Tips for Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

One of the biggest and attain­able adven­tures out there is thru-hik­ing the Pacif­ic Crest Trail, which spans from the California/Mexico bor­der to the Washington/Canada bor­der, high­light­ing per­haps some of the best nat­ur­al land­scapes the Unit­ed States has to offer. And while the size of hike may seem daunt­ing (2,650+ miles), there are plen­ty of hik­ers out there that have com­plet­ed the jour­ney. More impor­tant­ly, there plen­ty of hik­ers hap­py to share some advice and inspi­ra­tion for tack­ling the trail yourself.

on Sunday, September 8, 2013 on the PCT.

The Clymb: The Pacif­ic Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and runs north to south through Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton; how long did it take you to hike the entire thing in one go?

Jonathan (Cap­tains of (Hik­er Trash): “I start­ed the PCT on April 16 and fin­ished at the Cana­di­an bor­der on Sep­tem­ber 8. That’s four and a half months. On days that I hiked I would aver­age about 25 miles. I found myself falling into a rhythm quite quick­ly on trail in spite of nev­er hav­ing done much hik­ing pri­or to the PCT.”

Jonathan and his hik­ing part­ner Dan make up the dynam­ic duo behind Cap­tains of Us, an online jour­nal about the ups, downs, and gen­er­al good rev­e­la­tions that come from hik­ing the Pacif­ic Crest Trail. Full of insight, fun­ny anec­dotes, and stun­ning pho­tog­ra­phy, this pro­fes­sion­al blog dis­plays the com­mu­ni­ty and nat­ur­al good-heart­ed­ness that comes from hik­ing such a long dis­tance. Along­side Cap­tains of Us, you can find some more trail inspi­ra­tion from Jonathan’s trail project, Hik­er Trash, which pro­vides pro­fes­sion­al por­traits of some of the hik­ers you’re sure to meet on trail.


The Clymb: Every ounce counts on a long dis­tance hike, espe­cial­ly with the big ele­va­tions found on the Pacif­ic Crest Trail, do you have any advice on sav­ing weight in your pack?

Arielle Par­ris ( “To cut weight on your sleep sys­tem con­sid­er a quilt instead of a sleep­ing bag—it offers incred­i­ble warmth to weight ratio and an inflat­able pad keeps you insu­lat­ed from the ground. Buy a bag warmer than the cold­est you can imag­ine being on trail—you’ll thank your­self lat­er. A bivvy is an extreme­ly light option as a shel­ter, espe­cial­ly with a Tyvek sheet as a ground cloth or tarp. If you are hik­ing with a part­ner, split­ting up the tent halves the weight. Don’t buy a foot­print, just use tyvek. Adding light­weight base lay­ers only for sleep­ing and a down jack­et with hood will keep you warm and dry even when it hails in July.”

Arielle along­side her trail coun­ter­part Avry , com­prise the team known as Cycked, and not only are these two badass ladies hik­ing the Pacif­ic Crest Trail, they are doing it for a rea­son larg­er than them­selves. In an effort to raise mon­ey for the YMCA Bold & Gold pro­gram which gives chil­dren the chance to learn from the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment through adven­ture, these ladies are pro­vid­ing insight, gear reviews, and good times from the PCT. Check out the Cycked web­site to learn how to par­tic­i­pate, to get the lat­est gear reviews, and find inspi­ra­tion of your own to hike the Pacif­ic Crest Trail.


The Clymb: You need a lot of calo­ries to be hik­ing 20–25 miles a day, but any food that you want to eat you’ll have to car­ry on your back and add it to your load. What was your food expe­ri­ence like con­cern­ing prepa­ra­tion, favorite foods, and how often you resup­plied at the moun­tain towns that sparse­ly lined the trail?

Mac ( “Per­son­al­ly, cook­ing became one of my biggest annoy­ances on-trail. Car­ry­ing extra water, need­ing extra time, clean­ing up after­wards, and hav­ing extra gear all made the idea of going “stove­less” a very appeal­ing alter­na­tive. I ate a ton of cheese, tor­tillas, Sriracha, and bars (Clif, Pow­er, Pem­mi­can, Nature Val­ley, etc.). Occa­sion­al­ly I would take the time to build a fire and grill up some quesadillas—my per­son­al favorite on-trail. My resup­plies usu­al­ly came about every hun­dred to hun­dred fifty miles, and I usu­al­ly just bought what­ev­er was avail­able in town. How­ev­er, if I knew there was a sparse­ly stocked resup­ply point ahead I would some­times buy my resup­ply in a larg­er town and ship it ahead to myself.”

Who is Mac? That is a ques­tion worth ask­ing and one that’s hard to find the words for. Inspired by his trav­el and col­lege edu­ca­tion abroad, Mac pulled the trig­ger on a thought that has crossed many brains before and quit his day job to live a life of adven­ture. Along the way he has brought his cam­era and scrib­bled down some words, and his web­site ( dis­plays the insights, the fun, and the adven­ture of liv­ing a life you choose. Check it out for some Pacif­ic Crest Trail infor­ma­tion, or for pho­to essays from around the world, what­ev­er you do, it will excite you to live an adven­tur­ous life of your own.

caroline puppy

The Clymb: The PCT takes an aver­age of 5 months to com­plete and vis­its a wide vari­ety of ele­va­tions and weath­er vari­ances; did you have to rotate out your gear through­out the hike to accom­mo­date the chang­ing cli­mates of the PCT?

Car­o­line “Pup­py” ( “I used the same 15lb set of gear (except a few fussy moments, but it always boiled down the same) for my entire 173-day hike. A thought­ful lay­er­ing sys­tem will take you through three sea­sons and 2668 miles, as will a 15–30º sleep­ing bag. What many peo­ple don’t real­ize is that the desert is very cold at night and the High Sier­ra can actu­al­ly be quite com­fort­able at night, even at 11,000 feet. But, it’s still impor­tant to be pre­pared with insu­lat­ing lay­ers, rain gear and/or umbrel­la, and a shel­ter. You nev­er know what can pop up—hikers have dealt with some pret­ty puz­zling weath­er con­di­tions on the PCT, espe­cial­ly in the past two years.”

Car­o­line has been liv­ing an adven­tur­ous life for as long as she can remem­ber, and lucky for every­one else she has been blog­ging about the expe­ri­ence since the year 2000 with her web­site Lit­tle And while the web­site wasn’t orig­i­nal­ly built for PCT Rec­ol­lec­tion (actu­al­ly it was built to sell cus­tom made cycling caps), when the adven­ture bug bit her in 2013 and she com­plet­ed the entire trail, the PCT nar­ra­tive already fit well with her adven­tur­ous dia­logue and vio­la, besides doc­u­ment­ing Caroline’s recent RV trav­els, Lit­tle is also a great resource for any­one inter­est­ed in hik­ing the Pacif­ic Crest Trail.


The Clymb: Thru-hik­ing for over 4 months at an aver­age 20 miles a day can be just as chal­leng­ing to the men­tal spirt as the phys­i­cal. What were some of the dif­fi­cult moments you faced and look­ing back on it now, how do you feel about the emo­tion­al toil you faced on trail and do you look back on your thru-hik­ing expe­ri­ence as a pos­i­tive one?

Wendy ( Thru-hik­ers are near­ly always in some state of dis­com­fort on the PCT, but it is pre­cise­ly this dis­com­fort that allows you to access your deep inner strength and strip away out­er lay­ers to uncov­er our joy­ful spir­its that often remain buried inside of us. These dis­com­forts also allow hik­ers to appre­ci­ate and enjoy each small plea­sure more deeply and eas­i­ly. As we walk, our life bur­dens are stripped away, and sim­ple joy is allowed to rise to the sur­face. Thru-hik­ing gave me a great sense of pur­pose and it is there that I uncov­ered more of a feel­ing of self-worth than I have ever expe­ri­enced before. No mat­ter what adver­si­ty is thrown at me on a thru-hike, I con­tin­ue to keep walk­ing because my spir­it is far hap­pi­er on the trail than any­where else.

Hav­ing com­plet­ed the Appalachi­an Trail in 2009, the Con­ti­nen­tal Divide Trail in 2012, and the Pacif­ic Crest Trail in 2013, Wendy has suc­cess­ful­ly obtained the Triple Crown of Hik­ing. And with a com­bined dis­tance of over 7,500 miles, it’s easy to say that the Triple Crown is no easy task. If you’re won­der­ing what inspires and push­es Wendy towards such big goals, as well as the human nature insights learned along the way, well you’re in luck because not only can you get some per­spec­tive from Wendy her­self through her web­site, but she is also a pro­fes­sion­al speak­er ready and will­ing to give her trail based inspi­ra­tional talks to any crowd want­i­ng to learn more.