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17 Top John Muir Trail Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for the john muir trail
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The John Muir trail was created for those to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and explore much of the West coastal lines. The John Muir trail takes about three weeks to finish and isn’t for the faint of heart. The trail has rapid elevation gain, and the weather can swing, so it is extremely important to be prepared for this hike.

To help you prepare, I have made a complete packing list of everything you may need for the trail. From essential items to things to wear, to what not to bring and more, I hope you find this list helpful!

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What to Pack for the John Muir Trail- 17 Essentials

  • 1. Quick Dry Travel Towel

    An often-forgotten but very important hiking item is a towel. I recommend this quick dry travel towel for any hiking trip! It’s portable, rolls up really small, and dries 10x faster than a regular towel, making it easy to stow away quickly.

    travel towel

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  • 2. Hiking Pack

    Probably the most essential item for a hiking trip is a quality hiking pack! For a 3-4 week trip, like the John Muir trail, a 55L pack is a perfect size. I always use packs with an internal frame because I find them much more comfortable.

    Hiking Pack

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  • 3. Packing Cubes

    Once you have all your items, an equally stressful part of packing for a hiking trip is trying to fit everything in your pack. These packing cubes make it extremely easy! Fold everything you need into these cubes that easily stack into a hiking pack, saving space and keeping things organized.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 4. Lipstick-sized Portable Charger

    After a few days of hiking, I usually like to charge my phone to make sure I can take pictures or make emergency calls. This portable charger is a perfect size and works wonderfully. It’s lightweight so it won’t weigh you down, and it will fully charge your phone once or twice before it needs to be recharged.

    Lipstick-sized Portable Charger

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  • 5. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    It can be a pain hauling water with you on a long hiking trip, and sometimes when you do find water, it can be a little questionable. This LifeStraw water bottle will take the anxiety of drinking fresh water right away! The straw flushes out 99.9% of all bad bacteria.

    LifeStraw Water Bottle

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  • 6. Cooling Towel

    Hiking in the summer can get HOT! I absolutely love my cooling towel for long hikes. Simply dip it in water (a stream, a river, anything), then drape it around your neck for 30-60 minutes of cooling relief.

    cooling towel

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  • 7. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Toiletries are often strewn about my pack, and I always find myself losing them. I’m sure other people are in the same boat. Now, I always carry them in this hanging toiletry bag. It keeps everything organized, and you can hang it for easy access.

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 8. Neck Wallet

    Instead of having your important bank cards or IDs floating around your giant pack, instead, keep them in one safe place around your neck! For easy access and so you don’t lose anything, this neck wallet is amazing.

    Passport Neck Wallet

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  • 9. Waterproof Phone Case

    It isn’t always that you will have your phone out during a hiking trip. However, even stowed away in your bag during a rainstorm, your phone can get soaked! So, if you’re caught in the rain, or if you’re by a lake or a river, protect your phone first with a waterproof phone case.

    Universa Waterproof

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  • 10. Dry Bag

    Rain is usually a bit of a downer during a thru-hike. It can be a pain dealing with it, and having wet sleeping items and clothing is pretty frustrating. I always bring dry bags to keep all my things protected when a rainstorm picks up.

    Dry Bag

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  • 11. Small Tent

    After a hiking pack, a small tent is probably the next most important thing. There is no need for large tents on this trip. Usually, a 2-3 person tent will be perfect. This tent will certainly get some wear, so making sure it’s quality and has a proper rain fly is super important.

    Small Tent

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  • 12. First Aid Kit

    I never go on any hiking or camping trip without bringing along this portable first aid kit. You never know when you or someone else could get injured, and this could even be a life-saving instrument! This first aid comes complete with everything you’ll need.

    First Aid Kit

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  • 13. Multi Tool

    Multi-tools are super practical and are always needed. For any outdoor trip, you will want to have one. This one is great becomes it includes needle nose pliers, standard pliers, a wire cutter, a knife, a saw, a slotted screwdriver, and a carabiner

    Multi Tool

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  • 14. Travel Insurance

    Travel insurance will protect you and every cent you spend. If you make reservations for an Airbnb or even have things stolen, travel insurance will protect you! I like to use because their site lets you compare policies from top companies to find the best plan for you and your travel plans.

    Travel Insurance

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  • 15. All Season Sleeping Bag

    Having a good sleeping bag makes a world of difference when you are on long-distance hiking trips. I recommend having an all-weather bag since the weather can change so rapidly on this hike. It’s even waterproof.  I find that it’s an excellent intermediate bag that is quality made and will last you many years while still being affordable.

    All Season Sleeping Bag

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  • 16. Head Lamp

    Hiking basics number one, never ever forget a headlamp! I often will never even take my headlamp off during these trips so I don’t lose it. Don’t plan to rely on your phone for light. A head lamp is practical because you can use it hands-free while hiking or getting situated around camp.

    Head Lamp

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  • 17. One Burner Camp Stove

    For coffee, heating up canned soup, or frying an egg, this one-burner camp stove works perfectly. While I usually turn to the larger camp stoves for camping trips, I only ever carry this stove on long hiking trips since it fits perfectly into a pack without taking up a lot of room.

    One Burner Camp Stove

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What to Wear on the John Muir Trail

Weather on the John Muir trail can fluctuate rapidly. Since you are doing a lot of elevation changes, it is hard to tell sometimes what the day will be like. It is best to be prepared with layers and moisture-wicking hiking clothes. There is no need to pack a lot of clothes. A few shirts, a few pairs of pants, a pair of shorts, and a few pairs of socks will be just fine. They can always be washed in the river!

Hiking boots are probably the most important thing you need. A good quality pair of hiking boots will be your lifesaver. Don’t forget to pack gloves and a hat too, you’ll need them way more than you think!

What Should Women Wear on the John Muir Trail? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Women will feel most comfortable in clothing that is built and meant for hiking. Pants and shirts should be moisture-wicking and breathable, as should socks. Remember, this trip isn’t a fashion show, so being prepared is way more important than looking your best! Don’t forget a warm jacket and rain gear.

What Should Men Wear on the John Muir Trail? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Men will also feel comfortable in clothing that is meant for hiking. Moisture-wicking clothes that are easy to layer and breathable are perfect for a long day’s hike. Making sure you have enough clothing to keep warm is probably the most important, so don’t forget a down jacket, wool socks, and fleeces.

Packing for the Seasons on the John Muir Trail

Winter – December, January, February

The John Muir trail is open during the winter. However, unless you are an experienced winter hiker, this time of year is not for everybody. However, the trail is gorgeous during this time of year, and there is practically no one else in sight. Sometimes, the High Sierras see snow storms that get over 40 inches of snow, so keep this in mind! Temperatures often drop below freezing, especially during the night.

Proper snow attire, like snow pants, snow jackets, face coverings, gloves, and hats, are all super important for winter hiking. You will also want a good pair of waterproof boots with ice spikes. Bring your warmest thermals and fleeces. Wool socks will help keep your feet warm.

Spring – March, April, May

Early spring is still not a popular time of year for John Muir trail hikers. There is often still lots of snow and snow storms happening at the peaks of mountains. The temperatures may start to warm up around May, but most of the time, it’s still fairly cold.

For spring hiking, you will still want good snow boots, a warm jacket, and snow pants. Hats, gloves, and face coverings as well. Although it may not be as icy, ice spikes should still be brought along.

Summer – June, July, August

Snow really starts to melt around late June, and July is when most hikers set out to tackle the John Muir trail! A gorgeous time of year also brings along some more people, so expect to see some fellow hikers along the way. It can warm up, especially in August, so pack accordingly!

You will want layers, like warm hiking pants and a hat. However, bring a pair of hiking shorts and a t-shirt since it can really warm up during the day. Pack a swimsuit in case you pass a river or a lake. Sun hats, sunscreen, and definitely bug spray are extra important things to hike with during the summer.

Fall – September, October, November

The prime time to hike the John Muir trail carries on into September, and some go through mid-October. Snow will start again by early November, so most people stop hiking around that time. It is a beautiful time of year to hike as the foliage starts to cover the mountains. The weather definitely starts to get cold, and the chance of rain is heightened.

You should always carry rain gear on you, but definitely make sure to have it during the fall seasons. Rain pants, rain jackets, and waterproof hiking shoes are important. Have base layers to keep warm, hats, and a down jacket for hiking in the fall.

Dressing for the Activity – (Click to expand)
Swimming: There are plenty of places along the trail to stop and go for a dip. After hiking for quite a few days, it is also nice to wash some stink off. Some places include the Either of Cathedral of Lakes, Marie Lake, and Middle Rae Lake, just to name a few.

Many water spots come from snow-capped mountain runoff, so prepare for the water to be chilly! You can always wear a rash guard to keep warm. Of course, have a swimsuit, or swim trunks with you. I usually like to have waterproof sandals with me for going into rivers and streams to swim. Sunscreen, sunhats, and bug spray are advised.

Mountain Biking:
Within the John Muir trail, there are over 30 miles of biking trails ranging from .5-12 miles long! Depending on what you are looking for, you can do these trails in 4-5 days or spend just the day doing smaller trails. Most trails are intermediate to difficult.

Mountain biking usually will only take place from July-late September, so there is no risk of ice. During these months, you can wear spandex shirts, proper biking shorts, and bike shoes. Always wear a helmet, and don’t forget sunscreen!

As you spend three weeks out on the trail, you will be hiking almost every night. You can camp anywhere along the trail, but basic campsite rules apply (do not camp in meadows or vegetation lands, and must be 100 feet away from any water source).

Usually, most nights get pretty chilly in the High Sierras. You will end up wearing insulated thermals, a fleece, and a hat every night. It is nice to wear sandals around the campsite and to let your feet breathe.

Every day is a hiking day as you traverse through the Sierra mountains! Most people tend to hike around 10 miles a day, and each day should be planned out and mapped out ahead of time. Some of these trails are no joke and aren’t for most beginner hikers. Hiking this trail can be a challenge, but ever so worth it.

Of course, hiking boots are going to be the most important clothing item. Base layer shirts are my second favorite hiking item to protect from the sun and add some extra warmth. Hiking pants and hiking shorts are good to wear, and I like having breathable hiking t-shirts as well. Sunglasses, sun hats, and sunscreen are all great for sunny days. Rain ponchos are perfect to put around you and your pack when random rain showers come down.

What NOT to Bring on the John Muir Trail

  • 1.DON’T Bring Overly Heavy Packs

    No one wants to be hauling around heavy luggage while they hike! Lighter is ALWAYS better on a long hike.

  • 2.DON’T Bring Expensive Clothing/Jewelry

    To avoid the risk of losing or damaging expensive jewelry, just leave it at home before you head out on the trek.

  • 3.DON’T Bring Perishable Food

    Unless you are eating right away, it is a terrible thing to be carrying around food that can go to waste quickly. It can get gross, and cause some terrible smells all in your pack (I know from experience!) It is best to hike with canned goods or dry foods.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Too Much Clothing

    As I mentioned above, you only really need to bring a couple of shirts, a couple of pants, and a pair of shorts. Bringing too many clothes can take up space, and can add weight. You can always wash clothing in the river!

  • 5.DON’T Bring Books

    A guidebook or two is always nice, but too many times have I thrown a couple of books in my bag, thinking I’ll want some reading material, only to end up regretting the extra weight.

  • 6.DON’T Bring Heavy Clothing

    When hiking a trail like this one, you need lightweight, quick-drying clothes. You’ll be sweating, and you might encounter rain, so you’ll need the right type of clothing to stay dry and comfortable.

What NOT to Wear on the John Muir Trail – (Click to expand)
For this outdoor adventure, you can most certainly leave dress clothing at home. Pack smart, and don’t pack clothing that you don’t want to be damaged or lost. Expensive jewelry items can also be left at home, including wedding rings.

FAQs about the John Muir Trail

  • 1. When is the best time to hike the trail?

    When is the best time to hike the trail?

    The best time of year to hike the John Muir trail is around July-October. The trail can be hiked any time of the year. However, if you choose to hike any month besides July-October, you should expect some ice and snow. Make sure to be equipped for snow hiking if you are traveling during these months (November-June). It’s always better to be overprepared so be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes, gear, and extra food.

  • 2. How long is the trail?

    The John Muir trail is 211 miles long, starting in Yosemite National Park and ending in Mount Whitney.

  • 3. When was the John Muir trail started?

    When was the John Muir trail started?

    The John Muir trail was conceived around 1884. A man named Theodore Solomons wanted to create a hiking trail through the High Sierras. John Muir liked the idea as well, and they began constructing the trail around 1914, and the trail was completed by 1938. A year before the trail was finished, John Muir passed away, and so the trail was named in his honor.

  • 4. Are dogs allowed on the trail?

    Dogs are often wonderful companions on long hiking trails, and often love the journey as much as you will! Dogs are allowed on the entire trail, but for some parts, they must remain on a leash. Make sure your dog is comfortable on long hikes, and have them get used to wearing a doggy backpack so they can carry their own food, leashes, and other small items.

  • 5. Is the John Muir trail difficult?

    Is the John Muir trail difficult?

    Like any long-distance hiking trail, the John Muir trail has its sections of easy hikes and extremely hard hikes. Overall, the trail is listed as an intermediate trail. If you are hiking in the winter, expect to be doing some ice hiking. Notoriously, the hardest part of the trail is Glen Pass. Glen Pass is a long winding section near the end of the trail, with rapid elevation gain (reaching about 11,000 feet).

  • 6. Who was John Muir?

    John Muir was a famous naturalist in the mid to late 1800s and into the early 1900s. He was also a famous writer and published over 300 books. He dedicated his life to establishing, preserving, and protecting the West Coast, mainly working with the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He was the president of the Sierra Club and helped create the Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

  • 7. Where can I resupply on the John Muir trail?

    Where can I resupply on the John Muir trail?

    Resupplying is a big part of any long-distance hiking. It is a good idea to ship yourself care packages to certain resupply stops along the hike. Be noted that it is illegal to cache food anywhere along the trail so as not to disturb wildlife and attract bears. Here are some places to stop and resupply.

    • Tuolumne Meadows: The first well-stocked resupply store. Only open seasonally, and will hold packages.
    • Red’s Meadow: A small amount of food, has logging and hot showers. Will hold packages for a small fee and has a bus line to take you into Mammoth Lakes, a small town.
    • Vermillion Valley Resort: Has plenty of trail food and restocked supplies for sale. Also has logging, showers, laundry, and hot food. The first meal and drink are free to thru-hikers. Holds packages for a small fee.
    • Muir Trail Ranch: Located less than a mile away from the trail itself, this is a smaller facility with logging, hot food, a store, and a gift shop. Only open seasonally. Will hold packages for a fee.
  • 8. Are there any permits required?

    To hike any of the John Muir trails, you must carry a wilderness permit. They are issued through a lottery system and can take some time to get to you.