A typical day of eating on the PCT for me consisted of 3 meals and lots of snacks. I felt like my energy stayed higher throughout the day while snacking more frequently, but it's different for everyone.
For breakfast I would have coffee and oatmeal while packing up camp. After a while I got lazy about cooking, and drank my coffee luke warm and shaped the oatmeal for a bar. I add Carnation Breakfast Essentials into my instant coffee for a smoother taste and extra nutrients and protein.
After an hour of two of hiking I would snack. Snacks for me consisted of chips, jerky, candy, cereal, nuts, etc.
For lunch I would sit down midday, take my socks and shoes off, and try to relax and elevate my feet while eating. My most popular lunches were a tortilla and tuna with potato chips on top. A tortilla with salami, string cheese and olives on top, sometimes nuts and honey inside. Or a bagel, with anything on it, including cream cheese, spinach and tuna.
Chances were I would snack two more times before getting to camp and then eat dinner.
I liked a hot dinner, which would be ramen, mashed potatoes, prepackaged dried meals, Knorr rice sides, etc. In my resupply boxes I would get freeze-dried mixed veggies and add them to everything, as well as olive oil.
I also drank electrolytes, caffeine drinks like MIO and EmergenC almost every day to flavor my water and boost my energy. Caffeine gummies and goods made good energy boosters too.
Along the way I witnessed many, hikers, mostly male hikers, lose weight rapidly, and be concerned about replenishing their calories. Some male hikers had spread sheets with calories per ounces foods, for calorie maximization. I never had to worry. As a woman I did not lose weight as easily, I actually didn't lose any weight on trail at all!
Bug net for face
My Packing List was similar to most other hikers.
Two Smartwater bottles
Dirty water bag
The Pacific Crest Trail issues permits to hike the PCT. This will cover your whole thru hike. Any hike over 500 miles should be permitted through the PCTA. In order to obtain a permit, a hiker must wait in a virtual line on a specific date picked by the PCTA. There are usually two rounds of permitting, one round in October and one round the following January. You must also be online at a specific time.
I got my permit October 29th, 2019, and got spot number 1,452 in line. It took about 2 hours for me to be able to choose my start date. Once you're welcomed in to choose your start date, you fill out information online and you get to choose your date. Sometimes your ideal date is already filled and you must choose a backup date. If you don't get your originally planned start date, you can try for the second round of permitting in January, or wait for someone to surrender their permit. Many people change plans or cancel their permit.
You can hike without a thru hiking permit, but must obtain section permits along the way. The PCTA asks you to keep a printed and mobil version of your permit on your phones. I ended up printing out a small permit and laminating it, even though in the fine print you're technically are not supposed to laminate it. I had no issues, and I did not have to worry about my permit getting wet by rain or ruined along the hike. After checking in at the Southern Terminus with my permit, it was checked only once in my whole thru hike by rangers when I entered Yosemite. My permit was more frequently checked by bars. Many bars along the trail give discounts to hikers for beers, and ask you to provide your permit.
Deciding when to start can depend on a lot. Are you a fast hiker? Are you comfortable in cold weather, or hot weather? Permits for starting going northbound are issued during 3 months, March, April and May (March 1- May 30th)
I started early, on March 17th. I was afraid I was going to be a very slow hiker, so I played it safe and started early. We had a very snowy spring in 2020, and found my first 350 miles to be half in the snow. This was very challenging, but also prepared me for snow in the Serria Nevada Mountains.
If you start too early and end up hiking fast you might also be held up at Kennedy Meadows if the snow is too deep in the Sierra Nevada. If you have the time and money, you could take a few weeks off and come back after the desert is completed, or keep your eye on the snow pack, and adjust your pace.
If you start later you will have a warmer, or hotter desert section and smaller windows of time to reach Canada. The unofficial time that the snow can potentially start in the Cascade Mountains up north is October 1st. It can be earlier or later, it's hard to tell.
One resource you can use to predict the seasons is the Farmers' Almanac. Or you can observe the seasons and the El Ninos and La Ninas. But there is no sure way of knowing when the snow will start up north.
Another issue to consider is "fire" season. This is often August to October. Fires can create danger and fire closures. Fresh burn zones have unstable dead trees that can fall. Even if you're ahead of fires you can get lots of smoke blowing up your way, and that can make it hard to see and breath. Fire closures will be updated on the PCTA website.
Training for a thru hike is challenging, because in my opinion, there is nothing you can do to TOTALLY prepare for a thru hike. Thru hikes come with challenges like weather, injuries and animal encounters. There are various mental hurdles as well. Some successful thru hikers enter a hike with no real training. Many people use the beginning of the trail to get in physical shape and they learn as they go.
Getting in physical shape before a thru hike is helpful. Obviously going hiking will be helpful, but other exercises will be key. Cardio is important for hill climbs on trail, high altitude and overall stamina. Running, swimming or gym machines in the gym will be your friend. Weight training is helpful as well. Walking around with a weight vest or your backpack can help.
Going on weekend or week long hikes will not only help you get in shape, but dial your gear in as well. You may learn a lot from these training hikes.
You can prepare yourself in other ways like knowledge of the outdoors. Reading about wildlife, and common mishaps like stings, rashes and blister care is important. Getting certificated in CPR or wildlife first aid can come in very handy. Hiking can be physically taxing on any hiker, no matter how strong or in shape, can suffer from injury. Common injuries are overuse injures, but ankles can be rolled, slips/falls can occur, bones can be broken, and skin can be gashed.
Mentaly preparing yourself to walk for 6 months can be daunting as well. Sometimes being alone outdoors is spooky. Practice being aware of surroundings and any dangers. It's helpful to familiarize yourself with the hikers around you. Sometimes hiking for 12 hours a day can get boring. Preparself yourself with things you might enjoy, like listening to podcasts, audio books and music. Ask a friend for recommendtions on favorite listening outlets.
Lack of documentation of a thru hike with photos, videos or journaling was often the biggest regret I heard from hikers around me. Everyone had different preferred ways of documenting their hike. I chose through photos and videos on my phone. I often recorded myself talking about how I felt each day, the people I met, and I could do it all while walking. It helped keep me busy, and it was therapeutic. They were great videos to looks back on once my hike was complete.
Taking a journal can be heavy extra weight but some hikers just preferred writing at the end of every day. Others began journals and would stop, because of being so tired at the end of the day, they would forget to write, and fall behind.
Some hikers carried big professional cameras and shot some spectacular photos of wildlife, scenery and the hikers around them. Often with bringing large cameras comes the addition of carrying extra battery packs, chargers, power banks and cords. I found new phones to have nice enough cameras for me, but the professional photographers out on trail always had such amazing quality photos.
I also hear a lot of regrets of not enough photos taken of the people on trail. I often forgot to take photos with trail angles, hitches and other hikers, and I wish I had taken more photos of the people around me.
When you start your hike at the terminus you begin at, be sure to take some fun photos. No matter how excited you are to start your journey, the beginning is where you can be creative and create fun, before and after photos of yourself, your gear, and the state of your fresh new clothes, before you end up thin and tattered at the end of your hike. Hi-five photos, head stand photos, shirtless photos. I've seen so many creative before and after pictures, and I also wish I had taken more terminus photos as well.
Hiking shirt and shorts
Base layer pants and top
2 pairs of socks
Resupply can be done two ways, receiving a box by mail, or shopping in town. Receiving a resupply box is great. You can obtain things you need that are usually not in grocery store. This is also helpful for any food allergies or special diets or prescriptions, and items like shoes. The downside to receiving a resupply box is it getting lost in the mail, arriving at a post office when it's closed, and growing tired of the items you have packed for yourself.
Shopping for food in town is convenient, because you can
purchase whatever you want, and make changes to how much and of what you're eating on trail. The downside is that resupplying in small towns can be limiting. Some small stores only have resupply options equivalent to those of a gas station and you'll be surviving off unhealthy, redundant food for the section.
If you are planning to send yourself resupply boxes along the whole trail, keep in mind you might grow tired of certain foods, you might want to skip certain towns, and boxes could get lost. I would look at Guthooks' comments and do some research on towns where you might need resupply boxes sent. For instance, getting a resupply box in Vermillion Vally Resort (VVR) was awesome because it was a small resort with expensive and very limited options, some foods in the store were even expired. I regretted getting a box for Bend, Oregon seeing as there were lots of amazing shopping options, and I was getting tired of meals I had packed.
Getting boxes sent to small towns is a good approach, but you can totally resupply off all the different towns and resorts along the PCT, as the towns along trail are very hiker friendly.
The Pacific Crest Trail is one single trail that spans the length of California, Oregon and Washington, beginning at the border of Mexico and ending at the border of Canada. Every year over a thousand hikers set out to complete this hike and it is said that only 25% of them will finish. Whether you aim to hike the entire trail, or just sections, I will tell you about my 2020 thru-hike, how I tackled this emence challenge, and anything I think of that can help anyone else.
Preparing for a thru hike is a very personal endeavor. For me, the most important thing to have dialed in, the best I could, was gear. For others, it was exercising and hiking, and for some, even gaining weight was part of their preparation.
I would say the most common things to look at when preparing for a thru hike would be gear, resupply locations, training, eating and mental preparations. I don't know if you can ever really be fully prepared on any of these topics.
Lets look at gear first. There is a saying on trail that goes "you can be comfortable on trail, or comfortable at camp". This saying pertains to Ultralight gear. Ultralight gear is gear that is made of lightweight material and is quite minimal. Often to obtain lightweight gear, sacrifices must be made. One example is an ultralight sleeping pad. A heavy sleeping pad will be more comfortable and warmer, and you will be very happy to have it at camp, but once it's packed into your backpack, it is heavy and bulky, and you will struggle to carry it. So when looking into gear, look into cost, weight and comfort tradeoffs.
Ultralight gear will give you a lighter "base weight" or your pack weight without food or water. Having a lighter base weight allows you to walk faster, be more comfortable and quicker. Ultralight gear can be durable, but not always.
I went mostly Ultralight with most of my gear, but during previous backpacking trips I began to understand what tradeoffs I was willing to make. I sleep cold, and I sleep on my side, so I watched gear reviews and did a lot of comparing of products to find a mid-weight sleeping pad that helped me to get a good night sleep on my side and stay warm. I was not willing to sacrfaic a few ounces for a less comfortable and warm sleeping pad.
I was willing to make a trade off with my tent on the other hand, because on a clear night I enjoy cowboy camping, so rarely set up my tent anyway, I got an Ultralight tent for bad weather. It was very light, more delicate and extremely minimal.
It's also helpful to have gear that doubles as other gear. My groundsheet had a hole and seconded as a poncho. My Swiss army knife had built in nail clippers. I chose also not to double up on clothes to save weight. I had one pair of shorts and t-shirt to hike in, and to go to town. I chose not to have luxury items like camp shoes. I tried to keep my base weight down without sacrificing anything that I would regret.
Another way to keep base weight low is to not overpack items out of town like food and alcohol. Having a full extra days worth of food seems smart, but once you are confident in your hiking pace, and there is not bad weather up ahead, you will be consistant on the number of days of food you need. Also, packing out more water than you need at a water source. Carry a little less water and just drink up when you stop at a water source.
External Battery/ Chargers