[pct-l] A quick introduction & some initial questions :)

Redwood Guy redwoodguy at gmail.com
Thu Sep 30 20:47:58 CDT 2010

Hello Everybody,

I am new to the list (as of this week) and wanted to drop an introduction
email :)

Over the last few months I have been giving some serious consideration to
doing the PCT in 2011, probably starting on/with the ADZPCTKO schedule.

A brief bit about myself: I am 36, male, single (happily-grin), 6'1 in
height, and a tad over 210 pounds - and loosing about 10 pounds a month (180
is my goal, down from 288 at the first of the year) -- and I live in the
most beautiful location in America (no, really grin)... the middle of the
Redwoods (around Eureka CA). I have a fairly successful business developing
security communication software (and social community websites when I am
bored) and have been doing that for ~10 years. It has allowed me to travel
almost all of the CONUS and parts of the Caribbean. I will admit that trying
to find a way to have somebody take over my business for 4-6 months is going
to be hard. Even harder, I suspect, will be the fact that I am single and do
not own a house (travel too much to justify it) and thus I rent. A very
tough decision I will have to be make will be do I keep paying for rent for
a place I am not at, in order to secure it for when I am done, or, do I just
try to find a place when I get back. Those are just two of the major "life
decisions" I suppose I have to work through before I even determine whether
or not I can do the PCT in 2011. Thankfully, those are about the only two
big issues.

I started planning for long distance hikes around the first of the year and
I had no gear at the time. I grew up in the Mojave desert (Victorville,
Apple Valley, Lucerne Valley) and spent a few years in Big Bear. I have
hiked pretty much every range between Big Bear and Barstow, Lucerne Valley
and I5. Of course, all of that was 20 years ago. Since I moved out the
desert and into the Redwoods I have not done any major hiking until the
first of 2010. But I have tried to get serious about it. The largest problem
I have here where I live is that the vast majority of it is at or near sea
level. Getting above 3000 feet is just not possible in the middle of the
Redwoods. I am planning a few trips over into the Trinity Alps in the next
month or two and maybe over to Lassen before it gets snowed in, in a quest
to get some higher elevation hikes in. I suppose I should head over to East
Sierras too, to try to get a 9-10,000 weekend in too.

I was really wanting to bounce some initial questions off all of you in
hopes to giving me some guidance and insight into some future purchases. I
would be grateful for anybody that would take the time to give their
perspectives. I will preface the fact that I am not a DIY kind of guy. I
have no objections to mending gear, but making them is not in my scope of
pleasurable activities - lol - which really makes no sense as I am a
software engineer by day. Guess the aspect of building software never
carried over to building gear. Odd.

In regards to my base weight: I have been able to go from 30-pounds at the
first of the year down to a base weight of 15-pounds, for a three day hike.
I am trying different methods/setups of gear to try to get this down to
12-pounds, which I think is going to be my target base weight. I would love
to hit the 10 range but I am not sure if I can and still remain comfortable
at that point. By "comfortable" just let me say what I mean by that...
having grown up in the desert, I have come to both respect and loath snakes
and scorpions - grin. The Mojave Green is perhaps my most feared creator on
the planet lol. I use to hike hundreds of miles a month through the most
forsaken places between Big Bear and Barstow and those darn Mojave Greens
where the vain of my existence. Than, there is the stupid little scorpion...
lol... if seeing a Mojave Green will make me scream like a little girl, the
scorpion will make me screen like ... well.. I'd rather not go there LOLOL.
Suffice to say, by "comfort" what I really mean is I have zero desire to let
things crawl on (or under) me at night. So, all that to say this: I could
probably do a 10(sub?) pack but I am not willing to do the tarp-only option.
I really do want a full-enclosure for my sleeping habitat. I am thinking
along the lines of a TarpTent (but not sure which yet) but I will address
that below.

In regards to the big-three:

I have two packs at this point. The larger is the ULA Circuit (36 oz / 4,200
cu in) and the smaller is the ULA CDT (17 oz / 3,200 cu in). I am really
considering trading my Circuit for a OHM, however the one thing stopping me
from doing that is that when I get into the required bear-canister-country,
I am not sure if the OHM (nor the CDT for that fact) will be large enough
for everything plus the canister. Can anybody with experience/knowledge of
the OHM/CDT confirm if you can get the canister plus the rest of your gear
into either of those packs. I do not yet own a canister (not required where
I live, so I just tree-bag food) so I have no idea of the canister/pack-size
issue. I suppose in the same regard my follow-up question would be... is the
OHM and the CDT just in general too small of a pack for generalized use on
the PCT? Is the Circuit at 4200cuin about what I guy needs to make it all
work? The CDT is a great little pack but lacks the internal support bar.
Granted a pad can compensate, but is the CDT taking it too far for a
thru-hike of this length?

In regards to my tent: Well, this is a tough one for me. I have been "one of
those hammock guys" since I started into getting outdoors at the first of
the year. So I do not even own a tent at this point. I should mention that I
am 6'1 in height. I should also mention that I use/carry Gossamer Gear
Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles.  At this time I am giving serious consideration
to the following tents: (1) TarpTent Moment [reason: ease of setup seems to
be amazing with this one, but not the lightest]. (2) TarpTent Contrail
[reason: slightly more fiddling with the setup each night, yet a few ounces
lighter due to trekking pole requirements] (3) Gossamer Gear The One
[reason: even more fiddling with setup it seems, and almost always out of
stock, but it is 8 ounces lighter than the Contrail]. I had/have also
considered the MSR Hubba HP for the Sierra region, but the two extra pounds
just kills me to consider. However, I have no real-life experience with any
of these. I suppose the popular answer would be "they are all good,
regardless of which you pick" but perhaps some of you have personal
experience that you could share that c/should sway me to one over all the
others?? Again this goes back to my "no creepy crawly things" so having a
fully enclosed system is what I am after.

In regards to my sleeping bag: Honestly, I do not have one of these yet
either. In the hammock world we use under/over quilts plus a whole lotta
cloths when it gets really cold, so I've never spent the bucks for a nice
sleeping bag. But, I need to own one if I am to make this work. I have very
little understanding of the different bags out there and the technology
behind them. I understand the differences between down and synthetic and so
forth but that is about it. I do know that I am usually cold at night. I
seem to not enjoy the cold and am often cold. Anything below 40 or so and I
get really cold. I am working on solving this by sleeping in a colder room
and trying to adapt. I also know that I loath mummy bags. I am a side
sleeper and tosser and need my knee room to bend due to an injured knee (not
enough to keep me from doing long trails, but enough to make me know it is
not happy at times) so I would love to have some feedback on sleeping bags.
Obviously to start with: Do most folks use two bags depending on their
location on the trail? One for the desert region and than swap it out for
another one when they get out of the desert, or do most of you just pack a
single lower temp bag and unzip it while you are in the desert? I guess the
next question would be, just how low of a temp bag do I need? 30? 15? What
is realistic when it comes to the high mountains? I have only spent a single
night in the Sierras (east side) a few years ago, and I froze my butt off
lol. Anyway, any suggestions at all when it comes to a sleeping bag would be
great. I think I would like to place a top-end price of $350 on my bag.
Maybe slightly higher if there is something beyond exceptional in the
350-400 range that everybody just totally loves.

So with the big three out of the way. Onto the smaller details.

Stove: I have been a huge fan of alcohol stoves. I have tried most of them
and have fallen in love with the Minibulldesign mini-atomic. It can go for a
good 10 minutes without refueling. Which has been long enough to cook all of
the meals plus drink I have cooked over the last year (with the exception of
pancakes I had once LOL... read: serious pleasure meal lol). So I guess the
question than becomes how much fuel one has to carry. To those of you who do
use alcohol stoves... do you tend to carry 4, 6 or 8 ounces? Or, more? Do
you actually carry a couple of 8-ounce containers and only refill from a
post office resupply box every 8-12 days, or do you just carry a couple of
ounces and resupply ever couple of days? Been really wondering about this
one. Also, if you put your 12-ounce bottle of heet into three containers
(say: 8, 4 and 2 bottles) their total weight (full) is 11.70 oz. The heet
bottle by itself (full) is 11.20 oz. If you just carry an 8oz bottle it is
8.10oz. and if you combine 2&4oz bottles it comes out to 3.55oz. Which is
the option you choose?

Pots: Yeah, this is another one of those "whatever you prefer" situations,
like so many other things. I will simply leave my question about cookware to
this: Do most of you carry a single pot for both cooking and drinking, or do
most of you carry a small pot for your drinks and another one for cooking?

Water containers: This seems to be an interesting issue. Those who are
bottle-water-containers only and those who use hydration packs. I understand
the weight difference of this issue (argument?) and I am in no way
challenging that whole issue. But I guess what my question is, is just
that... is the argument here strictly a weight issue? Are there reasons
outside of weight that allow for the acceptable use of of Platypus style
bladders. Or, does this whole issue come back to the "how often we walk into
a town" issue? I must say, this is one perplexing issue. I do both, just
depends on how much water I think I will need. If I am going to need more
than 2L of water, I just throw my 3L Platypus bladder into my ULA pack and
any additional 1L water bottles I might need. Again, perplexed by this one

Dry sacks: Do the vast majority of you place just about everything inside
dry sacks inside your backpack, or, do you just put your sleeping bag and
cloths in dry sacks - and thus safe yourself a few ounces?

Pepper spray: From what I have been able to gather, the vast majority of
folks do not carry pepper spray (or such). Those who do seem to do so mostly
in Central Cal for potential bear issues. Here in the Redwoods there seems
to be an over abundance of idiot dog owners who fail to keep their dogs
under control. It seems as if at least once a month I almost get into a
fight with crazy women after their dog gets a face of pepperspray.
(Honestly, not sure which is worse, the dog who charges and thus learns I
fight back, or the lady who goes crazy because I felt threatened and choose
to defend myself against her dog that "has never bitten anybody" - yeah,
well, I'm not going to be the first lady! Control your dog, sheesh.) Anyway,
rant over -giggle- those of you who do choose to carry, do you just take a
small 2oz container, or a 4oz, or go for the bigger bear 7 or 13 oz

Shoes: This is one of those areas that I am having to really adjust myself
too. From the time I was old enough to have a hunting license and go hunting
I have used boots 365 days a year. I cannot remember a time in my life
(except for those days when work use to require an real suit) when I have
not had boots on. But, as so many have been teaching me, the lighter your
pack gets, the less the need for heavier boots. Makes sense. At work I wear
5.11 boots that weight in at 24.50 ounces each(!!). After reading through
some of what is being used on-trail these days, I have picked up a pair of
Brooks Cascadia 5's to try out. I'll be doing an 11 mile trip in them to
give them an initial try this weekend. So, I guess my question here is
really all that I have explained. Are the vast majority of folks moving away
from boots and into the realm of using "trail" jogging shoes? Should I look
for a pair of light boots and stick with them, or go the shoe route?
Obviously this is one other of those "which works best for you" so this is
really just me trying to get a general idea of what the trend is at this

As for cloths... I think I will just leave that for a whole other post. No
doubt I have already asked way more questions than probably anybody out
there is going to be willing to answer.

I have just one last question... and my only non-gear related question:

It seems like the vast majority of folks, based on what I have read from
trail journals, seem to stop into towns every day or two, or three at the
most. I do not want to sit here and say that I would not end up doing the
same thing (I've never done a trail over 5 days, so zero experience) but it
would seem to me that stopping in towns every 48-72 hours just really makes
the trip much more... well, a lot of things. Civilized, longer, less weight
to carry (could be a good thing), personally cleaner on the hygiene part of
things, so on and so forth. But on the other side of this, I just seem to
wonder if not heading into town so much would make things... well, less of
all those things. Are there a percentage of folks doing the PCT who do not
head into towns every couple of days? It would stand to reason that with as
many people on the trail these days that a percentage of the folks decide to
extend out their trips to town. What is the general idea behind heading to
town so often, and for those that do not, do you find not heading to down as
more pleasurable when it comes to quality trail-time?

I am very much looking forward to perhaps getting to meet many of you, learn
a great deal, and perhaps spend some time on some trails together! If there
is anybody out there in the Redwood area I would love to know I am not

Thank you everybody!

John Abela

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