This summer I completed the Pacific Crest Trail. I started on the Mexican border on May 11th, just two days after my last final exam for the semester. On August 20th, just two days before classes began, I stood on the monument on the Canadian border. There is a lot to say about this trip so I plan to break it into 6 posts: a prologue and a post about each of the 5 major sections.
In the prologue I will discuss ways in which I prepared for the trip and what gear I chose to bring along. Both mentally and physically my biggest preparation for this trip was going on many backpacking trips beforehand, I will not go into much detail on that here but I have made a detailed write up about each of these trips that is available if you scroll back through my blog.
Part 1: Gear
For a while I have been working on lightening my gear and I see the PCT as a culmination of a long effort. I have always thought of lightening your base weight as a spiral, the lighter your pack is, the quicker you hike. Hiking quicker necessitates less food as you can cover more ground each day, thus your pack becomes lighter and the cycle continues.
I started the trail with slightly more things then I ended it with. The PCT is a great place to learn about ultralight backpacking as there are so many people to learn from. I will share my gearlist from the end of the trail, however most of the changes from the beginning are quite minor, getting rid of a stuff sack or a bandanna for example. There were however two major changes I made: getting rid of my stove and lightening my camera.
Both of these changes stemmed from broken gear. I wasn’t using my stove much but after a year of use it finally gave out on me in my first week on trail. So, I decided to go stove less and in doing so saved weight but more importantly time. It is very nice to end a long day of hiking without having to cook anything. Unfortunately my Sony a6300 camera stopped working around Mt. Shasta. Thus I send it home and bought an rx100. I was curious to try this lighter camera and it performed quite well, but of course it cannot hold a candle to the lowlight performance on a bigger sensor.
Below is my lighterpack:
Part 2: Planning
As a full time student I did not have much time for planning. Some people plan extensively and pack boxes but I would not recommend this especially on a first thru-hike. It is impossible to know how many calories you will be eating daily and what kind of food you will enjoy. Many people who sent boxes became so sick of their food they eventually just hiker boxed most of it. I completed the trail only sending myself food twice. In Cascade Locks Oregon I mailed myself food to White Pass and to Steven’s Pass. I could have gone the whole trail without mailing food but I mailed these two boxes to save time.
In general since I had not done much research on the trail I mostly looked 2-300 miles ahead on Guthooks to plan out where I was going to resupply and also talked to other hikers. My parents sent me my bear can to Kennedy Meadows South as well which was incredibly helpful.
Part 3: physical and mental preparation
In addition to all of the backpacking trips mentioned on my blog I also ran Cross-country and Track in high-school which helped load a good “base” of miles onto my legs. Mentally having been on multi-week trips before such as the Sierra High Route or my trip hitchhiking to Alaska helped immensely.