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PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters
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Ben Hons
(BenjiH) - M
PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/10/2014 21:01:50 MDT Print View

Hello there BPL!

My wife and I are hopefully hiking the PCT NOBO next year, if not most definitely 2016... plenty of time to prepare. However we are looking for a new shelter since we have sold our previous shelter, so this will be our shelter for now, (short backpacking trips) up until and on the PCT. I have noticed zpacks hexamids are popular for long distance hikes, and we are thinking of getting the duplex.

Now, we both agree to share very little in case we get split up for any length of time; we will be almost, if not entirely self sufficient. In the case of shelter we obviously would like to sleep together in the duplex. We are pretty determined to stay together but we both know there is a chance we will need or want to be apart for some reason, and will need to be able to do so without compromise. With that said my thought is my wife will carry the two person shelter, most likely a cuben tent or tarp of some kind (duplex). And I will carry a solo shelter, probably a silnylon tarp or tarptent since the cost of two cuben shelters is out of our budget.

Does this sound like a good strategy or am I missing something? Any couples out there want to share there shelter strategy for the PCT? FYI we are also thinking of carrying poncho tarps/bivies for the desert section to save weight.

If we do decide to go with a duplex, will it be durable enough to last through a year or two of weekend to week long trips, and then the PCT thru? Or should we plan on getting the duplex right before the PCT and get a cheaper alternative until then? Also would it be wise to upgrade to the .74 cuben?

Thanks in advance!

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/11/2014 00:01:10 MDT Print View

Hi Benji,
My wife and I are in the same boat as you and your wife. We are also planning to hike the PCT in 2015.

I think you are right to consider the possibility that you both might not be able to hike together the whole way. Injuries can easily cause this to happen, let alone all the other potential reasons...

I think you first need to take a step back and ask yourself if there is any possibility that you would both be hiking the trail simultaneously, but not together. This situation, in terms of gear considerations, is a little different than one person hiking while the other recovers from an ailment in town.

I know that my wife and I have no interest in hiking apart, so if we're both on the trail, then we are going to be together. This means that we will only ever need shared gear that we can also use solo, if need be. No duplicates are necessary for us.

If you plan to hike apart, then you would both obviously need shelters. You'll have to figure this out beforehand to plan accordingly.

If I was hiking any significant portion of the PCT alone, then I would strongly consider carrying a Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape poncho/shelter. I'd probably bring the Serenity Net Tent as well to clip in under the Gatewood Cape.

If you and your wife will always be hiking together (while you are both hiking), then I think the ZPacks Duplex makes a lot of sense. It's basically the lightest fully enclosed two-person shelter out there and is certainly light enough that carrying it solo is not a huge deal (and it would be a palace for one!).

I have never used any of the ZPacks shelters, so I can't comment on the durability of 0.51oz cuben vs 0.74oz cuben.

My wife and I unfortunately don't have the money for a $600 shelter right now [sigh], so we will be using our beloved, but much heavier, TarpTent Double Rainbow.

On a more personal note, I think you should ask yourself: do I really want to hike apart from my wife? Your marriage will be lasting much longer (hopefully) than your thru hike. Which do you want to prioritize?

Just carefully consider the ramifications on your relationship of not sharing the same PCT experience together. These hikes are usually life changing events, and I for one would like the changes to happen to both my wife and I together so that we can share that experience as partners and let it serve as a bond, not a wedge.

Not everyone will agree with this mentality, and that's totally ok, but it's certainly something to think about...

In my mind, one spouse hiking on while the other recovers in town from an ailment is one thing, but willfully hiking apart while you both could otherwise hike together is another thing entirely.

I say this all without any judgement though. Every relationship is a little different, and what works for some might not work for others.

Just be sure to tread lightly my friend, and good luck. Maybe my wife and I will see you guys out there! :)

Edited by dmusashe on 05/11/2014 00:44:30 MDT.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/11/2014 11:22:02 MDT Print View

When I hiked the PCT, usually the married couples shared a shelter. Many often hiked at their own pace during the day to give themselves some space from each other (5 months of 24/7 can be trying on even the best of friends) but always met up at every break, lunch, and camp. Every time they parted, they planned when and about where their next break was and the faster hiker would always wait for them there. Sometimes they would ask other hikers passing if they had spotted their significant other just to check on them if they were having any problems. If they didn't appear after a certain time, they would go back looking for them. There was only 1 couple I remember that actually made the effort to hike together all the time.

And yes, I met married couples that split during their hike. One was unable to continue due to some physical issues. Their other partner sometimes choose to continue with the others blessing and it seemed to work out for them. Sometimes the one getting off, inorder to stay involve in the hike, got their Car and came back and followed them up the trail at every road crossing in their car providing support and spending time with them in town and at campgrounds near road crossings. If physically able, the would sometimes accompany their spouse for a short way as a day hiker before parting a few miles up the trail to return to their car. They were nice enough to provide the rest of us hikers with trail magic. They were happy to still be part of the trail community by doing so even if they were disappointed that they couldn't be hiking themselves anymore.

As the weather is generally sunny, most of the time, you can get away cowboy camping so most of the time you don't need to be concerned with having a second shelter. If rain is likely, you could just make an extra effort to stick together. I used my tarp 9 times on the PCT and cowboyed camp the rest of the trail without setting up my shelter.

If you feel safer having an extra shelter, then just a small tarp like structure should be fine. Perhaps a poncho tarp combo like Six Moons Gatewood Cape where it doubles as rain gear so you don't mind the weight as much.

Edited by Miner on 05/11/2014 11:37:05 MDT.

Ben Hons
(BenjiH) - M
Re: Re: PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/11/2014 13:24:51 MDT Print View


I think we are planning a similar hike to yours. We want to be able to share gear like shelter and cookset. We also want to stay together as long as we are both on the trail. It is the unplanned injuries and such that I am worried about. We do want to experience the whole thing together, and not hike apart from each other other than when I want to speed up and wait for her at lunch time. So I guess it would make sense to only carry one shelter, one cookset and plan to stick together. And if one needs to rest in town or something a second shelter is not needed. Thanks for the insight.


This makes me feel much better about bringing only one shelter! I keep reading that the first rule to a thru hike with a partner is to not share gear. This is what made me think about carrying two shelters as a contingency plan. And that makes total sense about the rain and cowboy camping, we will be bringing bivies to do so as much as possible. And you're right, if it looks like rain stick together.

Thanks guys!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/11/2014 13:35:36 MDT Print View

A couple of years ago, I was heading southbound along the JMT. Just a few seconds before I reached a good campsite, a northbound guy claimed that spot. He commented that his hiking partner was hiking a little slower, so he was just racing ahead to grab a good campsite, start a fire, and erect the tent. She showed up an hour later.

As long as you have an agreement about the approximate location of a campsite, then this works. If the faster hiker intends to go until 7 p.m., and the slower hiker intends to stop by 5 p.m., then this is a big problem.


Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/11/2014 14:36:53 MDT Print View

If you are worried about having a protective shelter in the case of being split up, you can each carry one. You'll probably never use it. You can still sleep side by side every night. You'll might want a lightweight non-waterproof two person bivy for wind protection.

Edited by TwoFortyJeff on 05/11/2014 14:38:30 MDT.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Re: Re: Re: PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters on 05/11/2014 14:54:08 MDT Print View

"I keep reading that the first rule to a thru hike with a partner is to not share gear."

I would agree with this for non-married couples and friends hiking together. Too many friendships and even unmarried couples end up separating on the trail due to too much togetherness (that whole 24/7 for months at a time). Small things get magnified and cause friction. Thru-hikers tend to have more extreme emotional swings on the trail then you see at home. In the case of friends, they sometimes separate as they want to be able to remain friends. So not having to split up gear later and having to buy gear on the trail and having gear sized for 2 people when you are now only 1 makes sense. In fact I remember in Squatch's first Walk Documentary there was an unmarried couple had been together for a couple of years and started the hike with high hopes of what they would do after the hike. At the end of the video, we find out that they ended up seperating at some point on the hike and the girl finished with another guy whom she eventually married in a follow up video documenting a different year on the PCT.

However, for married people, its a different level and type of commitment and issues. If you split up for anything other then injury, you are likely both getting off anyway as you clearly have more important issues to deal with. I can't think of a situation where a married couple would both continue hiking separately from each other.

Edited by Miner on 05/11/2014 17:37:49 MDT.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
PCT 2015 hopefuls- shelters and other things on 05/11/2014 16:46:30 MDT Print View

It isn't just the shelter you need to consider.

Each of you has to eat, so there's the whole kitchen thing - stove, fuel, windscreen, pot, etc.

Are you really going to carry two shelters and two kitchens (and two bear cans, whatevers)?

The food is easy enough to divide, even if each day's packet has meals for 2 people; you carry X days' worth of doubles; she carries Y days' worth. If you get separated, at least you each have food.

Personally, my wife and I don't like or want to be very far apart from each other on the trail. We hike as couple's therapy and to spend quality time together. While I might ocassionally hike on ahead of her and wait at a pre-agreed-upon spot or at every trail junction (I misplaced her once that way; never again), we always start off each day together, eat each meal together, and camp together in the same shelter at night. Sleeping together is one of the great perks of marriage, and she protects me from the wild things in the dark woods. Yea, tho she walks thru the valley of the shadow of death,.....etc. If one of us must leave the trail for whatever reason, we BOTH leave.

Besides, my wife enjoys the lighter load while her human pack mule plods along with "the heavy stuff". Why have a husband if you aren't going to exploit him?



Edited by wandering_bob on 05/11/2014 16:52:22 MDT.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Shelters on 05/11/2014 16:54:38 MDT Print View

My wife and I did the CDT together last year, and we shared 1 shelter between us (an SMD Haven with the inner net). I carried the tarp, my wife the inner. That worked perfectly for us, and I would do the same again on another thru of any trail.

Because of the navigation issues on the CDT and the fact that we only had 1 set of maps, we hiked together at all times, so there was never any chance that we would have to camp alone. As long as you have compatible hiking styles/speeds and you enjoy spending time together, I don't see why this should be a problem. My wife and I had previously done many shorter trips plus a 3-week section hike, so we knew that we'd be fine together.

If you're worried that one of you might get off the trail and the other go on alone, I think you have 2 options: 1) plan for the remaining hiker to just go on with the pot/shelter/other shared equipment. Or 2) give your solo tarp or whatever alternative you have to the person mailing your boxes and swap out your gear. I do recommend that you talk in advance about your contingency plans if someone has to quit or take extended time off. I've known more than one couple where one of them had to miss time or quit the trail.

Good luck with it--the PCT is the best.

Ben Hons
(BenjiH) - M
Re: Shelters and other things... on 05/11/2014 18:45:53 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for the advice, good to hear from those who hike with there significant other. We do have similar hiking styles and goals, and do want to share the experience together regardless of what happens. We will be discussing and making agreements on all of the "what ifs" over the next year. So it makes sense to share more gear then I had imagined, it also makes preparing for it a whole lot easier.

Any recommendations for a kitchen set? Right now we use a 1.3 liter pot and a pocket rocket. We also bring a mug for tea/coffee, but had plans to each carry a mug that doubles as a pot, like a 900ml pot and boil twice. This seems like it would be less fuel and time efficient though, and considering going without hot drinks (yikes, no coffee?) I might try to find a lighter canister stove as well, not sure. Either way I don't think a 1.3 will be enough for us when we have hiker hunger, it's barely enough for our weekend trips.

Will one bear can be enough for two people? I was imagining needing to each carry one for the amount of food needed?

Well I guess I have more research to do!

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Shelters and other things... on 05/11/2014 19:14:45 MDT Print View

Seems like lots of good advice on here.

If I was hiking the trail with a good friend, even a best friend, I would definitely plan to be able to split up at any point, so considerations for separate gear would be made.

If I was hiking with a significant other (but was unmarried)... well, I'd honestly hesitate to do that in the first place! That's a tricky situation...

I agree with many of you posters above who identified the married couples as kind of being in a unique situation. It is a different level of commitment in terms of trail partnership than any other backpacking relationship, save for maybe parents and children.

The advice to talk about contingency plans before the hike even starts is probably very wise. My wife and I have different contingency plans for mild injuries, severe injuries, family emergencies, etc... and these plans are also affected by what stage of the trail we are hiking and if we are part of a larger hiking group at the time or not.

For example, if I got hurt with a non-season ending injury, but my wife and I were hiking with other thru hikers that we had become good friends with, then my wife would be much more comfortable forging on ahead with them as I recovered in town than if she had to do it solo; whereas I would be fine going solo for a few weeks if she got hurt and had to recover.

There is a lot to think about, but it's surely worth doing beforehand so everyone is on the same page and can prepare accordingly.

Benji, like you, I am still debating about what cooking system to bring on the trail for my wife and I. I suspect that the easier it is, the better, since we will probably not want to expend a lot of effort cooking after weeks and weeks of 20+ mile days. I'm currently looking into doing a combination of no-cook and boil only meals.

One thing we really want to avoid is having to "do the dishes" every night (i.e. cleaning a pot). This seems like it would be really hard in SoCal when we will be dry camping so much, so the less water and fuss needed, the better, in all likelihood.

Edited by dmusashe on 05/11/2014 19:27:17 MDT.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Cooking on 05/11/2014 19:56:03 MDT Print View

On long hikes, we use a 1.3 L pot and a SuperCat stove. Because my wife is a lot smaller than me and we wanted to make sure that I didn't hog all the food and that we each ate enough, we cooked twice each night and ate separately, one after the other. Sometimes we had an extra plastic container so that the first person could be eating while the other person immediately started cooking. Other times the first person would finish eating before passing the pot off to the other.

This worked well enough for us. We didn't need a second pot or a canister stove (I hate canister stoves). Some nights it was annoying to have to wait to cook, but usually we made good use of the time. The person cooking second set up the tent while the other ate. If there was extra time before the pot was free, we would journal or eat dessert first.

For the most part we each carried our own breakfasts and snacks and dinners. Carrying our own food made it more likely that we'd each eat enough without me stealing all of her food.

As for cleaning pots, it takes me about 3 tablespoons of water to clean the messiest poss (the secret: use your fingers to swirl the water around), and I drink the water anyway, so no waste.

Unless you're doing 25 miles every day or only eating 2000 calories a day, no way will all of your food fit in one bear canister. I completely filled a Bearikade Expedition (which is even bigger than the BearVaults most folks used) for the section from KM to Kearsarge Pass. All of my friends had totally full bear canisters too--most had overflow.

Edited by sschloss1 on 05/11/2014 19:56:38 MDT.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
PCT 2015 hopefuls- Cooking Set on 05/11/2014 20:30:27 MDT Print View

"One thing we really want to avoid is having to "do the dishes" every night (i.e. cleaning a pot)."

My gear systems and the way I do things is built around the fact that I like hiking but hate camp chores like setting up a shelter (so I cowboy camp unless its raining) or cleaning a pot (so I use freezer bag cooking or go cookless to avoid the hassle of cooking in the first place).

Google "Freezer Bag Cooking". It isn't necessary to clean the pot using this method. It even allows you to use a smaller pot since you are only boiling water in the pot and not adding food. For the PCT, I was able to use a 550ml pot since it was just for boiling water and no cooking was done in it (double the size for water for two people at once). The "cooking" or rather the re-hydration is done in a freezer bag that already contained the food before the hot water was added and allowed to sit with some sort of insulation wrapped around it (ie. a cozy) to trap the heat while it does its magic. You eat out of the bag when its finished (I use a spoon instead of a spork to avoid puncturing a hole in the bag).

Its the same thing as those Mountain House Dinners you buy at a backpacker outfitter where you pour hot water into the provided bag. It works for most popular thru-hiking foods that you can buy at small grocery stores (ie. instant mash potatoes, Korr brand sides, couscous, hamburger helper, etc.) since they only require rehydrating. You can also pre-make some nice meals at home to mail to yourself that are friendly to this method.

Edited by Miner on 05/11/2014 23:07:15 MDT.

Ben Hons
(BenjiH) - M
Re: Re: Re: Shelters and other things... on 05/12/2014 20:58:29 MDT Print View


Thanks again for the advice. I agree, going over our contingency plans is on the top of the list.

Like you we are planning on boil only meals in combination with no cook. We are hoping for dinner to be hot most times, and are ok with lunch and bfast being cold/no cook. maybe the occasional hot oatmeal. Were are also looking into going stoveless for the desert, but need to try it out first.


We already eat and cook in a similar fashion, except we cook one meal and pass the pot back and forth. This is for short backpacking trips though, so I like your method of cooking and eating separately to ensure there's no food hogging. Is the 1.3 a good size for one person meals? Could you go smaller?

I too hate canister stoves, and would love to use an alcohol stove. But I understand there is a fire risk with them, and banned on certain parts of the trail. Where on the PCT are alcohol stoves allowed?

I also use my finger and a little water to wash the pot, pretty quick and easy. Drink the grey water. And hey you're going drink water anyways, right? Might as well make it tastier with left over dinner. :)


I am well aware of the freezer bag method, but neither of us like eating out of those mountain house bags. We make 90% of our backpacking meals with a dehydrator so that makes it easy for us to make meals. Eating out of the bag is something we are not fond of, neither is eating hot food out of plastic. We both agreed to try the FBC method again to see if we can do it on the PCT, but we will most likely be bringing a pot.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Shelters and other things... on 05/12/2014 21:03:25 MDT Print View

"I also use my finger and a little water to wash the pot"

Benji, do you know where that finger has been?


Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Alchohol stoves on 05/13/2014 05:37:23 MDT Print View

This past winter was exceptionally dry in California, hence the bans on fires and alcohol stoves. No telling what will happen next year, but since we're heading into an El Nino, odds are that it will be wetter than this year. Personally, if I couldn't take my alky stove, I would just go stoveless.

As for pot size, you might be able to go smaller--some people do. I like having some extra room in there so I don't have to worry about things boiling over or spilling. Also, wider pots are generally more efficient than narrower ones, so (and I have no proof of this) a nice wide 1.3 L pot might boil faster than a .9 L pot with the same amount of water.