The Ultimate John Muir Trail Gear List


Jason is an adventure travel writer with a passion for exploring the world's most beautiful and remote destinations.

John Muir, the famous naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, once said, “Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best.”

The John Muir Trail gives you the opportunity to follow in his footsteps and take on one of the most challenging trails in North America. 

If you’re planning on hiking this route, here is the full John Muir Trail gear list you’ll need for a successful backpacking trip. 

Why Hike The John Muir Trail?

  • Distance: 210.4 miles
  • Elevation: 14,505 ft.
  • Best Time: July-early October
  • Days Needed: ~18-21 days
  • Difficulty: Strenuous 

The John Muir Trail begins in Yosemite National Park, traveling along the High Sierra Mountain Range, through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, and finally ending at Mt Whitney. 

It’s a difficult trail that can take weeks to complete, so why hike it? Here are a few key reasons. 

The Views

John Muir Trail views

The John Muir Trail has some of the most scenic vistas in the entire nation. From endless peaks to pristine lakes, you’ll definitely want your camera on this trail. If you’re planning a trip with your partner, this is a romantic hike

Mind-blowing Stargazing

In this almost untouched backcountry, the stars shine bright. No matter where you camp, you’ll never stop looking up into the night sky on this long trail. 

The Best Backcountry Campsites

You’ll find some of the best backcountry camping in the country along the John Muir Trail. Sites are plentiful, comfortable, and have drinking water. There are also some incredible views from select campsites along the way. 

Bragging Rights

It’s no secret that this is a strenuous trail. After completing all 210 miles, you’ll have some incredible stories to tell your hiking buddies and some serious bragging rights for accomplishing the challenge. 

Best Time to Hike

John Muir Trail views

You can hike the Jonn Muir Trail from as early as mid-June, but you’ll need to be prepared for snow travel. 

For the best weather, it’s best to hike between late July and early October. The weather is still unpredictable, so check on the local forecasts before you head out. 

July does run the risk of high, raging rivers due to the melting snow, but the weather is usually pleasant. August has the best weather, but you’ll be accompanied by a lot of mosquitos and flies. By mid-Spetmeber, the crowds thin, and the weather cools off, but the nights get progressively colder and harder to manage. 

John Muir Trail Permits

You need permits to hike this trail, and they are some of the most competitive in the country to secure. Applications have doubled in the last five years, and it’s a lottery system to determine who gets one. 

The strict quota in place limits trekkers who can exit the Yosemite Wilderness over Donohue Pass to just 45 people a day. That means over 95% of applications are denied. 

Stay persistent and patient, though. There’s an online permit process to make it easy to submit, and it’s worth the effort of re-submitting if you don’t win the lottery the first time around. You need to submit your application 24 weeks before you plan to go, and you’ll be entered into 21 daily lotteries. 

What To Pack: The Essential John Muir Trail Gear List

John Muir Trail backpack

The JMT is incredibly beautiful but harshly challenging, so believe us when we say you want to pack light. 


This is going to be one of the heaviest items in your pack, so take some time to choose the right one. 

We recommend an ultralight, single-wall shelter that’s non-freestanding to keep tent weight to a minimum. These take longer to set up and can succumb to interior condensation, but they’re the lightest to carry. 

If you want something a little sturdier, a double-wall freestanding tent is heavier, but it’s easier to erect and won’t get condensation inside. 

Sleeping Bag

The nighttime temperature on the John Muir Trail dips below freezing, so you need a bag with a good temperature rating. 

Keep in mind that the ratings are the temperature at which the sleeping bag will keep you alive, not warm. So make sure you also check the comfort rating to get a good night’s sleep. 

Sleeping Pad

You won’t have room for an air mattress, but sleeping on the ground is rough. Go for a lightweight sleeping pad to keep you insulated and a little comfier through the night. 

Make sure you find one with an R-value of 3 or higher. If you’re a cold sleeper, you probably want an all-season one with an R-value of 5 or higher – it’ll weigh a little more, but you’ll be thankful for the added warmth at night. 


hiking clothes

  • Trail running shoes are your best bet for this trail. It’s well-used and well-maintained, so you don’t really need chunky hiking boots. However, if you’re going to encounter winter snow conditions, you’ll need to think about boots and crampons
  • Rain gear – during the summer months, you probably won’t encounter rain, but when you’re backcountry camping, it’s always best to have a lightweight rain jacket and puffy coat. 
  • Fleece jacket – this works well as part of a layering system to keep you warm when the temperature drops. 
  • Hiking pants and leggings – these stop chaffing and protect your skin. 
  • 2-3 hiking t-shirts – these are lightweight and moisture-wicking. 
  • 2-3 pairs of underwear and socks.
  • Gloves and a warm hat for nighttime
  • A sun hat to protect your skin and avoid glare during the day. 
  • Sunglasses – squinting will lead to headaches. 

You might feel like you need more gear than this, but overpacking is a common mistake on the John Muir Trail. The more you pack, the harder it is when you reach the steep elevations, so less is definitely more. 

You’ll have opportunities to rinse and dry clothes at campsites, so you can clean and re-use your gear along the way. 


You need plenty of high-calorie food to hike the JMT. However, you don’t want to overpack and weigh yourself down with snacks – it’ll make for a tough slog. 

Go for calorie-dense, lightweight food; you’ll be resupplying several times along the route anyway. Each stretch requires around five or six days’ worth of food, so plan each meal accordingly. 

Don’t forget that all of your food needs to fit in a bear canister to adhere to the strict regulations on the trail. To cut down on bulk, repackage all of your food in ziplock bags and never leave any trash behind when camping. 

Resupply Points

There’s no way to carry enough food to last the entire hike, so you’ll need to resupply along the way. This is usually done by posting supply packs to nearby post offices or hotels where you can pick them up. 

You could also arrange a resupply service to bring you supplies or swing by local stores to buy more food. Here are the most popular resupply points for southbound hikers:

  • Tuolumne Meadows Store (mile 24)
  • Red’s Meadow Resort (mile 60)
  • Mammoth Lakes (mile 60)
  • Vermillion Valley Resort (mile 88)
  • Muir Trail Ranch (mile 110)
  • Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley (mile 180)

Gadgets & Backpacking Gear

Although you need to pack light, there are some essential tools that you can’t live without while on a long hike. 

  • Water filter/purifier – water is plentiful along the trail but not safe to drink without treatment. 
  • Headlamp – it’s pitch black at night, so you’ll need something bright and lightweight. 
  • Camp pillow – go for a stuff pillow that you can fill with your fleece or other clothes. Blow-up pillows aren’t comfortable, and you won’t get a good night’s sleep. 
  • Trekking poles – a must-have for the elevation gain, and they can double as tent poles if you’re using an ultralight shelter system. 
  • Map and compass – National Geographic has a John Muir Trail Topographic Map Guide, which is a 48-page pamphlet-style set of maps. 
  • Camera – there are countless photo ops on this trail. 
  • Toilet Paper, Trowel & WAG Bag – there aren’t toilets on the trail, so you’ll need to dig a hole for number 2 and take your toilet paper with you when you go. In the Whitney Zone, you need to go in a WAG bag and take it with you. 
  • Hand sanitizer – always use before snacks and meals. 
  • Bug repellent – the mosquitos are mean in June. 
  • Power bank – to charge up your headlamp, phone, and camera. 
  • First-aid kit
  • Sun protection
  • Personal toiletries

Have a Blast on the JMT

John Muir Trail sign

For many experienced hikers, the John Muir Trail is a bucket list hike. It tests your endurance, puts your hiking skills to the test, and gives you the most incredible sense of accomplishment when you reach the end. 

Use this John Muir Trail gear list to make sure you pack everything you need for a comfortable, successful hike. Don’t overpack, and remember to stop and appreciate the enormity of where you are out on the trail. 

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