The clothing info is grouped by the part of the body it covers ( head, upper body, lower body, hands, and feet). Makes and models of clothing change frequently. That’s why we aren’t big on recommending manufacturer-specific, or model-specific clothing. Instead, we talk about the qualities that a good selection of hiking clothes should have. We do, however, include make/model info on the lightest weight options available so hikers in the ultra-light crowd can keep up on the cutting edge of weight reduction.
On the Pacific Crest Trail you will experience hot weather, cold weather, intense sunshine, pouring rain, high humidity, low humidity, clouds of bugs, tall grass, and unavoidable brush. You have to have the right clothing to dress for all of these occasions, but you don’t need to carry around 20 lbs of clothing to do it. The trick is choosing an efficient outdoor wardrobe that works for you.
The key to an efficient outdoor wardrobe is to use layers. There are four layers to the efficient outdoor wardrobe. The first layer is the “base layer”. This is your first line of defense against heat loss. The most common example of base-layer clothing is polyester thermal underwear. The next layer is the “summer layer”. These are the clothes you wear on nice, hot days. Examples of summer-layer clothing are hiking shorts and a polyester shirt. The third layer is the “warmth layer”. This is the layer that really protects you from the cold. Examples of warmth-layer clothing are fleece pants and a down vest. The final layer in the four-layer system is the “wind & rain shell”. This the layer that protects you when it’s raining and when the cold wind is blowing hard. A rain jacket and rain pants serve as obvious examples of the wind & rain shell.
By mixing and matching these pieces of clothing you’ll be able to handle all that the PCT throws at you – and for minimal weight in your pack.
When choosing your gear, remember to avoid cotton at all costs. “Cotton kills” is a motto for many backcountry travelers. Cotton absorbs water and takes too long to dry. When the temperature drops, wet clothes can be dangerous. Also, cotton socks result in earlier and more severe blisters. Instead, look for synthetic fabrics like polyester, fleece, etc.
A common theme throughout our gear section, our clothing section, and our planning section is cutting your trip expenses. So for the budget conscious hiker we point out low cost options and money-saving tips in each clothing category. As a general rule of thumb, though, look for clothes that aren’t overbuilt. Many outdoor clothing companies are much more concerned about fashion than function. For every piece of inexpensive, quality clothing, there is another piece of clothing that costs 5 times as much and functions half as well. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a higher price means higher quality. Aside from shoes, a savvy hiker on a budget could put together an entire outdoor wardrobe for their pct-thru hike for about $150. That, of course, is uncommon. But it can be done.
Before you hit the trail you may want to test out your gear and clothing set up. A late winter or early spring overnight hike is a really good way to test out your cold weather gear. You can test out your shelter and rain shell on any rainy day. If you don’t get many rainy days where you live then you can always have a friend simulate rain with a garden hose. It’s better to get any kinks worked out before your first rain storm on the PCT.