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Sunday, February 25, 2018

PCT: 53 days away

Seven weeks to go...

In about 50 days I'll be starting my hike to Canada from the Mexican border on the PCT.  After thru hiking the Colorado Trail in 2016, I learned some things about gear choices.  I learned that nearly every gear choice for a thru hike is a personal choice.  Thru hikers carry gear for only two reasons.

1.  Survival
2.  Comfort

Most thru hikers are also obsessed with saving weight for a few reasons.

1.  Weight saved means less energy needed to hike x amount of miles which results in less exhaustion
2.  Weight saved means less chance of injury and a better chance of completing the goal
3.  Weight saved means there's more room to carry beer, pizza, whiskey, or even a watermelon should you choose to do so.

Packing out a watermelon - CT 2016
All of the above can make a thru hike more enjoyable.  All of the above also ultimately makes the process of coming to a decision about what gear to take (or whether or not to take it at all) complicated.  Here's a simplified chart that doesn't account for environment specific decisions, etc. to help with that process.

What gear am I taking?


I love my ULA Circuit.  It worked wonderfully on the Colorado Trail.  I see no reason to change that.
  • Pack:  ULA Circuit - 41oz (75L capacity)
  • Scent free trash compactor bag (not pictured) for keeping contents dry - 1oz
Total:  42oz

Still looks pretty damn good and this has seen close to 700 miles already.

Sleep system:

I made major changes to my sleep system for the PCT.  Same tent, different sleeping pad and sleeping bag.

  • Sleeping pad:  Therm-a-rest Z-Lite Sol - 14oz
  • Sleeping bag:  Western Mountaineering Terralite (25 degree) - I sleep warm and like space to move when I sleep.  - 29oz
  • Tent:  Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 - 34oz
  • Footprint: It's an expensive ground cloth -  4oz 
Sleep system total:  5lbs 1oz

Water purification and food prep:

Having the ability to drink clean water, cook, and eat is important. 

  • Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter - clean water means no giardia - 3oz
  • 3L Platypus bag - Need the ability to carry at least 7 liters of water for some stretches in the desert. - 1.3oz
  • (4) Smart water bottles (only 2 pictured) - much lighter than Nalgene bottles, less failure prone than bags, and fits perfectly in side pouches of the ULA Circuit - 2oz (estimated)
  • Aqua Mira water purification - For if the water filters break, or if you have some really nasty water source. After all bleach kills organisms in your water. - 2.7oz
  • Ursack major bear bag - keeps critters and bears out of your food.  I will replace this in the Sierras thanks to government red tape that requires a bear canister that adds about two pounds - 8.7oz
  • Trash bag: Loksak Opsak odor-prrof 12x20 bag - .8oz
  • Jetboil Flash stove/pot - Some go sans stove on the PCT.  Fuck that, I like real food - 12.8oz
  • Spork - Don't lose this.  Eating Chili Mac w/ beef with your hands is no Bueno - .3oz

All this crap:  31.6oz


Trekking poles can be electric in a good thunderstorm, so why not put them in this group? 

  • Books: - Kindle Paperwhite - Books help pass the time in tent-bound rain storms - 7.2oz
  • Phone, map, gps, journal, etc:  iPhone SE - 4oz
  • Camera:  Canon SX610 HS - It takes much better pictures than my phone - 6.3oz
  • Stuff in a bag:  Extra camera battery, charging cords, etc. - 2oz
  • Battery pack:  Anker PowerCore 10000 - this keeps my phone and camera charged in between resupplies - 6.3oz
  • (4) AAA lithium batteries: - extras for the headlamp & SPOT - 3.4oz 
  • Personal Locater Beacon:  SPOT Gen3 w/ good luck bracelet that my daughter made for me when she was 2 years old.  It's been attached to my pack on every hike for the last 17 years.  I'm considering leaving the SPOT at home, but the bracelet will come with me for sure.   - 4oz
  • Headlamp:  Black Diamond Spot w/ batteries - 3.25oz
  • Headphones:  Sony ear buds - .3oz
  • Trekking Poles w/ duct tape wrapped around the poles:  Duct tape is the very best blister prevention.  Black Diamond Carbon Cork Trekking Poles (my old broken ones pictured) - 17oz 

All this crap:  53.75oz

Personal hygiene, first aid, survival stuff:

  • Compass: .3oz
  • Mosquito spray & head net: 1oz
  • Sunscreen: 3oz
  • First aid: 3oz
    • Neosporin
    • Lip balm (doubles as a fire starter)
    • 1 gauze pad
    • 2 butterfly bandages & a couple band-aids
    • Asthma Inhaler
    • Moleskin
    • 1 zip tie
    • Insect sting treatment - basically rubbing alcohol 
    • Medications (Vitamin I, Tylenol, pills to keep me sane, and a few pain killers in case I break an ankle)
    • Needle & thread - stored with my medication to prevent accidental punctures
    • Body glide - preventing chaffing is a very good thing
  • Massage ball:  This thing works wonders on sore muscles and doubles as a way to play catch on lunch / swimming breaks. <1oz
  • Hygiene: 3oz
    • TP
    • Dehydrated wet wipes
    • Duece of spades
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Toothbrush / Toothpaste
    • Washcloth / biodegradable soap
  • 50 ft. of paracord (not pictured):  2.4oz
  • Misc:
    • S-clip w/ a couple safety pins to hang socks on the pack to dry
    • Sharpie - for making signs for hitchhiking - .2oz
    • Beard comb - it's a need, trust me
    • A small bag and some ziplocks
    • Tweezers & a rubber band
    • Gear repair - tenacious tape, superglue (doubles as cut treatment)
    • 1 Credit card, ID, permits, some cash (not pictured)
    • Maps (not pictured)
  • Bic lighter
  • Knife:  SOG Trident - 3.9 oz - might take a smaller Benchmade pocket knife.

All this is about 18oz


This is a work in progress.  Also, I don't count weight for the items I'll be wearing when I'm hiking most of the time.  I am still working through the decision tree above on this area.

  • Puffy:  Patagonia Nano Air Hoody (red) - This jacket is so damn versatile and comfortable, but it is heavy.  I'll probably take it anyway.  I had it on the CT and it was amazing. I intentionally carry this layer as a synthetic so I have a way of staying warm even in the worst conditions and even if my down sleeping bag were to get wet somehow.  Bonus, synthetic jacket make better pillows. - 14oz
  • Gaiters:  Dirtygirl gaiters (blue) - Keeps rocks and dirt out of your shoes.  Clean feet = less blister potential
  • Lower body layers:
    • Smartwool baselayer pants (black):  Doubles as both a warm layer to wear under my shorts on colder days and helps me look extra hiker trashy.  It is also excellent sleeping layer.
    • New Balance running shorts:  Comfort & function meet.
    • (2)  Exoffcio boxer briefs - wear, swap, rinse when you can, repeat
  • Camp shoes:  Crocs Swiftwater Sandals - Lighter and more packable than regular Crocs, and doubles as a camp shoe and a shoe for fording rivers.
  • Rain Gear:
    • Montbell Versalite Jacket (dark green) - 6.7oz
    • ULA rain kilt (not pictured) - Easier to put on quickly, more breathable and lighter weight than rain pants.  Also doubles as a sexy thing to wear in town when all the clothes are in the laundry. - 3oz
  • Shoes / Socks:
    • Brooks Cascadia 12
    • (3) Darn Tough socks - 2 pairs to alternate for hiking, 1 for sleeping
  • Hats / sun protection:
    • Ball cap w/ bandana - Gotta represent the Celtic pride right? - I might just buy a lighter weight OR sun hat from REI
    • Ray-ban sunglasses
    • Fleece lined beanie (orange) - warmth for sleeping
  • Gloves:  Black Diamond lightweight
  • Wind:  Patagonia Houdini Jacket (yellow) - considering leaving this at home, but it's sort awesome and weighs almost nothing, but it's purpose is probably handled by the Montbell
  • Bandana:  For cleaning up at night
  • Dry Compression Bag:  Sea to summit e-vent bag - My extra clothes stay in here as a double precaution.  I'll also toss my phone & camera in it when hiking in downpours or during river crossings.
  • Upper body layers
    • Kuhl Airkraft shirt (not pictured) - Has chest pockets, sleeve that can roll up, upf sun protection, etc.
    • North Face long sleeve w/ hood synthetic (grey) - sleep shirt, extra layer, and breathable if I want full sun protection.
    • Patagonia R1 hoody fleece layer - This is my most used piece of gear in Colorado.  I've had it for many years and it's nearly indestructible.  I'm probably only adding this to my pack for certain sections (Sierra & Washington)
Weight is somewhere between "unknown" and "I don't care"

Also there's some gear that will be conditions dependent.  For example, if the snow is still high when I reach the Sierra then I will have to ship my ice ax, microspikes, etc to Kennedy Meadows. 

But that's everything I need to live for 5-6 months, except for food and water.  I'm guessing that when you take away what I'll be wearing, it's all about 16-18 pounds.  Add in food that's averages about 1.5 - 2 pounds per day, and water which is 2lb and 3oz per liter and you got yourself a pack that will usually weigh about 25-30lbs and maybe closer to 35-40lbs when leaving town with a big resupply or heading into long waterless sections.

Food might warrant a separate blog post, but probably not since I typed this entire thing one-handed with my left hand, since I'm still recovering from a broken elbow.  If it's not fully healed by mid April, I may have to add a sling to this list.

Thanks for reading.  Comment if you have questions and HYOH.