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You'll be carrying that backpack for a loooong time. Use lightweight backpacking strategies to save your knees and shoulders so you can enjoy the JMT's gorgeous scenery, pain-free.
Bear cans are required on the John Muir Trail, so you'll want to choose the right one and learn how to use it (including how to somehow stuff ALL that food inside it).
Even if you don't normally hike with poles, you might want them for the John Muir Trail. They'll take the edge off climbs, provide balance on rocky terrain, and give your arms something to do for 3 weeks.
The John Muir Trail is almost always either climbing or descending, so make sure your legs are ready. Train with weight on your back and make sure to also train downhills, which can be hard on the knees if your stabilizing muscles aren't strong enough.
Even in summer, it gets chilly up at 9,000 feet, and you'll be spending some quality time up there as you hike the John Muir Trail. Make sure your sleep system and clothes can keep you safe - if not totally cozy - down to 30 F and below.
Much of the JMT is above treeline with no shade. Good sunscreen is a must, but you may also want a hat, plus sun sleeves or gloves to protect your hands and arms.
The southern half of the John Muir Trail has no on-trail resupply options, so you'll need to estimate your pace carefully and know exactly how much food to send (or make arrangements to hike out or have food packed in).
Everyone worries about bears on the John Muir Trail (and rightly so), but it's probably the marmots that will get your food. Don't leave it unattended for a second!
Though the Sierra Nevada is known for fair summer weather, you'll still probably have a few afternoon thunderstorms and perhaps some drizzly days. Good rain gear is essential for staying safe and happy in the high mountains along the JMT.
Read more helpful John Muir Trail advice at exploringwild.com, including what I wish I'd known before my JMT hike.
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This interactive trip planning guide is packed with checklists, key questions, and recommendations to take the worry out of planning your first or biggest backpacking trip.