Did you know people are 63% more likely to believe the information they see presented in a chart versus simply reading the same information in a paragraph? Did you know I made that up? Would you like to see some Pacific Crest Trail-related charts anyway? Great.
Yes, it’s time for the fifth installment of this year’s Pacific Crest Trail Hiker Survey (in case you missed the other three, here they are: Survey Results, Gear Guide, Resupply Guide, Horror & Heartbreak). Here, we break down PCT hikers in a number of ways (by age, pack weight, country of origin) and compare an even larger number of measurements (completion percentage, hike speed, dollars spent). Do I think that ingesting this information is going to help you have a successful Pacific Crest Trail hike? Nope. Do I think it’s interesting? A little, yeah. A lot of what you would expect comes out of this chart (e.g. female hikers had warmer sleeping bags and experienced hikers started with a lower base weight), but there are some surprises as well (you’ll have to read further to find those out).
A lot of the data here is more along the lines of, “Hmmm…I think this would be an interesting thing to look at,” as opposed to something that might actually assist you in completing the Pacific Crest Trail (remember, planning is useless).
The categories I’ve split hikers into are based on sex, age, country (domestic vs. international), experience (first thru-hike vs. experienced thru-hiker), pre-trail fitness level, length of hike, cost of hike, and pack base weight (pre-hike). The data points we look at for each of these breakdowns are: sex, age, education, start month (NOBO), average start date (NOBO), days on trail, fitness level, longest day, zero days, near-o days, resupply stops, resupply boxes sent, starting base weight, ending base weight, amount spent on gear, amount spent on entire hike, sleeping bag temperature rating, backpack size, and pairs of shoes used.
Not sure what one or more of the terms listed above means? Check out the thru-hiker glossary.
The comparisons below are:
Jump to a Section
- Notes On The Data
- Hiker Sex Breakdown
- Hiker Age Breakdown
- Hiker Country (Domestic vs. International)
- Hiker Experience Breakdown
- Hiker Fitness Breakdown
- Hiker Speed Breakdown
- Hike Cost Breakdown
- Light vs. Heavy Backpacks
- Overall Statistics
- Other PCT Surveys
Notes on the Data
- This year we had 502 completed surveys.
- The responses to some questions have been sorted and colored in hopes of more usefully and accurately presenting the data (e.g. northbound vs. southbound).
- Not all PCT hikers document the stats of their thru-hike (yes, I’m weird). Because of this, the data is not 100% guaranteed accurate (again, this is not science we’re dealing with).
- For simplicity, I refer to the survey respondents collectively as this year’s “class“. Remember this is only a fraction of this year’s PCT hikers and it is not necessarily representative of the entire PCT Class of 2018.
- If you find some small and meaningless discrepancy in the data, get over it. If you find large or obvious errors, please let me know.
- If you would like to be notified of new surveys, click here.
Labels differentiating hiker segments:
- THRU: Thru-hikers (all)
- FINISH: Thru-hikers (all) who completed the entire PCT
- NOBO: Northbound thru-hikers (all)
If NO LABEL has been appended to a data point, then I used all data collected (this includes section hiker data).
If at any point you find yourself wondering, “It would be interesting to see how X compares to Y,” then let me know in a comment or via message and I may be able to add it to the collection.
NOTE: if some of the “overall” numbers look strange in relation to the categories it’s because the overall stat includes all hikers in the group while the other numbers may only include the finishers (e.g. the ages of hikers in the “Fast vs. Slow Hikes”).
PCT THRU-HIKER SEX
We’ll start with some statistics that won’t be very useful to anyone planning a thru-hike (I have a feeling that most of what follows is mostly fow entertainment purposes, but there’s definitely some wisdom to be had here). What was the split between men and women on the Pacific Crest Trail this year?
- 56.7% Male
- 43.1% Female
- 0.2% Genderqueer*
*This group was not included in the chart below because it contained only one person (and therefore would reflect the data of a single person and not a group).
PCT THRU-HIKER AGE
The youngest hiker to participate in the survey was 18, the oldest (thru-hiker) was 70 (this person has not been included in the data below as they are the only one in their group).
- 1.6% <20
- 19.1% 20-24
- 29.7% 25-29
- 16.4% 30-34
- 9.2% 35-39
- 9.2% 40-49
- 8.2% 50-59
- 6.1% 60-69
- AVERAGE AGE | 34 (σ = 12)
The average age of survey respondents was 34 (σ = 12). Will this help you plan your hike? Probably not. Is it interesting to look at? Yes. Did this chart take way too long to make? You bet it did.
PCT HIKERS: DOMESTIC VS. INTERNATIONAL
This year, we had hikers from 31 countries (including the US) from every populated continent (that’s right, nobody from that uninhabited wasteland, Australia). International hikers accounted for 37.7% of this year’s PCT Class. From the US, we had every state represented except for Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming (I guess Wyoming and Montana were busy with the Continental Divide Trail, but Kentucky and North Dakota, you have no excuse).
- COUNTRIES | Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, USA (31 TOTAL)
- US STATES | AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA,VT, WA, WV, WI (46 TOTAL)
MOST REPRESENTED COUNTRIES
- USA 62.3%
- Australia 7.8%
- Canada 6.8%
- Germany 5.8%
- United Kingdom 4.7%
- New Zealand/Switzerland 3.1%
- Austria/France/Israel 1%
MOST REPRESENTED STATES
- California 22.4%
- Washington 12.5%
- Oregon 8%
- Texas 4.2%
- Colorado/Michigan 3.5%
- New York 2.9%
- North Carolina 2.6%
PCT HIKERS: ROOKIE VS. EXPERIENCE
This year, 70% of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers were taking on their first long-distance trail and 30% had experience on one or more long-distance hikes in the past.
The trails most commonly hiked by those with experience are:
- 27% Appalachian Trail
- 22% John Muir Trail
- 11% Camino de Santiago
- 10% Pacific Crest Trail
- 10% Tahoe Rim Trail
- 9% Te Araroa Trail
- 8% Colorado Trail
- 6% Wonderland Trail
- 4% Continental Divide Trail
- 4% Long Trail
- 3% Arizona Trail
- 26% Other Long-distance Trail
PCT HIKERS: FAST VS. SLOW
How about people who hiked the trail quickly vs. those who took a bit longer to complete their thru-hikes?
Here we split and compare hikers based on the length of time it took them to finish the trail. The average number of days thru-hikers spent completing a thru-hike this year was 149 days (basically five months).
I’ve divided hikerss into “Fast Hikes” (quicker than 149 days) and “Slow Hikes” (those that took 149 days or longer).
NOTE: Since this chart is measuring stats based on the completion time of the PCT, all of the hikers included here completed the trail.
PCT HIKES: CHEAP VS. EXPENSIVE
Now to an issue that many future thru-hikers worry about: how much will it cost to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (and how much should they spend)?
Will spending a lot of money on a thru-hike make it more successful? Epic? Sexy? Probably not. That said, if you’re looking to reduce cost on a thru-hike, then it appears completing your hike as quickly as possible (and not taking many days off) is a good solution (as you would probably expect?).
NOTE: Since this chart is measuring stats based on the completion time of the PCT, all the hikers included here completed the trail.
More on how much it costs to hike the Pacific Crest Trail here.
PCT HIKES: LIGHT VS. HEAVY PACKS
And now to the proverbial thru-hiker dick-measuring competition: pack weight. The average starting base weight for this year’s PCT thru-hiking class was 18.21 lbs / 8.28 kg and the average ending base weight was 15.53 lbs / 7.06 kg.
I split this section based on starting base weight. What did we find out here? Well, nothing really. I suggest taking a look at the gear data instead of trying to glean any information from this chart.
The charts below show the distributions of hiker base weight before and after the trail (note: the charts are in pounds – sorry, rest of the world).
PCT THRU-HIKE OVERALL WINNERS & LOSERS
Wrapping up, let’s look at which of the above groups had the overall lowest and highest averages for each of our data points.
Experienced thru-hikers spent the least on gear, people who spent the longest on the trail had more expensive hikes, longer hikes had more zero days, and people with heavier base weights had the largest backpacks (in terms of capacity). But there were a few surprises too, I guess – older hikers started their hikes the earliest, and hikers under 20 had the lowest reported level of pre-trail fitness (I guess you could call those surprises).
Leave a comment and let me know what you find to be useful, interesting, or if there’s something you would like to see included in the future.