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Gear Guy

Pacific Crest Trail Hikers’ Must-Have Gear

Take it from the people hoofing it between the Mexican and Canadian borders as we speak

To get their picks for essential PCT gear, I drove around Ashland, enticing them with a cooler packed with ice cold La Croix in exchange for interviews. (Sarah Jackson)
pacific crest trail

Take it from the people hoofing it between the Mexican and Canadian borders as we speak

By the time northbound through-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail reach my hometown of Ashland, Oregon, they’ve traveled the entire length of California and have logged just over 1,700 miles. Needless to say, anyone making it this far has their backpacking kit dialed. So I decided to track down half a dozen of these brave souls during their resupply to get their picks for essential PCT hiking gear. My method: I drove around Ashland, enticing hikers with a cooler full of ice-cold La Croix in exchange for their hard-earned knowledge. Here’s what they told me.

Benedict Russell

pacific crest trail
(Sarah Jackson)

Hometown: Cornwall, United Kingdom
Trail Name: Red Cross. “It’s not for anything particularly noble. I was just sick and in need of a lot of aid in the desert as I’m not used to that kind of climate. The guys I was with thought it would be funny if they called me Red Cross.”
Time on Trail: 77 days
Favorite Piece of Gear: Injinji Lightweight Mini-Crew Socks ($12)

“They look cool, feel kind of ninja, and I have never had any blisters while wearing them,” Russell says. “My toes feel less sweaty and the socks feel more breathable. When you’re walking through California, you appreciate that.” He prefers the lightweight ones for breathability but also has a thicker pair, which held up extremely well as Russell hiked though the Sierra.

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Max Ribot

pacific crest trail
(Sarah Jackson)

Hometown: Cartersville, Georgia
Trail Name: Baywatch. “I wore a lot of zinc oxide on my nose and had red semi-short shorts. I abandoned them early on.”
Time on Trail: 86 days
Favorite Piece of Gear: Salumbra Women’s Button Front Hooded Cover-Up ($120)

“It’s actually my mom’s gardening shirt,” Ribot says. “I saw her wearing it and I just thought, this seems like it’s perfect for hiking. It has a hood, it’s ventilated, and it has SPF.” Ribot also likes how the oversize, breathable hood can cinch down, and the rolled-up sleeves stay in place with a button. But the shirt isn’t perfect. “It doesn’t have fancy antimicrobial properties,” he says. “It carries odor.”

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Karolina Wallber

pacific crest trail
(Sarah Jackson)

Hometown: Uppsala, Sweden
Trail Name: Ranger NP. “Day hikers often think I’m the ranger because I normally wear a green hiking shirt.”
Time on Trail: 98 days
Favorite Piece of Gear: Sea to Summit UltraLight Sleeping Pad, size small ($100)

“It’s the thing I’m most happy with. I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Wallber says. “It takes no time to blow up and isn’t as noisy as all the others!”

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Michael Ziller

pacific crest trail
(Sarah Jackson)

Hometown: Heidelberg, Germany
Trail Name: Shotgun. “From shotgunning beers.”
Time on Trail: 81 days
Favorite Piece of Gear: Zpacks Arc Haul Backpack ($299)

“You carry it every day for hours and it holds up perfectly, not a scratch,” Ziller says. “I don’t take care of it—I throw it on the ground.” On top of being remarkably resilient to his admitted lack of care, the featherweight Arc Haul also does everything he could ask for in a 24-ounce package thanks to a cavernous 49-liter, no-frills main compartment. “It is lightweight and holds all of my gear no problem,” Ziller says.

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Heinz Lehmann

pacific crest trail
(Sarah Jackson)

Hometown: Chamonix, France
Trail Name: The Lizard. “In the desert on a very, very hot day I climbed a hill very quickly and my friends said, ‘You are like a lizard. The heat is nothing for you!’”
Time on Trail: 105 days
Favorite Piece of Gear: Six Moon Designs Skyscape Trekker Tent ($225)

“It’s better you sleep in a tent with a mosquito net, not in a tarp,” Lehmann says. “There are so many mosquitos! In the evening you can go into a tent with the netting and ohh, it’s like paradise.”

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Simon Mayer

pacific crest trail
(Sarah Jackson)

Hometown: Chamonix, France
Trail Name: Road Runner. “I have a friend who is trying to catch me but is always one or two days behind.”
Time on Trail: 105 days
Favorite Piece of Gear: La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Shoe ($130)

Mayer has loved how the Ultra Raptors have treated his feet on the trail. “We’ve met so many people with blisters, but I only had one in the beginning,” he says. “You do everything with your feet. You can deal with a problem with your back, but if the problem is your feet, you can’t walk.”

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Filed To: Gear / Socks / Backpacks / Hiking and Backpacking / Thru-Hiking
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