Following my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike last year, I decided to survey my fellow hikers in an effort to provide some concrete information to the next year's class (and of course to compare my own stats to everyone else's).
My experiment was successful (meaning nobody died), and so in an effort to maintain my year-long streak of surveying PCT hikers, I decided to conduct a similar survey this year.
Now before you go getting your panties in a bunch regarding any of the information here, I suggest you first, check out the disclaimer; that you second, remember that what I have done here is by no definition scientific, independently corroborable, or possibly even accurate; and that you third – well and that you third just remember that we're all friends here.
I had a total of 106 completed surveys (all by hikers who (supposedly) completed the trail), and all but a few provided me with usable data (you know who you are person with 300+ zero days).
So here you are, the results of Halfway Anywhere's Annual Pacific Crest Trail Thru-hiker Survey:
Going by the numbers, if we were to choose a hiker at random (because we're mathematicians now), then we would find a white, college educated male in his late twenties (and would be from California). Now who do we know like that?
- Sex: 65% Male, 31% Female, 1% Genderqueer
- Age: 32 Average (0% under 20, 26% 20-24, 37% 25-30, 19% 31-40, 7% 41-50, 6% 51-60, 5% 61+)
- Race: 88% White, 2% Asian, 6% Hispanic, 3% Multi-Racial, 2% Decline to answer
- Education: 67% Bachelor's Degree, 17% Some College, 17% Graduate Degree, 5% Associate Degree, 3% High School Diploma
- Countries Represented: 10 (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, USA)
- States Represented: 26 (Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington)
TOP THREE COUNTRIES
- USA – 88
- Canada – 7
- England – 3
TOP THREE STATES
- California – 26
- Washington – 13
- Oregon – 11
WHEN SHOULD I START MY HIKE!? Our average hiker was on his first long distance hike, and began the adventure alone during the last week of April (maybe even on April 24th). He didn't go to the ADZPCTKO, but if he had, then chances are that he would choose to go again.
- First Long Hike: 77% Yes, 23% No
- Began Alone: 63% Yes, 37% No
- Kickoff Attendance: 63% Did not attend, 7% Would not attend again, 30% Would attend again
- Happy With Start Date: 70% Yes, 21% No, would start earlier, 9% No, would start later
- Month Started: 4% March, 78% April, 16% May, 2% June
- Most Popular Start Date: April 24
- Start Date: 6% Before April 8, 13% April 8 – April 14, 25% April 15 – April 22, 34% April 23 – April 30, 16% After May 1
So how much time did our hiking friend really spend hiking? Well he took nineteen zeroes with fifteen near-os sprinkled in for good measure. To make up for all that shameless resting, his longest day was 37 mi / 59.5 km.
- Longest Day: Average 37 mi / 59.5 km (σ = 7.8 mi / 12.5 km)
- Zeroes: Average 19 (σ = 8.5)
- Near-os: Average 15 (σ = 8)
- Would Hike PCT Again: 81% Yes, 19% No
Surely we need to learn what we can about the all-important resupply strategy. Our average hiker mailed themselves around thirteen resupply boxes and made a total of twenty-four resupply stops over the course of the trail. Twenty-four stops over the course of 2,660 miles? That's an average of 111 mi / 178 km between resupplies.
- Resupply Stops Made: 24 average (σ = 6.3)
- Resupply Strategy: 73% mailed some boxes, 23% mailed all boxes, 4% mailed no boxes
- Resupply Boxes Sent: 13 Average (σ = 7)
DEFINITELY MAIL A BOX:
MAIL A BOX INSTEAD OF BUYING:
- Sierra City, CA
- Stehekin, CA
- Castella, CA
CHANGES TO RESUPPLY STRATEGY?
- Send fewer boxes
- Send more food in boxes
- Send a larger variety of food
I also asked everyone to list everywhere they resupplied over the course of the trail. In geographical order, starting at Mexico, here are the most popular resupply stops (aka everywhere at least 70% of respondents said they paid a visit to):
- Mount Laguna, CA (88%)
- Warner Springs, CA (97%)
- Paradise Cafe, CA (87%)
- Idyllwild, CA (97%)
- Wrightwood, CA (82%)
- The Saufley's, CA (90%)
- The Anderson's (70%)
- Hikertown, CA (72%)
- Tehachapi, CA (76%)
- Kennedy Meadows, CA (100%)
- Mammoth Lakes, CA (81%)
- Tuolumne Meadows, CA (87%)
- South Lake Tahoe, CA (91%)
- Sierra City, CA (95%)
- Old Station, CA (76%)
- Etna, CA (72%)
- Seiad Valley, CA (77%)
- Ashland, OR (92%)
- Mazama Village Store (Crater Lake), OR (93%)
- Shelter Cove Resort, OR (85%)
- Timberline Lodge, OR (95%)
- Cascade Locks, OR (93%)
- White Pass, WA (92%)
- Snoqualmie Pass, WA (100%)
- Skykomish/The Dinsmores (94%)
- Stehekin, WA (95%)
NOTE: This does NOT translate (at all) into a viable resupply strategy because there are many resupply stops where hikers are split between multiple locations. This list only reflects those stops used by the overwhelming majority of hikers.
Now to the question of gear. What did Average-Hiker-2014 end up with here? Research shows us that he started the trail (April 24) with a base weight of 17.8 lbs / 8.07 kg, but when he finished he was down to a base weight of 14.8 lbs / 6.71 kg (3 lb / 1.36 kg savings).
He spent a grand total of $1,291 on gear before the hike.
Chances are that he did filter his water.
- Starting Base Weight: 17.8 lb / 8.1 kg average (σ = 7.8 lb / 3.5 kg)
- Ending Base Weight: 14.8 lb / 6.7 kg average (σ = 8.6 lb / 3.9 kg)
- Filter Water: 58% Yes, 42% No (from “Yes”: 12% only sometimes, 6% only in desert)
- Average Spent On Gear: $1,291 (σ = $901)
What gear took you longest to drop from your pack?
- Extra Clothing
- Solar Charger
- Rain Pants
- Water Filter
What gear do you wish you had invested more in (or had been able to upgrade)?
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad
What was your favorite piece of gear?
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad
- Down Jacket
Top comments on gear for future hikers:
- Go lighter.
- Do your research.
- Good gear is worth the investment.
- Don't stress too much about gear.
For more on gear you can check out my Final “Complete PCT Gear List”.
What was the FAVORITE section of the trail? Top five responses:
What was the LEAST FAVORITE section of the trail? Top five responses:
What resource did you find MOST VALUABLE when planning your hike?
What resource did you find LEAST VALUABLE when planning your hike?
If you have any questions about the data, have suggestions for next year's survey or would like more information then please leave a comment below.