JOHN MUIR TRAIL GEAR LIST
**Updated for 2018**
Getting your John Muir Trail gear list dialed is one of the most exciting parts of preparing for your John Muir Trail thru-hike.
In this complete John Muir Trail gear list, I share every piece of gear I packed for my John Muir Trail hike, from the big items (tent, sleeping bag, bear canister, water filter, camera, etc) all the way down to the little things (watch, sunscreen, maps, and more). I also include some of the gear items I packed and then ditched at the car before setting off on the trail in an effort to reduce my pack weight.
Overall, I was happy with my choices. I sometimes opt for durability over ultra-light when spending money on gear, so my pack wasn’t as light as it could have been. But all JMT gear held up and much of it I’m still using two years later. If you want to go ultralight, check out these tips.
Here is my updated John Muir Trail gear choices for 2018 and let me know if you have any questions about what to pack for your JMT hike!
— JMT Basic Backpacking Gear —
Backpack: Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 SL Pack – Handled the heavy load well. I’ve tried a bunch of other packs since the JMT, and I still keep coming back to Deuter, including on my recent 10-day trip in Alaska.
Read more about selecting the right backpacking pack.
Tent: The MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-man Tent is incredibly durable to sustain any long distance hiking and weighs in at just 3lbs 7oz. It can pack down incredibly small with its included ultra-compact compression sack. The pole configuration gives you maximized headroom allowing you to fully sit up in the tent. There are two doors and two vestibules making organization for two a cinch!
Learn how to pick the right tent for you & view our favorite backpacking tents.
Sleeping Bag: REI Joule 21 degree women’s sleeping bag – Warm, comfortable bag, especially for its size and weight (2 lb, 2oz), but I did need an extra layer towards the end of the trip when the temps dipped into the 30s. The Mens version, the REI Igneo 25, is here. I’ve since updated to Western Mountaineering’s Versalite Sleeping Bag. It’s rated all the way down to 10 degrees, yet it weighs even less than the Joule. That extra warmth and down fill comes at a price though.
Read more about how to choose a backpacking sleeping bag & our favorite sleeping bags.
Sleeping Pad: Therm-A-Rest Prolite Sleeping Pad – Just enough cushion to keep your back happy.
Read important factors to consider when buying a sleeping pad & see our favorite sleeping pads for backpacking.
Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles – So happy I brought trekking poles…made slogging up those passes so much easier. I love how compact these are when they are stowed.
Discover the best trekking poles & why you should use poles to protect your knees.
Pack Cover for rain: REI Duck’s Back Rain Cover (80 Liters) – We got caught in a torrential sideways downpour going over Muir Pass. This cover kept my pack dry as can be. **Some of the newer packs come with their own built-in rain covers, including the new Deuter packs
— JMT Camp Kitchen —
Stove: Jetboil Flash Cooking System + fuel canisters – Compact and super efficient. One small fuel canister lasted over a week. Great for boiling water and cooking simple meals like ramen and cous cous.
Discover how to choose the best backpacking stove for you.
Utensil: Snow Peak Titanium Spork – Lightweight, durable, and versatile. Not sure its better than other sporks, but no complaints.
Water Filter: Platypus GravityWorks 2.0 Bottle Kit (see my full review here) – Amazing. One of my best gear choices. We could fill up the bag from a lake or stream, hook it up to the filter, and completely forget about it while the water was filtering through. This saved us a ton of time since it allowed for multi-tasking. My only complaint was sometimes the flow was slow due to air bubbles that got caught in the filter. But luckily all you need to do to resolve this is reverse the flow of water through the filter for a few seconds, thereby eliminating the air bubbles.
Learn about how to select the right backpacking water filter for you & see more of our favorite water filters.
Water Bottle: Platypus 1.0 Liter SoftBottle (Qty: 3) – Loved how these rolled up once they were empty. So light and integrated perfectly with the Playtpus gravity filter.
Mug:The mug I brought wasn’t well insulated, and it’s also no longer available. I were to hike again I’d consider upgrading to a Snow Peak Titanium mug, you can put their mugs directly on a stove and the handle can wrap around the mug for easy storing. It also weighs only 3 oz and is guaranteed not to rust!
Campsuds – Who needs soap? Plus, according to Leave No Trace, you shouldn’t use any soap (even biodegrable) in the water. Instead you need to bury your suds at least 200 feet from the water. We found that the easiest way to clean my Jetboil after eating out of it was to bring some water to a rolling boil. The pot practically cleaned itself.
Bear Canister: Wild Ideas Bearikade Weekender (1 per person) – The best bear canister out there. Much lighter than its competitors and super durable. Fitting 7 days of food in it was a stretch, but with some professional squishing, everything fit. Rental canisters are available via their website. (If they don’t have any available for the dates of your hike, the BearVault is a popular second choice).
Water purification tablets – Brought some as a backup in case our filter broke but didn’t end up needing them.
— JMT Backpacking Gadgets/Tools —
Multi-tool: Leatherman Skeletool CX – Knife seemed to get dull quickly. Overall it was heavy, and I had no need for the other tools other than the screwdriver which I used to tighten my trekking poles. Scissors, which this Leatherman lacked, would have been very useful.
Navigation: Suunto Clipper Compass – Didn’t need it, but it could come in handy on other trails. Barely noticed it on my watchband.
Solar charger: Solar power technology keeps getting better every year. I brought the Goal Zero Nomad 7 which is fine for charging your cell phone, but that’s about it.
Headlamp: The Black Diamond Storm is built for surviving long distance thru-hiking. It is waterproof and has red and green night vision modes for late night reading in your tent that won’t kill your eyes. It uses 4 AAA batteries and shows battery life remaining when switching on the headlamp.
Watch: Timex Expedition Fast Wrap Watch – Inexpensive, waterproof, and comfortable. The alarm worked great when we woke up at 2am to climb Whitney.
— JMT Backpacking Electronics —
GPS Transponder: I’d especially a communication device for those of you who are hiking the JMT solo, and there’s a couple options to choose from. The SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger fits in the palm of your hand and allows you to send simple signals to your family and friends indicating your whereabouts, and in the case of an emergency you can send for help with the press of a button. The other option for checking in with family or emergency responders in the Garmin InReach Explorer, which goes further allowing you to send AND receive custom text messages. The Garmin InReach is a bigger investment, but it comes with a lot of additional features (this is the device I’m currently traveling with).
Digital Camera: If you are serious about photography, the John Muir Trail offers non-stop epic landscapes to capture. I love the Sony Alpha a6000 which uses mirrorless technology to get professional quality photos with a camera that is only slightly larger than a point and shoot. You can also swap out lens on the Sony alpha cameras. For something even more compact, the Sony RX100 V (which I haven’t tried personally) gets great reviews both for photos and video.
GoPro: GoPro Hero 5 Black – I always bring a GoPro with me on my travels to capture video, and the new GoPro 5 is the latest fully waterproof camera in their lineup. Check out the post below for my favorite GoPro accessories.
Check out a list of my favorite photography equipment
— JMT Toiletries —
Mostly everything in here is travel size.
Bug spray: Bens 30% DEET – If you are hiking early in the season, you’ll need bug spray. Bugs usually die off later in the season though, so when we hiked in September, we didn’t end up needing it.
Sunscreen: Sawyer SPF 30 Stay Put Sunscreen – This sunscreen was awesome. Non-greasy, and I only had to put it on once in the morning, and it lasted all day.
First Aid: Adventure Medical Kit 0.7 (Added Spenco 2nd Skin Blister Kit, Excedrin Migraine, and a Quick Clot Clotting Sponge) – the Spenco blister tape was awesome. Stayed put all day even after getting wet. Luckily we didn’t need anything else in this lightweight, compact, and waterproof first aid kit.
Read more about preventing and treating hiking blisters while on the trail.
Chapstick: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25 – Nice minty smell, kept lips protected in the dry high altitude air.
Face wipes: Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleansing Face Wipes – Ditched. Saline Nasal Spray – Ditched.
Instant Hand Sanitizer
Lotion: Burts Bees Travel Size Body Lotion – Ditched. Sunscreen is practically the same thing as lotion. Dental Floss – Ditched.
Toliet paper – Don’t run out! And if you’re nervous about pooping in the woods, check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Going #2 in the Wildnerness.
Toothbrush & travel-sized toothpaste
Body wipes – Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes
Check out our tips for training for a thru-hike.
— Miscellaneous Gear —
Notepad: Rite in the Rain All Weather Journal + pen – I brought this journal, but I ended up just taking notes on my phone
Book: Walden on Wheels – on the Open Road from Debt to Freedom – Only read two pages and will not bring a book next time. Nice for a rainy day, but you are so tired at night that reading put me right to sleep, and it was not worth the weight (those two pages were good though…will have to read this book now that I’m home).
Trail Guide: John Muir Trail Guide by Elizabeth Wenk + John Muir Trail Map Pack by Tom Harrison – The Harrison Maps were perfect, and we only kept out the page that we needed for the day. Super durable, waterproof pages, and accurate. The Wenk book was good, and I was glad we had it for the elevation profiles and campsite listings. However, it had so much extraneous information that ultra-light hikers will want to think twice about bringing it.
Whiskey – Should have sent more in our resupply boxes :). One bottle went way too fast and we were dry by day 5 🙂
— John Muir Trail Clothing —
I hiked the John Muir Trail in September which typically sees comfortable days and cold nights. The key is layering and being prepared for the worst.
Hiking pants (1 pair): You should only need one normal pair of hiking pants. Typically I prefer to hike in yoga pants, like Smartwool PhD Leggings. For those who prefer regular pants, these Prana hiking pants are super stretchy in all the right places, durable and water-resistant for all-day hiking.
Hiking shorts (1 pair): Again I prefer leggings-style shorts, and Road Runner Sports has a ton of options for different lengths and colors. If you prefer something looser with pockets, the REI Sahara Shorts have 6 pockets, are quick-drying, and have a UPF 50+ rating. They also have elastic as well as button adjustments at the waist so if you lose weight on your trek you can easily tighten them to stay snug!
Short-sleeve shirts (2): I like the Nike Scoop Neck exercise shirts. They are flattering, not too tight, and wick sweat from your body.
Long-sleeve shirt (1): This is a great lightweight long-sleeve button-down shirt to throw on for early mornings or for sun protection.
Midweight Base Layer: SmartWool Midweight Longsleeve Zip Top – So comfortable. Wore it every night in my sleeping bag and under my down jacket at night at camp. Breathable but warm for hiking in colder temps.
Jacket: Definitely bring a down or synthetic jacket of some sort. Nights and early mornings are very cold. The Patagonia Hooded Nano Puff is super warm, light, and packable. If you tend to run colder than most people, then you might want something heavier, like the Patagonia Hooded Down Sweater. Just keep in mind that the heavier down jacket may be too hot to hike in, and if you are mostly using it at night, you can always throw your sleeping bag around you for extra warmth.
Fleece Pants: North Face Winter Warm Tights – these are great to sleep in or to hike in on extra cold days.
Underwear: Ex Officio Give and Go Mesh Bikini Briefs (3 pairs) – Easy to hand wash and dried quickly, and they can also be used to swim in. My favorite “outdoor” underwear.
Sports bras: Under Armor Heat Gear Alpha Bra (Qty 2) – Supportive but comfortable. Great for swimming and dried quickly. Didn’t stretch out.
Rain Pants – Bring some! Was so happy I had rain pants during the storm over Muir Pass. Kept me warm and dry. OR’s Helium rain pants are pricey but weigh less than 6 ounces and compact into the back pocket for easy storage. The elastic waist with drawcord is great for putting on over other pants as well as the zip ankle bottoms for getting over shoes. Kim wore the men’s version on her PCT thru-hike almost everyday in Washington.
Rain Jacket – Arcteryx Beta AR Rain Shell – This is not the rain jacket I took on the JMT, but I recently splurged on this jacket before my 10-day Alaska backpacking trip. I stayed super dry without getting too sweaty in crazy down pours, and it’s lightweight enough that you can throw it in your pack without adding too much extra weight. It was an investment, but I think it’s a rain jacket that will last me for a long time.
Socks: Darn Tough Hiking Socks (2 pairs) + SmartWool Medium Cushion Hiking Socks (1 pair) +
REI Silk One Liner Socks (2 pairs). I ditched the liners in Tuolumne because they made my shoes too tight. The Darn Tough Hiking Socks were the best. My feet stayed mostly blister free and the socks held up. Then in the evenings, I would change to the warmer and more cushiony SmartWool socks, and I must say it was nice to have a “cleaner” pair to wear at camp and in my sleeping bag.
Hat: Patagonia LoPro Trucker Hat – Loved it. Breathable and stayed on my head even in heavy winds.
Wool beanie and gloves – Wore the hat every single night. The gloves were also necessary, especially for Whitney. Check out SmartWool’s lightweight merino beanies and the Outdoor Research Versaliner Gloves
Hiking Boots: For year I wore Montrail hiking boots. They have a high ankle and are rugged and supportive enough to withstand any boulder hopping you might have to do, but they feel more like a tennis shoe. Montrail is merging with Columbia, so their shoes are bound to change soon. Currently I am wearing Oboz Bridger B-Dry Hiking Boots and love them. They are waterproof, provide lots of support and unlike most boots, are comfy right out of the box.
Learn how to choose the best hiking boots for you & see our favorite hiking boots & trail runners for thru-hiking.
Camp shoes: Teva Hurricane Sandals – Perfect. Waterproof and lighter than other river sandals I’ve owned, and I could wear socks with them. Saw other people with Crocs and thought those were a good idea too. Either way, bring something cause you won’t want to wear your boots all night.
Smith Optics sunglasses: I have been wearing a pair of Smith sunglasses with polarized lens for years. They stay on the top of my head when I’m not wearing them, and they aren’t too delicate.
Some of the links in this John Muir Trail gear list are affiliate links. Any purchases you make help to support this blog at no added cost to you. I only recommend products that I stand behind, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on my site, please email me. Thanks! Kristen