Here are some essential resources:
These are great for planning side trips or entering the JMT on more obscure trailheads:
This is a complete resource, and highly readable.
The most important items to invest in are your pack and your boots. Other essentials are cooking gear, tents, water filters, sleeping bags, pads, clothes. Here are some suggestions and product reviews from our 31 days on the trail. Give us your opinions, and we'll post them, too. Everyone has an item or two that is their "essential nonessential." What is yours? Ours is our photo equipment-a digital SLR camera with 28-300 mm lens, and a lightweight (2 lb) tripod. Doesn't hurt to bring an extra battery and memory card.
(Disclaimer: We don't get paid to endorse a particular product, but we do recieve a small commission if you buy an Amazon product through the links)
We chose Osprey, and are we glad we did! Steve had the Osprey Aether 70, and Claire used the Osprey Arial 65. Both of us loved the fit. Especially comfortable was the padded hip belt that conforms to your waist after a few hours of wearing it. You can also have it molded in selected stores. The packs were big enough for our gear, and small enough to keep us from carrying extra stuff we didn't need. The zippers are beefy. The top comes off and you can use it with the hipbelt as a fanny pack for those peak-bagging days. Especially helpful on Mt. Whitney, so you can leave your backpack at Trail Junction, and just take a fanny pack to the summit.
We saw quite a few JMT hikers with this pack, and they unanimmously agreed it was a great pack. * *TIP**Make sure you have an expert fit your pack, as they come in small, medium and large, men's and women's sizes. Your pack and you will will be very close for at least 215 miles, so you want a good relationship! It's worth splurging on this piece of equipment if you possibly can.
Again, expertise from your salesperson is very helpful. We have had good success at REI with knowledgeable salespeople. Plus they have a return guarantee, so you can wear them on the trail and still return them if necessary. Sierra Trading Post is an online outlet, and they also have a generous return policy.
Boots will make or break you, and there are divergent opinions about whether to go light, heavy, somewhere in between. No doubt you have yor own philosophy about it.**TIP** Generally for fit you should err on the side of larger rather than snug. Criitical spacing is to slide your foot forward in the boot (while unlaced) and leave a finger-breadth of room at the heel. Make sure your boot has a large toe-box. If it doesn't, you could end up jamming your toes on the down-hills, resulting in the loss of some toenails. OUCH!!
We go for the Goretex, as you never know when your day will include rain or stream crossings. We are also big fans of ankle support, as the trails are very rocky in places. With the average weight of our packs 35-40 lbs, the soles need to be beefy enough to give you good traction and also to protect you from feeling the uneven surface.
Steve wore Vasque boots, and Claire wore Raichle. Neither of us had blisters, even though they were only worn for about 20 miles before we left. Some of that had to do with...
Steve always wears liners, but generally I, Claire, don't like sock liners, but I used them this trip so I could rinse them out daily and not have to wash out the outer socks as often. A sock that is cushiony on the sole and lighter on the top is nice, like Thorlos. The sock liners had silver threads, which was supposed to help keep them odor-free. Might have helped some. Sock liners help keep your feet dry, which aids in blister prevention. One of my friends was so smart to put a new pair of socks in her resupply! Seemed very luxurious.
Some folks like to do without a tent, to save weight. They bring a bivy sack or tarp. That is not our style, so you'll have to investigate that option on another site. We prefer the comfort and privacy of a tent. There were several evenings of hard rain, and it was nice to stay dry. Also keeps the ever present ants off you. Look for as light as possible, while still giving you room to stretch out. Also you need a ground cloth or "footprint" to put under it to protect the tent bottom from puncture. We use a plastic tarp "space blanket." Our tent is the REI "Camphut," which weighs in at just under 5 lbs. It is an older model, but I'm sure they have somethng else like it. We heard people extolling the "Big Agnes Seedhouse 2," which is lightweight and roomy. Maybe next year. We investigated the single wall tents, which are ultralight, but haven't been convinced about breathability and ventilation. Love to hear your feedback on this issue.
Above all, you must store you food in approved bear-proof containers. Not only is it required, you will be in sorry shape if a bear makes off with your food.We are familiar with different kinds of storage for your food and items with smell, but there are other approved ones listed at www.sierrawild.gov. You can rent one at Yosemite Wilderness offices for $5 for up to two weeks.
The first is the original Garcia Backpacker's Cache, available at Amazon.com and REI, which has the longest track record, and is the kind you can rent at Yosemite wilderness offices. It weighs 2.7 lbs, and will hold 5-6 days of food for one person. Also is a great place to sit while preparing dinner.We used this one for years.
The ones we used this time were Bearvault canisters. Steve carried the large one (2lb9 oz), and I carried the half one(2lb). It would have been better if I had a large one also, but I was trying to get away with the smaller one. There were times we had to hang our extra food for a day after a resupply because of that. The lid is not as sturdy as the Garcia, but it is clear Lexan, and that makes it easier to see what you are searching for. It seems to have greater capacity than the Garcia. We heard a bear knock over the Bearvault canister, but it was not able to get in. Just testing whether we had shut it, I suppose.
We used the lightweight down bags, subKilo, from REI. They compress to the size of a loaf of bread, yet are quite warm. Steve felt a little cramped in his, so now he uses a slightly wider bag. I loved the women's bag, as I felt cozy without being squished. And having a smaller bag means I don't have to waste my energy warming up the extra air space of a larger bag. Things to consider wth a sleeping bag include whether or not you need lots of warmth in a bag, or do you generate a lot of heat yourself? How compressible and light is the bag? Do you like to draw the top of the bag around your head, or do you need more room at the shoulders or hips? And of course, how much does it cost? The pad ads warmth and comfort. We have tried the z-rest, thermarest, and now the neo air. So far I like the neo-air, but I haven't tested it in very cold temperatures, but it seems like it will be better than my old thermarest.
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updated September 14, 2015