Recently I got back from thru hiking the John Muir Trail. Unlike literally everyone else, I was hiking the JMT northwards, from Cottonwood Pass to Yosemite. Luckily there were some PCT-ers to keep me company. Since I started hiking at the end of June and 2023 was a 300% snow year – the highest on record – there was a lot of snow. Which turned into a lot of water in July as the snow melted. Still, I think that this kit list will be useful for anyone planning a JMT hike in the early season. Full breakdown of everything I took below.
If you don’t want to read all the way through, here are some essential items you might forget. Category 4 sunglasses: you will become snow blind without these, it’s very important to have a pair and not lose them on trail. (I met 3 people who did and 4 who started without. Try to get ones with a cord to stop this from happening to you!) Sun protection clothing and high factor suncream: kind of goes without saying, but you’ll be above 2500m with very little shade all day. Mosquito protection: as the snow melts the insects come out… I had bug spray but I still got eaten to pieces through my clothes. Camp sandals: make a huge difference, sure it’s extra weight but it’s totally worth it.
Anyway here’s everything I took. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for my thoughts on what I’d do differently, because not everything went well!
- Osprey Ace 50 litre rucksack
- Austria Alpin ice axe – could have gone lighter but this is what I already had. Since I went on a 300% snow year, I wanted to take something more sturdy.
- Nortec Nordic Micro Crampons – I went for microspikes but many were in crampons
- Camelbak – 2 litre
- Eurohike Traverse trekking pole – went to Millets and bought the cheapest thing available. Again, creek crossings were very high this year so I wanted durable not lightweight.
- Platypus bottle – 1 litre, barely used in the latter part of the hike. We were rarely short of water.
- Flipflops – picked these up from a hiker box. I was recommended to take bread bags for dealing with wet boots from creek crossings. My feet were soaked regardless every day, having some sort of sandals to wear at camp made a huge difference to feet happiness.
- inov-8 ROCFLY G 390 GTX hiking shoes – these are the high ankle version but I can’t quite bear to call them boots.
- Soto cook kit – includes lightweight 500ml pan, pan handle, lid and insulating bag.
- Soto Fusion Trek stove – lighter ones available but I wanted to be able to invert the gas
- Primus winter mix gas small cannister (not pictured)
- Piezo spark lighter (not pictured) – great idea but refused to work at altitude/deep cold. Swapped for matches.
- Thermarest Neoair XTherm NXT inflatable mat – warm enough to camp on snow
- Thermarest Vesper quilt – my first time using just a quilt and I am sold. I am also a side sleeper.
- Vaude Taurus SUL 1p tent, split up into pegs & poles plus the canvas stuffed into a small size Exped dry bag. This tent was fantastic.
- adidas Terrex Techrock Primaloft jacket
- Artilect W-Halfmoon Bio Pullover fleece – absolutely loved this fleece
- Montane Terra trousers – yes they’re sold as men’s and they shouldn’t be.
- Mountain Equipment Garwhal jacket
- Modified Berghaus Deluge trousers – the only waterproof trousers I own for hiking
- Helly Hansen Solen baselayer, SPF 50 – what I hiked in every day. Again this is a men’s size small, which made it airier, because all the women’s colours were ugly.
- Helly Hansen Lifa Active baselayer – for sleeping in and town days
- Artilect W-Flatiron 185 leggings – for sleeping in and town days
- Underwear – 1x top 2x bottoms
- 3 pairs of walking socks (Bridgedale, Darn Tough)
- Mini Swiss Army knife – biggest size you can take on a plane in hand luggage, that has scissors
- Les Petite Marseillais lip salve – ought to have had a SPF 50 one too but didn’t find one in time
- Dove soap bar in a medical glove
- Led Lenser head torch – this particular one eats AA batteries, a USB chargeable one would be much better
- Umbro watch – £10 from Argos, get one.
- Hair brush
- Rab Superflux gloves – my new favourite gloves
- Paired down first aid kit – basics inc pain relief, anti histamine, plasters, sewing kit, personal medication. (My full first aid kit list here)
- Mini roll of duck tape (not pictured)
- Lifesystems steri tabs – didn’t pack enough really, it was surprisingly hot up there
- Bolle Adventurer Sunglasses, Photochromic to Cat 4 – great but not really designed for small faces, comes with string so you don’t lose them
- Warm hat
- Sun hat – picked this up out of a hiker box. I never normally wear hats but couldn’t stop my scalp from burning
- Ortlieb dry bags (A4 &A5) – one for notebook, maps, river crossing notes etc; the other for permits and the map I was using that day.
- Maps – Tom Harrison JMT pack
- Passport – my US passport, whoop whoop.
- Toilet kit – pack of tissues, hand sanitiser and a separate plastic bag for dirty toilet paper
- Alpkit folding trowel
- A5 notebook and pencil
Digital and Camera Stuff
- PowerTraveller Extreme Solar – panel and power pack. You can probably go much lighter/better, this is just what I have
- Dji Osmo Pocket – bought the original model second hand, great little camera
- Joby Gorilla Pod tripod – this is the 3K PRO Kit, which was heavier but worth it. The Arca-Swiss ball head means you can attach a Peak Designs base plate to it.
- Fastnail tripod mount for Osmo Pocket – barely used this
- Sony FDR-AX53 camcorder – inside a DMM chalk bag instead of a chunky camera case
- Garmin GPSmap 6ii – you could definitely go smaller, just what I had
- Reusable plastic shopping bag for keeping it all in (I know, high tec)
- Very sturdy ziplock full of spare batteries, SD cards, charging cables, SD to phone connector, lens cleaning brush etc – probably went over the top here but did use most of it
- International wall charger to 4 USB ports – bought at the airport, multiple USB sockets great for hostels
- Lifesystems extra-long titanium spoon – essential for life
- Bear Vault 500 – you have to have all of your food in some sort of bear protection in the High Sierra. The 500 is the biggest of these cannisters you can get and you really need the capacity for 7-10 day food carries. Mine started off containing:
- Firepot meals x 7
- Outdoor Provisions nut butters and energy bars – one box each, the bars taste like cake!
- Bag of midget gems
- Protein breakfast bars x 7
What I’d Change
Some of these things are quite specific to the snow conditions I had, but still worth considering for your hike.
- Crampons – honestly could have done with C1 crampons. Why? The snow turned to slush by 11:30am every day. Microspikes have very small teeth that do almost nothing in wet snow. The longer spikes of crampons would have meant I fell over a lot less. And there was so much snow I would have spent more time wearing them than carrying them. However, I wore microspikes a lot for creek crossings on wet logs so I wouldn’t recommend bringing crampons you are precious about.
- Bug Spray – I bought some Sawyer spray in a gear shop in Bishop. Frankly I ought to have just carried my Avon skin so soft from the start but didn’t want the extra weight for a few weeks. Silly really. But also if you can find a baselayer with insect repellent built in as well as sun protection that would help enormously.
- A different backpack – basically, I didn’t try the backpack before going and it didn’t fit right. Ironically I couldn’t get the waist belt small enough (which seems crazy, considering it’s a bag for children). So I guess the lesson is try things out before you go on a big trip if you want to be comfy.
- Creek/Camp sandals – I got really wet on this trip. My day into Yosemite was my first day in 3 weeks of arriving into camp with dry feet. If it wasn’t a creek crossing, it was trail turned into a river because of snow met or flooded meadows. Some days I hiked without socks on because my feet were constantly wet and somehow this gave me less rubbing. All this to say, I wish I’d brought a pair of Vivo Barefoot wet shoes and used them for river crossing days and as camp sandals. Would have been great had I realised quite how extreme this year would be.
- Food – I was hiking out to town for resupply. This worked great but I found I was always shopping for how hungry I was the week before, not the week I was going into. This meant I was basically hungry a lot of the time from the end of the first week onwards. It’s hard to juggle with the constriction of a bear can but pack more than you can imagine eating and you’ll probably eat it.
As ever, if you have any questions do ask in the comments or email me. I’ll try to help if I can! To stay in touch with what I’m up to, you can join the Adventure Squad! More like a chat with a cuppa via email and as far from doomscrolling as possible. Or while you’re here, have a read of some of my other mountain adventures in walking, mountaineering and winter. For the JMT you want to start here. If you’re new to the blog (hello!) you might want to start here first. I’m a female adventurer based in the UK but born in the USA.