35 Things to Pack for a Two-Day Mt. Whitney Hike
Updated: Jan 27
You’ve gotten the permit, now what? What gear do you need to buy? How can you save money on gear? How heavy should your pack be? What should you bring in case of emergency? These questions and more are answered below.
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If you want to read a detailed description of the hike and about tips for camping, timing of the hike and more, check out my post, Everything and Anything You Need to Know for a Two-Day Mt. Whitney Hike.
For tips on what food to pack, see the separate article here.
Gear Planning for a 2-day Mt. Whitney Hike
Mt. Whitney was my first time completing an overnight hike without a porter. Most of my other multi-day hiking experience was in foreign countries where porters and huts were common. I heavily researched what to pack and how to pack ultralight for my trip. Reading about ultralight packing helped to train my mindset—all weight adds up, even the little things. By the end I was peeling the label off of my plastic water bottle to save weight! Ultralight is defined as being a base weight of 15 lbs or less. Base weight is the weight of your pack and gear, before accounting for food, water and fuel.
I created an excel spreadsheet to track what I was bringing and the weight of each item. It helped me strategize and eliminate unnecessary items ahead of time. I borrowed a friend's food scale to weigh the small items that I wasn’t sure the weight of. In the end, for a 2-day hike in July, my pack ended up being 26.6lbs with 3 liters of water and my food. I was proud to make the ultralight defined cutoff. Most summer hikers on Whitney bring a 30lb plus pack.
We made friends along the way that hiked with significantly heavier packs than us (see the items in what not to pack below!). The weight of their packs compared to ours seemed to make a big difference, especially on the way down from Trail Camp. With less water and having eaten most of my food, I think my pack was only 20 lbs for the final downhill portion. The weight of my pack didn’t bother me at all.
What food to bring plays an important role in the weight of your pack as well. I’ve broken down what food I brought and recommendations in a separate article here. For all of the items below, remove any packaging or tags possible. If you need to organize any items, use cheap, lightweight ziploc bags.
What to Bring on a Two-Day Mt. Whitney Hike
1. A Tent
If you are renting or buying a tent, look for any labeled or advertised as ultralight. My friend and I shared a two person tent. The Nemo Hornet 2 tent. It weighed 2 pounds and had the ability to be split into two packs so that each hiker could take one pound. Another handy feature of the tent was that it opened on both sides. So if one hiker needs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, they don’t have to crawl over the other person.
2. A Sleeping Bag or Quilt
I was excited to learn about the sleeping quilt products for ultralight camping. They eliminate the weight of the zipper on the sleeping bag and part of the fabric. Instead of zipping around a person, they have elastic straps that loop around any insulated sleeping pad. I bought a quilt that weighed 1lb, compared to the 2lb weight of my regular backpacking sleeping bag. It packed down so small it practically fit in my hand. Unfortunately it did not keep me as warm at night. Sleeping with a 30 degree rated sleeping quilt in 40 degree weather, I was freezing. The high winds and exposure at Trail Camp could’ve played a role too? Research your options carefully here and pick what works best for you. I hope they keep making progress on the lightweight quilt options!
3. A Sleeping Pad
The Flash 3-season Sleeping Pad made by REI is my favorite. It is surprisingly comfy despite being so small and light (it weighs 1lb). The pad also only takes a few puffs of air to fill up and deflates in seconds.
4. Inflatable Pillow
There are lightweight inflatable pillows designed for backpacking. I skipped packing one of these pillows and instead used my stuffed pack as a pillow.
These are useful especially if you plan to go to bed early to start hiking pre-dawn. Hikers still pass by on the trail until late and other campers stay up later as well.
6. Hiking Poles
I typically don’t hike with hiking poles but appreciated them when hiking with a heavy pack. I highly recommend bringing a pair. I used the inexpensive REI ones, their Trailbreak Trekking Poles. Hiking poles tend to break easily no matter the brand or price point, so avoid spending too much money on them.
7. A Headlamp
You need a headlamp at camp post sunset and in the morning if you start your hike in the dark. It is also useful to bring one in case you end up hiking during the dark on day one or two or in case of emergencies. I recommend buying one that has a red light mode. The red light is less likely to wake other campers when you are using it around camp. I brought the Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp. It is the right mix of being lightweight but also having a strong battery life.
8. Extra Headlamp Batteries
Check the battery life of your headlamp and try to estimate how much time you will be hiking in the dark. You may want to pack an extra set of batteries. This is also an item that is useful to bring in case of emergencies.
9. Backpacking Pack
If you don’t already own a pack I recommend going to REI or your local gear store to have a store associate help you pick one. Fit is important and not every pack works for every person. REI also has weights they put in the pack to make sure it’s still the right fit with weight. Multiple friends recommended the REI Co-op Flash 55 Pack for Women and it is ultimately what I bought. It was the perfect pack for me. It’s lightweight, but also has pockets in all the right places, and a waterproof pocket for your phone in the perfect spot (for easy access for photos!). I never felt uncomfortable with it on.
10. Day Pack
For a 2 or 3-day hike of Mt. Whitney, hikers leave their large backpack at camp and hike to summit with a small daypack. The Arc'teryx Index 15 and the REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack are my favorite daypacks, both are lightweight and pack down small, the main difference is that one holds more than the other.
11. A Garbage Bag
Rather than buying a fancy rain cover for your backpack, line the inside with a regular garbage bag and put everything inside of it. This option is not only lighter than a rain cover, it’s also easier. Rain storms can happen so quickly in the mountains it can be hard to take the time to take out and put a rain cover on your pack.
12. A Printed Copy of your Whitney Permit
You are required to carry a copy of your permit throughout the hike. We were never stopped by anyone to check it, but we heard that rangers frequently check for them on the trail.
13. Cell Phone
My phone served as both a camera and a map for me!
14. Extra Battery Pack and Cord for Your Cell Phone
Having a dead phone and no longer being able to take pictures is my worst nightmare! Despite the weight, bringing a battery pack was a must for me. My friend who takes fewer pictures than me, and who wasn’t using a downloaded map, was able to make it two days without recharging and without her phone dying. The battery pack is a useful emergency back up item to pack as well.
First Aid and Toiletries
Bring a small (2oz or less) travel size sunscreen for the hike. We read lots of reviews of hikers getting sunburned so we tried to re-apply every couple of hours.
16. Lip balm with SPF
The sun is strong and the air is dry as you climb into higher exposed altitudes, lip balm is a must.
17. Blister Specific Bandages (Moleskin, Compeed, 2nd skin, etc)
Packing blister bandages saved me. Almost everyone in our group had at least one blister by the end of day one and the blister bandaids made them almost pain free while hiking on day two.
19. Advil or IBUProfen
These help with swelling feet and ankles, altitude headaches and any other muscle aches that may arise!
This ointment can serve as treatment for cuts and for moisturizing blisters. There are small individual packets of Bacitracin that are a lighter weight option than a tube.
21. Wag Bags
Hikers are not allowed to dig a hole for pooping on the Mt. Whitney trail. They are required to pack out their own poop. Wag bags are bags designed to be rip proof and smell proof. They offer free ones at the trailhead, but I had read that they aren’t as high quality as the ones available to buy. I bought Reliance Product’s Waste Bags from REI and found out the hard way that they are not smell proof. Another hiker I met said he triple bags his wag bag with lightweight plastic bags. I plan to try that next time!
22. A Piece of Floss
If you want a lightweight option for partially cleaning your teeth, pack one piece of floss.
23. A Water Bladder (Hydration Pack)
If you have never used a water bladder before, I recommend bringing one for this hike. It is easy to constantly drink water while hiking with a bladder. You don’t have to stop to open a bottle or take a bottle out. For carrying two to three liters of water, a bladder is also the lightest weight option. It takes multiple water bottles to carry that much. Osprey’s Reservoirs are my favorite. I think they are the easiest to refill and open and close.
To stay properly hydrated on this hike and to prevent cramping, I recommend packing any variety of electrolytes.
25. An Empty Plastic Water Bottle
I prefer to not put electrolytes into my water bladder so I brought an empty plastic water bottle for drinking electrolytes. It was also useful to have for drinking while waiting for the water in my bladder to be filtered.
26. Water Purification Tablets or Filter System
There are varying opinions on whether or not it is safe to drink the water from streams and lakes along the trail without filtering it. The risk is that there is bacteria in the water that could cause a hiker to contract Giardia when they drink it. We chose to use water purification tablets which are lighter weight and less work than a filter system. Filtering the water is the safer way to ensure you are drinking clean water though. The other downside of the tablets is that you have to wait 30 minutes to drink the water after you put the tablets in. They can also cause the water to taste bad.
27. Packable Warm Jacket and/or Layers
I brought a long sleeve wool top and a packable puffer jacket. Even in July, I wore both layers at Trail Camp and for the first half of the hike in the morning. I recommend packing lightweight layers that are easy to take on and off.
28. Quick-Drying Clothing
I wore a wool sports bar and underwear that are designed to stay dry so that I could skip packing extra pairs. In July, I wore shorts on day one and switched into legging at night at trail camp. I wore the leggings up to the summit and back down to camp and then switched back to shorts for the rest of the way down. My t-shirt, shorts and leggings were all quick drying, so if anything was soaked by rain or sweat they would dry quickly. For me, it wasn’t worth the weight to bring extra clothes.
29. A Warm Hat/Beanie
I wore a warm hat during the evening at Trail Camp and for a bit hiking on day two.
30. A Baseball Hat or Hat to Block the Sun
31. Extra Hiking Socks
Having dry socks can help prevent blisters so it is important to bring at least one extra pair in case your feet are wet from a downpour or misstep in a stream. Balega Blister Resist socks are my favorite short socks for hiking. I also packed a taller pair of socks to wear at night when it became cold.
Knockarounds are my favorite active sunglasses. A polarized pair is only $25 so it'd be no big deal if they are lost or broken.
33. A Rain Jacket
34. A Bear Canister
Unfortunately a bear canister is required for all hikers on the Mt. Whitney trail. Keep in mind you don’t need to fit your day one food in the canister, so use as small of a canister as possible.
Pack whatever utensil(s) you need for your meals. My friend and I were trying so hard to be ultralight we only packed one fork to share.
See my article on food planning for a 2-day Mt. Whitney hike
What Not To Bring on a Two-Day Mt. Whitney Hike
1. Camping Chair
The bear canister works well as a stool and there are many tall rocks to sit on (you will be dirty anyways). There’s also the option to sit on your sleeping pad as well.
2. Extra Shoes for the Campsite
We felt these weren’t worth the weight for one night, especially if you are hiking in trail runners or hiking shoes that are lighter and comfier than hiking boots already. We walked around the campsite in our socks to give our feet a break from our hiking shoes.
3. Heavy Nalgene (or other brand) Water Bottle
If you want to bring an additional water bottle separate from your water bladder, bring a lightweight option like a plastic water or gatorade bottle.
4. Butane Stove and Fuel
We decided that for one night of camping it wasn’t worth bringing the stove and fuel. I would even be okay for a 2 night trip without one as well. Hiking in the summer months, hot food wasn’t that appealing anyways. We made a dinner of smashed avocado with tuna and salmon. See my food planning article for more ideas that don’t require a stove!
You are going to smell anyways, deodorant isn’t going to help that much! I recommend wearing wool or anti-stink clothing instead. If packing deodorant is important to you, cut off a piece of it to bring in a small plastic bag, rather than bringing a whole stick.
6. Toothbrush and Toothpaste
My thought was that I can survive one night without brushing. Brush the morning before you leave and in the evening when you are back at the hotel. A lightweight replacement option is to bring one strand of dental floss.
7. Camping Dishes
Plan to eat out of the packaging of whatever food item you bring and skip bringing a plate or bowl.
How to Save Money on Gear for a 2-Day Mt. Whitney Hike
1. Rent Gear Instead of Buying it.
For any items that you don’t think you will use again or won’t use frequently, rent them! REI offers rentals of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, bear canisters and more. There are also nation-wide rental programs, like Lower Gear Outdoors, that ship the gear to you.
2. Barrow Gear from Friends!
3. Shop for Gear during REI’s Anniversary Sale
The sale is typically around Memorial Day. Many popular items like tents and sleeping bags often are 20% off.
4. Shop for Used Gear
There are usually good deals on Facebook Marketplace and REI’s used gear site.
Trip Dates: July 2021
Article Updated: July 2021
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