Here is some other gear that didn’t fit into other gear categories.
It is certainly realistic to hike the entire PCT without crampons. Most thru-hikers don’t use them. But crampons make short work of crossing snow slopes – especially early in the morning before the snow has softened. If you plan on leaving earlier in the season than is “normal”, then bringing a pair of crampons (and a GPS) could save you a ton of energy and add several miles per day to your hiking pace. Ultralight models are available, and there are even a few models designed to fit over running shoes that are less expensive than the models made for boots.
Ice axes also help in negotiating snow slopes. They can be used to help you self-arrest (bring yourself to a stop when sliding uncontrollably down a snow slope), and to prevent falling to begin with. It is totally possible for thru-hikers to hike the entire trail without an ice axe. It happens all the time. Hikers that do bring ice axes find crossing snow slopes to be easier, less nerve-wracking, and a little faster than those who don’t.
The lightest weight ice axe available is the ULA Ice Axe. It hasn’t been stress-tested or certified, so it should never be relied upon to save your life. It’s not meant to be used on slopes where you would die if the axe failed during a self-arrest (ie: snow slopes that lead to high cliffs, etc). But for non-life threatening snow slopes (like 99% of the one’s you’ll find on the Pacific Crest Trail), the ULA Ice Axe is a winner. To learn more about the ULA Ice Axe click here.
For some hikers, listening to music on the Pacific Crest Trail is a real treat. MP3 players are one of the most common “comfort items” brought by hikers. If you are planning on bringing an MP3 player with you on your hike, we recommend that you bring one that has field replaceable batteries (specifically AA or AAA batteries). MP3 players with field replaceable AA or AAA batteries are almost always cheaper, lighter, and more energy efficient than other models. More importantly, you won’t have to stop listening to music when the battery runs out. Check Amazon.com or your local Wal-Mart or Target for this item.
For some, hiking with an umbrella for protection from the rain and sun is an uncomfortable nightmare: The wind blows it inside out, it goes flying down the trail, it gets caught on things, etc. Yet others swear by its ease and effectiveness: the comfort of not having rain beating on your head, the ability to light a stove or read a map with protection from the rain, etc. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground when it comes to hiking with an umbrella in the sun and rain. You either love it or you hate it. You may love it in the sun and hate it in the rain, or vise versa. The only way to know for sure is to go out on a few test hikes with your own umbrella. Then, if you love it, you can look into purchasing an inexpensive light-weight hiking umbrella. A good hiking umbrella should weigh 10 oz or less. It should cost less than $45. Sunbrellas can be purchased, or made at home. You can make your own by affixing Mylar (perhaps from an inexpensive emergency blanket) to the top of the umbrella. This will reflect a great deal heat away from your head.
Has the information above changed? Know something other hikers should know? Leave a comment below.