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New Life List: Thru-Hike the JMT

A lifetime of weekend trips is like trying to live on appetizers. Get real sustenance with a two-week trek through the best of the Sierras on California's John Muir Trail.

Key Skill: Pack Light

Pack: Use a 3,000- to 3,500-cubic-inch pack built to carry 35 pounds. Our pick: the Osprey Exos 58. Or remove unneeded trimmings from your old workhorse. Max wt: 3 lbs.

Bag: Bring a summer down bag (rated around 32°F), like the Vaude Ice Peak, EMS Velocity, or GoLite RS 1. Wear your clothes to sleep for extra warmth if needed. Max wt.: 1 lb. 5 oz.

Shelter: Pitch an ultralight tent or tarp (the latter with trekking poles). Two good bets: the Granite Gear White Lightning tarp or the Big Agnes Fly Creek tent (shared). Max wt: 1 lb. 12 oz.

Bear canister: Required in the High Sierra. We like the affordable BearVault BV450 and the ultralight Bearikade (p. 58); the former will hold 4 days of food for one person. Max wt.: 2 lbs. 1 oz.

Inflatable mattress: Get a light pad like a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir, or a short (60-inch), insulated mat to save ounces; with the latter, put an empty pack under your feet for warmth. Max wt.: 1 lb. 4 oz.

Clothing: Pack 1 T-shirt, a long-sleeve top, shorts and pants, 3 pairs undies and socks, gloves, light puffy (like Patagonia’s Nano Puff Pullover), rainshell, sun hat, and warm hat. Max wt.: 4 lbs. 12 oz.

Accessories: Nitpick the small stuff. Opt for silnylon stuffsacks and pack cover and a 4-ounce headlamp. Carry only what you’ll need of toothpaste, sunblock, soap, etc. (buy travel sizes or put them in smaller containers). And save your knees by using poles. Max wt.: 2 lbs. 8 oz.

Food/water: Keep food to 2 pounds/day/person, and resupply at Red’s Meadow and Muir Ranch. Use a light stove like a Jetboil Flash; ship (via ground) extra fuel in your resupply box. Pack lightweight water treatment like Aqua Mira and a 3-liter reservoir; only carry as much water as needed between sources (typically about 1 liter). Max wt.: 18 lbs. 6 oz.


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