Backpacking Gear List: John Muir Trail

This summer I'm thru-hiking the John Muir Trail with four other guys as part of the Muir Miles Project. Planning to hike the John Muir Trail can be quite difficult with food preparations, logistics of getting to the trail and training to hike over 200 miles. Of course it takes the right gear to be properly prepared for hiking the JMT. Below is my backpacking gear list.

Backpacking Gear List

  • Backpack- An ideal backpack will hold 70 to 80 liters of capacity and is the right balance of lightweight and comfort. Some ultralight backpacks contain little to no padding and can be uncomfortable. It's important to focus on a good fitting pack that will be comfortable to carry on the trail.

  • Shelter- You'll want a lightweight tent or bivy that compacts into a small space. The tent must protect you from rain, wind and insects. Consider a tent with a small vestibule or room to keep your gear dry. Lightweight tarp systems are becoming popular with thru-hikers. If you choose a tarp system, be sure to consider a bugs nest and be sure to steak out the tarp carefully.

  • Sleeping Bag- On the John Muir Trail you'll be sleeping many night above 11,000 feet elevation. I suggest you choose a down sleeping bag rated between 15 to 20 degrees. The down bags will be lighter weight and compact smaller than synthetic bags.

  • Sleeping Pad- A sleeping pad does more that provide comfort, it keeps your body heat from passing into the cold ground. Foam or self inflating, pick the lightest sleeping pad that you'll be comfortable sleeping on.

  • Trekking Poles- For a 200-mile trek you'll want a good set of poles to reduce the strain and stress on your knees and hips.

Backpacking Gear List: Cooking

  • Bear Canister- Bear Canisters are required in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere on the John Muir Trail. Be sure to get a large enough canister to hold the amount of food you are carrying.

  • Cook Stove- You'll need to cook your meals on a small cook stove.

  • Cookware- You'll need a pot, knife, bowl, spoon or spork.

  • Water Purifer- Choose a filter or SteriPEN to be sure you are drinking safe water.

  • Water bottles or hydration vessels

John Muir Trail Backpacking Gear List

JMT Clothing List

  • Pants/Shorts- You'll need a comfortable pair of hiking pants that you can hike many miles per day in. Convertible pants may be a good idea to quickly convert into shorts during the heat of the day.

  • Shirt- Be sure to wear fabrics that will wick moisture away, dry quickly and feel comfortable next to your skin. I have chosen to wear merino wool t-shirts as my next to skin layer.

  • Underwear and base layers- Again, I have chosen merino wool underwear and base layer bottoms.

  • Socks- Choose socks that pull moisture away from your feet and that will dry quickly. I'd suggest you bring two pairs of hiking socks so you can clean the other pair and give them time to dry. I'd also suggest bringing a pair of sleeping socks so you can take off your hiking socks once you get to camp.

  • Hiking Shoes or boots- I prefer to hike in trail running shoes instead of clunky hiking boots. In my opinion, the savings in weight far outweigh the advantages of wearing boots. I'll be hiking the JMT in LaSportiva Raptors.

Warmth and Protection Layers

  • Insulation Layers- Setting up camp at 11,000 or 12,000 feet will require the use of an insulating layer. I prefer a lightweight down sweater that will compact into very little space for my backpack but will provide plenty of warmth.

  • Rain Jacket- You'll want a waterproof jacket that is light, packable and breathable.

  • Rain Pants- Rain pants will keep you warm and dry in poor weather conditions, including heavy winds.

  • Other protective items I'd suggest include a sun hat, gloves, beanie, and a bug net.

Survival, Hygene and First Aid List

  • Knife/multi-tool - For cooking and miscellaneous uses.

  • First Aid Kit- Band-aids, gauze, pain medication, etc.

  • Hygene- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, toilet paper, chapstick, personal medications, etc.

  • Sunscreen Mosquito repellant

  • Maps, Compass and/or GPS

Other Items for the John Muir Trail

  • Sunglasses

  • Headlamp

  • Camera

  • Journal

  • Book or other reading material

  • Stuff sacks

  • Garbage bags

Those are the basic items that you'll need to hike the John Muir Trail. This backpacking gear list for the John Muir Trail features the items you'll want to carry on the trail. Carefully think through all of the scenarios and be sure to bring all of the gear you'll need to be safe in the backcountry. Do you have any additional items you'd add to this gear list?
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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