Going lightweight on the John Muir Trail (JMT), does not mean being uncomfortable, unsafe, or without a few non-essentials. Properly researching your hike and having the skills necessary is important for creating your checklist. Beginning? Learn how to start lightweight backpacking.

Do your research! Knowing the variable conditions could equal pounds as you will know whether you can bring a lighter sleeping bag and exactly how many clothing layers you will need. I could go even lighter without a journal, GoPro, and Delorme, but those items added to my enjoyment on the trail. With the careful selection of the rest of my gear, these extras I had still added up to a very comfortable 12.27 pound backpack base weight.

John Muir Trail

Allison on the John Muir Trail

This lightweight gear list was used for my 15 day thru hike of the John Muir Trail. I encountered temperatures ranging from 30-100 degrees. In late July it is generally warm and dry and you can expect afternoon thunderstorms. On my hike I experienced an unusual 2 1/2 days of rain. Water is abundant throughout the hike. The biggest concerns among hikers preparing for the JMT are altitude and bears. My heavy, but necessary bear canister was the only solution needed for the latter concern. This gear list is made up of most of my essentials for 3-season hiking in various locations including New Hampshire's White Mountains, where I typically hike.

My Gear List used on the John Muir Trail

Category Gear Selection Weight (oz) Details
Packing Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack 21.5 Removed the sit pad and placed a Klymit Inertia X-frame in its place. Removed metal stay as well.
Bear Canister 41 Mandatory on the JMT- BV500 carried 7 days of food well. Heavy but it's a good price plus it's see through and waterproof.
1 Sea to Summit Stuff Sack (size small) 0.6 Used to store extra clothing and items mainly used at camp (ex: journal, headlamp).
1 Sea to Summit Ultra-mesh bag (size xxs) 0.2 Used to carry day's snacks and lunch.
Sleeping Western Mountaineering Summerlite 19 32 degree Sleeping bag- no stuff sack- stuff it around bear canister to provide cushion against my back.
Klymit Inertia X Frame 6.1 Use it as the back pad in my Mariposa.
Sea to Summit standard silk liner 2.5
Shelter Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis 13
Gossamer Gear LT4S Trekking Poles 4.1 Used during the day for stability and to support my tarp at night.
Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth- Medium 1.6 Used as my groundsheet. Doubled as a pack liner.
Packed Clothing EMS rain jacket 4.2 No longer sold.
Backcountry Hadron Down Anorak 8 Lighweight. Folds into own pocket and has a hood.
Icebreaker Wool Everyday Leggings 5
Glacier Glove Sun Gloves 1 Found them uncomfortable/unecessary for me on the JMT.
Injinji Socks 1 Extra pair.
Sleep socks* 2.9 Only had sleep socks for the second half for sleeping at higher elevations.
Columbia Womens Baselayer Long Sleeve 1/2 Zip 6 Extra layer with omni-heat.
EMS Women's Techwick Endurance Crew 4
UV Buff 1.3 Very versatile.
Hydration Sawyer Mini Water Filter 2 No wait time for filtering. Extremely lightweight.
Platypus 2L Hoser 3
Cooking 1 empty plastic bottle 0.9 Used for protein shakes and flavored water.
Lighter 1 If needed for emergencies. Went stoveless.
Light My Fire Spork 0.2
Small Essentials Toothbrush, Floss, toothpaste 1.35 Cut toothbrush, remove floss on roll from case, 1/2 bottle travel toothpaste. Want to swap to powdered toothpaste.
Bens bugspray 0.5 Bugs were not a big concern at the end of July after a dry winter.
Sunscreen 2
First aid kit 2.5 Leukotape, antibiotic ointment, vitamins, ibuprofen, tylenol, duct tape, body glide- placed extras in resupplies.
Maps 1 Only carried a section at a time of the Harrison Map Set.
Headlamp - Petzl Tikka 2.2
Rite in the Rain notebook 2.24
Bic Pen 0.16
Leatherman Style CS Multi-tool 1.4
Electronics Smart Phone 4.6 Downloaded Guthook's JMT Hiker App.
GoPro Hero 3+ and headstrap 8
Delorme InReach SE 6.9
Charger cord 1
Samsung p&s Camera 6.2 Good P&S with panoramic feature.
RAVPower Element 10400mAh External Battery Pack 7.9 Not the lightest but very reliable. Can charge smart phone 4 times.
Total base weight (oz) (not including worn items or consumables) 196.45
Total Base weight (lb) (not including worn items or consumables) 12.27
JMT Gear List

Hiking on the JMT

My Gear Post-Hike Thoughts

Overall, my gear worked extremely well for this hike. Here's a look at my favorite items as well as recommendations for those contemplating a hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack: I really loved the exterior pockets of this pack. Having easy access to my shelter and large hipbelt pockets were ideal for me. The BV500 fit extremely well. In fact, I removed the metal stay and just stuffed my sleeping bag inside for padding using the canister as the structure for the pack. I used the 2012 version of the Mariposa and felt the straps needed more padding. The Robic bag fixed that and is a better fit for women overall.

Sawyer Mini Filter: I was very surprised at how few of these water filters I saw on the trail. I used mine this in-line with my Platypus Hoser. I simply filled my bladder and it filtered as I drank. Once I placed it in my pack correctly it was very easy to drink through. At 3 oz it is alarmingly lighter than other filters. The only downside I you need another method of filtering/purifying water for cooking or things like shakes if you make you filter in-line with a water bladder. I brought the tool for backflushing but never needed to.

Smartwool Maybell Skirt: Hiking in a skirt is a game changer as a woman. It's easy to be discreet about changing layers and using the bathroom. My Smartwool skirt was the perfect length and so comfortable. It dried fast (and I had about 2 1/2 days of rain on the JMT). I'm not sure I could go back to shorts! The only downside was not having any pockets. For all you guys and gals looking for a hiking skirt, check out Purple Rain Skirts. I discovered them after my hike. The pockets are amazing!

Dirty Girl Gaiters: I didn't realize how good these gaiters were until I went two miles without them. Using trail runners, my shoes have a very low profile and in those two miles I got an unbelievable amount of sand and dirt in them! When wearing the gaiters I never had to stop to get something out of my shoes.

Guthook's JMT Smartphone App: I know this is not really a gear item, but it made bringing my phone along worth it. I relied on it a lot to plan out a rough itinerary before my hike even began. I also was able to check out potential water sources, tent sites, and other vital stats. I loved using it forell as there is a description of each pass and who it is named after!

hiker and creek

Gear Recommendations

Before the JMT I had a heavy 15 and a 32 degree bag. I bought a silk liner to use in conjunction with my 32 degree Western Mountaineering bag to save some weight. While I am a warm sleeper, I had a few cold nights where I wore all my layers, included a hooded down jacket. It worked for my situation, but if you are looking to purchase a new sleeping bag, I'd recommend a 20 degree bag. I purchased a 20 degree Enlightened Equipment quilt and think it would be perfect for a trip in the Sierras.

Sending thin winter gloves in your final resupply bucket may be useful if you plan to summit Whitney early or sleep close to the higher passes. I used my sleep socks atop Whitney but you may just like a pair of gloves to keep your digits warm.

Leave the GoPro behind. Unless your goal is to make a semi-professional looking short film on the JMT and want to purchase extra batteries or a solar charger, I wouldn't bother with a GoPro. The lifespan is so poor that it really wasn't worth carry around.

If you are still contemplating bringing the GoPro or another camera for recording your trip, Check out photography from the John Muir Trail! A cool little video that may inspire you to do so!

Article and photography by Allison Nadler and Editor

September 29, 2014 — Brian Fryer