PCT-2015-hiking-map

It’s T minus six days. My boxes are packed (except for a few more cocoa packets), my gear is set (except I’m still waiting for my new sleeping bag to arrive), and I’ve been hiking daily (but only for two days straight). Am I ready? Psh, yeah- in all the right ways I’m ready. I’ve got the essentials in my gear and resupply boxes and if I have to get in shape while on trail, then so be it. If I’ve learned anything from my long hike last summer, it’s that it’s just not worth it to stress over the details of the trip. I’m going to have a great time, and I’ll probably have an even better time if I LET GO of those little details!

Many of you know that ever since I had knee surgery to repair torn cartilage, I’ve made it my goal to hike the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Since August of 2013, I’ve been section hiking California’s PCT, completing 1,726 miles, and this summer I aim to hike all the way from Lake Tahoe to Canada and finish the trail once and for all.

Yes, you’re right, I AM re-hiking the 632 miles from Tahoe to Oregon. Why do that, when I’ve only got to hike 900-something miles to officially finish the trail?  Short answer: because it’s FUN! Long answer: last summer I hiked just over 1,100 miles and by the time I was getting off the trail, I felt like I was just hitting my stride. I want to know what it feels like to hike more than 1,100 miles. Will it feel better or worse? Eh, probably about the same as last year. Will I reach some kind of athletic nirvana state? Probably not, but I still want to feel it for myself. Will I be kicking myself after I’ve hiked 900 miles, saying “I could’ve been done already!” Probably, but it’ll be worth it.

What am I doing differently this time?

New gear:

To see a complete list of my gear for this hike, check out my 2015 PCT Gear List.

1)  Zpacks 20° sleeping bag– replacing my REI Women’s Halo 32° bag. This new Zpacks bag will be warmer and roomier, yet lighter than any of my other sleeping bags. Because Zpacks specializes in customizing gear for individuals, I was able to select a bag that fits my unique height and desire for extra width as an added luxury. I can’t wait to try it; I only hope it arrives in time!

2)  Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack– replacing my Zpacks Arcblast pack. I really, really loved my Zpacks Arblast, but I need something with a bit more durability. So, I’m opting for added weight in exchange for longevity. These things are all about comprises!

3)  Klymit X-lite Torso Pad– replacing my Klymit Interia X-frame. The X-frame was a fantastic sleeping pad and because it was so awesome, I had a good feeling about the torso pad version when Klymit came out with it. I’ve used this pad for two nights and it did not disappoint. I’m really looking forward to showing it off to all the Thermarest-carrying hikers.

4)  Columbia Women’s Insect Blocker Shirt– I didn’t pay too much attention to what kind of shirt I wore last year. This year, I’m going all out. The Columbia shirt not only has built-in insect shield, but also a UPF of 30, moisture wicking, and will look cute layered with a tank top. Cuteness aside, layering is important while hiking. It’s nice to have options while out in the elements: long sleeves or short, pop the collar or not, unbuttoned or buttoned. These little things make a big difference in sun protection and comfort in the cold and heat.

5)  Humble Chic Convertible Dress Skirt– replacing my Macabi skirt. The Macabi skirt is a great product. It’s durable, versatile, and just screams “Little House on the Prairie.” It’s great to be practical about your trail clothing, but if you’re out there for months, you still need to maintain your personality. The Macabi skirt was everything I needed it to be, except I got sick of everyone asking if I was Amish. Anyways, I’m excited to try out this completely random dress I found on Amazon. I like that it’s long enough to hide my underwear when I’m sitting and short enough to be cute. I’ll let you know how it works out!

*UPDATE: this skirt was a horrible idea. I eventually switched to using a Mountain Hardware Dynama Skirt.

Assessing my gear

Assessing my gear

New Food:

To see how I organize my resupply boxes, check out my recent post on What To Put In Your Resupply Box.

This time around, I have a much better idea of what kind of food I will need and want on the trail. I’ve cut out the products I didn’t care for last summer and have diversified everything from my bars and jerky to my meals and sugary treats. I’m also taking into consideration how fun it is to buy treats, junk food, and new kinds of foods at town stops, so my resupplies allow a bit of room for spontaneous shopping!

1)  Hot cocoa and marshmallows in EVERY box- last summer I ended up buying hot cocoa packets at every town I stopped in for resupply. It was a major bonus when I found brands that had mini marshmallows in the cocoa mix, but they were had to find and there were never enough marshmallows. This year, I’m taking matters into my own hands. I’ve bought enough organic hot cocoa for every resupply box, plus I’ve packaged more than enough mini marshmallows for every single cup of hot cocoa.

2)  Given my fair skin and family history of skin cancer, my doctor is practically insisting I take a supplement called Astaxanthin to help protect me from sun damage, just for the duration of the hike. It’s made from a Hawaiian algae and somehow helps the body control oxidative responses to UV exposure, i.e. it’ll help prevent sunburn and skin cancer from the inside out. I’m not much of a pill-popper, so I’ll let you know how this goes.

3)  Couscous, ramen, and mac and cheese– the favorite nourishment of hikertrash around the world. Last year, I discovered half way through the summer how awesome I felt after eating simple carbs, a.k.a. junk food, because my cells were so depleted of glucose. Ramen became crack to me. This year, I’m acknowledging my addiction to, and genuine need for, glucose in the healthiest way I can: I’m packing a moderate serving of these dishes in each resupply and pairing them with healthy protein and fats to off-set the inevitable blood sugar spikes that they bring.

4)  Speaking of healthy protein and fats, I dished out the cash and bought about $240 worth of high quality jerky from Simply Snackin’. They offer an incredible assortment of beef, chicken and venison jerky and it’s all delicious! After about 450 miles of my last hike, I looked like a starvation victim. Then I upped my fat and protein intake by adding more olive oil and jerky to my diet. Since fat burns slower than carbs and the protein helped repair muscles, I was able to sustain energy much better. I plan to eat two to three jerky bars per hiking day. Check out Brenda Braaten’s excellent article on thru-hiker nutrition: Pack Light, Eat Right.

Putting Dad to work assembling dehydrated meals.

Putting Dad to work assembling dehydrated meals.

Remaining To-Dos:

Hike more

Pack cocoa packets into my resupply boxes

Cross my fingers and hope my sleeping bag arrives in time

Upgrade my cell phone data plan (so I can surf the web and upload videos)

Unsubscribe from unwanted emails (so they don’t clog my inbox)

Put all left over gear and backpacking food into storage

Go to the salon for a hair cut

Mail out Fathers’ Day cards (can’t forget this!)

Throw any remaining cares to the wind- because if they’re not done by now, they’re not that important!

Me just after 1,000 miles on the trail last year. Photo taken by Ian Tuttle of Porcupine Photography.

Me just after 1,000 miles on the trail last year. Photo taken by Ian Tuttle of Porcupine Photography.

Links

PCT Installment No. 21- Echo Lake to Sierra City, June 2015

2015 PCT Gear List

PCT Section O Shasta Trinity National Forest Shasta City

Junk food heaven  in Mount Shasta (not my typical resupply!)

When reading the guidebooks for resupply strategies, you’re given all the information you need to decide WHERE and HOW to resupply, but not necessarily WHAT and HOW MUCH to resupply. Brenda Braaten published a great article called Pack Light, Eat Right explaining how proteins, carbs, and fats all contribute to thru-hiker nutrition. Essentially, you’re going to need a lot of all three to sustain energy, weight and muscle mass, and nutrients. Packing a variety in meals and snacks are crucial to maintaining interest in your food, so don’t plan on eating beans and rice for every single meal!

Deciding on whether to buy food in a resupply town or ship yourself a box is a personal decision. Guidebooks usually give pretty good descriptions on what kinds of food you can count on buying in a town, i.e. whether the town has a full grocery store or just a convenience store. I like to count on having a variety of healthy foods that I know I’ll enjoy, so I always ship myself a box. Since it is fun to buy junk food and specialty items in town, I allow a bit of room in each resupply for spontaneous purchases.

Laying down the cash to buy 3-5 months worth of food all at once before a thru-hike can be painful, but if you look for sales and buy in bulk you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars. I personally use Amazon Prime because it gives me free 2-day shipping and great prices on bulk and non-bulk items alike. With Amazon Prime, you can also have things shipped directly to you on the trail, like new shirts or gear. To see what foods I like to pack, check out my pages on dinnerslunches and snacks, and breakfasts.

One of my shipments from Amazon.com

One of my shipments from Amazon.com

 

So, what goes IN the each box?

For my 2015 PCT hike from Tahoe to Canada, I’m using Craig’s PCT Planner. This online planner helps you determine how many days it will take you to hike from one resupply town to the next. You don’t need to use an online planner to figure out the time between resupplies, but it certainly makes it easier! Once you have the number of days for a section, you can add up all the meals, snacks, and miscellaneous items that meet your caloric and personal needs.  Here’s how I break it down:

Meals: 3 per day. I stopped caring whether I ate breakfast foods for dinner or vice versa. Calories are calories, and a good meal is simply that, no matter what time of day it is.

Jerky: 2 per day. Buy more in town if you need more. My favorite brand is Simply Snackin and homemade jerky is delicious!

Bars: 2-3 per day. Buy more in town if you need more. This include brands like Luna, Kind, Cliff, Lara, Nature Valley Fig Bars etc.

Fruit: 2 per day. Buy more in town if you need more. This include items like dried fruit and fruit leather.

Other snacks: 2-3 per day. Buy more in town if you need more. This include nuts, packed olives, peanut/almond butter and jelly packets, cereal with milk, chips, Welch’s fruit snacks, tortillas, etc.

Cookies/Candy: 1 package per day. Buy more in town if you need more. This include Oreos, Nutterbutters, peanut M&M’s, TJ’s chocolate covered sunflower seeds, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, etc.

Instant coffee & Carnations Instant Breakfast: 1 each per day.

Ramen: 1-2 per resupply box.

Instant pudding: 1 per resupply box. Separate the dry mix into three or four baggies & add Nido whole milk and nuts. On trail, add water to the baggie.  See my desserts page for ideas.

Beverages: 2-3 per day. This includes True Lemon, Nuun tablets, and powdered Gatorade.

Nido whole milk: 4-6 tablespoons per day (equates to 2 cups of milk). Measure out how much milk you’ll need for a section, taking into account if you’ll add it to coffee, oatmeal, cereal, hot cocoa, etc., and put it in a ziplock baggie for the box.

Olive oil: 1-2 tablespoons per day. I measure out my olive oil into a travel size bottle, pour that oil into vacuum sealable bags and stick them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can then vacuum seal the bag and throw it in your resupply box.

Fish oil pills: 2 per day.

Toothpaste: 1 travel size tube per 5 day period. This means you won’t necessarily have a tube in each resupply box.

Wysi Wipes: 6 per day. Just add water, and voila!  You’ll have yourself a little wet towelette for cleaning dirty parts.

Kleenex pack &/or toilet paper: 1 package per week. I don’t use toilet paper anymore, so I don’t pack it. I use a pee rag & wysi wipes. The Kleenex is for my face.

Flossers & Q-tips: 1 flosser per day & 1 Q-tip for every other day. These little things are supper important for not being gross on the trail. How many you choose to pack will depend on how often you personally use these items at home.

Trashbag: 1 per resupply box. I use gallon size freezer ziplock bags to store by trash while I’m hiking. It’s nice to get a fresh one in your resupply box.

Maps: pack only the map pages you’ll need to reach your next resupply town.  If you need to see what’s beyond that town, use your smartphone apps.

Guidebook: tear out all the pages from your guidebook(s) and pack only the pages you’ll need to reach the next town, just like the maps. Yogi’s guidebooks intentionally have perforated pages just for this reason.

Town treats: throw in anything you think you’d like to have in a particular town: maybe sample sizes of facial wash and shampoo; maybe a nice dress because you’ll be staying in town for a while visiting family; maybe a Soduku book or a magazine.

Also, you might want to take a picture with your phone of each of the resupply lists you finalize.  Then, when you’re on the trail, you can look up what’s in each box before you get to town.

A sample resupply: 4.2 days from Sierra City to Belden.

A sample resupply: 4.2 days from Sierra City to Belden.

Be sure to look at the ingredients and calories for the foods you’re selecting. Your body will thank you for opting for healthier foods without high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils. Also, check to make sure you’re hitting enough calories for an average day. If your current food selections aren’t offering enough, then either up the amount of food you’ll pack for each day or choose foods with more calories.

 

Putting It All Together

Meals, meals, and more meals all over the spare bed!

Meals, meals, and more meals all over the spare bed!

Designate one room in your home to being the PCT resupply center. Print out the lists for each resupply box. Lay out all your food items and put out a paper bag for each resupply. Then start throwing things from your resupply lists into each bag and check them off your list as you go. Make sure you label which bag is which. When the bags are ready for packaging, throw all the contents in the appropriate sized box for shipping.

You might want to have whoever is mailing the boxes leave them open, just in case you need them to throw something else in before they ship it (like new shoes or additional food). Or maybe you want everything sealed and ready to go because then you can pay for the postage on all the boxes before you leave for your hike. It’s a pretty fun process, so try not to panic at how heavy you think your resupply is going to be when you have to carry it out of town!

PCT Section N Lassen National Forest Highway 36

Trail Information

Pacific Crest Trail Association

US Forest Service- PCT Info and Interactive Map

PCT Water Reports

Maps

Halfmile’s Maps

Postholer’s Interactive Map


Books

Yogi’s PCT Handbook 

Wilderness Press

 

Blogs I’ve enjoyed

Lady on a Rock

So Many Miles 

Rocket Llama Comics

Mexico to Canada 2013

 

Videos I’ve enjoyed

Two Feet and a Heartbeat 

Iguana and K-Cop, 2011

 

Community Information

There are a number of Facebook groups for the PCT worth checking out: section hikers, trail angels, the PCTA, and class of whatever year you want! Just type PCT into the Facebook search bar and they’ll all pop up.

PCT Info Mailing List (PCT-L)– This email list can get a little out of control sometimes.