I have already reviewed my hammock gear in this post, and I will do a review in the future of my other gear (pack, hydration, electronics, etc).
I have divided the clothes into functional categories:
- Hiking clothes (shirt, skirt, gaiters, underwear, bra, socks, shoes),
- Sleeping clothes (fleece hoodie, long underwear, down coat, down booties, buff)
- Clothes used for weather protection (sunhat, umbrella, sungloves, sunglasses, raingear).
|What I wore every day for 700 miles in SoCal.|
Before my hike, I agonized over what to wear on the PCT. My hiking clothes were dialed in for the humid, forested southeast, but I knew it'd be sunnier and drier on the PCT. Reading online advice and Yogi's book left me totally confused. The best advice I got was to focus on the expected conditions that you will encounter and determine what gear to use to deal with those conditions based on your own backpacking style and preferences. A great guide is found here. I ended up wearing similar clothes to what I already liked wearing (with a few modifications) because I knew they worked well for me.
For SoCal and the Sierra, temperatures might swing from 90 degrees to 30 degrees during the day. Nights got down to freezing. In the Sierra, it is known to drop to 20 degrees in the Sierra. The sun and wind were intense.
One thing I did find is that a 30 degree night on the PCT didn't feel as cold as a 30 degree night in the (humid) southeast.
About my backpacking style
For dealing with the cold, you can either suffer by carrying more weight and be warmer, or you can have a lighter pack but be colder. I choose the first option, and carried more clothes than most of the guys (women generally sleep colder than men) thought my choices still left me cold a few nights. But most of the time I was fine. I also have Raynaud’s syndrome, so I paid extra attention to my extremities. One thing that was different for me on this trip was that it was my first long-distance hike and I noticed my ability to thermoregulate changed over the course of the hike. It wasn't just me either- by Tuolumne Meadows, it was easy to pick out the PCT hikers because we were all wearing our puffy jackets during lunch or rest breaks, when all the dayhikers were strolling around in shorts and tshirts.
|Layering for the cold and sun in the Sierra.|
One way I do save packweight- I am fairly tolerant of being dirty and smelly. I didn’t carry a change of underwear or clothes to wear in town like others did.
My clothing is still on the heavy side. As I look over my gearlist while sitting inside on this nice couch, I think I could have brought less and toughed it out to save some ounces. But when I was lying in my hammock for hours shivering in the cold, unable to sleep, I was glad I was carrying everything I had. Probably happened only a half dozen times, but it was often enough.
Hiking Clothes (shirt, skirt, gaiters, underwear, bra, socks, trail runners)
Hiking shirt: Railriders adventure shirt (6.5 oz)
Pros: This was a great shirt for SoCal! The long sleeves gave excellent sun protection. The vents on the sides kept me cool. The pocket on the side of the arm was a good place to keep my wallet when I was in town.
Cons: The sleeves were too short for my long arms. I also wished it came in prints or colors that weren’t so boring.
Hiking skirt: DIY skirt (4.5 oz)
|Three skirt wearing hikers on the PCT.|
Pros: Pockets on both sides were the perfect size to fit my cell phone and tiny notebook. Beautiful spandex galaxy print made me smile and was stretchy to allow full range of movement (especially for leaping over streams and scrambling down rocks). The ripstop nylon on the front and back was more durable. Both fabrics dried quickly but were cool. I was really proud of my design for this skirt, and felt good about wearing something I sewed myself.
Cons: I wish I’d sewn it two inches longer to protect my knees from the sun. But I was obsessed with shaving off ounces from all my gear and clothes, and didn’t anticipate just how many ounces of sunscreen I would have to apply to keep my knees from burning too badly.
Gaiters: DIY tall gaiters (3 oz)
|Pathfinder and I rocking the tall gaiters.|
Cons: The extra fabric added 2 oz compared with dirty girl gaiters which are just 1 oz. Also, it was important to remember to take these off prior to attempting to hitchhike. I have been told they look pretty dorky, and that might matter to some people.
Underwear: Patagonia active hipster briefs (1 oz)
I carried one pair of underwear. Every other day (or so), I would wash them out in my ziplock baggy and then dry them on my hammock ridgeline or outside my pack while I hiked. Others had two pair of underwear, and some wore compression shorts.
Pros: I liked this style (bikini) because they didn’t chafe or ride up. The fabric was quick drying. The waistband was extra wide so it felt comfortable.
Bra: Moving comfort fiona (4.2 oz)
I only had one bra, but other women preferred two (and others wore no bra). I switched to a dark colored bra for the Sierra because I felt more comfortable wearing that for swimming.
Pros: Supportive and good fit. I liked that it had hooks in the back to make taking it on and off easier when it was damp from sweat.
Cons: It makes me cringe seeing how much this bra weighs, but I am a DD cup so there aren’t a lot of options. Other bras that were lighter were not supportive enough. This bra doesn’t dry quickly, so I took it off when I got to camp and hung it on my hammock ridgeline so it would have time to air out.
The other thing I didn't like about this bra is that the velcro adjustment on the straps were bulky and tended to slip. To fix this problem, I cut the velcro off and sewed the strap directly to the bra.
Hiking socks: Injinji Run 2.0 lightweight minicrew (1.5 oz)
What worked for me in the southeast (i.e. smartwool socks) didn’t work for me on the PCT. I ended up using much lighter socks and switching to toesocks. I washed my socks out every day, as often as possible, and hung them to dry on my pack.
|Drying my socks on my pack as I hiked. Yes, this is after they'd been washed.|
Cons: They wore out after a few hundred miles.
Waterproof(ish) socks: Rocky Gortex socks
|Trying to warm up my feet after an icy river crossing.|
An alternative to gortex socks are reynolds oven bags. I have had success with them on weekend hikes, but I tend to rip through them after a few days. If I were to do it over, I'd stick with the oven bags it just wasn't worth the extra weight.
Pros: My toes didn’t get frostbite and fall off. I didn't cry too often because of frozen toes.
Cons: I didn’t like to wear them all the time because they weren’t breathable. My socks could still get soaked with sweat when my feet started to get warm. There was a narrow temperature range which these worked best- namely only when it was really cold.
Trail Runners: Altra lone peaks (23 oz)
Pros: There is a good reason these are one of the most popular shoes on the PCT this year. They allow your toes to splay out naturally, have a wide toebox, are lightweight, and have awesome grip on rocks. I thought the zero drop felt very comfortable.
Non-gortex, highly breathable, low cut trail shoes work well on the PCT. These shoes dried quickly which was important in the Sierra for all the water crossings. In the heat of SoCal, I could feel the wind going right through them, cooling off my feet. Altras already have the velcro to attach your dirty girl gaiters sewn in already- how perfect!
Cons: These shoes got holes in them relatively quickly. I used gorilla glue to patch up the holes which extended their life a little bit and prevented bigger rocks from getting into them. Also, that mesh that allowed these shoes to dry quickly and stay cool also let in dirt and sand, so it’s definitely a tradeoff. The sand problem can be managed by dumping out the sand at rest breaks and rinsing out your socks.
One thing to note: I got a stress fracture in my foot at mile 800. I don’t know if it was the shoes being too unsupportive, or me only having worn them for 6 months before the hike so my feet weren't strong enough, or the fact that I switched up half a size for the Sierra, or something else, or a combination of factors. Tons of other PCT hikers wore them, tons of them switched into them with less time than I had, and they all didn’t get stress fractures. So, I just don’t know. I dream of going back to these shoes someday because they are the only shoes that never hurt my bunions. (Read more about stress fractures here)
For Sleeping (fleece hoodie, long underwear, down coat, down booties, buff, gloves/mittens)
Choice of sleeping clothes depends on the entire sleep system as a whole (details of my hammock setup here). I found it more versatile to have warmer sleep clothes (that I could wear to hike in if needed) and go more minimal with the weight of my quilts. Most of the time, I had one set of clothes to hike in and one warmer set of clothes to sleep in. But in the Sierra when it was very cold at night, I slept in both my hiking and sleeping clothes and was still cold.
Fleece Hoodie: Melanzana Micro grid (9 oz)
|Snug in my hoodie.|
Cons: The sleeves were too short for my long arms. But I sewed wristies to make up for it.
Long underwear bottoms: Icebreaker bodyfit 200’s (5.8 oz)
|Wearing my long underwear while hiking in the Sierra.|
Cons: I can't find them in this awesome print anymore.
Down coat: Montbell alpine light (12 oz)
|Puffy jackets also keep you warm while eating ice cream.|
Pros: This jacket was warm and packs down small. I liked hiking in the morning with my hands in the toasty warm pockets. The collar is a nice fuzzy fleece material. I liked that my jacket has a full zipper (even though it weights more) because I could regulate the temperature more easily. I was also glad it didn't have a hood because I didn't need it since my fleece has a hood.
Down booties: Goosefeet socks (3.5 oz)
Pros: Putting these on every night was heavenly. I slept better because my feet were toasty. Several nights I arrived in camp with frozen and numb toes from evening stream crossings and I was so grateful to have these. They pack down quite small.
Cons: They seemed a bit extravagant.
Buff: DIY (0.8 oz)
|I am so cold. When is the sun gonna come up?|
Gloves: Surplus Wool Liner Gloves (1.5 oz)
Pros: Warm. Versatile. In rain or snow, I slip a pair of nitrile exam gloves over them.
Cons: Eventually they wear out but they are so inexpensive they are easily replaced.
Mittens: Fleece convertible mittens
I bought these in Lone Pine after I got cold leaving Kennedy Meadows the first time. I was glad I had them for the Sierra.
Pros: Warm. They were convertible so I could keep them on while I set up and took down my hammock and packed up my gear, or ate breakfast or dinner. At night, I tucked them around my legs for extra insulation.
Cons: Heavy and bulky.
For weather (sunhat, umbrella, sungloves, sunglasses, raingear)
Sun hat: Sunday afternoons sport hat (2.5 oz)
I liked having both a sunhat and an umbrella. I wore the hat when it was too windy for the umbrella, and if the wind wasn’t too bad, I could use the umbrella and take off the hat when it was hot. Though mostly I kept the hat on all the time, sunup to sundown. I was jealous of the people that could just do a visor and bandana, but again, I was very prone to sunburn so I did what I had to do.
|Another day of sun on the PCT|
Cons: Weighs more and is more bulky than a visor.
Sun wristies: DIY fingerless (1 oz)
Pros: All weather protection, I absolutely loved my wristies (i.e. my own version of sungloves). Kept my hands and wrists from getting sunburned, since I found that sunscreen doesn’t stick well to dirty, sweaty hands and fingers. Wristies also kept my hands cleaner and from drying out too much in the harsh, dry wind. Plus they kept my hands warmer in the cold. Other people wore sungloves but I liked my design better because I didn’t want fabric between my fingers. I was also able to slip them off my thumb and push them up my arms when I was at water sources and didn’t want them to get wet. As for the other design features, I have long arms, so I added extra coverage for my wrists so that they extended to where my sleeves ended. Mine also a lovely light blue color and had cool rainbow accents.
Cons: These required patching a few times because I constantly wore them. I wished I’d sewn two or three pair so I could have just replaced them.
|Sungloves after 1500 miles.|
Sunglasses: Oakley Juliet (1.8 oz)
Wrap around sunglasses were essential for the PCT. They protected my eyes from wind and dust too. I wore mine sunup to sundown.
Pros: Excellent optics. Durable. Oakleys are expensive but I’ve had mine for over 10 years, making them my longest-used piece of gear. So that gives them a low per use to cost ratio.
Cons: The metal frames sometimes felt cold on my face.
Raincoat: Zpacks Cuben jacket (5 oz)
|Is it raining, hailing, or sunny, or all three at once? That's the PCT for you...|
Pros: I was delighted with the quality of this jacket, and the nice cut. I was a bit reluctant to pay so much for a cuben raincoat, but the weight savings won me over. I had mine custom made with extra length at the sleeves to cover my freakishly long arms- this made me very happy because otherwise my wrists get cold and wet in the rain. I can’t comment on how well this stands up to days of torrential rain because I never experienced those conditions, but it did well for what I experienced on the PCT. I also loved how good this material feels against bare skin like when I wore it to while doing laundry. Which reminds me-- when wearing this jacket at the laundromat, it is important to remember to zip up the pit zips to avoid offending the non-hikers.
Rainpants: Golite Tumalo (8 oz)
|Wearing my rainpants for protection from the dreaded poodle dog bush.|
Cons: Heavy. I wish I’d splurged for Zpacks cuben rain pants to save a few ounces.
(Edit: After I healed from my stress fracture, I bough the Zpacks cuben rain pants and wore them the next 550 miles. They were definitely worth the price to save ounces. They breathe well and are comfortable.)
Umbrella: Golite chrome dome (8 oz) (see this post for how to rig the umbrella on your pack)
|Snow the day we left Kennedy Meadows.|
Cons: These don’t stand up to the relentless, strong winds found on the PCT. I tried to be careful and put it away when the gusts got bad, but my first one only lasted halfway through SoCal, and I know other people had to replace theirs too. I wish they would make one that was more sturdy. I also wished I'd bought the Euroshirm version which is the same but doesn't have the ugly logo.
Questions? Please let me know if you want any clarifications or further details. I'm happy to talk endlessly about the PCT!
Disclaimer: I purchased all this gear with my own funds. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.