Thru Hiking: 21 Things to Pack
Often whenever we go on a hike, be it a thru hike or just a really long one, we always end up having a discussion with someone about what we’re carrying. For some hikers there is a lot of pride taken in becoming as ultralight as possible. You’ll see some people on the PCT or AT carrying a 10lb pack which, in my opinion, is totally wild and I don’t quite know how they get it that small.
My pack normally comes in between 18-25lbs. It’s normally always heavier towards the end of the hike because I have a bad habit of acquiring books while I’m traveling and then resigning myself to the fact that now I have to carry them around. You’d think that would make me stop but alas…no.
So, here in another list is what I normally carry in my pack for a hike in which we have to camp. This is pretty much everything save for my water and food and books (of course).
Sleeping Quilt/Bag- This is a stuff-able sleeping bag that can unzip into a full blanket if it’s too hot or, like me, you can zip it all the way up and pull the drawstring tightly around your head so that you disappear inside.
NEMO 2P Tent- The amazing, ultralight 2 person tent that Justin and I split up and carry in our bags. He carries the groundsheet, tent poles and stakes and I carry the body of the tent and the rain fly. It helps to make our packs less heavy but sucks when Justin’s bag gets left in Boston by Virgin Atlantic Airlines….. Then they say they’ll send his bag to us when it gets into London..to our tent where we were going to stay. The tent that is in the bag. We have half a tent. Anyways…it ended up working out.
REI Lightweight Compression Stuff Sack-This is how I pack my clothes. Yes, all of my clothes. Whenever you’re on a hike you want to, ideally, bring the least amount of stuff as possible. Especially heavy clothes. If you’re second guessing whether you need it, the answer is no. I normally bring: a. 2 Columbia hiking shirts b. REI hiking shorts c. Fjallraven trekking tights d. 2 under things e. a cotton shirt to sleep in f. a lightweight sweatshirt g. camp short. I also bring my Mammut mid-layer and my REI rain jacket. That’s literally all the clothes I’ll have for 2-4 weeks. I normally also bring a pair or camp socks and shoes (tevas). It’s important to have something to change into that is different than you’re hiking stuff at the end of a long day.
Guidebook/Maps- For the last two hikes we’ve been on Justin navigated. This time, however, I was the one with the maps. Sometimes you can get lost if you’ve lost the trail blaze or arrow or whatever it happens to be. Your maps are essential to figuring out where to camp/stock up on food/cool things to see, etc.
Big Agnes Sleeping Pad- A top quality investment right here. While a bit pricey, it was totally worth it as it’s lightweight and easily compacted into a pack and also quite comfortable when inflated. I never touched the ground or lost air while sleeping on it.
Inflatable Camp Pillow- Inexpensive, small, necessary, super lightweight, very comfortable, easily inflatable. Everything about it is amazing. Game changer right here, folks. I love that dumb little pillow thing.
Sea to Summit Waterproof Bag- This small bag is super important as it keeps all of my important toiletries. I normally just grab the entire thing whenever we found a bathroom or a shower. It’s small enough to carry around but big enough to carry everything. Super important when you’re in a hostel and there are limited showers and your shower time is running out. Just grab the whole bag and take it with you.
Inflatable Luci Light- Justin’s dad got this for him a few years ago and we love it. It’s solar powered, inflatable and gives off a nice, warm and bright glow. I normally just strap it to the back of my pack to let it charge throughout the day and it’s able to go for several hours after a good charge. We put it in the tent for some nice light while I’m reading all of my heavy books I’m carrying…
REI Pill Organizer- My convenient and lightweight way to carry tons of vitamins. Those of you who know us know that we both take massive amounts of various vitamins.
Path Passport- Some of the paths we take have something called a path passport. It’s basically just a fun thing to do and collect while you’re hiking. They’ll have various stamping locations throughout the path and you can find them as you go. It can help to get more traffic through an underpopulated area or get you into a museum or ruin of some sort. They’re pretty fun to do and nice to keep once you’re done.
Camp Towel- I don’t remember what brand this is but it’s amazing. It’s lightweight, portable and works very well. I had another kind prior to this one that was awful. It was like carrying around a giant whiteboard eraser. It was terrible. This one, however, is amazing.
UV Yosemite National Park Buff- The amazing Buff. Super versatile, lightweight (have I said that enough yet?) and helps to keep hair and sweat out of your face. I normally wear it around my neck to keep sun off my chest and neck and also because it gives me a headache because it squeezes my big head. But maybe you have a normal sized head and it won’t do that for you.
Lewis n Clark Eye Mask- I’ve talked about this thing before on here and I still can’t say enough about it. It’s so important in order to get a good night’s sleep. Whether you’re camping or in a hostel, you’ll want it. I prooooomise.
Various Hip Pocket Things- Some packs (like my Osprey 46 liter Kyte) have hip pockets. It’s super helpful so that you can get to things easily. I normally keep chapstick, napkins (not pictured), hand sanitizer, aspirin (not pictured), and vaseline. What is the vaseline for? For thru hikers and long distance section hikers, it’s gold. You use it to keep your skin on your feet (and anywhere else) protected that could get blisters or chafes. For those of you who have followed my hikes in the past you know I’ve suffered from horrible foot problems. I would get blisters on top of blisters and heat rashes running up my ankles. I think I’ve finally figured out the fix! I switched from Brooks to Altras and from wool Darn Toughs to synthetic Injinjis. This past hike I didn’t have ONE BLISTER! Not one! Which, for me, is a freaking miracle considering during the Camino I was in the hospital for my poor, jacked up feet.
Altra Trail Gaiters- Meant to go with my Altras, these attach to your ankles and your shoes to help keep out dirt and rocks. I intended on using these but didn’t but they were in my pack so I figured I should include them. So, uh…maybe next time.
Black Diamond Headlamp- Super nice headlamp and way better than my other one. It’s useful for night hiking or super early morning hiking which we did a lot on the Camino in order to beat the heat. I have to say, I am not a fan of pre-dawn hiking. It freaks me out, to be honest.
Passport- A passport. Obviously. Necessary. Please don’t soak it in seawater like I did and now every TSA agent says, “what happened to your passport…?”
Headphones- Very important for when you’re wanting to watch something on your phone and not disturb anyone else around you. Don’t be that guy that watches annoying shows on the train out loud. It’s so obnoxious.
Pen- You wouldn’t think you’d need one but you’d be surprised. Whenever you’re flying internationally you’ll need to fill out a customs form before you land and having a pen will be super helpful. It’s pretty frustrating when you know you need it filled out and no one around you has a pen or will let you borrow one.
Stuff-able Food Sack- I normally use a gallon ziploc bag to hold our food but this time around I forgot my bag so I bought this stuff-able Marks & Spencer grocery bag. It was pretty useful because I would go grocery shopping with it and then just keep the food in that bag. We normally buy fruits, candies, breads and other high protein things if we can find them. There are these things in the UK called Flapjacks and they’re awesome. They’re full of calories, sugar, fat and they’re amazing to pep you back up during a 12 hour slog.
Earplugs- These are the most amazing, wonderful and important thing I think I’ve ever packed. They’re earplugs that are on a string so they won’t get lost and they’re able to be wrapped up and put in a little canister. When someone in the next campsite is being loud or there are tons of people snoring in the hostel, you’ll be so thankful for these things.
So, that’s pretty much everything. I hope you found the list informative and/or helpful. Let us know if there is anything else you’d like covered about section hiking or thru hiking! We can definitely do an entire post about how to hoard candy bars for thru hiking. Super informative, obviously.