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Lightweight John Muir Trail (JMT) Gear List

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

CategoryGear SelectionWeight (oz)Details
PackingGossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack 21.5Removed the sit pad and placed a Klymit Inertia X-frame in its place. Removed metal stay as well.
Bear Canister41Mandatory 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)0.6Used to store extra clothing and items mainly used at camp (ex: journal, headlamp).
1 Sea to Summit Ultra-mesh bag (size xxs)0.2Used to carry day's snacks and lunch.
SleepingWestern Mountaineering Summerlite1932 degree Sleeping bag- no stuff sack- stuff it around bear canister to provide cushion against my back.
Klymit Inertia X Frame6.1Use it as the back pad in my Mariposa.
Sea to Summit standard silk liner2.5
ShelterSix Moon Designs Wild Oasis13
Gossamer Gear LT4S Trekking Poles4.1Used during the day for stability and to support my tarp at night.
Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth- Medium1.6Used as my groundsheet. Doubled as a pack liner.
Packed ClothingEMS rain jacket4.2No longer sold.
Backcountry Hadron Down Anorak8Lighweight. Folds into own pocket and has a hood.
Icebreaker Wool Everyday Leggings5
Glacier Glove Sun Gloves1Found them uncomfortable/unecessary for me on the JMT.
Injinji Socks1Extra pair.
Sleep socks*2.9Only had sleep socks for the second half for sleeping at higher elevations.
Columbia Womens Baselayer Long Sleeve 1/2 Zip6Extra layer with omni-heat.
EMS Women's Techwick Endurance Crew4
UV Buff1.3Very versatile.
HydrationSawyer Mini Water Filter2No wait time for filtering. Extremely lightweight.
Platypus 2L Hoser3
Cooking1 empty plastic bottle0.9Used for protein shakes and flavored water.
Lighter1If needed for emergencies. Went stoveless.
Light My Fire Spork0.2
Small EssentialsToothbrush, Floss, toothpaste1.35Cut toothbrush, remove floss on roll from case, 1/2 bottle travel toothpaste. Want to swap to powdered toothpaste.
Bens bugspray0.5Bugs were not a big concern at the end of July after a dry winter.
Sunscreen2
First aid kit2.5Leukotape, antibiotic ointment, vitamins, ibuprofen, tylenol, duct tape, body glide- placed extras in resupplies.
Maps1Only carried a section at a time of the Harrison Map Set.
Headlamp - Petzl Tikka2.2
Rite in the Rain notebook2.24
Bic Pen0.16
Leatherman Style CS Multi-tool1.4
ElectronicsSmart Phone4.6Downloaded Guthook's JMT Hiker App.
GoPro Hero 3+ and headstrap8
Delorme InReach SE6.9
Charger cord1
Samsung p&s Camera6.2Good P&S with panoramic feature.
RAVPower Element 10400mAh External Battery Pack7.9Not 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 for journaling at night as I could quickly figure out my mileage and see how much elevation change I would have for the following day. I learned a bit of history as well 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

7 Responses to Lightweight John Muir Trail (JMT) Gear List

  1. Lynn Stillman July 21, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    Hey Allison! I hope you’re making not too painful progress with unpacking and are as proficient at conquering mountains of boxes as you are with mountains in general!
    I’d like your advice on using the Sawyer mini in- line. I’m wondering which hook up would be best for me to use on dayhikes where I only want to carry 1L at a time. Would it make more sense to use it the way you did on the JMT or to use the quick disconnect adapter so I don’t have to take my bladder out for each fill? I realize there is no one right way, but lack the experience of using a filter to judge which is the most efficient way to use it when I will be refilling every couple of miles.

    • Allison July 24, 2015 at 9:55 am #

      Hi Lynn, Thank you!! I did not use an adapter for my hike, but I would recommend one for a more versatile setup. The inline solution I had was more permanent. With an adapter you can easily switch over to a variety of bottles as well as using your sawyer mini as a gravity filter. Happy trails!

  2. Tre September 2, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    Hi Allison,
    Can you tell me what hiking shoes/ boots you recommend? I am planning this hike for next Aug/Sep and would appreciate any advice.

    • Allison September 2, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      Hi Tre,

      Footwear is a very personal choice, but the best thing you can do is going with something you are comfortable wearing. Do not buy a new pair of shoes right before your trip. I am fond of trail runners but found the Salomon Speedcross 3 I wore too narrow for my toes. I found Brooks Cascadia 8 to be a little wider but have since switched to Altra Lone Peak 2.5 trail runners. They are newer for me so I will need some more time in them to decide if they’re right for me. If boots are what you are comfortable in, you may want to stick to that. Just know that one pound on your feet equals 5 pounds on your back. If you’d like to transition to trail runners to lighten the weight you carry I’d get a pair sooner than later to transition properly. Try on lots of different models to find the best fit for your feet. Hope this helps! Good luck next summer!

  3. Lynn December 30, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Allison,

    You didn’t say anything about sandals. Do you recommend having a lightweight pair of flip-flops or sandals to let your feet breathe?

    I was glad to see your comment about the quilt, as that is what I had just purchased for a trip coming up this summer. Do you think I will need a liner with the quilt?

    Thanks! Lynn

  4. Heather Allen November 30, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    Hi Allison! I’m going back and forth between a hooded vs. non-hooded down jacket. Thoughts?

    • Editor December 13, 2016 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Heather! I prefer a hooded down jacket as I don’t have to carry another hat. On cold hikes (I’m in NH) I can also bring a beanie and double up. It’s all about personal preference!

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