Roads Rivers and Trails

Dream. Plan. Live.

Preparation

When you’re first starting to plan a long trip there’s this big empty slate and you have figure out how you’re going to fill it.  Sometimes you start filling it with how you’re going to explore a place, or how you’re going to cram as much as possible into the time you have and other times it’s how you’re going to accomplish a task that seems impossible (like walking 2,600 miles).  Thankfully, when you set out to do a thru-hike you at least have a pre-determined route and the general direction of where you’re going.  The next step is deciding how far you want to take your planning and that’s where things start to get messy and sometimes confusing.

In reality there’s only so much planning you can do for a trip that takes more than a week or two.  Your first days will probably go as planned. Once days turn into weeks, though, the plan will change, your outlook on the rest of the trip will change and you will change.  I’ve spent the past year and a half really digging deep into the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and trying to learn every in and out of the trail. In that time, I have learned that I’m WAY over planning and I’m trying to fix that…

There’re a few things everyone gets into when they’re trying to plan their first thru-hike:

  1. Meal Prep
  2. Trail Logistics
  3. Managing Your Miles
  4. Getting the Gear

Two of these go somewhat hand in hand, a big part of trail logistics is figuring out how are you going to eat.  Many people that I’ve talked to and read about have said that there are certainly areas where you want to have your food sent to you on the PCT.  Some of those spots you’re going to save a lot of money doing it that way or there may be no local resupply option and you’d have to go way off trail.  One thing to think about with resupply boxes is that they have some caveats; you might have to wait for and depend on a box to continue on your journey or vice versa. You might be moving faster than the mail.  You have to think about what you want to eat potentially months in advance. How do I know what me in 5 months is going to want?  There’s also the fact that you have to rely on someone back home that you trust to send your stuff out to you.

My advice is to find someone you trust as your support crew. Look only for the places where you can’t resupply in town easily and trust you won’t starve to death with a supply box in town (although there’s days you might feel like it).

When trying to plan out your days you can only get so far.  I went as far as to try and guess how many miles I could do each day. From here I tried to figure out where the worst days would be by looking at elevation and guesstimating how many days it would probably take to reach the Canadian border.  It was A LOT, but I came out of it with an amazing understanding of the trail, where it goes and what I’ll be doing.  At the end of it though, I realized that my estimates won’t be the reality of what I do. But it will create a nice benchmark to see where I’m at.  Again, don’t try and plan for a trip like this as you might on a week-long trip. Take it as you go, enjoy what you can, and live day by day! That’s going to be when you actually start enjoying what you’re doing, when you stop thinking about the end and start thinking in the moment.

A big part of getting ready for the trail is getting your gear, luckily since I’ve been into backpacking for the past 6 years, I’ve got a pretty good stock of equipment and I know what I like, BUT if you ever need recommendations, I highly recommend consulting your local outdoors store *cough *RRT * cough*. There are still some things I need to get (new backpack, shoes, and other odds and ends), but what I learned over the years is that weight and what you take are highly subjective to each person.  The stuff I like might not matter to an ultralight hiker. The pack they take might be uncomfortable to me. I might have some creature comforts that others would think aren’t worth the weight.  At the end of the day, don’t overthink your gear; you can adjust as you go but make sure what you start with works for you and not just because some guy in a shop or some gal on the internet said it would.

Gear, planning, and your day-to-day on the trail are all subjective; find what works for you on your trip.  Do an overnighter or two to check your pack, make sure you understand the route (no matter how long) and don’t overthink it. The moral of the story is, figure out what works for you and change that as needed.

 

 

 

My PCT Pack:

Item

Cost

Weight (ozs)

Gregory Paragon 58L Pack

$229.95

55.5

Sea-To-Summit Campmat

$69.95

28

Sea-To-Summit Trek II Sleeping Bag

$299

34.6

Nemo Dragonfly 2P Tent

$389.95

42

MSR Guardian Water Filter

$350.00

17.3

MSR Windburner Stove

$149.95

15.3

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

$49.95

3.9

Bedrock Carin Sandals

$105

16

Rab Electron Pro Jacket

$350

18.5

Rab Downpour Plus

$150

11.9

Gregory 3D Hydro 2L Reservoir

$37.95

6.5

Nalgene Water Bottles

$22

12

Helinox Chair Zero

$120

16

Sea-To-Summit Drylite Towel

$13.97

3.6

Medkit

$20

10

Sea-To-Summit Bug Head Net

$9.95

2

Goal Zero Venture 70 Battery

$149.95

16

Folding Pocket Trowel

$12.99

6

Change of Clothes, Gloves, Hat

$100

16

McDonalds Giftcards

-$45

3

Totals:

$2630.56

20.9 Lbs

 

Things On Me:

Item

Cost

Weight (ozs)

Leki Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

$229.95

16

Suunto Traverse GPS Watch

$499

2.7

Salomon Outline Hiking Shoes

$110

20.4

Outdoor Research Cap

$39

4.2

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Thru Gaiters

$39

2.1

Totals:

$986.95

5.2 Lbs

Ben and Will on their first PCT training hike

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