney. I brought along a minimal bag of toiletries, but enough to keep clean and sanitary. The Tom Harrison JMT Maps are a must have for JMT hikers, but make sure to cut them down to save weight.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
Just Before Whitney

What I Wore:

Clothing Items Rating Weight
Mountain Hardware Canvas Crusher Hat 5 4.5 oz
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses 5 1.1 oz
Buff Headband 5 2 oz
Arc’teryx Motus Longsleeve 5 4 oz
Brooks Sherpa 5″ Shorts 5 3.1 oz
Exofficio Brief 5 2.2 oz
Darn Tough 1/4 Sock 5 2 oz
Salomon XA Pro 3D 3 26 oz
Suunto Ambit2 GPS Watch 2 3.2 oz
 Totals: 3 lbs

The clothing listed in this table is the clothing I wore each day that was not packed in my bag. A lot of the items are duplicates of those that I packed. My favorite item in the table is the Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses (see full review). I can’t think of a better pair of sunglasses for the JMT.  The Salomon XA Pro 3D worked well in training, and I wore them for Tour du Mont Blanc, but hey gave me slight issues on the JMT. The main problem was the restrictive upper not allowing my feet to swell on longer days. It wasn’t a major issue, but it did cause some discomfort. My Suunto GPS watch was great on the JMT, but deleted all of my data when I tried to upload it after. This is why I give it a 2.

My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List
At Forester Pass

Click Here To See My Full John Muir Trail Guide

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28 thoughts on “My Comprehensive John Muir Trail Gear List”

  1. I had the exact same chafing issue with the Exos 58, and after only two days in Sequoia. My hips were almost to the point of bleeding. I’m really skinny so I have to cinch it really tight, but glad to see someone else had the same issue. I was thinking next time I should try some body glide, but maybe duct tape is a good remedy as well.

    • Ian, interesting to hear you had the same issue. Maybe it’s a common thing, although I haven’t seen it listed in too many comment sections. I have a skinny waist, too, but large glutes and hamstrings. Most packs sit on the top of my glutes no problem. The Exos rubbed liked crazy. The duct taped worked to relieve the rubbing, but didn’t solved the problem entirely. Hopefully it will offer your hips a little relief.

  2. We too like the Black Diamond Headlamp great when there is no moon light.
    Our friends dad also uses the headlamp but for reading in bed, apparently it is better than the bedside lamps.

    • I have a Black Diamond and two Petzl headlamps. The Petzls are lighter, but I like the water resistance of the BD Storm. Your friends dad has a good idea, I’m sure the headlamp works great for reading in bed 🙂

  3. Good writeup. I’m wondering why you switched from hydration bladders in some of your earlier posts to water bottles. Did you find the bottles better?

    • Thanks, Bob. I switched over on the JMT when I needed to filter water daily. I tried an inline filtration system during my preparation, but didn’t like the slow flow. I enjoyed using bottles so much on the JMT, that I now use bottles for all of my hikes and trips. I find that I drink more when I can see my intake. The bottles also take up less space in my pack, since I can carry them in the side pockets.

  4. Thanks so much for such a thorough and helpful guide! I really enjoyed your video with your commentary and reflections throughout as well. Any chance you can post Julia’s gear list? I don’t see too many accounts of females that have completed the JMT in as little as 11 days, and I’m curious to hear what she brought, how much it all weighed, etc. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Alice! I’ll ask Julia to put together a table of the gear she brought with her. I know she has a few pictures of her kit, so I should be able to get that online pretty soon. Her kit was lighter than mine, since I was carrying the tent and cooking system. I also might post her diet plan, since she is a vegetarian.

  5. I’m planning on doing the JMT next summer but I will take much longer than you, probably three weeks. I want to bring the inReach as well as sometime of camera (maybe my phone) and a Garmin watch. Can you recommend the best way to keep electronics charged? I’d love to not have to bring a solar charger but am worried I will run out of juice. If I did go the Solar route do you have light weight recommendations? Thank you!

    • I brought along a few lipstick chargers. I don’t like having a solar charger on my pack and hope that I get a charge. I know my lipstick chargers can each put out 2.5 phone charges, 2 inReach Charges, and 4-5 Suunto Ambit Charges. For my camera, I brought along a bunch of batteries. It’s definitely not “lightweight”, but all of these electronics matter to me.

  6. What time of year did you hike the trail? I am planning on hiking the trail in early October so I was wondering if you suggest a heavier jacket, or Sleeping bag. Also what shoe or boot preference, really want to stay with the shoes, but not sure what to expect with weather.

  7. Thank you for the write up Drew. What about snow on the passes and use of microspikes, crampons, or an ice axe? I’m going in September this year 2019 and worried about snow and ice traverses.

    • The microspikes, crampons, and ice axe will be needed for June and possibly July departures. It will depend on the weather over the next few weeks and how quickly things melt. If you’re not already, join the JMT Facebook group. There are daily updates on the snowpack there.

  8. Hi Drew,

    Nice work!!. I am new to backpacking. I went through lot of your articles and loved them. I wanted to ask about how much clothing should we carry. As mentioned in the above gear list, you are just carrying one hiking shirt and one hiking pant. How do you keep it clean the other day? Do the clothes dry fast enough or they are a little moist?What strategy should be used to use dry clothes every day.

    Omkar Kale

    • Hi Omkar. Lightweight clothes with performance fabrics dry very quickly, even in cool weather. The only hiccup is when the weather is wet, but in those situations I don’t wash my clothes. When backpacking, I wash clothes as soon as I make camp, and my items are usually dry by morning. If not, I’ll hang them on the outside of my pack for the next day to dry while walking.

      • Hi Drew,

        Thank you so much for the quick reply. I apologize for the late reply.
        Thank you for the information. This really helps!.

        Omkar Kale

  9. Hey Drew. I’ve been really loving this guide to the JMT. I’m thinking about thinking about this myself, and I had a question: I see you brought your Sony, but noticed elsewhere that you really loved the Fuji x100v now that it’s come out. Of the currently-available cameras, which would you bring? Do you think the x100v would be enough, or would you bring your XT-3 and a wider lens? Thanks! Charles

    • Hey Charles. Great question here. If I were to walk today, the x100v would be a go-to if I only wanted to shoot photos. I’m not a fan of it for hybrid work. The XT3/4 would be my choice in that regard, and I’d probably go with the 16mm f2.8 to keep things compact. If you’re not already with Fuji, the a7C is a great choice as well. That paired with the new 24/40 combo makes for a light and small hybrid option.

      • Thanks, Drew! I’m loving my XT-4, but it makes for a big package with my 10-24. I love the idea of something smaller, and something pretty much dust-sealed, too. Hope to read about more of your hiking adventures soon!


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