Like most that have never attempted a thru-hiked before, I definitely erred on the side of caution when it came to unnecessary items, and I ended up sending quite a few things home. Without further ado...
THE Pre-Hike List:
ULA Circuit + Trash compactor liner
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 + Fuel Canister
SnowPeak Mini Titanium Pot + Cup
Sea to Summit Alpha Lite Long handled spoon
Bic mini lighter (x2)
Swiss Army Knife
Sawyer Squeeze filter
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil stuffsack for food
4x SmartWater bottles
2L Platypus bladder (desert only)
Lone Peak Altra trail runners
Darn Tough micro crew light cushion socks
Dirty Girl gaiters
Columbia Silver Ridge Shirt (went through four different shirts hunting for the right one, never found it)
Oiselle distance shorts
Patagonia barely sportsbra
Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer down jacket
Outdoor Research Aspire raincoat
Patagonia Houdini wind jacket
Patagonia Houdini wind pants
Patagonia Capilene lightweight top switched to SmartWool 250 baselayer top
Icebreaker Oasis leggings
1x spare undies
2x spare Darn T socks
GossamerGear LT4 Trekking poles
Gossamer Gear LiteFlex Sun Umbrella
Wallet: Passport, permits, cash and card
Hygiene kit: Wet wipes, TP, tiny brush, hand sani, elastics, toothbrush and paste, trowel
Repair/safety kit: Duct tape, gear tape, safety pins, bandaids, polysporin, needle + thread
Silva Polaris Compass
Halfmile maps by section
WHAT GOT SENT HOME:
Kindle: I read a ton at home but this thing didn't last a week. Despite being told over and over to "just use your phone" or "you'll be too tired for reading", I stubbornly insisted that I would be different and use it enough to justify as a luxury item. Some advice, old me? Just use your phone, but you'll probably be too tired for reading.
Underwear: Also lasted about a week until I accepted that there is no way to keep things fresh down there when you're walking through the desert heat all day, every day. Just ditch them and enjoy the extra airflow. Would be nice to maybe have one pair in the Sierra for swimming, since hiking in wet shorts caused a bit of chafing.
Most of the safety/repair kit: Duct tape does it all and does it better. At the end of the trip I had the tape, one gear patch, safety pins and a couple bandaids.
Bladder: It was impossible to collect water quickly in the desert with this thing and that was during a high water year. I saw hikers using a "scoop" made out of the top half of a regular plastic bottle which solved that problem, but I picked up an extra SmartWater bottle designated as the "dirty water" bottle and used it to collect and filter.
The sun umbrella: Lots people swore by their chrome domes, but I didn't use mine at all. This was mostly due to the fact that I could never attach it properly to my pack strap without it falling over or blowing away. If I didn't use poles or was clever enough to MacGyver a strap attachment it might be worth bringing for SoCal.
Gaiters: Ditched these midway through the desert. They worked great for keeping rocks and sand out of your shoes, but I was just too lazy to add the extra step every day. I didn't miss them but socks did get noticeably dirtier.
TP and wet wipes: The ultimate LNT. This one's controversial but in my opinion it's worth skipping the worry about packing out used TP. It's gross. Have a bandana on hand for emergencies, embrace your inner hiker trash, and use what nature provides for you.
Maps: It was fun to look at the maps during breaks and in camp, and they offered far more detail about off-trail features that I'd try to identify (lakes, mountains etc.). That being said, I never found I really needed them on the PCT and stopped using them a couple weeks in.
Items that never got used: the compass, the titanium cup, the second extra pair of socks. All were sent home pretty early on.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Tent: One of the lightest freestanding tents out there and I had no issues with it. I cowboy camped almost always, but it was nice to have the option to set up a tent with no rain fly when bugs were bad, and still see the stars. If the ground was too hard for stakes, it was easy to just use rocks to hold the guy lines. Was worried about it being too small but both my pack and I fit inside no problem. Only issue I had was the weird reverse worm I had to do to get in at night through the small single door at the head of the tent.
ULA Circuit Pack: It's one of the most popular packs on trail for good reason. It was incredibly comfortable, even when carrying 8 days of food + bear canister + snow gear in the Sierra. If you have a heavier base weight, this is the obvious choice.
Patagonia sports bra: Damn was this thing great. It didn't restrict my chest and had very light padding to hide the nips on chilly Sierra nights. After four months of daily use, it's in perfect shape and I'm still using it almost everyday for gym workouts. It could be indestructible.
Long Handle Spoon: Kept my knuckles free of mac and cheese sauce even when scraping the deepest corners of a ziploc bag. Long handle for life.
DID NOT LOVE:
Sleeping pad(s): The sleeping pad debate is still my biggest gear dilemma, and I'm not sure there's a solution I'll ever be satisfied with. In the desert, my inflatable NeoAir X-Lite developed a slow leak and needed to be re-inflated in the middle of the night, but worse than that was my friends throwing down their foam pads at the end of a long day and lounging around to watch me spend five minutes huffing and puffing to get the pad inflated. At Kennedy Meadows I caved and made the switch to the ThermaRest Z-Lite foam pad. The convenience made it worth it, but a very close call due to the sacrifice in comfort. I had to rotate through sides/back/stomach rotisserie chicken style every few hours at night so that my shoulders/back/hips didn't get sore from being in close contact with the ground.
Bear Canister: Unlike the vast majority of hikers, I did not use the BV500 but instead sprung for the Bearikade Weekender. It's made of carbon fiber and at 32oz comes in half a pound lighter than the BV500. However, it is quite a bit pricier and to "unlock" it, you need a coin or tent stake to twist open the metal fastenings...if fingers were cold, you were playing on hard mode which was pretty inconvenient for unexpected mid-day hunger pangs and midnight snacking. Another minor inconvenience is that it isn't see-through like the BV500.
Lightweight Carbon Trekking Poles: Definitely went "stupid ultralight" here and opted for the very lightest LT4 Gossamer Gear carbon trekking poles which consisted of two parts that locked by twisting together. I loved them up until the Sierra, but I was nervous to put my full weight on them, especially when the “locking” part of the poles got wet. I had multiple occasions where a pole pulled apart from itself when stuck in deep snow, and once collapse on itself during a stream crossing. I’d recommend these for non-Sierra hikes but next time, I'm getting some sturdier poles to rely on.
Katabatic Palisade 30F Quilt: This is only in the "meh" category because I sleep cold and should've known to get a warmer bag. I am seriously considering picking up the 22F Alsek or 15F Sawatch from Katabatic for 2018 just because I loved the quality of the Palisade so damn much. It was beautifully made, durable as heck and I plan to use it for all my summer camping at home. I added a silk liner which did the trick for warmth, but for another PCT hike I'd get a 20F (or warmer) quilt.
SPOT Tracker: I never came close to an emergency situation, but the peace of mind was nice. For the fans at home, it was excellent. Got this for my mom for mothers day and used it to "check in" every night, which she really appreciated on the long stretches without cell service, it sends an email with a pre-set message as well as your current location. It's also a pretty nifty way to chart your campsites if you're into that. Probably gonna bring it again in 2018.
2018 gear list