• Taylor Kim

Tahoe Rim Trail - Prep Guide and Gear List

Proper Preparations for a 10 Day Solo Thru-Hike


Sunset sets the sky on fire over a mirror lake in the Tahoe Rim Trail in California

Tahoe Rim Trail, CA - Photo Credit: Ankit Jain


What is the Tahoe Rim Trail?


The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is a 170-mile trail that circumnavigates California’s Lake Tahoe. It is shared by hikers, backpackers, bikers, and equestrians, passes through several Wilderness and State Park areas, and crosses the California-Nevada border twice. The elevation of the trail varies from ~6200 ft in Tahoe City, up to the 10,338 ft summit of Relay Peak.


On my route I will spend 10 days on the trail heading counterclockwise, beginning at the Kingsbury North trailhead. I will spend the first half of the trip climbing up and over Relay Peak, will resupply in Tahoe City at my halfway point, then finish out the second half of the trail through the Desolation Wilderness and Big Meadow sections.


The Desolation Wilderness section is the only part of the TRT that requires a permit, and luckily enough the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit issues permits specifically to thru-hikers that bypasses the normal DW permit process, since it’s such a popular place to backpack in. I am also lucky to have two friends joining me for a few days of the trail, and my parents are meeting me at the end of the hike to celebrate as well!


A gorgeous panoramic view of the mighty Lake Tahoe from atop a mountain, surrounded by trees in the Tahoe Rim Trail wilderness

Tahoe Rim Trail, CA - Photo Credit: Ankit Jain



Why did I choose the TRT to thru-hike?


My ultimate goal is to hike the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in a few years, so to prepare for that trip and get a taste of long-distance backpacking I thought that this trail would be a great introduction to thru-hiking! Many people consider the TRT to be a good first thru-hike because there are many access and exit points, several resupply options, a decent amount of trail traffic (so you’re not alone too often), and a relatively moderate trail grade and altitude level.


While this trail of course requires a lot of planning and physical training (finding all the information and data to plan this trip took many weeks and lots of website-hopping! [Ed.: if only there was a company working tirelessly to develop an app that solves this problem!]), these resources allow hikers to attempt the trail at whatever speed or daily mileage they feel comfortable with.


Additionally, the weather in the Tahoe area is typically ideal for hiking in the summer months - sunny but not too hot at 6,000’-10,000’ elevation, and minimal chance of inclement weather. This trail will certainly be a challenging, new experience for me, but I am excited to tackle it!


Trees dot a rocky mountainside leading into crystal blue waters in the Tahoe Rim Trail in CAlifornia

Tahoe Rim Trail, CA - Photo Credit: Ankit Jain



What trail conditions impacted my gear list?


I know I previously said that the summer weather in Tahoe is ideal for hiking, but unfortunately this year has been the exception! The lower-than-average snowfall this year means that the lake basin around Tahoe has been much drier than usual. Seasonal streams are drying up a month ahead of schedule, afternoon thunderstorms have been more common, and temperatures are higher even at greater altitudes.


In addition, there is a much greater risk of wildfires earlier in the summer this year and although I don’t normally build backcountry campfires anyways, California has already issued an official campfire ban in many regions including the Tahoe area. All of these conditions have certainly impacted my gear list, since I first started planning in the winter!


To address the dry conditions, I have two spots where I will be leaving water caches before starting my hike, and I will be carrying 5L of water capacity so I can safely make it through long dry stretches. I will also be ditching a warmth layer, but adding in rain pants and jacket to deal with potential thunderstorms, which can also help to protect against bugs. Finally, I will be switching out my usual sun visor for a bucket hat to shield my head and neck from the sun and heat. Check out my comprehensive gear list below!


The water looks inviting, but extremely cold in a lake on the Tahoe Rim Trail. Is that snow o n the mountain across the lake?

Tahoe Rim Trail, CA - Photo Credit: Ankit Jain



Gear:


Pack and Sleep Items


Taylor's sleep setup. Inflatable orange sleeping pad, inflatable green pillow, grey down quilt folded over the top
  • 1-person tent

  • 60L backpack

  • Inflatable sleeping pad

  • Inflatable pillow

  • 15 degree down quilt

  • I recently switched from my synthetic sleeping bag to a down quilt for the weight savings and flexibility. Quilts have an open back (you lay right on your sleeping pad), because down doesn’t help with insulation anyways when it is compressed underneath your back. I am also a very mobile sleeper and enjoy not feeling as constricted as when I’m in a mummy bag!


Food Prep Items


  • Bear Canister

  • Backpacking Stove

  • 650mL cook pot

  • Spork

  • Lighter

  • White gas fuel canister

  • Water filter

  • 2L water bladder

  • 2x 1L water bladders

  • 1L water bottle

  • Food! This includes my favorite backcountry delicacies such as dehydrated dinners for each night, avocados and apples for fresh produce, lots of fruit bars and granola bars, oatmeal, cheese, Snickers and Twix bars, Sour Patch Kids, dried fruit and nuts, and one of my go-tos: Trader Joe’s canned dolmas!


Electronics


  • Cell phone and charger

  • Satellite phone with GPS, and charger

  • 20000mAh power bank

  • Headlamp

  • Earbuds


Toiletries


  • Toothbrush

  • Toothpaste

  • Floss

  • Sunscreen

  • Chapstick with SPF

  • All-natural bug repellent

  • Trowel

  • Toilet paper (make sure to pack it all out!)

  • Bandana

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • All-natural soap


Safety


  • First aid (bandaids, gauze, ibuprofen, Benadryl, antibiotic ointment, athletic tape, ace bandage, moleskin)

  • Multitool (Swiss Army Knife, 11-function)

  • Compass

  • Repair kit (gear patches, needle and thread, duct tape)

  • Paper map

  • Matches

  • Bear bell


Some of Taylor's must-have items. GPS phone, bug spray, gas canisters, water bottles, etc

Miscellaneous


  • Extra garbage bag and ziplocs

  • Reading book

  • Paper and pen

  • Watch


Clothing


  • Hiking t-shirt

  • Hiking shorts

  • Sports bra

  • 2 pairs of socks

  • 1 sock liner (for sleeping)

  • Trail running shoes

  • Gaiters

  • 2 underwear

  • Lightweight rain jacket

  • Rain pants

  • Down jacket

  • Long sleeve base layer shirt

  • Leggings

  • Warm pants

  • Light gloves

  • Beanie

  • Bucket hat

  • Sunglasses

  • Camp shoes

  • My personal favorites are Crocs- lightweight, waterproof, and super fun colors!


A view of the wilderness along the Tahoe Rim Trail in California (or maybe Nevada, who knows?!)

Tahoe Rim Trail, CA - Photo Credit: Ankit Jain



Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may enjoy:

The Glory of Yosemite

Very Superstitious: Phoenix In The Fall

The Resilience of the Redwoods: Big Basin’s Rise from the Ashes

Leave No Trace Principles

Types of Camping

Where the West Begins



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