Watch Only the Essential for free online

Only The Essential is a 40-minute documentary film made by thru-hikers about thru-hiking the PCT. It is available free online at

Colin Arisman and Luke Kantola are Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers and filmmakers. They are the founders of Wild Confluence Films and the producers of the new full-length Pacific Crest Trail documentary, Only the Essential. The film tells the story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in a single season and the transformative power of immersion in nature. Kantola and Arisman met on trail during their 2013 thru-hike at mile 109 with Arisman already a week into filming. They became fast friends and Kantola found a camera in his hands more and more as the project developed and their northbound thru-hike continued.

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A core group of friends developed over months on trail. Difficult storms in the High Sierra were weathered with laughter and lots of support. Moments of camaraderie can be seen in the film as “Wabash” and “Hike-a-While” hysterically laugh and yell as they are pelted with rain and wind on a high ridge near Lake Tahoe.

“This happened during a period where “Hike-a-While” would say it was the best-day ever, regardless of the situation at hand, and he would really mean it,” reflects Kantola, “In the film he’s wearing a blue rain suit and it’s hard to hear, but that line is in the film. He just yells it into the gail force wind. That uplifting spirit was a huge benefit to everyone’s hike. Our group carried that sentiment strongly.”

Reflecting on his relationship with the trail, Kantola had this to say: “The Pacific Crest Trail is an iconic slice of the American West. It has a special place in my heart because of the memories that I have associated with the people and places, but my thru-hike also irreversibly changed my relationship with the natural world. That’s probably the biggest gift the trail gave me. That and the self-confidence that I gained. I know in my body what it means to make small daily progressions toward a really clear goal and actually reach that goal! That’s a special feeling that the PCT offers to all hikers whether their goal is to hike the whole trail, or a smaller section.”

Mt. Whitney

Even after having walked 2,668 miles the challenge was not over for the filmmakers. Over a year-long period Arisman sorted through 150 days of footage and thousands of images, working to condense the adventure into 40 minutes while staying true to the ebb and flow of the journey. The film premiered in December 2014 and went on to tour around the country in locations including Portand, Oregon, Boulder, Colorado and Vermont. Arisman and Kantola were honored to screen the film at numerous sold out venues and have already shared the film in person with thousands of fans around the country. Over the last 12 months, Only the Essential has been screened at numerous film festivals, including Wild and Scenic Film Festival (coming this January).

Wild Confluence Films supports the mission of the PCTA and is a generous Mojave Desert Partner.

“Only The Essential, captures the experience of the PCT like it’s known amongst the circles of the initiated.” – Jack Haskel, Pacific Crest Trail Association.

tahoe trail