By Michael Lanza

So you’re planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail and making all of the necessary preparations, and now you’re wondering: What’s the best gear for a JMT hike? Having thru-hiked the JMT as well as taken numerous other backpacking trips all over the High Sierra—mostly between late August and late September, which I consider that the best time to walk the Sierra, to avoid snow and the voracious mosquitoes and blazing hot afternoons of mid-summer—I offer the following picks for the best lightweight backpacking gear and apparel for a JMT thru-hike.

Indisputably one of the best backpacking trips in America—and among the very best I’ve taken over three decades of backpacking, including 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor and lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog—the JMT meanders for 211 miles through the magnificent High Sierra, from Yosemite Valley to the summit of the highest peak in the Lower 48, 14,505-foot Mount Whitney (where backpackers must then descend another 11 miles to finish the trip at Whitney Portal trailhead). See my story about thru-hiking the JMT in seven days.

With few opportunities to resupply along the trail—and given the generally dry weather in the Sierra in summer—you can easily walk the length of the JMT with a very light pack. Maximum pack weight will depend on how many days you spend on the trail and your food weight, but it’s quite feasible to keep your base pack weight (everything but food and water) within 15 to 20 pounds—or less—without compromising safety or comfort in camp.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A hiker at Trail Crest on the John Muir Trail on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.
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