The Pacific Crest Trail stretches from the border of Mexico in California to the border of Canada in Washington state covering a staggering 2,663 miles. It goes through some of the most beautiful places on the West Coast including the Sierras, Yosemite, John Muir Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake, Three Sisters Wilderness, the Cascade range, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainer, Mt. baker and more. I have had the chance to hike several sections of the trail through some of the most amazing and pristine wilderness I've witnessed.
Tyler and Becca (friends of ours) are hiking it this year. All of it. I'm very excited for them and can't wait to hear about their trip and will try very hard not to let jealousy completely overcome me. Before they begin I got the scoop on their plans and their gear list.
Colter Co.: Why did you decide to hike the PCT?
Tyler: It has been something that we’ve wanted to do ever since we found out about it. We started really getting into backpacking about 4 years ago and it was something that we added to our bucket list. There was kind of a perfect storm of transitions going on in our lives so we decided that now may be as good a time as any. It was a now or maybe never sort of scenario.
CC: How long have you been planning for this?
T: We bought our plane tickets at the very beginning of the process and that was sometime at the end of last July. It’s been almost a 9-month planning process. We figured that it would be easier financially to spread things out over a longer time. It’s allowed us some opportunities for trial and error with gear and meal planning, so it’s worked out. We definitely don’t think that it requires that long of a planning period, but we’re doing this for two people with twice as much to think about. The bulk of our preparation really started about 3 or 4 months ago. At that point it was what we did every weekend and any other free time that we had.
CC: What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
T: We both think that at first the physical challenge of hiking in the heat will be the hardest. We’re not looking forward to the long stretches without water, especially with the low snow pack this year. After we get into a rhythm and start to get situated it’s going to be more of a mental challenge to do it day in and day out. The good thing about hiking together is that we’ll have a built in support system to keep each other going. We’d be more concerned about it if we were hiking alone.
CC: Which parts of the trip are you looking forward to the most?
T: Definitely the Sierra’s. We’re both dreading the desert so it will be nice to see the transition into the higher elevation mountains. We ‘ve decided to hike Mt. Whitney as a side trip, so that will be a highlight as well. We both are really looking forward to overcoming challenges, meeting new people, and just experiencing the overall culture of the PCT.
CC: What is your gear list? What is your base weight?
Becca’s base weight is 13 lbs. 6 oz.
Tyler’s base weight is 16 lbs. 2 oz.
Shared Gear: Zpack’s Hexamid Duplex Cuben Fiber Tent, Snow Peak 900 Titanium Cook Pot, alcohol stove, 7’x7’ Homemade Tarp (for shade and added rain protection), 50 feet of bear line w/ carabiner and bag, Instapark Mercury 10 solar panel, Deuce of Spades trowel.
Becca’s Gear: Mountain Hardwear Thruway 50L backpack, Feathered Friends Vireo Nano 20 degree quilt, Thermarest Neoair Women’s sleeping pad, Black Diamond Z-Poles, Outdoor Research Echo hat, Marmot Crystaline Rain Jacket, Patagonia Houdini Wind Jacket, REI Primaloft Jacket, Columbia Omniheat vest, Outdoor Research mittens, beanie, head buff, 3 hiking shirts, 2 pairs of leggings, 3 pairs of socks (2 hiking + 1 sleep), running shorts, 2 bras, underwear, sunglasses, toiletries, Ipod Nano, headphones, Sawyer Mini Water Filter w/ 1.5L and 2L Evernew water bags, REI Litecore Sit Pad, food cozy, Sea to Summit long spork, Bearvault 500 (in required areas), camp shoes, Dirty Girl gaiters, Sea to Summit but headnet, REI Ducksback pack cover.
Tyler’s Gear: Boreas Buttermilks 55L backpack, Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 degree quilt, Thermarest Neoair ¾ length sleeping pad, Outdoor Research Sun Runner Hat, Outdoor Research Helium 2 rain jacket, Patagonia Houdini Wind Jacket, Patagonia down shirt, Patagonia Houdini pants, REI Sahara shorts, Smartwool beanie, bandana, gloves, 2 Outdoor Research Echo hiking shirts, 3 pairs of socks (2 hiking + 1 sleep), REI silk bottoms (sleep), underwear, Ipod shuffle, headphones, Sony NEX 7 camera w/ 16-50mm lens, Lowepro camera bag, Joby gorillapod tripod, Iphone 5, Sawyer Squeeze water filter w/ 1.5L and 2L Evernew water bags, Klymit Cush sit pad/pillow, food cozy, Sea to Summit long spork, toiletries, sunglasses, Penrod fishing pole w/ spinning and fly reel, fishing forceps, flies/lures, Lighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister (in required areas), camp shoes, Dirty Girl gaiters, Sea to Summit bug headnet.
Shoes: We each have 4 pairs of shoes that we’ll have available to send to us as we need them.
Becca: Merrell All Out Fuse, Salomon SpeedCross 3 (two pairs), Salomon Fellraiser
Tyler: La Sportiva Helios, Salomon SpeedCross 3, Merrell All Out Fuse, Salomon XA Pro 3D
CC: What kinds of meals are you planning?
T: We’re really big into freezer bag cooking. All of our hot meals will involve boiling water and rehydrating foods in a Ziploc freezer bag. Over the years we’ve come up with a few recipes that we really like, but we’ve added some new ones also. For breakfasts we’ve planned for oatmeal with peanut butter, grits, chia seed pudding with fruit juice, Belvita breakfast bars and muffins (We’ve figured out how to bake with our cook pot). For lunch we have a combination of things like peanut butter and honey flatbread, tuna salad pitas, couscous with cranberries and tuna and homemade beef jerky. We’ll have a ton of snack foods as well including dried fruit, fruit leathers, flavored honey straws, Kind and Cliff bars, Cliff Shot Bloks, Gatorade and flavored lemonade drink mixes, and various candies like Sour Patch Kids, Sour Patch Watermelons (the best while hiking), Swedish Fish, and sour gummy worms. Dinners were definitely the most complex and we wanted to have a lot of variety so that we won’t get bored of our meals. We have basics like mac and cheese, spaghetti and alfredo, but some other interesting things too. We have chili with fritos, “Thanksgiving” with potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberries and chicken, beef tacos, creamy potato soup, Indian curry, Pad Thai, Pizza Ramen, potato burritos, creamy mushroom rice with chicken, Shepard’s pie, and even sushi rolls. It has been a ton of work and we’ve packaged everything on our own.
CC: What's the most important thing you've learned in preparing for this?
T: We’ve definitely learned the importance of food and good nutrition. With 20 miles/ day averages in some stretches it’s really critical that you replenish what your body is using. We’re glad that we did everything ourselves because we know where the products come from and what we’re eating. All of this ties into larger themes of preparation. We have learned a lot about budgeting for two people in the long term. So far we’ve accomplished the most when working together so that will be a critical aspect of our success on the trail.
CC: What advice would you give to others thinking about going? If it’s something that you’re really passionate about you should just do it. There are a lot of hurdles to jump in order to be able to pull off a trip like this, but make it happen now. You never know what the future will bring and what your opportunity will look like then. Start planning early. Double and triple check everything you’re taking. There are a lot of great resources out there to see what others are carrying and the pros and cons of gear and meals. The key is to make it your own hike and not get caught up in that stuff too much. If you absolutely have to have a particular item (i.e. fishing gear for Tyler) then you’re justified in taking it as long as you’re willing to carry the extra weight.
Thanks you for sharing your experience and planning with us Tyler and Becca. Enjoy the journey.