My husband and I are going to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the Summer of 2022 once he retires. I am wondering what the best hiking packs will be to use. I know we have about 3 years before we go but I am looking to get opinions now.
Thank you! Kelly ReaumePacific Crest Trail
One that fits you and carries the weight you will carry comfortably! Which one to get will depend on what you find comfortable! It should also adjust down since you will probably change shape a bit in the 4 to 6 months it takes to hike the ~2650 miles of the PCT. Good packs will cost $200-$300+. While REI carries a good selection of suitable packs many use packs made by cottage gear makers like Zpacks, Gossamer Gear, Palente packs, ULA, Hyperlite etc,
I should say I have not hiked anything like the PCT as far as length or time but I have backpacked in the Sierras and I have researched what it takes to do the PCT a fair bit this year so take this advice with a pinch of salt and do your own research. For reference I use a Gregory Baltoro 70 (now replaced with the 75) which is a heavy pack that carries heavy loads comfortable and is good for weekend and week long trips where you want some flexibility in what you want to take. I might choose a lighter pack if I was serious about doing the whole PCT where generally you want to be efficient and keep the extras to a minimum so you can keep your average miles up and be done before winter..
For a long distance hike you are going to want to carry the lightest load you can while still being safe and comfortable, whatever that means to you for the then current conditions. A problem with choosing a backpack is knowing in advance what your gear and supplies are going to weigh. Generally lighter weight backpacks do not carry heavier loads as comfortably. Remember, in addition to your gear, as a rule of thumb you will need to carry 1.5# to 2# of food a day (in a 2.5# bear can in the Sierras) and there are sections of the PCT that can take 6 or more days between resupply points depending when you go through, what the snow level is like etc. Some parts of the desert section require you to carry more water, say 4 to 6 liters if you want to be safe, each of which adds about 2#. More typically you will resupply to some extent every 3 -4 days and only need to carry 1 to 2 liters of water to get you between water sources. So there is a trade off between having a pack that is comfortable for the whole trip but weighs a couple of pounds more or having a pack that will be less comfortable for the parts of the trail where you have to carry a heavier load. You can only really learn what that trade off means for you by experience.
Since you are asking I'm guessing you haven't done much research yet so I suggest watching some You tube videos. "Darwin onthetrail" aka Darwin and "Homemade Wanderlust" aka Dixie, are two well known You Tuber both have done the PCT. There are many other have good videos and gear lists . "Tiki Bird Tracy" recently posted her gear list on You Tube for her second attempt next year which seems to be a reasonably well thought out example kit with some experience and research behind it, and her links should be current. Not a budget list though!
3 years is long enough to try a few things. If you don't have anything or much experience now I would recommend getting fitted for something at REI and do a few weekend backpacking trips. You can also rent gear...particularly tents, pad backpacks and even sleeping bags, if you don't have budget or don't want spend money on stuff that is not your "final" choice. Then changing out your gear for better stuff as you learn what works for you. Sleep is very important so making sure you have the right sleeping bag/quilt, pad, pillow, sleep clothes and shelter is expensive gear you also need to look into.