If you want to gear list, then check out my Continental Divide Trail Gear List or my Appalachian Trail Gear List. I lost my PCT gear list, but here are my reflections on the gear that I used on the PCT.
How did the PCT gear perform?
Usually the lighter the gear, the more fragile it is. As the gear list indicates, we are ultra-light backpackers. Therefore, I expected our gear to show signs of wear and tear, or even fall apart completely.
- Gossamer Gear Backpacks: The Gossamer Gear backpacks performed as advertised and I was very happy with them. I used both the spinnaker G5 and the Silnylon G5. I recommend the Silnylon version because it's a tougher fabric and worth a couple of ounces of weight. Maiu used the Uberlight Whisper pack. As the pictures show, it fell apart about a week from the end. Its collapse was our fault. Throughout the journey little tears would appear because of the constant stress on the five ounce pack. Maiu would sow them back. However, two weeks before the end, Maiu ignored a tear that appeared on the bottom of her pack. She figured the pack would survive. It did - for a week. On a miserable, cold morning high in the San Jacintos, the tear tore completely across the bottom of the pack. We were cold and I didn't feel like sitting around for 30 minutes while Maiu sowed her pack up with her cold fingers. I came up with a simple plan: flip the pack upside down. She cinched the top closed and then loaded the pack from the bottom. It looked weird, carried strangely, but because it weighed about seven pounds full, it worked. So for the last week, Maiu carried her Whisper upside down. I plan to use Gossamer's packs on the CDT.
- GoLite Umbrellas: After the backpack, we used our umbrellas more than any other piece of gear. We had them deployed in our hands about 10 hours per day. It practically didn't rain during our entire journey, but we got plenty of sun. Although sunscreen does a fine job at protecting your skin, it doesn't protect you fully from the harmful ultraviolet rays. Moreover, it doesn't keep you cool. Other hikes like to wear to hats, but they provide minimal shade and they trap heat on your head, which increases the discomfort vs. an umbrella which decreases the discomfort. Staying cool allowed us to carry less water and food because we sweat less and burn fewer calories than without umbrellas. We saved sunscreen weight and rain gear weight. It could also serve as a mediocre stick to cross streams, it could be a wind screen for cooking, a pack cover, a big sunhat, and a big swatter. Sometimes carrying a couple of extra ounces will save you pounds.
- Gossamer Gear (and GoLite) Shelters: We carried the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn for most of the journey. However, we rarely used it. With just three hours of rain until we got to the California desert, we had little use for any shelter. Most nights we just slept in the open, under the brilliant the Milky Way Galaxy. We did get one night of drizzle in the desert, and the SpinnTwinn kept us dry. We used GoLite's Lair shelter when we traveled through mosquito country. It did a perfect job at protecting us, although I wouldn't recommend using the Lair Nest 2 with the Lair 1. They don't fit very well. Use the Nest 2 with the Lair 2 and the Nest 1 with the Lair 1. I plan to use Gossamer Gear on the CDT.
- GoLite Clothing: Most days we didn't wear much. We didn't experience chafing. We stayed warm, dry, and comfortable. The GoLite clothing was wonderfully light and water resistant. They're also surprisingly resistant to abrasion and brush. I plowed through miles of brush and was always surprised that the ultra thin shells didn't get destroyed. However, when a plant (or fire ember) finally makes a hole in the fabric, it becomes quite vulnerable to future tears because now the plants have something to grab onto. My GoLite Whim pants got shredded towards the end, but some simple sowing kept them together. However, four days before the end, I re-tore them up in some chaparral. Since it wasn't freezing, I thanked my loyal pants for their tireless service, and then ceremoniously placed them in the garbage. Now my gear was four ounces lighter than before.
- Pristine Water Purification: Worked perfectly well, although Maiu broke one of the vials when she slept on it.
- Cascade Designs Platypus and Towel: The Platypus worked well. We used several water bladders, but a couple sprung a leak. A minor leak, so we could still use it as long as we kept them upright. The Big Zip tanks were convenient because Maiu liked to mix in some powder. It had one minor disaster. After loading it up, Maiu put the Big Zip in her pack, believing that she had sealed it. Within 30 seconds it exploded in her pack. The towel worked great, it was a tiny kitchen towel.
- Mealpack: The energy bars were the only ones that we didn't get sick of. Over 420 calories per bar, they really were a meal. I just wish that we had more of them.
- Pocketmail: Too heavy and a cell phone would be better, if you want to communicate with the outside world.
If I had to do it all over again...
- I would not carry so much food that needs cooking. Hiker boxes along the PCT (and AT) are packed with food that needs cooking. Rarely do you find ready to eat food like energy bars. I would just ship ready to eat food, carry Esbit tablets, and then enjoy the variety of cooked foods found in hiker boxes. If there's no food in the box, then just buy food along the way.
- I would not take Pocketmail. This heavy (8 ounce) device is a brick. If you want communication, a cell phone is a better option. I would prefer a smaller device, lighter device. In some places there wouldn't be a landline for Pocketmail, but there would be cell phone reception. Carry a cell phone that does email if you need communications. The best I've found is one that comes with Wifi and GPS: the HP IPAQ. I didn't carry any electronics on the AT and was quite happy. However, Maiu really wanted it. Satellite phones are coming down in price and weight and will be practical for those who want the ultimate in communication. Perhaps the biggest challenge with these devices is recharging them. Either put the charger in your bounce box or carry it with you. For the IPAQ, you would need a solar panel because the GPS sucks up the power.