Take everything that I’m about to say with a grain of salt. Before I hiked the Pct I had never done any sort of hiking what so ever. So with that being said, this isn’t some experienced hiker giving you advice but I do feel I learned enough over the course of the hike to give some tips back. This post should also give you some confidence that if a Joe Schmo like me who has never hiked a day in his life before can actually complete the Pct…then so can you. You gotta want it though because it will get hard and if you don’t want it bad enough you’ll be off the trail in no time. People who hiked the years before that I met while I was out there kept telling me “it gets hard.” Day after day I was telling myself “man this is hard but I mean it’s not that hard.” This is what we call loving the honeymoon phase. But when that ends you best be ready. Before you do anything else you absolutely must grab a copy of Pacific Crest Trials by Zach Davis. I took the mental preparation leading up to the hike very seriously and so should you. That book is geared towards helping you prepare mentally for this hike and I couldn’t recommend it enough along with Yogi’s book. So grab those they’re gonna help out a lot.
Out of all my blog post I’d say that if you have time read Washington & the takeaway & Are you crazy. Are you crazy was my first post before heading out there and Washington and the take away is me wrapping up the trail. They’ll be some good insight. So leading up to heading out there I did a ton of research for this trip. For about 3 months, every night I would look at gear reviews, watch documentaries, watch vlogs on youtube, read peoples blogs who completed the years before…you get the idea. I was so shocked when I got out there at some of the questions people were asking within the first month. The best way I can put it is think of the pct like you’re taking a real serious test and the more you study the better you’re gonna do. I did so much gear review that by the time I was out there I felt comfortable enough to give people shakedowns on their packs and I’d never hiked a day in my life. And if there was ever a time where I got in a sticky situation by myself I knew how to handle it.
The rest of this blog is going to be in a bullet format to make it easier and quicker to read. Straight to the point. I do want to say though that your first step is just to make it out there. It’s going to be scary planning this trip and it’s going to be pretty easy to talk yourself out of it. That’s why I’m telling you not to over think it, just make it out there and everything else will fall into place.
First things first. Gear will be subjective to everyone. Just get whatever is comfortable to you and over time on the trail you’ll start to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Try you gear out before hand, make sure you know how to use it when you get out there.
- Shoes – 1st pair – Altra Olympus 2’s Miles: 0-700 with plenty of life left but wanted a new pair for the sierras. Absolutely loved these shoes. Fuck I really, really loved them. Don’t think I have any complaints about these guys.
- 2nd pair – Brooks Cascadia 9’s Miles: 700-1450? – Wasn’t too crazy about these but they weren’t terrible. Right away I noticed the difference in grip on the bottom of the shoes between the Olympus’ and Cascadias’. I didn’t feel as confident walking down steep rocks like I did with the Olympus. The Olympus have a vibram rubber bottom so maybe it was that? Also the pads of my feet would get numb along with my toes and I didn’t experience that with the Olympus’ I think due to how much padding the Olympus’ have. Towards the end of the Cascadias I was having a ton of feet pain and couldn’t wait to ditch them. Then again I met people who loved them. Whatever is comfortable to you.
- 3rd pair – Altra Lonepeak 2.5 Miles: 1450-2000? with some life to go. These were probably the most common shoe on the trail. Personally, again I wasn’t crazy about them. There wasn’t a ton of padding (could feel every rock) and wore out quick. They were better than the Cascadias, but I think going from a shoe with a heel on it (Cascadia) to a zero drop (lonepeak) it gave me severe Achilles pain from pretty much Northern California until the end of the trail which almost made me hop off a few times.
- 4th pair – Altra Lonepeak 3.0 with green superfeet Miles: 2000-2350 – These were amazing compared to the 2.5’s. The difference between the 2.5’s and 3’s is night and day. I was still experiencing the achilles pain though. While I was in Snowqualimie pass I went to an REI and tried on a pair of La Sportiva Raptors. Right away I didnt feel the pain in my Achilles and ended with those. Absolutely loved the Raptors but my only complaint is that the grip on the shoe is absolutely terrible on any sort of wet surface. I took one step on a wet log in Washington and slipped off the side into a ravine. Also I personally hated the superfeet but thought it’d help my achilles a little more. So that’s pretty much my take on shoes but honestly I seen every kind of shoe on the trail so just get whatever works for you.
- Socks– Darn tough. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Used Injini for a while and they were sweet but got really tired of lining my toes up every time I had to put them on so I sent them home. Two pairs, always.
- Dirty Girl Gaiters– Started with them in the Desert when I was wearing shorts but when I switched to pants in the sierras I stopped using them.
- Shorts– Salomon running shorts with the liner cut out up until the sierras and then switched to pants. Zero issues.
- Underwear– Exofficio. Used the same pair the entire trail. Did a lot better with the smell than I thought they would. Loved them.
- Pants– Started with the Columbia convertible pants. Very light weight which was awesome and dried quick if they ever got wet. Used them from the start of the sierras until Bend Oregon where they ripped and I swapped them out for a pair of Prana Brions. Loved these as they were water repellant and a little thicker keeping me warm in Washington.
- Shirt- Ended with a Mountain Hardware 30 spf shirt and would swap between that and a regular cotton t-shirt. The Mountain Hardware would dry up in minutes where as the cotton shirt was pretty much done once it was soaked. It was just nice to be in a light weight short sleeve shirt from time to time, just stay away from cotton.
- Jacket– Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisper. Did its job but towards Washington I started having zipper issues. Talked to a guy in Seattle after I finished and said that I can mail it in and they’ll fix it for me.
- Sleeping Gear– Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight top and bottoms. Usually wore those with my Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisper and Montbel wind pants. Smart wool socks strictly for sleeping. Some people would just sleep what they hiked in….quick way for your gear to be ruined. Also wore a lightweight mountain hardware skull cap that weighed next to nothing.
- Town Clothes- I couldn’t recommend a pair of town clothes enough. It makes life so much easier. I had a regular cotton shirt and turned my salomon shorts into my town clothes. Started with none but realized by Idyllwild how helpful they were. Are they totally necessary? No, but made life a lot easier.
- Camp Shoes- Started with no camp shoes. Then went through two pairs of cheap flip flops until I ended up with the Vivo barefoot Ultra 2’s. Let me just say that I absolutely loved these things and they easily ended up in my top 5 (if not 3) favorite pieces of gear. A little pricey but well worth the money with the amount that I used them and still use them months after the trail. Even hiked in them some days.
- Rain Jacket- Started with a Outdoor Research Helium 2 until I lost it in South Lake and had to grab a lightweight rain jacket from Patagonia. Up until that point I probably used it once for actual rain but multiple times for wind/extra warmth.
- Wind Jacket- Patagonia Houdini. Loved this. The amount of wind in the desert was very annoying but this thing worked like a charm. Can probably get away with a rain jacket as a wind jacket
- Rain Skirt- Didn’t use once even when it rained.
- Gloves– Always wore a pair of lightweight gloves to sleep and used them most mornings before the sun really came out.
- Pack- ULA Circuit. My only complaint with this pack is that it’d be nice to have a back vent for some airflow and get rid of swampback. Other than that there was nothing that bothered me about this pack. I did wash it when I got to mojave and it wore down a light protective liner on the inside that when I got a good sweat going, it’d soak through the pack and got my gear inside wet. No bueno. Be careful if you wash it. Pack Cover– Used the Ula pack cover. Only really used it in Washington and could definitely get away without one if you wanted(I wouldn’t recommend or at least you could get away with it until central Oregon) or a cheap cover.
- Sleeping Bag- Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 degrees. I run cold and wish I would have gotten a 0 degree rating. Not every night is that needed but let me just say that the nights when it does get cold, you’ll wish you had the 0 degree if you’re the kind of person who runs cold. If helps you get better sleep on the colder nights and if you have nights where its too hot, just use it as a blanket. I only recommend the 0 degree if you run cold. I met people who had it and run hot and most nights they had it kicked off. Sleeping bag compression sack- I didn’t use one until Washington where it rained and I wanted to make sure it stayed dry. The compression will bunch up the down so only use it when necessary.
- Tent- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1. Would definitely recommend this over the Fly Creek as the side entrance is a no brainer. But this was a little on the heavier/pricer side. If I was to do this again knowing what I know I think I’d grab a lightweight 2 person free standing tent. On the rainier days it’s crucial to have your bag in the tent and I could never manage that in this. Now is that overkill? Absolutely but you have to pick and choose your weight and what matters to you most. For me it was connivence over weight. Ground Sheet– Started with the Polycro Gossamergear groundsheet. DO NOT GET. This thing lasted a month at tops getting holes in it along the away and every morning would be soaked and muddy from the dew. It was a nightmare and I couldn’t be happier to get rid of it. I ended with tyvek. Every town I needed a hitch I would write it on the tyvek as my hitch hiking sign.
- Sleeping pad– Started with ZLite and that was nowhere near enough comfort for me. Ended with the Thermarest Evolite in a Large. The large was a little overkill but the comfort it provided for the extra room was worth the weight. The glue did come apart on me however when I got to Washington and the pad became useless. Pillow– I started with no pillow and after two nights grabbed the Sea to Summit Aeros pillow. I wasn’t crazy about how much it cost, but this was easily made it in my top 3 favorite pieces of gear.
- Trekking Poles– Leki Thermolite XL Speed Antishock. Absolutely start with poles if you’ve never used them before as they’ll help mange how you walk. I was convinced about two months in that it didn’t matter what you were using for trekking poles as long as they were the right height. If you’re using trekking poles watch videos on how to get the perfect height and how to properly use them.
- Camera– Canon Powershot G5 X. So right before I went out on the trail I grabbed the Iphone 6S plus and didn’t feel as if I needed a camera. After about a month on the trail I grabbed the G5 X because I felt like my phone wasn’t doing the trail justice.
- Headlamp– Petzl E+lite. For less than an oz you can’t go wrong. Only downside is that it was nowhere near bright enough for night hiking but I think I only had 3 days total of night hiking or early morning hiking. If you’re not planning on doing any night hiking this is perfect for your campsite.
- Battery Charger– Anker portable charger 10,000 mAH. This charger got me 3 full chargers on my phone in between towns. My phone was always on airplane mode and the only time I would use is to check the maps or for music/podcast. I’m sure there might be lighter chargers out there but this worked perfect and I saw way too many people having trouble with their solar chargers. To each his own.
- Paper white Kindle– Read almost every night. You can use the app on your phone but you’d just be wasting battery on your phone and the actual kindle is easier on the eyes when reading. I had people who don’t read telling me they wish they had one for the nights or downtime on the trail.
- Golf Ball– To roll out your feet! You can thank me a month into your hike.
- Glasses– I used the contacts that you keep in day and night for my entire time out there and always had a spare incase something happened (had a bug fly in my eye at night following the light of my headlamp and lost my contact that night.) I did however always have my glasses in my bag in a case with a little tiny bottle of contact solution.
- Tiny journal– I started with one and ditched it after 1 week. In Oregon I came across a kid who was on his third journal since the start and inspired me enough that I grabbed one at Crater Lake and made it a point to write in it everyday, no exceptions. It will eventually become a routine like brushing your teeth. Wish I would of kept it going throughout the entire trail. A lot happens to you in 6 months and you will forget it. You wont be the same person who finishes the trail that started and it’ll be nice to look back and see what was going through your head at those times.
- Stove– Snow Peak LiteMax. Pot– Snow Peak Titanium 700 mug. Medium size fuel canister every time. So this combo had some pros and cons. Pros- Lightweight. Very simple. Would throw stove in pot with small fuel canister to save space. Better than alcohol stove imo and one of the guys I was hiking with sent his alcohol stove after 2 weeks from all the wind in the desert. Cons- Too small of a pot to cook a lot of food. Also after a month I switched the bigger fuel canister because the small ones ran out way too quick but with the switch in size I wasn’t able to fit it in my pot and that took up extra space. If I was to do it again I would grab the pot that where the medium size fuel canister could fit in or I’d look into a Jetboil.
- Spoon– Titanium long handle spoon until I lost it and carved a spoon out of branch in the Sierras but ended up losing my knife half way into the carving process and was left with a half ass wooden spoon. Came across a girl two days later who had an extra plastic spoon. Used that for the rest of the trail but wish I had the long handle back to help keep food off my dirty paws.
- Water Filter– Sawyer squeeze. Too many complaints about the mini, go with the squeeze. I used smart water bottles the entire time along with a nalgene bottle to roll out when needed. Can’t stand bladders. Any sort of drops aren’t bad but the last thing you’ll wanna do when you’re dying of thirst is wait 20 minutes in the desert to have a sip of water.
- Repair– Little bottle of crazy glue and duct tape around my trekking poles. Also had a swiss army pocket knife/multi tool which came in handy. Make sure it has a pair of scissors on it.
- First Aid– GOOD TURMERIC OR CURCUMIN. Absolutely do not take Ibuprofen or Aleve everyday. They will ruin your stomach in the long run. Both turmeric and curcumin are awesome natural anti inflammatories and you don’t have to worry about how much you take. I didn’t use Ibuprofen or Aleve until Oregon/Washington where my Achilles tendinitis pain was excruciating. Leukotape and a sewing needle/string for blisters. That combo worked like a charm. Put the Leukotape around your trekking poles. Mini nail clippers. Can take it or leave it.
- Trash bag liner
- Trowel & Toilet paper
- Sea to Summit wipes– These things were badass with zero of that nasty wet wipe smell. Would use one every night to clean off (I’m a clean freak who hates wet wipes but these were awesome.)
- Small micro cloth towel- Came in handy for various situations.
- Umbrella– I used your typical UL umbrella. To be completely honest I rarely used it in the desert. Some days it was no match for the wind. On top of that it was a complete pain in the ass to keep in the sternum strap. If you are going to use an umbrella I would take the time to rig up a system where you can put the umbrella in with ease. I came across a guy who had a mini PVC pipe rigged up to his bag and the umbrella fit perfectly in there with no fuss and no problem with the wind. I was beyond jealous. The only time I really used it was on hot, hot days in the desert or rainy days in Washington. Along side my rain jacket and a pack cover was a pretty decent combo but there’s only so much that can do when it’s down pouring.
So I’m pretty sure that’s it on all my gear or at least that’s what I ended with. The amount you’ll trim from start to finish will blow your mind. Just get what works for you/is comfortable for. You’ll figure it out along the way. I promise.
- Breakfast– 1-2 packets of oatmeal every morning and usually an instant packet of coffee.
- Snacks– My snacks throughout the day usually varied between 5-6 snacks. Pop-tarts, snickers, and a cliff bar were usually the three that I had almost everyday but not always. Other snacks: Honey buns, Belvita, fig newtons, any sort of power bars(luna, etc), peanut butter cups, candy(starburst,etc. Just something to pick on throughout the day.) Pretty much just straight junk food high in calories.
- Lunch– Most days it’d be a tortilla with tuna and crush up chips. I’d add cheese or avocados if I was coming straight from town. Other days it could be Ramen noodles or a tortilla with a snickers and peanut butter.
- Dinner– Idahoans, Knorr pasta sides, Ramen. 1 of the 3 was always my dinner, sometimes all 3. The pasta sides is the only thing I can’t look at anymore. Towards the end I would usually mix the Knorr rice with the Idahoans and that was somewhat manageable.
This is a very basic list of my food on the trail but in all honesty it was as simple as that. You’ll come up with new ideas throughout the trail but if there’s any advice that I can give on the food, it’d be to take some time to get some good food in there or dehydrate a few dinners to have 1-2 times a week. It was nice eating anything you want in the start but that will get real old real fast.
I’m not gonna list all my resupply locations here. I’m sorry. But I will say that getting those 15 boxes together and picking the addresses was harder than walking the 2,650. I’m only half kidding on that. Luckily for me my mom was my support back at home and I’d give her a heads up 2-3 weeks before I knew I was getting to my next resupply location and just say “I need box #7 shipped out and can you add a extra bottle of contact solution or the green supper feet insoles.” I had all the boxes packed up with a number 1-15 on them and then I had another box of anything that I might need throughout my time on the trail. Those 15 boxes lasted from the start up until the Oregon/Washington border. On one of my zeros in Ashland I spent the whole day going to Medford and doing a 4 box resupply for all of Washington. So in the end I did the hybrid method. Half resupply from home and the other half on trail.
- Some of my coldest mornings were out in the desert
- The amount of wind took me by surprise and really bugged the shit out of me
- DO NOT TRY AND CUT WEIGHT WITH WATER. If you watch your water reports you’ll be more than fine but I’ve seen people run out of water because they wanted to save weight.
- Listen to your body and not your head during the desert section. Don’t fall in the trap of trying to keep up with the crowd. There will never not be a crowd with the amount of people that are going to be out there
- Bug net, warmer clothes, micro spikes, bear canister.
- The amount of mosquitoes that you can come across is frightening. Enjoy trying to take poo in a cloud of 100+ mosquitoes.
- Did have a bear encounter, you can read about it in “The Highs and Lows of the Sierras”
- Personally I wouldn’t swap out trail runners for boots. Your feet are going to be soaked regardless and theres been times where you’ll have to do 6 river/stream crossings in a day. That’s 6 times you have to stop to take your boots and socks off vs walking straight through in trail runners and being completely dry within an hour. Plus every time you go through a crossing it cleans your feet. My feet were always clean in the Sierras.
- Add extra food. I lost the most weight in this section.
Psychologically this was the hardest part and my least favorite. I talk more about that in “Balance Baby”. Almost every night I had an animal encounter hiking solo and that put me on edge making me exhausted trying to hike the next day. Other than that theres not much to say about Northern California. It’s still hot though and I noticed that I didn’t eat as much food during this section.
Most unique scenery on trail in my opinion but other than that not much to say about it.
- Add extra food
- Add extra/warm clothes
- Had two bear sightings within my last 5 days on trail
- You’re gonna get wet. There’s no way around it
Anything else I can think of
- I’d honestly think about starting Southbound with the amount of people that are out there. You’ll be lucky if you go a day without seeing a t least one person all through California
- Download podcast and some good music! You will get bored…often. Have these as a little mental boost
- If you’re starting solo and looking for a group, it’s bound to happen in no time. The first month out there I felt like I was back in high school
- The desert is beautiful don’t let people full you
- Favorite towns: Idyllwild, Wrightwood, Mammoth, South Lake, Ashland, Stehekin
- DO NOT QUIT. You’re out here for a reason. Make it worth it.
- Hiking alone vs hiking with a partner/group both have there pros and cons. You’ll figure out what works best for you.
- Physically I thought the Sierras was the hardest section but people who hiked the AT said it was a breeze compared to any 500 mile section on there.
- Once you have all the info you need, and questions answered, try and stay off social media. It’s just going to mess with your head and people bring a lot of their negativity to it.
- If you haven’t already ordered Pacific Crest Trials go do it now. That could have been the difference between me actually completing the trail.
I’m sure there’s so much more I can say but I’m telling you that once you’re out there you’ll figure this whole thing out one day at a time and it’ll become second nature. At the end of the day all this is is intense walking. Don’t over think it. I believe in y’all and any questions you may have feel free to shoot me a message on facebook anytime and ask. Would also love to follow some people this year and watch their journey so feel free to add me on facebook. Best of luck amigos!