The following posts are from my trail blog of my four-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
Hike your own hike. The following entries will offer perspectives developed from my experience on the trail, but my experience is limited to the gear I carried, the year in which I hiked, and the pace and style of my hike. Every backpacker is eager to share tips- but their attitudes may not be yours, and so feel free to leave their path and hike your own hike.
The fastest thru-hike this year was shared by Mouse and “Insane” Dwayne, who started and finished on the same day, hiking the trail in some 87 days (I spent 142 days on the trail). Mouse was an ultralight geek: carrying a base pack weighing less than five pounds, he stopped in towns frequently to minimize food weight, hiked stoveless, carried no poles and hiked fast. Insane Dwayne carried a 40-pound backpack, plus a daypack worn in front: with this extra space he could carry food enough for ten days, minimizing his resupply stops, hiking slow and steady at all hours of the day, and hiking with worn-out poles and equally worn boots. Both regularly hiked 40-mile days, both enjoyed the trail immensely, and both have styles which are unique to their needs and character. Don’t necessarily model yourself after one of them: hike your own hike.
I hiked during an extremely favorable season: low enough snow that we hiked less than ten minutes on snow in the Sierras, few enough bugs that I never used DEET, and only a few brief rainstorms during the hike. I started on April 23rd, entered the Sierras on June 2nd, left Echo Lakes on July 14, crossed into Oregon August 7, hit Washington August 23, and finished on September 12th, about two weeks ahead of the pack. I had 15 minutes of rain in Oregon, and finished the trail before it started raining in Washington. I mention these details because they dictated the conditions and challenges which I faced, and shape the advice that I give- I can only give the perspective informed by the conditions of my hike, and can’t say how relevant my advice would be for a different year, different start time, or different finish time.
I am an ultralight backpacker who enjoys hiking long days and needs few comforts other than a good hot meal and tasty snacks. During the hike I gained immense respect for every person hiking the trail, exhibiting a wide variety of prior experience (from triple-crowners to “never backpacked before”), gear philosophies (or lack thereof), and pack weights. Remember that Mouse and Insane Dwayne, while having extremely different hiking styles, shared the same pace and same remarkable finish time. Hike your own hike, and take my advice with a good dash of salt.