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.
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:
|Backpack And Poles||4.2 lbs|
|Shelter And Sleep||6.7 lbs|
|Bear Canister, Water, Cooking||3.7 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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
|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|
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.
What I Wore:
|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|
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.
- Click here to see my guide on picking the perfect trail shoe for hiking
- Click here to see my top trail shoe choices for the JMT 2016
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