As part of my incredibly scientific Pacific Crest Trail Hiker Survey (2015, 2014, 2013), I ask hikers what advice they have for the next year’s class of dirtbags.
This year I have separated the advice from the data to ensure that it does not become lost among the mountains of numbers and statistics I throw at you (it’s true, I’m a mathematical savant).
However, anyone who has been paying especially close attention up until this point (or those of you who choose to read the remainder of this post) will know that listening (or even reading) the advice of others runs counterproductive to the planning of one’s own thru-hike (trust no one).
Please note that you will not be reading all the respondents’ advice, as it has been heavily filtered by me to ensure that only things that I agree with (and would prescribe myself) have been included. Problem? Nobody is telling you to be here.
Even then, remember, most of what you read will never amount to anything more than “some stranger on the internet’s opinion” and that your hike will (very likely) end up much different from the realities reflected in the following advice.
That being said, I know what it feels like to be fiending for something more of the trail prior to a PCT attempt, so I will indulge your urges.
Remember to read at your own risk and to hike your own hike.
Any advice on gear?
- “Bring whatever you are most comfortable with, after the first 1000 miles, weight is not really a concern anymore…”
- “By the end, I and most people I hiked with could care less about UL. Sure we still want things to be light, but having gear that wasn’t going to break or fall apart was more important.”
- “Everything worked great. I think too many people carry unnecessary gear. Skill and proper usage of gear go a long way at reducing pack weight. ‘Knowledge weighs nothing‘.”
- “Go light and fast! Carry fewer warm clothes and you will spend more time hiking and less time sitting around at camp.”
- “I carried 3 lbs of camera gear, I questioned it every day but also used it every day. In the end, I do not regret bringing it.”
- “I stressed about gear too much in planning for the hike. Do your research, make a reasonable choice, and just hike. “
- “I went cold and did not cook the entire trip and loved it. Made great meals just soaking and loved the freedom, flexibility, and ease that it added to my trip. It also cut my pack weight substantially.”
- “I would advise future hikers to not buy lightweight gear that won’t hold up to the elements, or keep you safe, or comfortable, just because it’s a few ounces lighter. I saw loads of hikers suffering in OR and WA due to lightweight gear failures.”
- “Less is better.”
- “Lighter really is better, don’t be afraid to cowboy camp, test your comfort limits.”
What do you wish you had done differently?
- “I wish I trained more.”
- “I wish I’d bought more wool socks and fewer cheap liners.”
- “I would have started earlier so that I would have had even more time on the trail.”
- “I wish I hadn’t joined the PCT Facebook page.”
- “Researched ultralight gear more thoroughly. Tested out my shoes and gear.”
- “I wish I had done practice/shakedown backpack trips with someone who knew what they were doing. I had never done a multi-night backpack trip prior to kicking off. I wish I practiced yoga as the flexibility could have helped early soreness.”
- “I wish I had not even mailed one resupply box but called every location to see if I could resupply there. I think I could have resupplied (being very flexible) everywhere I sent a box..”
- “I should have taken a lot more pictures.”
- “Not had anybody join me for sections.”
- “Less food boxes..no target dates…”
- “Worried less.”
Any more advice?
- “Don’t listen to anyone unless it’s about water. Then take that with a grain of salt.”
- “It may take a long time to find ‘your people’ on the trail, but it will happen.”
- “You will find your groove, make your own decisions. It’s great hiking with others, but it’s your hike.”
- “Take it one day at a time and enjoy it while it lasts!”
- “Have fun on your own terms, don’t waste time comparing yourself to others who hike faster.”
- “Take care of your feet!”
- “Swim a lot.”
- “People will give you all kinds of advice and tell you “how things are”. This is just their opinion based on who they are.”
- “Never quit on a bad day and give yourself more time than you think you need to finish.”
- “Live a lot, drink yourself silly, be social, the trail is all about the people you share it with out there. Laugh, cause everything is goofy. Be plain silly, this is your chance. Take zeros, take more near-os, and try a hero if you find out about those. Love deeply, and don’t be afraid to get hurt. Pick yourself up when you’re down, and just keep hiking.”
- “Do it!”
- “Listen to your body and don’t give in to the “vortex of fear” hike your own hike and enjoy!”
- “Know yourself – hike your own pace, don’t go too light, don’t make plans to hike with friends or leave the trail for anything, don’t quit when things get hard in NorCal.”
- “Just keep walking.”
- In the future, people will not ask you how many miles you did every day, but they will want to know: what did you see, what did you experience? So please, take it all in, and don’t stress about the miles. The trail is much more than an athletic experience.”
- “Don’t worry.”
- “Do what it takes to have fun, that’s above and beyond the most important.”
- “Don’t hitchhike around closures just because everybody else is doing it.”
- “Hike your own hike.”
- “Half mile app is awesome. Enjoy the hike, you are out there to learn about yourself. If you need a day to explore off the trail do it, this is YOUR experience. Hike as far as you need to, but know you will never be the same again. (All good changes).”
- “Don’t over plan. Just go for the hike.”
- “Enjoy every second and the trail provides – every time.”
- “Everyone panics about the conditions of the trail before they begin (drought, too much snow) and they consider waiting for a better year. Don’t. It will be fine.”
- “Get in shape and don’t over plan, the trail will take care of you if you take care of yourself.”
- “GO ADVENTURE.”
Hey Mac, what do you think?
Good question, Mac. Basically, all future hikers need to know is:
- Trust no one.
- Have fun.
- Don’t over-plan.
- Don’t quit on a bad day.
- Leave no trace.
- Don’t stress.
- The trail provides.
- Honestly, I prefer stoveless.
- Hike your own hike.
- And here’s a letter to future PCT classes.
Enjoy your adventure.