When hiking the PCT there are lots of decisions that need to be made, and even more when hiking this year as we are thrown curveball after curveball.
To Hike or Not to Hike
The first decision we had to make was whether to hike this year. This one we struggled over for days and ultimately we decided to go for it as we were already in San Diego. With the help of family in this early section we could skip towns and get off if needed. This was absolutely the right decision for us and have only received positivity from the places we have been.
How to Deal with Weather
The first 40 or so miles on trail was rain storm after rain storm. We ended up staying put our second day on trail just to keep everything dry and enjoy ourselves. 2 days later we were faced with whether to climb up the mountain to Mt. Laguna in a non stop down pour. We decided to stay in our tent, and although bored, were very happy with our decision as others talked about being in early stages of hypothermia by the time they made it. We were lucky to have plenty of weather and food which allowed us the ability to choose the way we did.
We have stayed in town an extra day to ride out a heat wave and it is common to do the same when a big storm is expected. Town costs add up quickly so this is where we walk a fine line of evaluating the cost benefit.
How Far to Hike
How many miles to hike is a constant question we ask ourselves that depends on a host of variables. In the beginning we hiked 5-10 miles to prevent overuse injuries. The first section is in the desert and a lot of milage can be forced due to needing to get to a water source. Towns, with food and drinks, are a great motivator to hike extra miles, but they are also a sort of vortex where you may not leave for an extra day which in the end doesn’t help you move faster through the trail. As we move into the Sierra our milage is determined by elevation and passes but water is now abundant.
An odd factor in this decision is that the faster you hike the less days of food you need – and food is weight. If you start to run out of food you have to hike extra miles to make it to the next resupply.
How Much Food to Eat
We typically have to guess how much food we need to bring for each person. Longer mile days may mean more snacks or a bigger dinner. Sometimes we plan on having hot breakfast if we camp at a water source and get up early enough. When we have an abundance of food we typically allow ourselves to indulge in extra snacks and dessert.
A typical thru hiker at this point needs to eat around 4,000-6,000 calories a day to maintain weight and endurance. Although we don’t do any precise numbers we are very careful to buy high calorie, high fat and protein foods, that weigh as little as possible. Add in the nutritional needs of a growing teenager and my inability to process gluten and you have the reason we made so much food ahead of time and have it shipped to different locations along the trail.
How Much Water to Carry
We usually estimate about a liter for every 5 miles at this point and add a little for meals. If we can’t camp at a water source than we try and as a family add at least a liter for dinner and 1.5 liters for the morning. A liter of water weighs 2.2 lbs which can add up quickly and the goal is to have no more than .5 liters when arriving at the next source.
What gear to bring, what gear to let go of, who to hike with, and many other decisions are made out here with varying levels of importance. Our main goal is to be safe while having the adventure of a lifetime and so far feel pretty good in all the decisions we have made.