Top

Backpacking Gear List || High Sierra — Late-Summer

Dusy Basin from Knapsack Col in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

Dusy Basin from Knapsack Col in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

Introduction

Before scrolling any further down this page, first read prefacing remarks about my gear lists.

Every backpacking gear list should be optimized for a location, time of year, and duration. Needs change — sometimes subtly, sometimes wildly — depending on where, when, and how long the trip is. This particular list is designed for:

  • California’s High Sierra
  • Late-summer (normally August and September), when there are fewer bugs and snowfields
  • A week-long trip or stretch between resupply points, over which time most average conditions will be experienced

The High Sierra encompasses Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest, and Inyo National Forest, plus well known long-distance trails and routes like the John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, High Sierra Trail, and Sierra High Route.

The relevancy of this list extends to other backcountry areas in California and the Mountain West. However, there are enough points of differentiation — notably, food storage regulations, climate, water availability, and average elevations — that I feel more comfortable with separate lists for those locations.

Environmental & Route Conditions

Before starting a trip, I make a point of being prepared with appropriate gear, supplies, and skills. But be prepared against what?

The worst answer would be, “I’m not exactly sure,” in which case I would need to assemble a catch-all kit to prepare myself for anything and everything. Unfortunately, the resulting load is very heavy and I won’t enjoy hiking with it. Moreover, if I didn’t think of everything, I still may not have what I need.

The wiser approach is to conduct an Environmental and Route Condition Assessment, in which I research the conditions that I will most likely experience on my trip. Indeed, the outdoors are not as predictable as our climate-controlled homes, domesticated animals, and paved sidewalks, but I can at least identify the most probable conditions and risks, and the extremes; I can also rule out the totally outlandish ones.

This gear list was designed with the following conditions in mind:

Temperatures. Average daytime highs in the 60’s and 70’s; average nighttime lows in the 30’s and 40’s; slightly warmer or cooler average temperatures at extreme elevations, e.g. Yosemite Valley and Mt. Whitney. Extreme temperatures will be 10-15 degrees warmer or cooler than average, but generally the High Sierra’s weather is extremely consistent.

Precipitation. The overwhelming bulk of California’s precipitation falls between October and April; it is very dry in the High Sierra during the summer, besides moisture that may be lingering still from the winter. A summer monsoon pattern produces regular thunderstorms, but they are usually short-lived and scattered; they occasionally become violent, with hail and possibly snow (that melts off very quickly).

Daylight. On August 1, there is about 15 hours of daylight and civil twilight; by September 30, there is about 12.5 hours. For most backpackers, this will be enough light to complete all hiking without artificial illumination. Note that cloud cover will decrease the amount of usable natural light, and that local topography will affect the beginning and/or end of civil twilight.

Ground cover. By August, trails will be almost entirely dry, and will remain that way until the first winter snowstorms in October. Snowfields may still linger on shady, north-facing slopes; after an exceptionally wet winter, they may not melt off entirely until snow begins to fall again. If a snowfield is obscuring a trail, there will be a well defined boot track across it.

Vegetation. Low elevations are home to the montane forest. Trees are usually spaced widely apart, resulting in a mix of shade and sunshine. South-facing slopes at the lowest elevations in this range are often covered in manzanita, a scratchy shrub. Above the montane forest is the sub-alpine zone. Trees are more scattered, tundra grass becomes common, and willows line the waterways. In the alpine, there are no trees, just grass and willows, or just rock at the highest elevations.

Navigational aids. Popular trails are well worn and signed; less popular trails demand more attention. Map-reading is generally easy due to a combination of distinct topographic features, excellent weather, and constant faraway views.

Sun exposure. While it’s worse earlier in the season — when the sun is higher in the sky and when there is more lingering snow to reflect sunshine — sun exposure is still intense due to the high elevations and ample sunshine.

Water availability. Creeks and lakes are found throughout the High Sierra. Even after exceptionally dry winters, mapped water sources should still be reliable.

Problematic wildlife. The High Sierra’s black bears are notoriously skilled at stealing food from visitors, in both the frontcountry and backcountry. Hard-sided bear resistant canisters are required throughout Yosemite National Park and in the more popular corridors in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park and Inyo and Sierra National Forests. No other wildlife deserves mention.

Biting insects. The mosquito pressure is much reduced from its peak in late-June and July. Isolated pockets can remain into August, but can be avoided by planning wisely your daily schedule, route, and campsites. September is virtually bug-less.

Remoteness. At a minimum, the High Sierra is moderately remote. Even on a popular trail, you are usually far from the closest ranger station, trailhead, medical facility, or supply point; cell reception is non-existent, and blindly walking downhill is generally a very bad idea. An ambitious hiker willing to travel off-trail can find very remote terrain, even further from help and the next closest hiker.

Natural hazards. Acute mountain sickness is very common due to the High Sierra’s elevations, which range from about 5,000 to 14,000 feet. The afternoon monsoon thunderstorms can produce lightning. River levels are way down from their peak, and fords are easy. Black bear attacks on humans are extraordinarily rare.

Gear List

Jump to:


Overview

  • Clothing & Items Always Worn: 3.6 lbs, $160
  • Base weight including food canister: 14.1 lbs, $3,104
  • Total: 17.8 lbs, $3,264

Note that there are many viable alternative selections that are lighter or heavier, or more expensive or less expensive. I hope that my list is at least useful as a template for yours.


Clothing — Go Suit

TOTAL59.0$610
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
TopRequiredSierra Designs L/S Pack Polo7.0$79Good sun protection & air-permeability via L/S, collar, light fabric, & loose cut
BottomsRequiredSalomon Light Short4.0$55No leg constriction; airy & dry fast; supportive liner
UnderwearOptional--0.0$0If shorts lack liner, consider polyester/spandex boxer briefs
Bra (W only)Optional--0.0$0Can't offer much advice here, sorry
ShoesRequiredSalomon X Ultra26.0$120Good support, traction, toe & underfoot protection, breathability; lightweight
SocksRequiredDeFeet Wooleator2.0$13Stays cooler & dryer than thicker socks; less stinky than polyester
GaitersRecommendedSimblissity Levagaiter2.0$28Keep dirt, pebbles, sticks out of shoes to improve hiking efficiency & foot health
HeadwearRequiredHeadsweats Protech Hat2.0$26Protects face, ears, & neck from sun; more goofy than cowboy-style hat but stays put in wind
SunglassesRequiredJulbo Dirt w/Zebra lens 2.0$160Photochromic lenses perfect for everything but extensive snow travel
Rx glassesOptional--0.0$0Do not need, yet
Trekking PolesRequiredREI Carbon Power Lock14.0$129Shift some of effort to arms, keep legs fresh; more stability on snow, rocky trails
Bear sprayUnnecessary--0.0$0Bear attacks extremely rare

Clothing — Element Protection

TOTAL23.0$400
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
Shell topRequiredOutdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket6.0$150Precip should be infrequent & short-lived; rain shell is critical, but need not be fully featured
Shell bottomsRecommendedMountain Hardwear Plasmic Rain Pants7.0$100Temps drop when it rains, need to stay dry-ish; ankle zips allow easy on/off & ventilation
Mid-layer topRecommendedMarmot Reactor Fleece Half-Zip9.0$85Second layer for cool/windy weather, plus moisture buffer for prolonged cold-and-wet
Mid-layer bottomsOptional--0.0$0May want nylon pants on cool days in late-Sept, or routes with notable bushwhacking
Liner glovesUnnecessary--0.0$0Few mornings or evenings cold enough
Shell gloves/mittsRecommendedZPacks Challenger Rain Mitts1.0$65Keep hands functional by keeping cold precip off
Mid-layer headwearOptional--0.0$0ProTech cap offers sufficient ear & neck warmth
HeadnetUnnecessary--0.0$0Consider after very wet winter, as peak bug season may be later than normal

Clothing — Rest & Stop

TOTAL13.0$199
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
Insulated topRequiredSierra Designs DriDown Hooded Down Jacket13.0$199Down a better long-term investment. Look for garment wt under 1 lb, fill weight ~125g.
Insulated bottomsOptional--0.0$0If campfires are banned, may take for September's longer & colder nights
Insulated headwearOptional--0.0$0Parka has a hood
Camp footwearUnnecessary--0.0$0Fine choice so long as shoes are usually dry, or I'm not "camping," just hiking or sleeping

Clothing — Sleep

TOTAL0.0$0
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
Sleeping topUnnecessary--0.0$0Little precip expected, unlikely to get soaked
Sleeping bottomsUnnecessary--0.0$0If I do, I'll dry out before bed via body heat or fire
Sleeping socksUnnecessary--0.0$0If I can't dry out, oh well, one damp night; will sleep in hiking socks, cleaned & dried during day

Clothing — Backups

TOTAL2.0$13
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
Socks 2RequiredDeFeet Wooleator2.0$13Rotate at least daily with other pair; wash after use, water only; air dry on outside of pack
Underwear 2 (W only)Optional--0.0$0Every other day, will wash shorts, water only
Bra 2 (W only)Optional--0.0$0Like socks, rotate with other bra, wash after use

Packing

TOTAL83.5$336
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
PackRequiredULA Circuit35.0$225Prefer framed pack when carrying a bear can, worth extra weight; light enough for use without
Pack linerRequired20-gallon trash compactor bag2.5$1Very effective, yet cheap & easy to replace
Food storage - todayRequiredZiploc Easy Zipper Freezer Bag - Quart0.5$1Keep near top of pack for easy access
Food storage - futureUnnecessary--0.0$0Bear cans required for much of High Sierra; if not, use OPSaks or Ursack
Food protectionRefer to local regulationsBear Vault BV50041$80Wild-Ideas cans are lighter per volume, but BV cans are much better value
Accessory storageRecommendedEagle Creek Pack It Sack - Small1.0$9Wide, zippered access more convenient than deep sack barely big enough for hand
Stuff sacksRecommendedFor sleeping bag, pot, shelter, stakes2.0$20Useful for keeping gear organized, clean & protected; but don't over-stuff or over-organize
Eyewear protectionRecommendedJulbo case1.5$0Expensive and critical sunglasses worth protecting

Sleeping & Shelter

TOTAL52.9$914
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
Bag or quiltRequiredSierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 80024.0$260Lighter & more versatile than mummy, but can be drafty without bivy or for "active" sleepers
PadRequiredTherm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (R)12.0$160Heavier and more delicate & expensive than closed cell foam, but vastly superior sleep quality
Pad inflationUnnecessary--0.0$0Good lung exercise: 20 deep breaths at altitude
Rainfly or tarpRequiredMLD Grace Tarp - Cuben - Solo5.9$285Awesome ventilation & weight/coverage ratio; unlike UL tent, no fully protected living space
Nest or bivyOptionalMLD Superlight Bivy - Large7.0$175Protection against drafts & insects when I "cowboy camp," no tarp; claustrophobic for some
Ground clothOptional--0.0$0Ground usually dry; if not, bivy & pad protect me
StakesRequiredMSR Ground Hog (6x)3.0$18Far superior holding power than UL Ti toothpicks
GuylinesRequiredMLD LiteLine - 6 x 5-ft + 2 x 8-ft1.0$16McCarthy & Truckers hitches more reliable & versatile than fixed knots or hardware

Hydration

TOTAL3.8$33
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
BottlesRequiredPlatypus 1L SoftBottle w/closure cap (2x)1.8$18Water is abundant, rarely will carry more than 1L during day; second for dry camps and backup
Purification 1RequiredAquamira Chlorine Dioxide Drops2.0$15Very effective against most pathogens, including giardia; personally, will not treat most water
Purification 2Unnecessary-0.0$0Consider Sawyer Mini Filter during day for instant treatment, no wait time

Kitchen

I have several go-to stove systems. On solo trips in the High Sierra, I most often use the Cadillac. The Dirtbag would be a less expensive setup, with similar results. If I were planning a more casual trip with one other person, I would bring Fast & Light. And if I were cooking for a group, I would bring Hot & Heavy.


Navigation

TOTAL15.6$386
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
MapsRequired7.5-min topos (made with Caltopo) + Nat Geo maps5.0$30Use 7.5-min quads for detailed navigating, Trails Illustrated for route planning, bailouts
Map sleeveRequiredZiploc Freezer Storage Bag - Gallon0.5$1Effective, and cheaper than water-resistant map paper
WatchRecommendedSuunto Core (positive display)3.0$299For dead-reckoning, pinpointing location using elevation, and forecasting weather
CompassRecommendedSuunto M-3D Leader2.0$35Extraordinarily powerful tool in skilled hands; upgrade to Suunto M-3 Global for frequent usage
GPSUnnecessaryGaia GPS app on Google Nexus 54.6$20Should serve a purpose since I'm not leaving it in car; Gaia app is backup, probably never need
Writing instrumentRecommendedRetractable ballpoint pen0.5$1Make route notes & draw bearings on maps

First aid, emergency, & repair

Go here for downloadable gear lists for my first aid, foot care, and field repair kits.


Personal care & items

TOTAL17.5$530
will post photo soon
CategoryImportanceMy Pick, or ExampleWeightMSRPComments
ToothbrushRecommendedSoft toothbrush (shortened handle)0.5$3Cut handle in half for packability
ToothpasteRecommendedDr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap0.5$5Acquired taste; multi-purpose
FlossRecommendedDental Flossers0.5$1I know where my fingers have been! Flossers are cleaner & easier to use.
Toilet paperRecommendedCharmin Ultra Soft (4 tiles/day)0.5$1Start w/natural materials, touch-up with TP
Soap/sanitizerRequiredPurell Hand Sanitizer1.0$1Quick clean after No 2; wash w/soap daily, too
Pee aid (W) or jar (M)Optional--0.0$0For modesty or to avoid leaving shelter at night
SunscreenRequiredSawyer Stay-Put (1-oz tube)1.5$3For face, hands, & legs
Lip balmRecommendedKiss My Face0.5$4Nice to have dedicated lip balm, very light
Anti-chafingRecommendedBonnie's Balm (see foot care)0.0$0If I keep nether regions clean, I rarely chafe
Insect repellantRecommendedSawyer Maxi-Deet (.5-oz spray tube)1.0$4Perfect size & weight; good insurance against isolated bug pockets
LightRequiredFenix LD02 w/battery1.0$35Mostly for camp use; very battery efficient
CameraUnnecessaryCanon Powershot S1207.5$450Excellent image quality & controls for weight & size; less expensive than RX100
OpticsUnnecessaryBrunton Echo Pocket Scope, 7x182.0$15Useful for route-finding & identifying far away hazards & objects, but not necessary
Wallet w/ID, cash, CCRecommendedChums Marsupial Keychain Wallet1.0$8Not leaving in car at trailhead

,

55 Responses to Backpacking Gear List || High Sierra — Late-Summer

  1. A guy from BPL July 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    on the sunglasses topic:
    if I bring expensive shades they always and fall get scratched, even when I bring a case.

    So now I buy cheap comfy sunglasses, surprisingly lightweight (22g, or .77 oz)

    they magically do not fall off even with all the abuse, I now don’t bring a case, and they cost about $5, I replace every 1-2 years. hint: try on the children size sunglasses, and bend out the branches to fit your head.

  2. Howard Hayden July 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi, Andrew! I am the elder Scout Commissioner with Mount Baker Council, BSA; we have traded messages several times. I thank you. I am most pleased with this gear list and caveats for the Autumnal Sierra Hiking. I am always looking for efficient, lightweight stuff, especially for my smaller Scouts….the ‘cute’ seventy-pounders…who simply do not go on hikes. I want to start them easily, lightly, completely so they will have a good time. A bad time discourages them from more hiking at all. I have constantly promoted Day Hikes, thence to the ‘Overnight Option’, at shorter distances so they will learn the processes and procedures. Then, as they grow up to become 170 pounders, they know how to enjoy longer and more adventurous stuff. I have limited computer skills so I do not know how to download the lists that appear here. If you have them in a pdf format or a doc or docx, then I can save them and share with my Scouts. Thank you for offering so many practical and pleasant programs for outdoor-people. May GOD continue to bless you and your outreach.

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

      I intend to post a generic gear list template but I do not think I will offer a download option for each list. There is an easier solution for all of us: share with them the link.

      • Dave Briggs July 23, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

        A generic list would be appriciated

    • Walter Underwood July 23, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

      We take our first year Scouts backpacking, regardless of how small they are. They need to present a pack ready for an outing for Tenderfoot, right? That means that backpacking is an appropriate activity for all Boy Scouts.

      We teach the Patrol Leaders to distribute crew gear and shared gear (like tents) so that the smaller Scouts are not overloaded.

      Please don’t deny Scouts the joy of the backcountry just because they are small. That isn’t fair to them.

      Here are a couple of the hikes we do, I need to write up more of them:

      http://observer.wunderwood.org/?s=short+backpack

      • boilerbugle August 1, 2014 at 11:48 am #

        walter — I’d love to be a leader in your troop! We’re leading a troop that car camps approx 3 times a year (ugh!). In my experience, it’s taking years to get these parents to buy into hiking and backpacking. I think the above mentioned approach, introducing day hiking first, would be the best way to get a troop like mine (which I think is common, unfortunately…) to get into backpacking and other long term adventures (canoeing, cycling, etc.)

        thanks for the link! these are great.

  3. Benjamin July 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Andrew,

    The Salomon Light Short looks tiny. Basically a running short, yes? Do you use sun protection to protect your thighs during the day? How does that work?

    The Salomon X Ultra shoe comes in a low and a mid-high. Which do you use? (At the moment, I’m using La Sportiva Wildcats.)

    Weight is listed at 17.8 lbs, which seems like rock bottom for a trip of this length. Is there a number we must come in below?

    That’s it for me. Thanks.

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      The Light Short has a 4 inch inseam, which will feel short unless you wear running shorts regularly. Sunscreen is necessary, especially on the back of the calves when walking north; similar to back of the arms if wearing S/S. There are longer lined shorts if you want more coverage.

      Low cut shoes. Trekking poles and a light pack negate the need for ankle support, at least for most.

      Overall pack weight is low, but definitely not the lowest. Ditch the bear can if it is not required on your route, go with a 1.5-lb pack with less of a frame, leave the rain pants and fleece behind if the forecast is dry and warm, etc.

  4. samh July 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    I demand more info on bras and prescription glasses!

  5. Katherine July 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    samh-

    I’d recommend the unfortunately named “Coobie” bra.

    Oh wait, that was joke. But still…

  6. Gilles Leblanc July 23, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    It’s interesting to see a new gear list. I was wondering if you had changed much since you published your book (of course this isn’t for the same kind of trip).

  7. James July 23, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Thanks for the detailed list! I am looking forward to more.
    Have you ever tried the Suunto M3G? Testing the M3D and M3G side by side at REI, I noticed the magnetic wizardry needed for the global needle means that the needle comes to bear in less than half the time (and wobbles less) while working even if the compass is held at awkward angles. This saves me quite a bit of time spent staring at the compass over the course of a multi-day orienteering event. Although it might not be worth the extra $20 if you don’t use the compass that much. Thoughts?

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

      I debated which model to recommend, ultimately going with the M3D because of its lower cost and because most people don’t regularly use their compass. However, personally I prefer the M3G for the reasons you said — it has a faster needle and it the baseplate need not be held perfectly flat. I will update my comments to reflect this sentiment, thanks!

  8. Marla July 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    Don’t you worry about getting your bag/quilt dirty since you aren’t carrying sleeping clothes?

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      If I weren’t washing my clothes or body regularly, then yes. But I wash my hiking shirt and shorts every other day, and my hiking socks at least daily, and my body every other day. So I’m simply not that dirty or smelly. Furthermore, unlike the Appalachian Trail, humidity is really low in the High Sierra, so it’s easier not to become smelly even if you don’t make personal hygiene a priority.

  9. Aubrey July 23, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Andrew: I’m curious to get your impression on the REI carbon-fiber trekking poles as compared to the BD poles (once you’ve used them enough to share). Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      After my Alaska trip I needed a new set of trekking poles, and went with the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. I’ve been happy with them and have used them hard (now in their fourth season), but they’re heavier than they need to be, I think due to the diameter and wall width of the tubes. If the REI poles had been available at the time with lever-style locks (they had twist-style locks until about 2 years ago), I would have went with them instead. For all but the hardest of users (big men, aggressive off-trail and snow travel), they should be fine.

  10. Walter Underwood July 23, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

    Check with rangers before taking an alcohol cat food can stove. Sierra fire restrictions used to require stoves with a shutoff valve. Those have recently been changed to allow open alcohol stoves in National Parks, but I’d check with National Forests and make sure that the local rangers have heard the news.

    http://www.nps.gov/seki/naturescience/fire-restrictions.htm

    Also homemade stoves are prohibited for Boy Scouts, so they would need to buy a White Box Stove in order to use one.

    Finally, you must get, print out, and carry a California Campfire Permit if you want to use a stove or fire on public land. You can do this on-line: http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfire-Permit/

    The Sierras are extremely dry this year, so be careful out there.

  11. Howard Hayden July 24, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

    Andrew; I do not have the computer skills to move this nice list for lightweight backpacking into a Download or Document file. Some of my Scoutmaster folks in my Edmonds, WA Troop do not use Facebook. Those that do, I could ‘share’. But ‘save as’ does not transfer as is possible with individual pictures. Yes, I have bought and given to Scout Troops, 4 of your books…Ultimate Backpacker and Gear Guide. I only try to get the kids outdoors; too much Scouting has become urbanized. Your Fall Sierra list condenses the gear into smaller, lighter packaging so my smaller Scouts will actually go on the hikes. Thanks for your work to enlighten the world of outdoor living and to ‘lighten’ the loads of those who are scared off by traditional backpacks of 25 to 45 lbs. Please send my the Fall Sierra list as a pdf or a doc; I most appreciate your help. Yes, I did sign up for your Newsletter but it has not shown up on my e-mail. Thanks for helping me and my Scouts. Howard, in Edmonds, WA

  12. Dianne July 25, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    A bra suggestion for the ample who need good support at the lightest weight. The Moving Comfort former bra model Helena was a light unlined/unpadded piece of nylon/spandex with phenomenal support for about 3 ounces. Like other runners/hikers, I ordered one size down with this and got a very comfortable fit. Often available on ebay.

  13. Matt July 27, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    If i’m not mistaken, this is your first specific gear list in years (your book didn’t have the actual products.)

    I love these lists, and think you should publish them more (an analysis of page views of this gear list might support that idea.)

    Unlike BPL, you’re a literal pro at this, and it’s exceedingly interesting to see what product choices you’re making. Even when you’re a sponsored athlete, it’s still interesting.

    Publish these more, publish them in the different regions you go to. Here’s my 2014 Appalachian Hammock setup, Here’s my 2014 eastern AK range setup.

    Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka July 27, 2014 at 7:40 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement. It is definitely my intention to publish more of them, for a number of reasons. I hope to get two more lists up in August, for the Northern Rockies and for Colorado elk hunting, and I hope to post many more over the winter when I have down time.

  14. KY August 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Andrew, QQ: What’s the thinking behind taking the beefier Sierra Designs quilt over something lighter — like a Hammock Gear Burrow 20 or, say, the (expensive) Z Packs quilt? Are those quilts too fragile for this kind of trip?
    I’m filling in gaps in my own list, and a warm quilt is one of them, hence the question.
    Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka August 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      As a very basic reason, we all sometimes go with what we have access to, versus spending several hundred dollars to save a few ounces or to get a marginal improvement in performance. In my personal fleet of bags and quilts, the SD quilt made the most sense.

      There is also a functional explanation, however. The SD quilt is wider than most quilts (less drafty), it is tall enough that I can pull it over my head and utilize its hood-like gap (warmer), and it features DWR down (more reliable performance when humid or damp).

  15. Mark August 12, 2014 at 1:30 am #

    Andrew, what would you recommend for a shelter if I’m bringing a dog? I’m thinking of the Duomid+bivy, but the cuben Duomid is a tough sell… Also when the ticks come if it’d make more sense to go with something else. I’m in California, 3-season coast and sierras.

    Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka August 12, 2014 at 6:04 am #

      Go with sil. Less expensive to replace and only a few ounces more.

      To avoid leaving your dog exposed to the bugs, a mid+nest would be a better combination.

      • ELIZ August 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

        What is a nest?

        • Andrew Skurka August 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

          Synonymous with “inner tent,” or the fully enclosed living space that has a bug netting ceiling and waterproof floor, occasionally with highly breathable fabric panels connecting the two. It is protected from wind and rain by a “fly” or “tarp” that is suspended over or attached to the outside of the nest.

  16. asolo August 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    First, thank you very much for publishing such a detailed gear list! Immensely useful.

    A philosophical question. Why do you consider a fleece mid layer top optional and an insulated down jacket required? I find myself making the opposite choice: take fleece and leave down behind. I find that I never wear insulated jacket while moving (unlike fleece) and in camp I could just jump into shelter and sleeping bag for warmth (that also leads to a heaver shelter and sleeping bag). Thanks again.

    • Andrew Skurka August 18, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      My assumption is that most readers will spend time in camp and not immediately retreat to their shelter (in the evening) or immediately start hiking (in the morning), in which case a puffy jacket becomes essential with temps in the 40’s. Also, I find that a fleece is most useful for cold-and-wet conditions; if the 5-day forecast is dry, which is often the case, the fleece can be left in the car.

  17. Andy August 19, 2014 at 2:05 am #

    With the recent bad weather in the Sierra’s, how well do you feel you kit list would of stood up?

    • Andrew Skurka August 19, 2014 at 8:20 am #

      A limitation of any “recommended” gear list is that I can only design them around the averages, i.e. an average High Sierra trip in average late-summer conditions. Because all trips are not average and do not necessarily experience average conditions, I tried to qualify my recommendations in the “Importance” and “Comments” columns. Hopefully readers use my list as a template but adjust it to the specifics of their trip: experience level, exact route, weather forecast, etc.

      In specific regards to your question, I think my list would have been entirely appropriate for those conditions — the likelihood of cold-and-wet Sierra storms is built into the clothing and shelter systems. However, this is not to say that the weather would be a non-factor if you had this exact kit; rather, such conditions will still probably force you to shorten your day, change your route, or endure more discomfort than the normal Sierra experience. The issue is really one of comfort and safety — Can you at least fare in those conditions, since excelling is really not possible?

      • Andy August 22, 2014 at 11:41 am #

        Thanks, a great answer. My question was raised by a number of people seemingly caught out by the downpours recently on the JMT. Waterproofs for an afternoon storm failed under hours of rain, and then compounded by cold nights.

        I suppose the most vital gear to bring is your brain!

  18. Eric Blumensaadt February 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    My gear is a bit heavier than Andrew’s but still “serviceable”.

    TENT-> TT Moment DW (A bit “heavy” but utterly reliable.)

    PACK-> Osprey EXOS 58 (Most comfortable light pack I know.)

    SLEEP SYSTEM-> overfilled WM Megalite & Thermarest Prolite reg., light poly balaclava (This system is good to at least 15 F. with EB down jacket.)

    COOK SYSTEM-> Trail Designs Sidewinder (cone) stove & ESBIT tab holder, 2 small BIC lighters, 3 cup mating pot, cut down ZipLoc bowl, plastic cup, Lexan spoon

    SHOES-> Merrill Moab Ventilator, 2 pr. Thorlo Hiker sox

    WIND/RAIN GEAR-> REI Kimtah eVent parka (My eVent rain pants are normally not necessary. The REI Sahara poly pants dry quickly.)

    LIGHTING-> Princeton Tec Scout headlamp (Takes four 2032 coin batteries. This lamp now discontinued.)

    CLOTHING->, Polyester wide brimmed hat, REI Sahara shirt & pants, 2 poly T shirts, poly briefs. E. Bauer down jacket, light Mechanix gloves

    * I think my ESBIT fuel will be lighter than alcohol for a 7 day trip W/ 2 hot meals per day. The cone stove, low & wide small 3 cup pot and Brian Green Blog modified tablet holder combine to give amazing efficiency.

    This is the gear I am SURE will get me through 3 season conditions in western mountains.

  19. Brian March 14, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Great write-up and gear list, I really appreciate your pragmatic approach.

    I think high sierra marmots definitely “deserve mention”. They can be quite troublesome. Even when your food is far from camp theyre known to chew through tents and packs if left unattended.

  20. Manny March 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for posting the gear lists! I’ve found them very useful as I’ve been putting my gear together. I noticed that you are only carrying six stakes. Are you forgoing the midpoint tie-outs on the grace tarp and only pitching the ridgeline and the corners?

    • Andrew Skurka March 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

      Pick protected campsites and pitch the shelter correctly, and you’ll only need six stakes. If you pick exposed camps and don’t know how to set up the shelter, another two stakes probably will not help you.

  21. Steve Jones (SHR Solo Hiker) June 3, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Hi Andrew, thanks for continuing to offer your thoughts and recommendations here. I’m starting my solo SHR this July 18 2015 and wonder if I will really need my microspikes. I love ’em, but they’re heavy, and I’m thinking the snow might be all but gone then. If there are ascents/decents that are steep snow, I’d want them. Your thoughts?

    • Andrew Skurka June 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      If you are at all comfortable on snow, I would leave them behind. Buzz and I did the SHR in early-July of a below-average winter (70% of average I think), and there was only one place where I even took out my crampons, on Frozen Lake Pass. Since Buzz was already off the snow by the time I laced up and stepped onto it, it was clearly a waste. I didn’t use them again.

  22. Nicolas Krumenacker July 2, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    Hello Andrew, your book and numerous online talks, videos and posts have proven to be some of the most candid and educational that I have come across as a novice thru-hiker.

    I am planning on hiking the JMT with my 2 brothers next summer, and like you have parents that worry for the well-being of their sons. I understand that it is partly a personal decision, but based on your vast experience in the High Sierras and review of the Spot 3 (inReach SE and other such devices/services being out of my budget), would you recommend investing in this unit for the thru-hike? We are hiking N to S and aiming for 12-14 days (not 7!).

    Your expert input is deeply appreciated. PS, excited to see your SD double-wall tent design!

    • Andrew Skurka July 3, 2015 at 7:25 am #

      Nicolas –

      FWIW, you might be able to rent a unit, if you only need it for a JMT thru-hike.

      The JMT is very safe: lots of people, very well established trail, and generally benign weather. So it seems like you should be able to get away without one, from an emergency perspective. If something happened to you or one of your brothers (very low risk), you’d be found quickly and a call for help would quickly be put out, either by a ranger or by other hikers.

      Of course, it might be hard for a mother to hear, “You’ll hear from us only if something bad happens.” But it’s a legitimate option. If she is insistent that she hear from you everyday, then you’ll need a unit of your own.

  23. Michael McLoughlin August 8, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    I’m planning a nine day trip on the southern section of the Sierra High Route, exiting at Piute Pass or around Lake Italy depending on progress. This is a very helpful list, thank you.

    I’ve always used trail runners for trail hiking in the Sierras, similar to your recommended Salomon X Ultra. I was wondering if you thought boots were required for the off-trail stuff in the Sierra High Route?

    • Andrew Skurka August 10, 2015 at 7:15 am #

      No, not required, and not recommended either. I would stick with trail runners or light hikers. But select a robust model — you will appreciate the durability and foot protection (e.g. thick outsole, toe bumper cap) that a few additional ounces buys you.

  24. CAMERON December 15, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    Some might want to consider taking an ACE bandage, particularly if they are older. I never carried one, and then this summer I got a tibula stress fracture and it really helped me to get back off the trail and probably minimized the damage, and then on different trip this summer my friend experienced serious unforseen ankle issues. Yes you can partially make-do with wrapping other textiles, but at 1 oz an ACE bandage is very efficient and effective. Now a permanent part of my kit.

    • Andrew Skurka December 16, 2015 at 4:12 am #

      Due to the stretch of the ACE bangade, it is generally considered ineffective at immobilizing injuries. For that, static tape is best.

  25. James February 29, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    Excellent gear guide. Reading through the comments I think people are missing the point that this is a suggested guide, and that everyone will want to balance their pack to their own particular style. My balance is cost. I can only afford a $40 pack and the most expensive sleeping bag i own is a (very excellent for the price) outdoor vitals $90 bag. So yes you can do similar trips at a fraction of the cost. But I sacrifice some weight and comfort at the expense of being able to buy groceries when I return home from my trips :).

    Actually as a side note I love my backpack. It’s an outdoor products arrowhead 48L internal frame pack. It weighs less than 2 lbs and has held up well. Definitely not as comfortable as some more expensive packs, but works well for ultralight trips with 6 day re supply times.

    • Andrew Skurka February 29, 2016 at 9:50 am #

      Excellent comment. I consider my list a template for your own — a guide, as you said. But if there are differences in your budget or preferences, or in the inventory of gear you already own or that it available at the store, then do some additional research about similar products that will work better for you.

  26. Ben March 20, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    Hey Andrew,

    Thru’d the AT in 2013 and suffered from some gnarly chafe once I hit NH and ME since we got rained on constantly the last couple hundred miles.. When you say you usually don’t chafe when you keep your area clean, what exactly are your habits as far as keeping the area “clean”?

    • Andrew Skurka March 20, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

      Great question, very important.

      I try to clean the area at least every other day. Fill up a bottle, step far away from the water source, pull your pants down, and give yourself a backcountry bidet. Let the water run down your crack; don’t squirt the water at your butt. Wash with the other hand.

      Obviously you’ll have dirty hands after this. Before you start, it’s advised that you have soap or hand sani ready to roll after the job is done.

      I don’t know why it took me tens of thousands of miles to learn that I needed to wash my butt. It would have saved me a lot of chafing and itchiness.

  27. Btei March 27, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    Doing my first through hike in Sept from Bishop Pass to LYV. Did you find the need to filter any of your drinking water or did you just occasionally purify it. Just wondering how clear the water sources are. Also, any advice in the way of altitude sickness. I’m from the flat lands of the midwest and we will be going from 600ft to 12,000ft in 48 hours. I intend to pre-treat with acetazolamide. Any other advice or suggestions?

    • Andrew Skurka March 27, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

      The water in the High Sierra is some of the best in the world. If you find a water source that is off-color of full of floaties, go find another source — I’m sure that one is not far.

      Your itinerary sounds ambitious if you have never been to altitude before. I would be wary of committing yourself (e.g. by going over a high pass) if something seems off.

  28. Malik Durojaiye June 1, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

    You’ve inspired me. Well you and many many more people. I have a plan to hit the PCT in a year and half after graduate school. That gives me time to prepare and prepare some more because the last time I did any sort of camping or real hiking was 10+ years ago in the scouts. I’m starting to make small trip here and there to prepare for an epic journey and you are a huge help!

  29. Sean Van Cleve January 26, 2017 at 11:06 am #

    Quick Q for you: What do you find is the best soft bottle system that is compatible with the Sawyer mini (clean h2o side)? I love the Platypus bottles, but I’m presuming they’re still incompatible?

    Note: My current best is using a 64oz. Sawyer dirty h2o bag, filtering with a hose into a Platypus soft bottle, or Smartwater bottle. Not perfect when it is frigid out…

    • Andrew Skurka January 26, 2017 at 11:28 am #

      The Sawyer filters have an odd thread on them, and do not perfectly mate with other common threads, e.g. Platy bottles and disposable bottles.

      However, I have heard that you can put some plumbers thread tape around the bottle threads to prevent leaking.

  30. kek April 18, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

    you forgot to list a spork

Leave a Reply