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Beginner needs advice on solo PCT section hike
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Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Beginner needs advice on solo PCT section hike on 05/24/2009 08:26:11 MDT Print View

I'm new to backpacking but not to the outdoors and I've planned a solo 5 day trip from Stevens pass to Snoqualmie pass July 26th-30th. I know it's risky to go alone and with this little experience but it's a fairly busy section of trail and I'll try to make sure I stay on it. Hopefully I will have all the right gear with help from my fellow BPL members and will have gained some more experience with multiple overnighters between now and then.

Here's some of my gear. All thoughts and ideas are welcome.

Revised list:

MLD DuoMid shelter
MLD Exodus pack with rain cover (on the way)
MYOG down 20 degree quilt
Trash compactor pack liner
GG 3/8 thinlight
GG polycro ground sheet
GG Lightrek 4 poles
GG Ti stakes
MLD 50' reflecto line
Inov8 mudroc 280 trail runners with green superfeet
2 pairs of smartwool light adrenalines
1 pair thick l.l.bean sleep socks
Duofold mid weight thermals
Cloudveil cool convertible pants
Icebreaker 140 tech t
Icebreaker 200 balaclava
Rab phantom grip gloves
Montbell UL down inner hooded parka
Integral designs pertex wind jacket
Roger Caffin mountain poncho (need to make)
Marmot precip safari hat (awesome rain/sun hat)
Headnet (need to make)
MLD food bag with #1 s-biner
Bear bag line (need to buy)
Rat cutlery Izula knife (best lightweight fixed blade knife 2.8 oz with sheath)
Brunton 0.9l aluminum pot and lid
Vargo decagon stove (hopefully I'll have a Caldera cone kit by then)
Foil wind screen
MLD Ti long spoon
Nalgene 4oz bottle for olive oil
Dasani 12oz alcohol bottle
Scout fire steel
Platypus 2.5L reservoir
Platypus 1L hydration reservoir
Aquamira water treatment drops
Aquamira Frontier pro setup as a gravity filter
Timex watch
Sylvia compass
Small first aid kit
3M ultrathon bug cream and carmex in eye contact case
Lanolin for feet
1oz Nalgene bottle with baking soda
Tooth brush
Viva paper towel TP squares
Fox 40 whistle and photon light on neck lanyard
Photon light with hat clip
Orange mini bic
1 trick birthday candle
P jelly soaked cotton balls
Laminated green trails maps (need to buy)

I'm sure I forgot some stuff I have and some I don't but thats where you guys come in. Also what skills do you think I need to work on. Thanks a lot guys.

Edited by Steingass on 05/31/2009 13:32:11 MDT.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Gear advice on 05/24/2009 10:21:31 MDT Print View

Hi Matt, it looks a really good list, especially for someone just starting out. You've left out alot of the extraneous stuff you don't really need. I'm curious if you've seen Roger's MYOG article on his "mountain poncho". I haven't taken it on yet, though I think it's probably my next project. If you can pull off a baffled down quilt, this project should be alot easier, relatively cheap to build, and it's well thought out from a backpacking perspective. It won't work as a ski jacket, casual jacket, etc. but for all day rain with a pack on I think it's going to be the best option.

Another thing to think about if you're expecting lots of wet weather is taking care of your feet. Hydropel is great stuff when your feet are wet all day. Take a couple bandanas as well; one to wipe up the condensation on your duomid's walls, and one to dry yourself off with.

Have a great trip! You're so far ahead of the weight game right now it's scary; usually you can tell a beginner by the unnecessary stuff in/on their packs. Your pack list looks like that of a grizzled UL veteran!

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Awesome suggestions Scott on 05/24/2009 11:08:16 MDT Print View

Hydropel looks like an awesome product. It sounds like everyone using trail runners needs that stuff. I could have used it on my last trip along with personal towels. My friend used his towel for those exact things. I guess I do need some kind of of rain jacket. Keep em coming. Thanks.

Edited by Steingass on 05/24/2009 17:01:49 MDT.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Solo PCT hike on 05/24/2009 11:25:21 MDT Print View

I don't think it is foolish at all for you to do a 5 day hike solo. If you are comfortable in the outdoors, then go for it with confidence--I mean, you have to start somewhere.

You can get the PCT guidebook and databook for WA to help with trail info. The databook will be much more useful if you are only concerned with water source information.

And for camping site information--you can generally tell by map topography whether or not an area might provide options or not. Generally, when it comes time to look for a site you''ll be able to find one in a reasonable amount of time. 99% of my campsites are found this way.

Have fun.

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Re: Solo PCT hike on 05/26/2009 17:21:18 MDT Print View

It's good to hear you don't think I'm jumping in too deep. I think I'll be fine alone but I'm guessing others think I should have a partner. Thanks for the info.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Beginner needs advice on solo PCT section hike on 05/26/2009 22:51:10 MDT Print View

You've picked a really popular section of the PCT, so should anything happen (Lord forbid, and you seem to be well-prepared), there will soon be someone coming along.

Also, you've picked the best window for dry weather (last 2 weeks of July and 1st 2 weeks of August). That doesn't mean it won't rain, but you have by far the best chance for good weather, and any rain will be brief--the chances of a 3-day soaker are almost non-existent. Note, though, that if you are not prepared for rain, it probably will rain, while if you take lots of wet weather gear, it will be dry the whole time! The last week of July should also be the peak time for wildflowers. However, be prepared for mosquitoes!

The only problem might come if the Kendall Katwalk just north of Snoqualmie Pass hasn't melted out. Usually it's fine by mid-July. While we haven't had quite as much snow as last year, we have had a similar cold and wet spring, as you probably already know. However, the weather seems to have warmed up, so if current conditions persist, it will not be a problem. You can keep track of snow conditions on the Katwalk by following trip reports on If the snow is late in melting, you may also have some problems with stream fords below Mt. Daniel. If it's too bad, you can detour by dropping down to Fish "Lake" (more like swamp) on the Cle Elum River and following the Hyas Lake trail to Deception Pass.

USGS maps will show topography but won't show the current route of the trail, while USFS maps don't show enough topographical detail. However, since you're following the PCT and not doing cross-country routes, the USFS map (either of that section of the PCT or of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness) should be sufficient. Or you could check out the Green Trails maps of that area. While I'm not normally a fan of REI, they do have a tremendous selection of maps, especially in their downtown Seattle store. It's worth a trip there just to take a look!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/26/2009 22:53:26 MDT.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Beginner needs advice on solo PCT section hike on 05/27/2009 00:03:31 MDT Print View

Matthew, just a few of my thoughts-
Maps- the Green Trails maps for this area are good, you will need #207 Snoqualmie pass, #208 Kachess Lake (top corner, you could omit this, maybe), #176 Stevens Pass. They give good detail of the trail and also other bisecting trails.

On gear- I agree that you should try the “Rogers mountain Poncho” and also take a 3-6 oz windshirt. Its summer and you will probably only use the windshirt. At night you can use it with the MB inner if there is wind.

Nix the 3rd pair of socks- wear one while the other is drying, no need for 3 pairs and a sleeping pair.

I use trail runners and have never needed or use hydorpel and I hike in the same area you are going, again its mid-summer.

For the olive oil, try something lighter then the nalgene

You have a fire steel, waterproof matches and 2 mini lighters, drop one of the 3. You can start the cotton balls very easy with the fire steel (and the alcohol), maybe drop the WP matches?

You can make a bear bag system with some of the scrapes you have laying around, and just buy some lightweight cord/trine, don’t spend the money on a pre-made setup.

Try a trash compactor bag instead of the dry bag, unless you plan on fording some dangerous creeks. The compactor bag will work just fine.

Good luck, you have a great start. The library will have a good selection of books on the area and maybe a video/DVD, I know there is one that some lady did that is funny (odd) and kind of creepy at the same time, I can’t remember the name right off but you can get it through the king county library system. REI also has some books on the trail but why buy them if you can check them out from the library for a month?

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Re: New advice on 05/27/2009 06:22:57 MDT Print View

Thats great info on the weather Mary. I knew about the snow, bugs, and flowers but had no clue that this was one of the best time periods for getting good weather. I hope I don't get some freak week long rain storm. Fingers crossed. I really do like the design of the mountain poncho Tad. It looks like it keeps the entire pack and 2/3 of yourself dry in heavy rain and wont flap around as bad as a regular poncho. It really looks more like a jacket than a poncho. I've seen the green trails maps before. They sell them at my local sporting goods store. Not really waterproof tho. Oh well. The socks thing was a typo. I do only have 1 pare of socks and need to buy another pare. I think I'm going to get rid of the WP matches and 1 of the lighters. Trash compactor bag and cheep bear bag kit sound great too. All I need is the line since a lot of my gear came with stuff sacks I don't really need. Cheaper the better. Once i get everything together I'll have to post a gear list with weights. I hope it's around 7 pounds. Thanks again everyone.

Edited by Steingass on 05/27/2009 07:14:10 MDT.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: New advice on 05/27/2009 10:16:20 MDT Print View

Matthew, I laminate my Green Trails maps to keep them water proof. I make a color copy of what I need then take it to a store called "Learning World" in Bellevue that has a self serve laminator and the lamination is very light weight and costs about 15 cents a foot, so it is very cost effective. You will only need 1/2 the Snoqualmie (207), and all of the Stevens Pass (176) and you could cut and paste the small section of Kachess (208) and laminate it with one of the others.
A regular size Green Trails maps fully laminated weighs about .9 oz.

Matthew Steingass
(Steingass) - F

Locale: Washington
Revised gear list on 05/31/2009 04:13:49 MDT Print View

I just took a lot of everyone's suggestions and added/removed some stuff. Thanks again for the help guys.

Edited by Steingass on 05/31/2009 08:43:19 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Maps on 06/02/2009 02:52:03 MDT Print View

I use Topo! and print my own maps. I print them on 'waterproof' paper if percipitation is in the forecast. This way I can cut and paste maps anyway I want (I often paste the map into a Word Document, and can place 4 map sections (2 or each side) on a 8.5 X 11 or 8.5 X 14 piece of paper. I carry them in a Alosak if it is going to be wet. This way I am not buying expensive maps and cutting them up.