JMT gear review 2018-05-12T08:32:25-04:00

Here are my thoughts on the gear I brought on the JMT (see my full JMT Gear List here). Hopefully this information will be helpful to those of you who hope to hike the trail in the future!

Backpack

Gossamer Gear Mariposa (2014 version)

This backpack worked well for me on a number of other backpacking trips, and was a great choice for me on the JMT as well. One of the things I really like about this bag is that I could organize my gear in the inner and outer compartments in a way that suited me. I typically put my sleeping bag and sleeping pad side-by-side at the bottom of the bag, and then put my bear canister vertically on top. I then put all of my smaller items (clothing, stove, etc.) in the areas around and on top of my bear canister. I loved the long side pocket on the right-hand side of the backpack because it fit my tent (which often was wet or dirty). Also, the large mesh pocket on the front was perfect for storing items that I wanted easy access to throughout the day (wind jacket, snack bag, etc.). The hipbelt pockets are quite large too, though I never really used them. I’d also say this backpack was pretty water resistant, which was great because I didn’t have a rain cover (had a pack liner instead).

I must note, however, that during the first couple of days, my shoulder straps hurt my shoulders a bit. However, I had anticipated that before beginning the hike (as I hadn’t carried a heavy load in a while) and brought some bubble wrap with me to put under the straps. That alleviated a lot of the pressure, and after day two, I didn’t need it anymore for the rest of the trip. Overall, this bag felt very comfortable and by the end of the trip I often forgot I was even wearing it. I also should mention that my backpack got slightly damaged during the trip. I’m not sure exactly how it occurred, but I ripped the bottom a little bit (which I repaired with tenacious tape). I set my backpack down haphazardly on rocks, logs, and other sharp/abrasive surfaces on numerous occasions (not recommended, of course), so this situation definitely could have been avoided.

Ultralight backpack for John Muir Trail

Ultralight backpack for JMT

Tent

Zpacks Triplex (2014 version)

I’ve tried a couple of other backpacking tents (wrote about my experience here), but the Triplex is by far my favorite and for the most part, it worked well on the JMT. Although this tent is technically a three-person tent (I usually use it as a two-person tent, though), it is so light that it was perfectly fine for me to use it during my solo JMT hike. I would describe this as luxuriously spacious when used by just one person… it was so spacious that I could spread out my gear all over my tent and still have plenty of space to move around.  It also performed well in rain, which I experienced a couple of nights on the JMT. I was in a particularly bad storm at Squaw Lake, and I was perhaps the only person at the lake who stayed dry.

There were some drawbacks to this tent, however. I lost all of my stakes sometime on day three of my JMT hike, and had to set up the tent with rocks for most of my trip (someone gave me his stakes on day 13 which was one of the highlights of my trip!). Due to having to use rocks, I sometimes had trouble getting the tent pitched correctly, particularly in areas that weren’t perfectly flat or didn’t have much space. There were some places that were quite rocky and I probably wouldn’t have been able to use stakes for all eight stake-points anyway, so this would have been an issue even if I hadn’t lost all of my stakes. It was also a bit troublesome to get the tent pitched in strong winds, and during a strong storm at Squaw Lake, my tent fell down while I was inside it (but like I said above, I stayed completely dry!). Overall, I’d say most of the problems I encountered with this tent stemmed from having no stakes, and all things considered, this tent performed well during my hike. If I ever did the JMT again, I would bring this tent.

Zpacks Triplex on John Muir Trail Zpacks Triplex on JMT Zpacks Triplex at Guitar Lake

Stakes

MSR Mini Groundhog Stakes

For the two nights that I used these stakes, they worked well. They’re light yet have good holding power, and go into the ground easily enough. Unfortunately, I lost all of my stakes sometime on day 3 (I suspect that I left them at my campsite when I was packing up my tent) so my experience with them on the JMT was brief. With that said, I’ve used these stakes on a number of other occasions and have already re-purchased them.

Stakes for the JMT

Sleeping bag

Zpacks 20°F sleeping bag (length: tall, width: regular)

This sleeping bag is unbelievably light and takes up very little space when it is in its stuff sack. It’s wide enough for me to move around but not so wide that it is drafty or hard to warm up. I like that it doesn’t have a hood (it feels less constricting), and when it’s cold you can cinch the top of it to keep out any drafts. It’s a fluffy and comfortable sleeping bag, and on most nights on the JMT I felt like it was warm enough. However, there were a couple of very cold nights where I had to sleep with my down jacket and hat on (and still felt cold). Part of me wishes I had purchased the 10°F version of this sleeping bag, but honestly, I think one of the main reasons I got cold was due to campsite selection. I love this sleeping bag and if I ever hike the JMT again, it will come along with me for sure!

Zpacks sleeping bag for the JMT

Sleeping pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm – Regular/Mummy

This sleeping pad performed well during my JMT hike… it was comfortable, warm, light, and compact when rolled up. Although inflating it wasn’t exactly my favorite camp chore, I loved this sleeping pad and plan to use it on all future backpacking trips.

Thermarest Xtherm Sleeping Pad

Pillow

Big Sky Dream Sleeper

This pillow worked very well for me. It doesn’t take much effort to inflate it, and the best part about using an inflatable pillow is that you can adjust its firmness (I prefer mine slightly deflated, which makes it feel softer). The pillow’s design allows it to cradle my head in a way that is very comfortable, and the pillowcase (which I always bring on trips despite the weight) is soft and fits the pillow perfectly. I wouldn’t backpack without it!

Big Sky Dream Sleeper Pillow for JMT

Stove

Jetboil Sol Titanium (0.8L)

I used this stove only to boil water (to re-hydrate meals), and it worked well for that purpose. The 0.8L pot was perfect for one person (for two people, you would probably need a bigger pot or boil water more than once), and the stove boiled water quickly. I sometimes had trouble igniting it when it was windy or if I was at an especially high elevation, though. I never needed to use my lighter to get it started, but I’d still recommend bringing one just in case. I’d definitely bring this stove again since it boils water quickly and easily (most of the time), and I appreciated having a hot meal for dinner each night.

Titanium Jetboil stove for JMT

Water filter & Water filter bags

Sawyer Mini

This water filter was easy to use and I love how light it is. It can take some time and effort to filter water though, and for just a little more money and one additional ounce, the Sawyer Squeeze can filter water much more quickly (or so I’ve heard). There’s nothing really wrong with the Sawyer Mini, but I may change over to the Sawyer Squeeze in the future simply because it filters water more quickly.

Sawyer Mini on the JMT

Sawyer Squeeze 32 ounce bags (2 bags)

These worked well for me and I’m glad I got the 32 ounce version (the 16 ounce ones that came with my filter were too small). I’ve heard that many other people have experienced leaks with these bags though, and if/when mine ever fail, I may switch over to the Evernew bags which are compatible with Sawyer water filters. I’m glad I brought two, just in case one of them failed.

dsc06657-copy

Water storage

Platypus Platy Bottle (2L) & Smartwater bottle (1L)

 

I used the Platypus bottle to store clean/filtered water, and used the one liter Smartwater bottle to drink out of. Overall, I thought having the ability to carry up to 3 liters of clean water was perfect (generally at any give time I was carrying about 2 liters of water), and would carry both items if I did the JMT again.

smartwater

Stuff sacks

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack (8L) & Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack (4L)

I used the 8 liter one to hold clothing, and the 4 liter one to hold electronics and various small items that I wanted to keep track of. These dry sacks helped me keep my backpack organized, and kept my items protected from the elements. These were perfect for me because they’re light and water-resistant enough when inside a backpack (for water sports, I’d use something made of a thicker material). I’ll continue to use both of them when backpacking.

Sea to Summit Stuff sacks

Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot

This isn’t the lightest headlamp around, but it’s very bright and I like that I can lock it so the light doesn’t turn on when it’s stored in my backpack. I was very grateful to have this bright headlamp when I hiked up to Mt. Whitney in the dark to see the sunrise, as I think I would have had a hard time seeing the trail had I used one of the lighter/weaker headlamp options. I’ll continue to use this one in the future.

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp for John Muir Trail

Camera & Tripod

Sony RX 100

I’ve been using this camera for years now, and think it’s perfect for those who want to take nice photos while backpacking without the weight of a DSLR or mirrorless camera. This camera is pricey, but it produces great photos while still being small enough to fit into a pocket. I’ll continue to use this camera when hiking, backpacking, and traveling, though I may upgrade to the latest version sometime in the future.

Sony Rx100 Backpacking Camera

Pedco UltraPod Lightweight Camera Tripod

This small tripod is perfect for those backpacking with a small camera. It is pretty steady even on uneven surfaces (can adjust each tripod leg individually), and also comes with a velcro strap which can be used to attach it to tree branches, railings, and other items. It’s also quite light, so I’ll definitely keep bringing it on trips.

Portable battery

Anker Power Core 10,000

This is the lightest 10,000 mAh battery that I could find (6 ounces), and with three devices to charge on the trail (camera, phone, Inreach) I was very glad I had this. I used this battery pack to charge all of my items between Yosemite and MTR, and used this in conjunction with my solar charger from MTR to Mt. Whitney. I was able to fully recharge it at Red’s Meadow, but was unable to recharge it fully at MTR (so, I’m glad I had my solar charger as well). I’d absolutely bring this again as it’s so light and can charge my items multiple times.

Solar Charger

Suntactics sCharger-5 Portable Solar Charger

From MTR onward, I made an effort to use this solar charger whenever possible so that I wouldn’t totally use up my battery pack. I tried putting it on my backpack to charge my iPhone, but it just drained the battery so I stopped doing that. I had some success charging my InReach that way, though. I generally used it when I arrived at my campsite so that I could point it toward the sun at the optimal angle. With three devices to charge, I was glad that I had this, but it didn’t always work as well as I would have liked. Sometimes it kept starting and stopping, or just stopped altogether. It probably would have worked better midday in the full sun, but I never really took extended breaks midday (at least not in the full sun!) so I may not have gotten the most out of this device. I’d probably send it in my MTR resupply bucket next time as I didn’t really need it in the first half of the hike.

Suntactics solar charger for JMT

Trowel

Qiwiz Cathole Trowel (Original)

This is very light, but works very well. Some people just use their trekking poles or a tent stake as their trowel when they go backpacking, but on a trail like the JMT I wouldn’t recommend that. The ground is often hard and rocky, so for me, a trowel was absolutely necessary.

Ultralight titanium trowel

First aid kit

My first aid kit included: Ibuprofen, Imodium, Diphenhydramine, band-aids of various sizes, Leukotape (blister prevention/treatment), Neosporin, Curad antiseptic swabs, and a safety pin. I would bring all of these items again, though next time I might also bring a little bit of gauze to put under the Leukotape (I had to use the gauze from band-aids instead).

First Aid Kit for the JMT

Toiletries

I brought a ‘travel toothbrush’, toothpaste, cleanser (repackaged), Sawyer sunscreen (2 ounce bottle, refilled through MTR resupply), shampoo (repackaged, used night before hike & at Red’s Meadow), lotion (repackaged), nail clippers, Aquaphor, hand sanitizer, and baby wipes. Next time, I’d bring the same items, but would ditch my cleanser and shampoo after Red’s Meadow because I never used them after that (baby wipes were enough for cleansing, and rinsing my hair with just water was all I could be bothered to do).

Toiletries for the John Muir Trail

Bear canister

BearVault BV500

There aren’t a ton of approved bear canisters to choose from, and among all of the options, this was the best one for me. It was large enough to hold all of my food without needing to resupply between MTR and Whitney Portal, and it was affordable. I never experienced any problems with it, though of course I wish it were lighter.

BV500 Bear Canister for the JMT

Multitool

Leatherman Style CS Multi-tool

I was really glad I brought this, as I needed the scissors several times (mostly to cut my Leukotape  and Tenacious tape into smaller pieces). It also has a tiny pair of tweezers which could be quite useful as well. It only weighs an ounce, so I’d say it’s completely worth bringing even if it doesn’t get used much.

Multitool for the JMT

Satellite messenger

DeLorme inReach SE

I bought this specifically for the JMT, as it was my first time backpacking solo. Although it was a bit expensive, I loved this device. I loved being able to send and receive messages on the trail, and while I generally just sent a preset message saying ‘I made it to tonight’s campsite’, I also used it to make reservations at the hostel in Lone Pine as I needed a place to stay a day earlier than anticipated. I also used it to check the weather while on the trail, and I found it nice to know which days would be rainy so that I could adjust my plans. Also, everyone back home had fun tracking my progress each day (I always turned on the tracking while hiking, and turned it off when I reached camp). I chose the one month recreation plan subscription, and it was sufficient for my needs on the trail. I’d definitely bring it along next time.

Delorme Inreach SE for the JMT

Navigation

Suunto A-10 Field Compass

I never used this while on the trail, but I would still bring it next time (safety first!).

National Geographic JMT map

This map worked well for me. I like that it showed the elevation profile of the trail, which was helpful for planning. It also showed campsites and labelled areas that have no water sources. I also liked the booklet format of this map set, which made it easy to use while on the trail.

Waterproof passport case/wallet

Zpacks Passport Zip Pouch

This little pouch was the perfect size to hold my passport (which I needed to bring along with me), phone, and money/cards. It was perhaps unnecessary for me to have a waterproof pouch during this trip though, as I always stored this inside my 4L dry sack. I’m glad I had it, although it was not totally necessary.

Ultralight wallet for backpacking

Rain jacket

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket

This rain jacket fits me well and kept me well protected on the couple of days that it was rainy. I made sure to wear my sun hat under the hood to keep rain out of my face so that I could keep hiking (comfortably). I wish it had hand-pockets, but I understand that in order to make this jacket so light and compact, those needed to be sacrificed. Overall, it’s a good rain jacket for the ounce-counting backpacker and I will keep using this one in the future.

Rain kilt

Zpacks Rain Kilt

I bought this for my JMT hike, as I didn’t want to bring my rain pants (too hot). The first time I used this kilt on the trail, I didn’t like it… it made crunching sounds and felt a little too big (although I bought the smallest one available). I took it off after five minutes because it was irritating me and it was barely sprinkling out (I thought it would rain heavily, but it never did that day). On the first truly rainy day though, I gained an appreciation for this kilt. It protected me from the cold rain well, and I liked that I could adjust the zipper in the back to allow me to move freely. Somehow the second time I wore it, it didn’t seem noisy or too big (not sure why?). This kilt isn’t very flattering but it definitely served its function well and I would bring it again.

Cuben Fiber Rain Kilt for the John Muir Trail

Insulating jacket

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket

I used this jacket in camp on cooler days, and wore it to sleep a few cold nights. It was perfect for me… it was warm, light, and was compact when stored. I was especially glad to have this when I hiked at night to reach Mt. Whitney to see the sunrise, but needed to put my wind jacket and rain jacket over it to be warm enough after reaching the halfway point on the way up. Honestly, even with all those layers on I wasn’t warm enough when I reached the summit (and wasn’t hiking anymore), but I’m not sure anyone at the summit was warm enough either. Overall, this jacket suited me well and I’m glad I invested in something so lightweight.

Wind jacket

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

I love this wind jacket because it’s often the only piece of clothing that makes my temperature ‘just right’ while hiking. I kept this in my backpack’s mesh pocket so I could easily put it on when needed, which was generally at the top of passes or when it was windy.

houdini

Shorts

Arc’Teryx Kapta Shorts

I only used these in camp, as I opted to only use my hiking pants while hiking. I’ve used them while hiking on other trips though, and what I like about them is that they’re the perfect length (not too short or too long) and they’re well made.

kapta

Hiking pants

Airwalk

I love Korean hiking pants, especially this pair because it’s stretchy, durable, and slim-fit. It also has zippered pockets, dries quickly, and is fairly light! Unfortunately I ripped it slightly while drying it on a rock, and had to repair it with Tenacious tape. I guess I need to find a similar pair to replace it.

pants

T-shirt

Icebreaker Tech Tee

This shirt fit me well, and I liked that it was made of merino wool which truly reduced (but didn’t eliminate) odor. The downside of this shirt was that it didn’t dry quickly, and it developed a couple of holes by the end of the trip, I would still wear a merino shirt next time, though, as the odor-reduction made it worth it. I also absolutely loved my sun-sleeves, which I always wore with this t-shirt. They protected my arms from the sun well, but did get quite dirty by the end of the trip (no matter how many times I tried washing them). My only regret is that I didn’t wear sun gloves as well (which I’ve never used or needed before)… for the first time in my life, I got a blistering sunburn on my wrists and my hands became a totally different color than the rest of  my body.

tshirt

Sleeping top & bottom

Icebreaker Oasis

In my regular life, I wear this hiking or even just around the town. It worked well as a sleeping top, as it was warm and comfortable.

Smartwool midweight bottom

In my regular life, I sometimes use this when hiking (with shorts over it) because it is flexible enough to move around in. As a sleeping bottom, it was warm and comfortable.

Hiking socks

Injinji Trail Midweight Coolmax Mini-Crew Toe Sock

I’ve used these socks for years without getting a single blister, so I assumed that would be the case on the JMT as well. Unfortunately, I got blisters while day-hiking in Yosemite the day before even officially starting my hike! I think my new hiking shoes let in a lot of dirt, and the trail itself was much dustier than what I’m used to, all of which may have contributed to me getting those initial blisters. I will continue using these socks on hikes, but would have to think carefully about what I’d do if I ever hiked the JMT again.

Injinji socks on the John Muir Trail

Hiking shoes

Brooks Cascadia 11

To be honest, I preferred my Brooks Cascadia 9s (which were perfect!) over these. I heard these ran small so I went up half a size, but I wish I went up a full size. The toe box is narrower than the 9s and is oddly pointed in the middle, which didn’t really seem to be the right shape to suit the average human foot. It’s a comfortable shoe with good traction, but it let in a ton of dirt and overall I was dissatisfied that the toe box was so small (I don’t even have wide feet!). I won’t buy the 11s again… hopefully the next version will fit better.

Brooks Cascadia 11 on the John Muir Trail

Gaiters

Dirty Girl Gaiters

I think these helped, but I still got a lot of dirt on my feet and legs each day. I like that they’re lightweight, colorful, and fit my shoes well.

Dirty Girl Gaiters on the John Muir Trail

Warm hat

Original BlackRock Hat

I only wore this a couple of cold nights and on the day I hiked up Mt. Whitney. I love how light and warm it is, although it isn’t exactly fashionable.

Gloves

Possum Down Gloves

I bought these to use on the JMT, and was satisfied with my selection. I used them during my freezing cold hike up to Mt. Whitney, and they kept my hands warm enough and fit my hands well. I also was glad that they were much lighter than the gloves I used to use (which were less warm!).

gloves

Mosquito headnet

Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net

Thank goodness I brought this thing! I only needed it a few times (mostly due to flies, not mosquitoes), but it was sanity-saving when I wore it. Also, it only weighs an ounce, so it’s definitely coming with me anytime there are flies or mosquitoes out on the trail.

Mosquito Headnet on the John Muir Trail

Buff

Original Buff

I pretty much never used this except to wipe condensation in my tent. I did wear it while hiking up to Mt. Whitney to see the sun rise, and appreciated the extra warmth it offered. I’d probably bring it again, but I’m not totally sure.

Sun hat

OR Sun Runner Cap

I wore this every day and loved the protection it offered. Yes, it was quite unfashionable and the bright pink color made me a distinctive figure on the trail, but it protected me from the sun and bugs, and I suppose I could have flagged down a helicopter with it as it was so brightly colored.

Watch

Suunto Core

I loved being able to see my altitude while hiking, and it was nice to be able to check the time easily. This watch is a little big for me and I’d say it’s a luxury item rather than a necessity, but I’ll continue wearing it while hiking due to its altimeter and thermometer.

Suunto Core watch on the John Muir Trail

Trekking poles

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

I’ve happily used these for years, and they continued to perform well while I was on the JMT. They’re strong durable, and have cork handles which are comfortable to grip. I especially like the flick locks which are much more reliable and easier to use than twist locks. Although they aren’t the lightest ones available, I know I can depend on them (I need two trekking poles to set up my tent, so they are very important pieces of gear not only for hiking but also for my shelter).

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles on the John Muir Trail

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