How To Pack For Hiking The Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail is an amazing hiking experience, but making sure you are well prepared can mean the difference between having fun and getting hurt or lost.

Below we cover a few of the most important items to bring so your hike is the most enjoyable it can be.

Backpack: There are many options to choose from but experts recommend a 55 liter pack. It provides enough capacity while being light enough to not be too much of a burden. At two pounds or less that’s a pretty efficient backpack.

Fit is the most important thing to keep in mind so try on a few to find the one that feels right.

Shelter: On the PNT you will be dealing with all kinds of weather, bugs, insects, and wild animals. Making sure you have a shelter that keeps you warm and dry is a must.

Small, lightweight backpacking tents are very common as well as simple tarps, or hammocks. Many like to rough it with a hammock but these days there are some pretty comfortable hammocks with bug netting and rain covers to keep you bug free and dry.

Sleep Gear: Typically you’ll use a light weight sleeping bag or blanket, if you want to go all out a sleeping pad is a good ideas well.

As with any hiking gear there are a lot of options out there so shop around and find a set-up that will be comfortable and light enough for backpacking. You’ll probably want to look for a sleeping bag rated down to 15-20 degrees since it can get cold on parts of the trail. Typically your sleep system will come in under three pounds.

Footwear: Hiking the trail requires good footwear. These days there are some pretty high tech options. You’ll want to look for lightweight, durable, breathable, and waterproof options.

When selecting your footwear, look to purchase shoes that are one full size larger than what you typically wear. As you hike over longer distances your feet will swell, if your shoes can’t accommodate the extra size it will get uncomfortable quickly. Blisters and lost toenails are not something you want to experience on a long hike.

Rain gear: A summer trek over the PNT will bring all sorts of weather conditions including rain. A small, lightweight, packable, and breathable jacket is a must. Having a full set of rain gear pants and jacket is a good idea as well because it gets wet and muddy. Bring along a way to keep your gear dry as well – a plastic garbage bag, pack cover, or waterproof stuff sacks are great options.

Camp kitchen: Since camp fires are frowned upon or all out illegal depending on weather conditions you’ll want a portable cooking system. There are many ultra-light options to choose from including wood burning stoves, alcohol stoves, or canister stoves. Pick one that is lightweight and has the capacity you need for the meals and hot drinks you plan on making.

Food storage: Keeping your food safe from scavengers is crucial to any PNT hike. Fortunately many National Parks provide bear boxes or bear wires for hanging your food bag. But for those locations that don’t offer that convenience make sure you have food storage system handy.

Proper food storage is legally required on the Pacific Northwest Trail and requirements vary from location to location.

First Aid: In the wild unexpected injury can happen at any moment. It could be as benign as a bug bite or stubbed toe but if left untreated any injury can become problematic.

Some of the essentials include: Ibuprofen, alcohol wipes, anti-diarrheal pills, mole skin, leukotape, bee sting kits, and antihistamines. Preventing and treating blisters is extremely important on long hikes.