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Beginner needs gear list advice on solo PCT section hike
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Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Beginner needs gear list advice for solo PCT section hike on 06/07/2009 11:05:48 MDT Print View

I'm new to backpacking but not to the outdoors and I've planned a solo 5 day trip from Stevens pass to Snoqualmie pass July 26th-30th. I know it's risky to go alone and with this little experience but it's a fairly busy section of trail and I'll try to make sure I stay on it. Hopefully I will have gained some much needed experience with multiple overnighters between now and then. I've already had some help in another thread but I started this thread to get advice on just my gear. Sorry no weights yet.

*Changes due to member suggestions

MLD DuoMid shelter
*MLD Exodus pack with pack lid and rain cover (on the way) Belt pocket insted of rain cover
MYOG down 20 degree quilt---------21.6oz
Trash compactor pack liner
60" GG 3/8 thinlight
*GG 3/8 thinlight 10"x20" for sitpad and under feet while sleeping (with velcro to fold in half for freezer bag cozy)gone
GG polycro ground sheet
GG Lightrek 4 poles
GG Ti stakes
MLD 50' reflecto line
Inov8 mudroc 280 trail runners with green superfeet
2 pairs of smartwool light adrenalines
1 pair thick l.l.bean sleep socks
Duofold mid weight thermals
Cloudveil cool convertible pants
Icebreaker 140 tech t
Icebreaker 200 balaclava
Rab phantom grip gloves
Montbell UL down inner hooded parka
Integral designs pertex wind jacket
Roger Caffin mountain poncho (need to make)
Marmot precip safari hat (awesome rain/sun hat)
Headnet *(need to buy)
MLD food bag with #1 s-biner
Bear bag line (need to buy)
Rat cutlery Izula knife (best lightweight fixed blade knife 2.8 oz with sheath) Must have
Brunton 0.8L aluminum pot and lid
Vargo decagon stove (hopefully I'll have a Ti-Tri by then)
Foil wind screen
MLD Ti long spoon
Nalgene 4oz bottle for olive oil
Dasani 12oz alcohol bottle
Scout fire steel
Platypus 2.5L reservoir with hydration tube
*Platypus 1L hydration reservoir (gone)
Aquamira water treatment drops
Aquamira Frontier pro setup as a gravity filter
Timex watch
Sylvia compass
Small first aid kit
3M ultrathon bug cream and silvadene cream for burns, cuts, bug bites and fungus in eye contact case
Lanolin for feet, lips and chafing
1oz Nalgene bottle with baking soda
Tooth brush
Easy Wipes reusable pack towel
*Viva paper towel TP squares (gone with some convincing. LOL)
Fox 40 whistle and photon light on neck lanyard
2nd Photon light with hat clip
Orange mini bic
*1 trick birthday candle (gone)
*P jelly soaked cotton balls (gone)
*green trails maps in ziploc
Xacti vpc-hd2 8oz but has 10x optical zoom
iPhone for music and to call my wife to get picked up. I could possibly have service within 15 miles of the passes since their both ski resorts and have cell towers.

Edited by Steingass on 06/07/2009 16:07:14 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Beginner needs gear list advice for solo PCT section hike on 06/07/2009 12:49:35 MDT Print View

It is indeed a pretty well-walked 75 miles. Navigation shouldn't be too bad, but any trail offers opportunities to go the wrong way, so I hope you have some land navigation (map, compass) experience before doing this solo?
There are a couple of potentially wet-ish creek crossings but on the whole this should be a nice stretch, with IMO the better part towards the south (latter part for you). Consider taking a side-trip to Spectacle Lake when you walk by that, sleep there if that works out. If you find yourself well ahead of schedule, also consider a side trip to Tuck & Robin lakes, diverting at Deception Pass to do that.

Gear list: it would indeed help if you put weights next to each item and gave a total base (or skin out) weight. But my immediate reaction is that it looks fine, and you've obviously thought through it; of course I would make some different choices, but ... so what? It's just five days, bring paper and pencil and make notes as you go along for the inevitable gear changes you'll be at least thinking about making based on this experience. You might also bring a thermometer (ideally a memory thermometer) so if you find yourself too cold, or that your insulative gear is overkill, you can objectively relate that to the actual temperature at the time.

Phone service: at the end (Snoqualmie Pass) you'll have fine service, and indeed before you get all the way to the pass if I recall correctly. Steven's pass is a bit more iffy, but I think there's adequate if not great AT&T coverage there.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Beginner needs gear list advice for solo PCT section hike on 06/07/2009 13:01:14 MDT Print View

One other somewhat random thought, based on this comment:
"Hopefully I will have gained some much needed experience with multiple overnighters between now and then."

I'm leading a modest per-day mileage three-day trip for the Mountaineers in that general area (28.5 mile Bulls Tooth Loop, a bit east of Steven's Pass) July 18th - 20th. If that time slot works for you, Mountaineers allow non-members to do a couple of trips without being a member, per
Anyway, on the off-chance that sounds interesting:

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
list advice on solo PCT on 06/07/2009 13:02:04 MDT Print View

Hi there - - - - - - Reply with some insights. I made a few suggestions from my persoanl experience in the N. Cascades in July. THe list looks good. You should get a scale, because the list doesn't mean much without the weights.

MLD Exodus pack with rain cover (on the way) - - - - - - - - - No need for a pack cove rif you have a trash compactor liner. NIX.

Trash compactor pack liner - - - - - - (yes!)

GG 3/8 thinlight 10"x20" for sitpad and under feet while sleeping with velcro to fold in half for freezer bag cozy - - - - - - (don't spill food in bear country)

GG polycro ground sheet - - - - - - - Nix, you'll be fine without it.

MLD 50' reflecto line - - - - - - (Q: is this for the tarp?)

Headnet (need to make) - - - - - - This is one item that is really chepa to purchace. Multi-use as stuff sack.

Rat cutlery Izula knife (best lightweight fixed blade knife 2.8 oz with sheath) - - - - - - Nix this. You can get by with a MUCH smaller knife. A 0.1 oz single edge razor is the absolute lightest.

Nalgene 4oz bottle for olive oil - - - - - - - Nalgalene bottls are surprizingly heavy. Keep an eye out for little bottles, I suspect you've got LOTS of lighter bottles in your kitchen.

Platypus 2.5L reservoir - - - - - - (What? No way!) The Cascade in July? THere is water EVERYWHERE! No need, a one liter bottle is fine. A Platypus 1L hydration reservoir is Plenty!

Aquamira water treatment drops - - - - - - (repackage in smaller bottles, I persoannly would take this, but I might NOT use any for 5 days)

Aquamira Frontier pro setup as a gravity filter - - - - - - (No need. You'll be dealing with some extremely clean water. I do NOT treat my water in the North Cascades)

Viva paper towel TP squares - - - - - - (Nix, the north cascades has WONDERFUL moss and natural TP)

1 trick birthday candle & P jelly soaked cotton balls - - - - - - (two fire starters? In the North Cascades? Use the sap of a Pacific Silver Fir, and leave both behind)

green trails maps in aloksak (need to buy) - - - - - - [a simple ziploc sandwich bag is fine]

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Great new advice and info on 06/07/2009 15:04:20 MDT Print View

Thanks for the side trip suggestions Brian. Remote Alpine lakes are probably my favorite thing about backpacking. A thermometer and scale are high on my list of things to buy. I'd love to come with you but my leave is set in stone.

Thanks for the insights and area specific info Mike.

I guess I don't need the pack cover especially with a poncho. They haven't come yet so I'll try to see if Ron will send a pack pocket for my camera instead.

Not using part of your sleep pad for a cozy in bear country is actually really smart. My cozy should go in the bear bag at night.

I won't have a bivy and I move around a lot when I sleep so the ground sheet seems useful especially when the ground is wet with a down bag.

As a knife and survival enthusiast, and a member of the armed forces, a real knife is one of my must haves. I carry this knife 365 days a year and feel naked without it. I know 2 legged predators are the least of my worries in the wilderness but I don't want to ever wish I had it when I didn't.

The reflecto line is for the tarp and survival. I haven't cut it up yet because I haven't had the need to but feel it's useful for both purposes.

It's good to hear the water sources are plentiful and of good quality. I guess I'll leave the filter and 1L platy at home. I've been without water before while hiking and it sucks. I think just bringing the 2.5L platy should be plenty.

What do you mean by "I might NOT use any for 5 days."? Do you mean the onset of waterborne illness will take longer than 5 days so it's not worth the use or you only use treatment if the water source is questionable?

The viva TP is a luxury. I'm still a newb and not hardcore enough to wipe with smooth rocks and moss. It can be used as fire starter too since I'm taking the P jelly cotton balls and candle out like you suggested. Again I'm paranoid. If I didn't find this site I'd have a Axe, saw, machete, firelog and 0 degree slumberjack inside my external frame pack.

I should have thought of using a ziploc instead of a aloksak. Much lighter and a lot cheaper. Thanks again guys.

Edited by Steingass on 06/07/2009 15:38:14 MDT.

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
gear list advice on 06/07/2009 15:44:02 MDT Print View

What do you mean by "I might NOT use any for 5 days."? Do you mean the onset of waterborne illness will take longer than 5 days so it's not worth the use or you only use treatment if the water source is questionable?

THere is (anecdotally) zero giardia in the North Cascades. I've talked to rangers in NCNP and they never treat their water. In the cascades, I just drink out of small little streams. I make a jugment call at each steram.

FIVE things on the checklist:
1. Popular Campsite upstream?
2. Wildlife upstream (like a big meadow in yellowstone)
3. Is this a spring? (No lake upstream)
4. Is there sh*t in the water?
5. Is there something dead in the water?

If it passes these 5, I drink up. If I get water out of a lake, I treat it with aqua-mira drops, but with - like, 1/4 of the suggested dosage.

I use this same checklist in the rockies, where there is LOTS of water bourn illness.

In the cascades I simply Hike with an empty water bottle, and carry a cup on my side pocket - and I drink whenever I'm thirsty.

Now, all that said. Don't sue me if you get sick.


The viva TP is a luxury. I'm still a newb and not hardcore enough to wipe with smooth rocks and moss.

I teach total beginners, people who have NEVER gone camping - EVER. ANd I have NEVER (EVER) taken toilet paper in 15 year of working for NOLS. And not once (I'll repeat, NEVER ONCE) has a student EVER complained. It's much easier than you thing.

This, to me, is a non-issue.


No need to take both bear string AND some sort of survival string.


I guess I don't need the pack cover especially with a poncho.

No need for a pack cover with a plastic COMPACTOR bag.

= = = =

a real knife is one of my must haves.

As an experienced educator and camper, from my experience, you do not NEED a "real" knife. You may "want" it, but that's different.

= = = =

Yes, without a bivy sack, a ground cloth is helpful and a good idea. You might wanna invest in a true bivy sack, you'll sleep a slight percentage warmer.

= = =

And I strongly advocate a cheapo postal scale. You packweight will plumit!


Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
The TP is gone on 06/07/2009 16:30:51 MDT Print View

I guess I can do without the TP. I saw a video on youtube a while ago about craping in the wild. It was Actually pretty funny. I hope I don't get hemorrhoids or anything. Just kidding.

More good water info. Thanks.

Your right, I may not need the knife but I do want it. What I mean by Must have is that it's a must have for me but not everyone.

Cheap accurate thermometer and scale suggestions would be cool too. A thermometer is another thing I don't need but I really do enjoy knowing the temperature especially when it's cold.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Great new advice and info on 06/07/2009 16:41:40 MDT Print View

Frankly, I would never camp directly on the ground. Your gear gets wet and dirty. A groundsheet is an excellent idea imho. (Yes, I differ from Mike on this.)

The TP issue - well, we have two camps. One says 'no TP', the other laughs and takes TP. I am in the latter camp.

I have several knives, but the only one which ever gets used seems to be the one I use for cutting bread and buttering it. Lightweight walking includes LNT, and this makes a survival knife irrelevant imho.

In areas with a lot of water the flow is often good enough that carefully selected small water sources are clean.


Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Beginner needs gear list advice on 06/08/2009 11:47:06 MDT Print View

Right ON for the TP nixing!

= = =

They sell a nice digital scale on this site (see the store)

But any OFFICE-MAX will sell a digital postal scale. 35 buck is the high end.

= = =

Also - I never ever use a ground cloth. Winter or summer. THat said, I usually have a BIVI sack, and that is (in essance) a ground cloth.

And in the winter, the snow is nice and clean, so there are no issues.

= = =

And - Taking a favorite piece of equiptment is just fine, just do it in a mindful way. THink about it before tossing it in your pack.

Anytime you catch yourself saying: "BECAUSE I ALWAYS DO IT THIS WAY." Alarm bells should go off. Be careful that you are not stuck in a rut (you may not even know it). Just do a bit of self-examination about your habbits befor tossing something in your pack.

(I have a porky 1.5 ounce pot grabber that I love, and I take it)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Beginner needs gear list advice on 06/08/2009 12:38:46 MDT Print View


Since you stated that you are new to backpacking, but not the outdoors, you don't want to go too light without experience with some items. UL inferes experience with lightweight gear and "non-traditional" techniques.

I use Katdyn or AquaMira tablets to treat water... always. Just a personal preference. Before I discovered these, I used idodine tablets for over 40 years.

With a bivy, then no ground sheet. Polycro or tyvek other times.

On a recent trip with a sub 4 base weight, I took TP. I always use TP. Hard to find suitable alternatives in deserts :). I am not going to change my mind on this. But nothing wrong with Mike's way if it works for you.

Like Mike said, he takes a "heavy" pot holder. So "hike your own hike." Follow Mike's advice and get a scale. A scale is probably the most important piece of equipment.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Scale on 06/08/2009 13:26:22 MDT Print View

And once you get that scale, especially a digital one accurate to 1 gram/.05 oz, you'll find yourself obsessively cutting off tags and excess strap length, changing out your regular cord locks for minis . . . and all those other UL things to save a gram here and there.

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Re: Re: Beginner needs gear list advice on 06/08/2009 13:54:05 MDT Print View

Yeah, the TP stil my find its way in the pack. We'll see. Now you guys are making me second guess the Ti-Tri setup. It's actually kind of heavy. As soon as I can scrounge up some more money a scale should be on the way.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Beginner needs gear list advice on 06/08/2009 14:22:57 MDT Print View

I don't think the Ti-Tri is really that heavy, unless you planned on bringing all 3 options on your trip.

My set-up is: (weight approximate as my scale in not digital)

Packafeather XL Stove=~1.5oz
MSR Aluminum Windscreen + reflector trimmed to fit=2oz
Packafeather Fuel Bottle Kit = 1.25oz


I use a Snowpeak 700 pot, I ditched the Ti lid for a homemade aluminum one made from windscreen leftovers for a total weight of 3.5oz.

A similar set-up with the Ti-Tri 750 pot is

Cone = 1.5
Stove - .6
Fuel Bottle=1
Caddy + bag = 3.3
Total =5.5

Not much more than mine, and you get the caddy/bowl too.

The caddy + bag is the heavy thing. Maybe if you pack the cone carefully you could ditch the caddy?

Edited by jrmacd on 06/08/2009 14:23:32 MDT.

A. B.
wood on 06/08/2009 14:43:57 MDT Print View

How about just burning wood in the ti-tri? It's worked well for me.

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
What volume pot for 1 person in the winter? on 06/08/2009 15:25:30 MDT Print View

By the looks of your avatar James it looks like you've backpacked in the winter before. Is 900ml enough or should I go with more volume? Also what are my stove options for melting snow in the winter down to 0 F. I've been looking at the simmerlite. Thanks.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: What volume pot for 1 person in the winter? on 06/08/2009 15:44:19 MDT Print View


I will defer to James and others on winter snow melting. I have done a lot of it, because I am older than most people here, but am far from an expert.

In my experience, I have had to melt a lot of snow on trips and the bigger the pot the better. I usually bring an acient Sigg Tourist which must be around 3 liters. It is not ultralight, but when melting snow it takes a lot of time. And the powdery snow in my area does take a lot of volume to melt a decent amount of water. I am sure lots of folks melt snow with alcohol or propane stoves, but I will lug my MSR multi-fuel stove for this task. Alcohol does not put out enough heat for the volume of fuel, IMO, and I have not had good luck with cartridge stoves; but my experience with them is with the older models over 20 years ago. They may be better today.

I am trying to dial in my UL backpacking for winter/snow camping, and have gotten a lot of good information here at BPL. Hopefully further responses to your question may enlighten me also.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Winter cooking options on 06/08/2009 15:44:42 MDT Print View

Hi Michael, personally I find my SP 700 pot to be fine in winter if I'm NOT melting snow. For trips where snowmelting is called for, I prefer something in the 1.5L -2L range; the larger pot also has should have a larger diameter to increase efficiency as much as possible.

For a winter stove, I would choose the Windpro over the Simmerlite. Remote cannister stoves can be very efficient in cold weather as long as they can deal with a LIQUID fuel feed. I see you're a member, so check some of Roger's stove articles for more info. Personally I use a Coleman Extreme in cold weather, but alas it is no longer available.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: What volume pot for 1 person in the winter? on 06/08/2009 16:27:59 MDT Print View

I'm a very junior snow camper, my experience being the 2 one-nighters I took with the Sierra club last winter. Hopefully Mike will chime in again as I seem to recall he goes out for 30 days a pop with NOLS.

They split us into food group of 4 people for meal purposes, and advised a pot of at least 3-4 liters per two people, so you'd probably want at least a 2-liter capacity. As others have said, it's about efficiency. You want a wide bottomed pot.

Make sure you save some starter water for snow-melting too. My group put way too much snow in to the pot too fast with too little water, and it took almost literally forever to melt and then get boiling for cooking.

As for stoves, their were about 10 stoves total on our trip. One was an MSR Dragonfly, the other 9 were MSR Whisperlites. I don't own a liquid fuel stove myself

We also, while hiking would add a handful of snow here and there to our nalgenes. Just a little at a time and the existing water would melt it. You don't get a lot of water this way, but at least it's some. Too much snow and you end up with a really cold slushy.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
On TP on 06/08/2009 17:20:21 MDT Print View

In all honesty, no matter what anyone says...don't say no to TP unless you are 100% confident you can live without it.

And you know, it isn't a badge of shame to say one likes it and carries it. Not everyone wants to use leaves or go without. And that is fine.

If you can live without it, great. If not, so what? Carry it and don't be ashamed.

(I carry TP as I get bladder infections easily and will NOT risk using leaves or drip drying as it only encourages a bad one.)

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Paper Towels on 06/08/2009 17:22:27 MDT Print View

On the subject of paper towels, again I would differ from some. I like having a few sheets with me - one per day. It allows me to have a work surface that is clean on the ground for preparing food and then used for cleanup. Very light and tidy.

Not everyone needs or wants this. But they can be handy if you have the need for it. On a side note, if in areas where fires are allowed you can always burn them.