[pct-l] Overseas plan to thru-hike

Mike temp3 at mflan.com
Mon Nov 5 20:09:50 CST 2018

Thanks for taking the time to write this.
Very helpful information.


On 11/5/2018 12:00 PM, pct-l-request at backcountry.net wrote:
> I hiked in 2016, and found Yogi's guide marginally useful (and that only
> for the town map pages), and Halfmile's maps not very useful.  99% of
> the time I used Halfmile's app, or Guthook's app.  Generally those two
> apps plus a pdf of the water report and of Halfmile's Town Notes were my
> reference materials, all on my smartphone.  These days, Hikerbot is also
> popular, but it was in early development during my hike, so I don't have
> firsthand experience with it.  I'd also suggest looking at Crows PCT
> Town Guide, from her blog "As the Crow Flies", for resupply and lodging
> information.
> I wrote more about the common PCT apps in a PCT-L thread from mid-July
> this year called "GPS App question", you should be able to find it in
> the archives.
> I don't recommend bringing a dedicated GPS, it's just a heavier,
> less-flexible smartphone these days.
> Regarding your gear, I don't think I saw anybody using a tarp shelter on
> my hike.  Most people either used semi-freestanding 2-wall tents like
> the REI Quarter Dome and Big Agnes Fly Creek, or more pricey single-wall
> shelters like the Z-Packs Hexamid or Six Moon Designs shelters.
> Osprey Exos backpacks were common, as were ULA Circuit and Catalyst, and
> Gossamer Gear Mariposas.  There was also a variety of boutique high-end
> packs from Z-Packs and the like.  I used an older Osprey Exos 46 and
> found it totally adequate, though lacking in hip belt padding.  I'm not
> an especially ultra-light backpacker, but a 46-liter pack was enough for
> the PCT for me.  I used quite a large bear can, and fit it sideways
> between the lid/brain and the main compartment of my pack.  I needed to
> add a couple bits of rope to keep it from sliding out the sides, but
> that being done it held a bear can fine.
> I rented a Bearikade Expedition from Wild Ideas, which I was very
> pleased with.  The capacity was large, the weight was low, and the top
> opened easily.  They're expensive to buy, but the rental prices have
> good discounts for PCT and JMT hikers.
> I had it shipped to Kennedy Meadows (South), approximately where
> canister regulations begin, and shipped it back at Sonora Pass.  Sonora
> Pass is not a town, it's just a picnic area, but I used a service called
> Sonora Pass Resupply which will drive out a resupply to you and also
> pick up your bear canister and ship it.  The next opportunity to ship a
> canister home was not so close, and I didn't want to spend time in town
> locating suitable packaging to ship a bear canister.
> Incidentally, there is a new requirement for bear canisters for
> overnight campers in Lassen National Park.  The PCT goes through Lassen
> in Northern California, but that stretch of trail isn't very long.  It's
> easier to just schedule yourself so you don't stay overnight in Lassen
> than it is to work out a second round of bear canister shipping (or to
> carry your canister a few hundred extra miles from the Sierras).
> Regarding distance, 20 mile average is just about exactly right.  If you
> haven't already, I'd suggest making sure you're experienced with desert
> hiking before starting the PCT, with long water carries and daytime
> temperatures above 100F.  The PCT begins right in the middle of the
> desert -- it doesn't ease you into it.  You need to understand your
> body's water needs in that kind of weather and terrain before you start,
> because there is no introductory part of the PCT.
> Some people say that if you do the first 20 miles in 1 day (from Mexico
> to Lake Morena, a stretch that often has no water), you'll probably
> finish the PCT, if you can't you won't.  I'm not convinced that's true,
> but it is a good benchmark to make sure you won't fail quickly due to
> unfamiliarity with desert hiking.  It's also a good way to make sure you
> won't be a burden on the local rangers.
> Speaking of the beginning of the trail, there's an excellent equipment
> shop around mile 40, so you will have a chance to change gear if it's
> clearly not working in the first 2 days.
> Regarding food, I'm pescetarian (that is, vegetarian plus seafood),
> which on the trail worked out to pretty much vegetarian with the
> occasional packet of tuna.  So it's completely feasible to eat
> vegetarian on the PCT.  The only difficulty I encountered was picking
> other people's home-dehydrated food out of hiker boxes -- it usually has
> no ingredients list, so I missed out on that part of the PCT experience.
> I tried to mail resupplies as rarely as possible, since it's hard to
> estimate my calorie needs and food preferences on the trail far in
> advance.  Plus, picking up resupply packages can be logistically
> difficult.  I suggest starting out with no mailed resupplies -- the
> first several towns vary from adequate to good resupply choices.  If you
> find this approach problematic, you can always start mailing resupplies
> later.  Some people start off mailing resupplies and never learn that
> it's an unnecessary hindrance.
> If you do mail resupplies, I suggest mailing them to certain
> hiker-friendly businesses that will hold your resupply (especially
> hotels), rather than to post offices, since post offices tend to be open
> at inconvenient times (especially in small towns where mailed resupplies
> would be necessary).  Halfmile's Notes has a good list of such
> businesses in each town.
> Earlier in my hike, I caught up to a hiker who I knew was much faster
> than myself in a small town.  He had mailed a resupply there, and
> arrived in town Friday afternoon, after the post office closed.  He had
> to wait there until late morning on Monday, largely just sitting around
> his tent since there were no public businesses to speak of in the town.
> I just bought my food and moved on.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted --
> e.g. I bought instant pasta where I would've preferred instant ramen --
> but it certainly wasn't worth a weekend to upgrade to ramen.
> There are only a few places where you really do need to ship a resupply,
> and these days even those have some options for the creative resupplier.
> Regarding keeping your phone charged, I suggest bringing a USB battery
> of 5000-10000mAh, rather than a solar charger.  It is lighter and more
> reliable than a solar charger, particularly when you reach the more
> northerly parts of the trail.  Unless you plan to avoid staying
> overnight in town very often, you should have ample opportunities to
> charge your phone and battery.  I do suggest bringing a charger that can
> charge both the phone and battery simultaneously, so you don't have to
> switch them at night when you stay in town.
> Regarding phones, I don't have very specific suggestions, except that
> Verizon has by far the best coverage on the PCT, and do try to get one
> with a fast-charging technology (most newer phones do).  It's nice to be
> able to get most of you phone's battery back during lunch.  Also note
> that good smartphones have cameras good enough to replace a traditional
> compact camera in many situations (excepting telephoto), which can be a
> great weight savings.
> I didn't bring an ice axe, and from what I hear, most people who did
> didn't know how to use them.  2016 was an average snow year, and though
> I did slip and fall down slopes several times, they were never long
> enough that an axe would've helped.
> I talked to hikers in the much heavier 2017 snow year, and their main
> complaint was that they should've gone with a longer-handled axe.  So my
> guess is that when you do need an ice axe, the especially light ones are
> unsuitable.
> Also, my understanding is that you must get practice using an ice axe in
> person on real snow to learn to use them in an emergency, you can't do
> it by watching clips.  If you live near mountains with snow, this
> shouldn't be too hard.  But all that said, I don't know how to use one
> myself.
> Regarding boots vs. running shoes, I saw no thru-hikers using boots on
> any part of the trail, it was always trail runners (usually the
> non-waterproof varieties of Altra Lone Peak, paired with Injinji toe
> socks).  The High Sierras are the only reliably snowy part of the trail,
> and a typical PCT schedule will encounter them when the weather is quite
> warm, often over 80 degrees F.  Snow field crossings are no more than
> 3-4 miles at most, and usually much shorter, so your feet have time to
> dry out.  I didn't even take my shoes off for river fords, because
> having damp feet for a mile or two in well-ventilated running shoes in
> warm summer weather was downright pleasant.
> Regarding crampons, my understanding is that they're not necessary on
> the PCT in normal years.  Microspikes (that is, metal cleats that strap
> on to running shoes for snow field crossings) are much more common, and
> I brought them.  In retrospect, I'd have preferred not to -- they did
> make it possible to go faster across some snow fields, but there were no
> places that I couldn't have crossed without them.  So I didn't think it
> was worth carrying a pound of metal for hundreds of miles just to go a
> little bit faster on a few miles of snow fields.
> Of course, all this depends on the late winter snowfall, which hasn't
> happened yet.  If there's a heavy snowfall, or if you intend to enter
> the Sierras abnormally early, your needs may differ greatly.
> As for fire closures, Halfmile tends to publish recommended alternate
> routes on his website when they occur.  Hikers often band together in
> temporary groups for particularly long or awkward alternates.  It's also
> common to take public transit or hitchhike around closures.  There is
> generally information about these choices posted somewhere at the last
> resupply point before the closure, either in hiker hangouts, trail angel
> houses, or ranger stations.  I think the yearly PCT Facebook groups are
> commonly used for this kind of discussion, but I don't have an account.
> As for safety in general and helpful hikers:  The trail is popular
> enough these days that if anything bad happens, you can just stay in one
> spot on the pct and someone will surely be by shortly.  With about 3000
> people starting within a couple months of one another, you're never all
> that far from another experienced hiker.
> And lastly, the final rule is that the trail provides:  You'll
> inevitably find that you planned something wrong, that your gear broke,
> and that you left half you food in town, and it will inevitably work out.
> Good luck,
>    -=Town Food

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