Two weeks. Two-hundred twelve miles. How do you pack for such a trip? Packing for a backpacking trip, whether it’s the John Muir Trail, a different thru-hike or a weekend getaway, can be a difficult task. What you bring can’t be left in a hotel room or the spare bedroom of a friend; it’s with you for the long-haul. Overpacking means carrying extra weight, and underpacking means forgetting potentially vital items.
My John Muir Trail packing list sticks with the basics. While a few of my items might be considered luxuries, for the most part I’m sticking with only what I absolutely need to avoid hauling extra weight over the trail’s seven mountain passes.
John Muir Trail Packing List
Tent – Nemo Hornet 1p: Weighing in at just over two pounds, this was an ideal lightweight option. Bonus: It’s about as wide as a water bottle, so I can easily store it in one of my pack’s side pockets. Weight: 2 lb 5 oz (including footprint)
Sleeping Pad – Therm-a-Rest Z Rest: I usually camp with a blow-up sleeping pad, but my Big Agnes Double Z hasn’t been holding air well recently. Plus I tend to get light-headed blowing it up for car camping, so the quick-setup of a foam pad will be much welcomed after long days of hiking. Weight: 1 lb
Sleeping Bag – Kelty Light Year XP 20 (short): I’ve had this sleeping bag for the past five years and it’s treated me well. As a cold sleeper I’d like to upgrade to a warmer bag, but my 20 degree bag should fair well for August in the Sierras. Weight: 3 lbs
Pillow – Browning Versa Buckmate Ultra Light Inflatable: This is a luxury item in my book. I originally planned to use my down jacket as a pillow but decided against it. Sleep is important. And a comfy pillow makes a big difference. Weight: 2.8 oz
Camp Stove – JetBoil MicroMo: This pot/stove combo comfortably holds two cups of water, which is perfect for rehydrating most camp meals. Weight: 12 oz
Fuel – JetBoil 230 Gram: JetBoil claims this amount of fuel will boil over 20 liters of water (85 cups), which should be plenty for the type of meals I plan to make. Weight: 9 oz
Bear Canister – BearVault BV500: This canister is bulky and barely fits in my pack on its side, but that’s a bear canister for ya. I’ll need the large BV500 size to store about nine days of food on the final stretch of my hike. Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz (empty)
Eating Utensil – Light My Fire Titanium Spork: Titanium is pricier than plastic but well worth it. I’ve snapped not one, but two plastic Light My Fire sporks while attempting to shovel food from a bag into my mouth. Weight: 0.7 oz
Water Bottle – SmartWater: Packing a disposable water bottle on a backpacking trip is new to me, but it makes sense. SmartWater water bottles are lighter than Nalgene bottles, sturdier than other disposable plastics and have an opening that’s compatible with the Sawyer filtration system.
Hands-Free Water – CamelBak Bladder: When hiking, I need a hands-free option to stay properly hydrated on the move. I plan to pack my CamelBak bladder but only fill it with one liter of water at a time to save on weight. The JMT has many water sources to refill from.
Filtration – Sawyer Squeeze: There are a number of ways to make water safe to drink on the trail. I’ve always used the Sawyer Squeeze system to filter water. Filling the bag and squeezing water into a bladder, bottle or cooking pot can be cumbersome, but overall the system is simple and lightweight. And you always have the option to use the filter as a straw if you’d rather not take the time to squeeze clean water into a bottle.
GPS Watch – Suunto Ambit3: I can load my entire route onto this watch, including campsites and other way-points, and use it to track progress and navigate back to the trail if I lose it. Weight: 3.14 oz
Emergency Satellite Tracker – SPOT Gen3: This simple device allows me to send pre-loaded “I’m OK” messages along with my coordinates to up to 10 mobile devices or email addresses. In an emergency situation, I can send an S.O.S. along with my coordinates to the local search and rescue crew with the press of a button. As a solo hiker, I consider this a must-have. Weight: 4 oz
Waterproof Camera – GoPro Hero 4: I won’t have a professional-level camera, but I’d still like to capture the adventure. GoPros are small, lightweight and waterproof. Weight: 5.4 oz (including case)
Solar Charger – Anker PowerPort Solar Lite: I debated between a solar charger and multiple external battery packs but decided to go solar. This 15 watt charger seemed to be the perfect size for a backpacking trip. Weight: 12.5 oz
External Battery – Anker Astro Candy Bar Portable Charger: Reviews of solar chargers say that the best way to stay powered is to use solar power to charge a battery pack and then use the battery pack to charge other devices. This 5200mAh external battery is small but mighty. Weight: 4.2 oz
Camera, Navigation, Communication – Samsung Galaxy S7: My cell phone is a modern multi-tool, acting as a number of important devices. While most of my friends and family are avid Apple users, the Galaxy series has worked well for me. I’ve never seen a cracked screen on a Galaxy. I dropped my S5 in a lake and left it outside during a downpour, and in both instances it worked just fine after retrieving it without so much as a reboot. And for a cell phone, its camera is pretty stellar.
Clothes and Apparel
1 Down Jacket – Lole Emeline Jacket: Lightweight, packable, super cozy
1 Rain Jacket – Mountain Hardwear: Light, breathable, waterproof
3 Longsleeves – UPF pull-over, UPF button-up, lightweight fleece quarter zip
2 T-shirts – Both lightweight and moisture-wicking
2 Bottoms – Merrell zip-offs (shorts and pants!), Under Armour spandex tights
2 Sports Bras
2 Pairs of Underwear – Terramar high performance
3 Pairs of Socks – One pair reserved for sleeping
1 Baseball Cap
1 Winter Hat
1 Pair of Gloves – I’m bringing climbing gloves for the cables section of Half Dome. They’ll also keep my hands warm and dry along snowy mountain passes.
Hiking Boots – The North Face Women’s Storm II Mid: I usually wear low-cut hiking shoes but these boots fit comfortably right out of the box. They’re lightweight, waterproof and haven’t shown signs of giving the heel blisters my narrow feet are prone to.
Waterproof Footwear – Teva Tirra Sandals: I need something that can be fully submerged for river crossings. After buying a lighter weight version of Tevas that are just one step up from flip-flops, I decided to bring my more rugged and better-fitting pair. They’re heavier than some options, but still much lighter than Chacos.
Trekking Poles – Komperdell: Trekking poles aren’t usually on my hiking list, but when carrying a heavy pack over river crossings and mountain passes I need the extra stability.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Contact Case & Solution
Dr. Bronner’s Biodegradable Soap
Small Pick Comb: Finger brushing won’t cut it. If I don’t have a comb I will need to shave my head when I return.
Portable Bidet – Hygienna Solo: Yes, a portable bidet. I just learned such a thing exists. You simply attach the small, plastic device to a disposable plastic water bottle and squeeze for a gentle stream of water. Perfect for reaching all the right places.
Book – My First Summer in the Sierra: I debated bringing more of a page-turner, but this book by John Muir seems fitting.
Journal – Rite in the Rain Notepad: These notepads are waterproof and work with any pencil or ballpoint pen. Gel-based pens will wash off (this is a self-tested fact).
First Aid Kit: I made my own based on a remote first aid class I attended. It might be a bit heftier than other pre-made kits, but as a solo hiker I want to be prepared.
Headlamp – Petzl Tactikka + RGB: This headlamp is 160 lumens, which provides plenty of hands-free lighting.
Towel – PackTowl Hand Towel: This tiny towel will work well for drying my hands, feet and face. It’s super absorbent and quick-drying, which is perfect for the trail.
Mosquito Net – Ben’s Ultranet No-See-Um: Because when the mosquitoes come out they arrive in swarms.
Bug Spray: See above.
Backpack – REI Venus 70: Kind of essential, right? I bought this pack on a budget a while back and don’t have any complaints. Weight: 5 lbs 4 oz.
Backpack Rain Cover – Osprey Large: I need for my pack to stay dry in rainy conditions and this Osprey waterproof cover is large enough to fit over my pack and the items packed externally, such as my sleeping pad.
Lighter: I don’t plan on making any fires, but you never know.
Sunglasses & Retainer: The exact pair is TBD since my polarized sunglasses are MIA.
Sunscreen: Gotta keep my skin protected!
There you have it. My entire John Muir Trail packing list (aside from food). If I were a true backpacker I would be able to tell you the total weight of my pack, but I don’t own a scale. I’m guessing the weight (with food and water) will fall between 30 and 35 pounds. At this point I wouldn’t remove anything from my pack, so whatever the weight is, it’ll be mine to carry for a little over two weeks.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from those who have done the trail!