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2007 Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike


What is it:



The Pacific Crest Trail spans roughly 2,663 miles from the Mexican boarder, through California, Oregon, and Washington to Canada.

When:



On the PCT you don't want to start too early, or you will reach the High Sierra mountains before the snow has melted suffiently enough to pass through. You have to move relatively quickly because the snow storms can start in northern Washington in mid to late September. Most people are able to do the PCT in about five months.

My wife Sheryl and I started at the Mexican border on April 29th right after the PCT Kick off party. Sheryl broke her foot and had to get off about half way. I finished alone in Canada on September 22nd 2007.

What is it like:



The first 700 miles or so of the PCT travel through high desert in southern California. Water is scarce in the desert, but there are numerous man-made water sources such as faucets at campgrounds, or water caches (jugs of water) left by trail angels at road crossings. You occasionally are required to go 20-30 miles between water sources requiring you to carry up to 5-6 liters (13 lbs) of water. Most of the long carries can be done in a day.

It doesn't rain much in the desert and there aren't many insects. Most nights you can curl up under a tree or sleep under the stars. We probably only pitched our tent one in five nights on the PCT as a whole, only in buggy sections or if the weather looked ominous.

After 700 miles or so the PCT exits the desert and ascends into the High Sierras, one of the most remote and highest elevation areas in the US. There will likely be snow fields left from the previous winter. Icy passes, swollen river crossings, lightning storms, and hordes of mosquitoes can all be hazards in the Sierras.

In Oregon you will see dormant volcanoes, cross lava fields, pass by hundreds of pristine lakes, and millions of pine trees. I went for a swim almost every day in Oregon.

The mountains in Washington are nearly as spectacular as the high Sierras, but don't delay or the weather turns rainy, or worse you could get snowed out and be forced to end your hike early.

Logistically

the PCT is not that bad. The trail may not always be marked, but it is well worn and easy to follow. You will only occasionally need to check your maps or compass to stay on track. There are some relatively long sections between resupply, and managing water can be an issue.

Trail towns and resupply are generally about 4-6 days apart. The longest section is around 180 miles through the High Sierra mountains. It took us 11 days, including a summit of the lower US's highest peak, Mount Whitney. There are a couple places where you can hike out of the High Sierras to break it up with a resupply, but that requires extra days and miles on side trails.

The PCT has some sections that are pretty remote, and help is not always easy to come by. There are only a couple shelters on the PCT so you must rely on your own tent or tarp.

Physically

the PCT is a joy to hike. The entire PCT is designed to allow pack animals like horses or mules to traverse it. What this means is it is well graded with few very steep sections and no rocky scrambles. You will ascend and descend very gradually for miles at a time rather than going straight up and over anything. The PCT normally contours around mountains and rarely goes over summits except on optional side trails. It is not uncommon to walk 25 to 30 miles in a day once you get into the swing of things.

The PCT is very well maintained due to many volunteers. There are few roots or rocks, and since it is so dry it doesn't get overgrown very quickly.

Most of the PCT is open and exposed. This means you get great views all the time, but you are also in the sun all day long. Long sleeves, pants, and a sun hat are a good idea.

Weather:



Temperatures in the desert can get up to the 90's Fahrenheit in the day, and can drop below freezing at night. Much of the time you are up high in the mountains, so the temperature isn't always unbearable. Many hikers try to walk early in the morning or late at night, and take a siesta under a bush or behind a rock during the hottest part of the day. Some sections have very few trees.

The nights are almost always chilly, or outright cold. It is possible to get a freak snow storm even in the desert. Don't underestimate how cold it can be in the desert.

You may also encounter snow in the High Sierras if you are early, and again in Washington state if you don't finish soon enough.

Rain is scarce on the PCT. If you are lucky it might only rain 5-10 times on the whole five month trip, but you still need to be prepared for storms.

The PCT can be extremely windy, especially in the desert or when camped up high. Be prepared to camp in wind that gusts all night.

What I would carry if I were to do it again today:

On the PCT you need to be prepared for temperatures from below freezing to hot and exposed. It doesn't rain very often but you need at least minimal rain gear and shelter. It can be very windy. There are a few sections where you may need to carry 20-25 lbs of food and water in addition to your gear. If your base gear weight is under 10lbs you can do the PCT w/o going over 30-35 lbs total.

Some people add gear after the desert, but this list could be used for the full trip without substitutions.

This list would be for a solo hike. I feel that it is *pretty light* without making many compromises in comfort.

Updated Pacific Crest Trail Gear List:

OuncesPacking System
2152L Arc Blast Backpack
1Pair Shoulder Pouches
1.5Pair Belt Pouches
OuncesShelter System
14.3Hexamid Solo Tent w/ solo groundsheet
2.18x Carbon Tent Stakes w/ stake sack
OuncesSleeping System
18ZPacks 20F Reg, Long Down Sleeping Bag
.9Medium Dry Bag
8Neoair Xlite Pad, size small
OuncesCooking System
3.3.6L Evernew Pot
.2Titanium short handle spoon
.5Lightload Towel
.4Mini-Bic Lighter
.2Homemade Alcohol Stove
.58 oz fuel bottle
1.4Roll top Blast Food Bag
OuncesWater Storage
1.51 Quart Powerade Bottle
1.51 Quart Powerade Bottle
1.32L Sawyer Bladder
1.32L Sawyer Bladder
1.3Sawyer Mini Filter
OuncesMiscellaneous Items
5Pentax W60 Waterproof Camera
12x Spare Camera Battery
1.5Pak-Light w/ homemade headband
.7Wenger Esquire Pocket Knife
.5Silva Compass / Thermometer
.3ZPacks Travel Toothbrush
.8Travel size toothpaste tube.
.3Credit Card, License, Cash in Wallet pouch
.950ft 1.75mm Z-Line cord (repairs, bear bag)
.44x Mini-D Carabiners
.2Mechanical pencil, paper for notes
.3Chap Stick
.01Ear plugs
.8Sunglasses
.1Ibuprofen
OuncesGear Repair
.63x strips of Cuben Fiber Repair Tape
.16x Large safety pins
.1Sewing Needles, dental floss thread
OuncesCarried Clothing
4.5Challenger Rain Jacket
1.9ZPacks Rain Kilt
1.0Challenger Rain Mitts
.9ZPacks Fleece Hat
1.9ZPacks Wind Shell Jacket
8.9ZPacks Climashield insulated Jacket (coming soon)
.9Ultamax Triathlete low cut socks (spare)
1.7Medium Pillow Dry Bag
OuncesWorn Items (Not part of base weight)
10.2Columbia Silver Ridge II Zip off pants
7.3Champion long sleeve, breathable shirt
.9Ultamax Triathlete low cut socks
3.5Patagonia boxers
3.9ZPacks Pointy Hat
1.5Velocity Visor
23Teva Grecko Sandals
7.3ZPacks Carbon Fiber Staff
OuncesTotal Base Weight
113.67 lbs 1.6 ounces (3.1 kg)
Comments

The 52L Arc Blast backpack is large enough to hold 5-6 days of food in addition to this gear list. For the long section through the High Sierras I would lash most of my gear to the outside of my pack and fill most of the inside with a bear canister and food. The Arc Blast can handle the occasional 30-35 lb load that I would carry on the PCT. I store most of my small miscellaneous items in the shoulder pouches and belt pouches.

I chose the Hexamid Solo tent because it is the lightest option. It doesn't rain that often on the PCT and the vast majority of nights I would use the separate groundsheet on the ground under the stars, or tucked under a nice tree or bush.

Bug screen is an occasional must have on the PCT as there are some sections with voracious mosquitoes.

The Solplex, Altaplex, or Duplex tents would also be good choices if you plan to tent more often.

I chose a 20F sleeping bag because it can occasionally get below freezing or snow. We once woke up with icicles on the trees in the desert. It is almost never warm at night on the PCT so you are safe with a warmer bag.

I chose a rain kilt over pants because it doesn't rain that often on the PCT and it is generally warm enough during the day. It would probably stay in my pack most of the time. I chose a rain jacket since I can wear it for warmth and on laundry day, but I would be tempted switch out both the jacket and kilt for a Groundsheet-Poncho during the desert to save weight. Even though it is mostly dry on the PCT you will still likely get a few days which are very cold and wet.

I chose an alcohol stove because it is lightweight and fuel (Heat gas line antifreeze) is easy to come by at most gas stations. I mainly cook simple things like instant noodles, mashed potatoes, and the occasional cook-in-the-bag meal.

I normally don't use any water filtration or treatment at all, but the Sawyer Mini is so light it is worth having for the nastiest water sources. I did get sick a few times on my thru-hikes due to not treating any water.

My clothing system is arranged such that I can and would wear every item at once when needed. All my clothing is synthetic, quick drying, and stays warm when wet. I do not carry any "change" of clothes and I sleep in the same clothes I hike in.

Some people like to add sleep clothes or town clothes but that is more weight.

I hiked all of my thru-hikes 100% in sandals. Sandals aren't for everyone, but they keep my feet cool, dry and comfortable. You do have to be a little more careful and light on your feet.

What I actually carried in 2007:



I started hiking the PCT with my girlfriend (now wife) Sheryl. I had been running ZPacks for about 2 years at this point out of my apartment, while also working full time. I had to temporarily quit both jobs for this hike. We were testing some of the very first Cuben Fiber gear ever made on this trip, including a Cuben backpack that most closely resembled our current "Zero" backpack.

We were able to share a homemade 30F Twin quilt, a tent prototype, and cooking gear to save weight. We used thin foam sleeping pads that were not particularly comfortable, and much of our clothing gear was home made. We didn't really have rain gear for the desert, just wind shell jackets. We regretted that once or twice.

Our base weights were easily under 5 lbs each factoring in the shared items, and we were the lightest hikers on the trail that year. We could have been more comfortable with some of the more modern ultralight gear choices reflected in the updated gear list above.

Sheryl had to get off the trail around mid-way due to a stress fracture in her foot. I decided to carry on and finish the trail up solo. I switched out our 30F Twin quilt for a 20F solo quilt, and picked up some better rain gear for the second half of the trip.

I was given the trail name "Samurai Joe" due to my wooden walking staff, pointy sun hat, and sandals.

2007 Pacific Crest Trail Gear List

OuncesPacking System
4.7Prototype "Medium Zero" Backpack
.3Shoulder Pouch
.7Pair Belt Pouches
OuncesShelter System
12.5Homemade Tent Prototype (Shared)
2Polycryo Groundsheet
1.98x Ultralight Stakes
OuncesSleeping System
15.5Homemade 30F Twin Quilt (Shared)
.4Large Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack
3.120" x 45" x 1/4" Closed Cell Foam Pad
OuncesCooking System
3.8.9L Evernew Pot (Shared)
.2Spoon
.3Homemade wood burning stove
.4Large Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack for Food
OuncesWater Storage
1.61L Soda Bottle
1.61L Soda Bottle
?Additional soda bottles added as needed
0No water treatment
OuncesMiscellaneous Items
5.5Pentax W30 Waterproof Camera
2.2Headlamp
.8Half toothbrush + paste
.4Mini Bic Lighter
.3Sewing needles, dental floss thread
.42x Mini-D Carabiners
.7Wenger Esquire Pocket Knife
.5Lightload Towel
.3Chap Stick
.2Small roll of Duct Tape
.3Credit Card, Driver's License in Wallet Pouch
OuncesCarried Clothing
2.4Homemade Wind Shirt
6.8Homemade Fleece Pullover
.8Fleece Hat
8.7Frogg Toggs rain jacket
.5Trash Bag Rain Skirt
.2Medium Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack
OuncesWorn Items (Not part of base weight)
Homemade shirt w/ collar and cuffs for sun protection
Nylon convertible pants
Pointy Hat
Ultimax Triathelete Socks
Teva Grecko Sandals
Walking Staff
OuncesTotal Base Weight
80.05 lbs 0 oz / 2.23 kg