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another 2013 PCT gear list - lots of experience, zero long distance hiking experience
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Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Thoughts on your hike on 10/16/2012 19:56:28 MDT Print View

You know, there are a lot of different styles to hiking. As far as going light, 2012 was the year to go very light. The Sierra were basically snow-free unlike previous big snow seasons. So planning definitive ice axe vs. no ice axe right now seems a bit premature. If we have a very long cold winter and the Sierra is snowed under, you might be wise to carry an axe/microspikes/etc.

I would agree that there are a lot of ways to hike the trail, but may I offer a bit of advice - if you are in an area that requires bear canister, follow the rules and carry the thing- you will do the right thing by carrying one. I found carrying one isn't a big deal and gives you great piece of mind when sleeping. Weight isn't the issue - you will typically carry more in water weight in the dry stretches of SoCal than a canister weights. It is a bit bulky, true, but the regulations are there for the protection of the bear population, not for the convenience of the hiker. Plus, when thrus behave poorly (building illegal fires, starting wild fires, poor behavior, eschewing canisters because, well, "we are thru hikers") well, that damages the perception of the community. If you think I am overreacting, look at the controversy right now brewing over bicycles on the PCT. The misdeeds of hikers are being used as leverage by biking advocates as justification to open up the non-wilderness sections of the trail to the two-wheel crowd.


Joe Guilmette
Re: space blanket on 10/16/2012 19:58:12 MDT Print View

it's this:

i've used it in the past as a ground sheet. its big enough that i can lay on half of it and then use the other half to wrap up over me if it rains, or to use it as a ghetto rain cover with the cord and the hiking poles.

basically i need:
ground sheet
protection from rain

Joe Guilmette
Re: Thoughts on your hike on 10/16/2012 20:01:24 MDT Print View

perhaps you're right, and i dont mean to stir up a debate, but the ursack is an awesome piece of bear protection kit. it is allowed in the vast majority of places that require bear cans in lieu of a bear can. the few places it is not allowed have bear boxes. also, ursack is suing the NPS/NFS for treating them differently than the bear can folks (citing failures as grounds for banning where bearcans have failed also).

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Thoughts on your hike on 10/16/2012 20:09:14 MDT Print View

Ursack has been fighting that battle for a few years.

You're going to have to be fast and need a lot of snow-free ground to hike from bear box to bear box.

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
re on 10/16/2012 20:22:04 MDT Print View

Gaiters- Yes! Get some dirty girls and wear em the whole way. I like keeping grit out of my socks.

Ice Axe- doubt it. I would have something tiny (the Camp Corsa? 7oz) in the box just in case conditions prove nasty, but a majority do not carry one (as I understand). Knowing what time to hit certain slopes can be more important than anything. I would research how many people who came through in a high snow year felt like self arrest assurance was necessary, I'm not sure you will find many who do.

Ursack- I would just ditch it. Most of the thru-hikers i talked to in WA this year never carried a bear can, ursack, or hung their food. I'm not recommending it, just relaying.

Tarps- I'm not sure you need to give up the hammock ENTIRELY... Washington has some great hammocking. But really, carrying it through the desert? Compromise and try something new, at least for a bit!

That being said, if you are carrying trekking poles, tarping is a cinch! check out netted UL options from zpacks. You shouldn't feel like you are "exposed" because you are carrying a tarp.

Cooking- Your response makes me think you assume an alcohol stove will do the same thing as a jetboil, but slower. Not so much. Try it out first, just remember there are large concessions on either side. A compromise may arrive in the form of lightweight pot/canister combo if you look around. Either way... that frying pan is ridiculous.

Joe Guilmette
Re: re on 10/16/2012 20:29:56 MDT Print View

i mean, an alcohol stove fill essentially the exact same use case. they boil water and nothing else - unless you bring a 10oz frying pan ;)

a jetboil is just easier to use, faster, heavier and more expensive.

and i think you're right, i'll probably mail myself my Hennessy Hammock with my Sierra snow gear and bounce the bivy/tarp tent up to the next resupply and see which i like better.

for training purposes i'm going to be attempting the AZ Trail early (if there is a low enough amount of snow) and test all of this out.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Canister on 10/16/2012 20:32:20 MDT Print View

Joe -

I am very familiar with the Ursack - I own two. The status may change, but right now, you need an approved canister, and Ursack unfortunately hasn't had a chance to get any of their recent models approved by SEKI because the parks suspended testing. The subsequent legal case didn't go well for Ursack - the court basically upheld the decision,although providing other avenues for litigation. Until more testing can be done - problematic because of a lack of funding - Ursack is unfortunately in a bit of limbo. I like their product. There is reason for hope. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is going to test Ursack products for grizzlies, but the spec for testing isn't done as far as I know. And SEKI doesn't have to necessarily accept the IGBC recommendations, should testing take place. I am as hopeful as anyone that Ursack get to the opportunity to have their recent products tested.

Honestly, you don't need a canister for large sections of the Siera but if the going is slow, it's going to be tough to make the bear boxes in the sections that you must. I would just be wary of taking advice from any one source, including me. The time you get into the Sierra and the weather can vary quite a bit. I didn't need an ice axe, for example, because it was an average snow year. But some do in bigger years, as attested by a friend who self-arrested. Self-arrests are pretty tough thins to accomplish - I've read of a success rate of 50 percent. The best advice I got was "don't fall."

Have fun out there - don't sweat equipment too much.

Lance Marshall
(Lancem) - F - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Canister on 10/17/2012 12:13:38 MDT Print View

Use a canister where required. In the few areas that they are required, the existing food storage lockers aren't an allowed option.

Last summer three different rangers checked my permit and canister. I asked one ranger why the food storage lockers existed in the backcountry if a canister was required. He said they were placed years ago in an early effort to manage bears. As canister technology improved, and backcountry users began to accept the benefits of canisters, the food lockers became obsolete. He said the backcountry lockers will eventually be removed, starting with a test program at Kearsage Lakes.

A notice on the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park web page seems to 'bear' this out:


Edited by Lancem on 10/17/2012 12:18:26 MDT.

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
food! on 10/19/2012 19:51:42 MDT Print View

Concerning your food, I have written my opinions on long distance nutrition at length here:

Its not a beautiful site and no pictures are up for food yet, but most of the information is there. Feel free to browse the other bits too, even though its a work in progress.

Nick G
(HermesUL) - F
Food on 10/19/2012 21:03:10 MDT Print View

David's site is excellent regarding food--I've just started reading it but the information looks sound. I'd also look at this site:

In my opinion, Michael W is way off the mark in recommending 1.5 lbs of food per day--that may be great for trips of up to a week in length, but you'll find your nutrition, caloric needs, and sanity in severe deficit over several months like that.

A day of backpacking can easily require 4000-5000 calories. To get 5000 calories on 1.5 lbs of food, you would theoretically need 210 calories per ounce. In order to achieve this, you'd need to find a way to chemically enhance butter so that it has more calories for the weight (butter is 203 calories per ounce).

Stay healthy! Pack dried veggies, even though they will cost you in terms of calories per ounce. Bring lots of food to start, and then scale back if you find you're not eating it and still feeling healthy.

I gained 5 pounds of much needed weight on the Long Trail, and I must say it is very easy to see the difference between hikers who are eating enough and those who are growing weaker and weaker as the days pass. Enough food is the difference between getting stronger as the days go by and having to bail three weeks into the trip because you are too weak to walk.

I'm planning 2.3 lbs/day of food for my AT thru hike next summer, at 130 calories per ounce. That'll put me at about 4800 calories per day, which will likely be enough. Who knows?

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: Food on 10/20/2012 06:44:09 MDT Print View

Thanks Nick. I think there are so many resources for which sleeping bag to pick, but so few for what to eat on a thru hike, I was hoping to contribute my failures and successes with food during my long distance hiking experiences. Physical and mental performance, mood, and general enjoyment all benefit from a well nourished belly.

Concerning a bear can, ice ax, and microspikes, I can strongly recommend bringing all 3. 2011 was particularly snowy, so the snow stuff was needed for a long stretch. I sent my ax and spikes home too early and had many close calls due to my desire to shed some pounds. Ice axes first role is to give a stable hand hold for snowy traverses. 3 points of contact, etc. Poles are nowhere near as stable. The bear can is an obligation any responsible hiker and steward of the trail should take into the Sierras. I had an Ursack as well and carried both through the Sierras. The list of reasons to carry a bear can where legally required far outweigh the benefit of saving 2.6 pounds off your back. You don't even need to carry it for very long. The Ursack did allow to be carefree elsewhere on the trail and I never once worried about my food or had to throw bear line. A great piece of kit.

For a groundsheet, tyvek or polycryo would do just fine and save significant weight over the mylar blanket. Wet ground is rarely an issue on the PCT. Silnylon will do just fine for waterproofing, but protecting your floor and pad is where a groundsheet is necessary. I liked tyvek for its weight vs. robustness compared to polycryo, which is just shrink wrap.

Having weathered a few SoCal rainstorms on my hike, always having a raincoat may not be a bad idea even though its the desert. It still gets cold as well. No raincoat will perform as advertised, so just keep it in the 7-10 ounce range.

A windshirt is nice if hiking in a polyester or wool shirt, but for tops i would advise your hiking shirt to be one of those SPF 50 nylon shirts:. It's ideal for sun, bugs, cold, heat(buttons) and durability (light wool shreds under a pack quickly). Bring a 150 weight wool thermal to wear under when its cold and the nylon shirt will act like a wind shirt. the montbell down and rain jacket make for 4 light layers on top.

Trekking poles are great, especially in the slippery snow and river crossings. I still fell many dozens of times, but poles help.

A nice shelter isn't hard to find. Lightheart, Tarptent, SMD, Zpacks, MLD, and others all have great options under 2 pounds. A lot of PCT hikers only used their shelter a dozen times. I used mine almost every night, but mostly in bug net mode.

Gaiters are great for dust, which keeps your feet and socks in better shape. Dirty girls or levagaiters are good. For the snow and river crossings you can't do much, but sealskinz keep at least a base level of warmth no matter what. Several times I tried to push through with just my Darn toughs and had to stop and change into Sealskinz just out of pain. They aren't comfortable, but were a huge benefit in the 2011 snow pack.