Jan 31, 2010 at 5:04 pm #1254707
I am still looking and researching the sleep system I want to bring this april to the PCT, and I was wondering if anyone can give me some advice. I currently have a Sea to Summit poncho tarp which is about 12 oz and a marmot helium down bag. I am worried about the down getting wet. I have a bit of extra cash as well. What I was thinking is getting the following: either TG bivy to add to tarp, Cuben tarp to lighten load, or Event bivy and leave the tarp at home. I like the ease of setup and packing with the bivy but of course am worried about condensation on the PCT with a down bag. Also, I like the versitility of the tarp/biv combo. Any thoughts? Bivy/Tarp and Bivy…if so, which tarp/bivys? thanks!Jan 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm #1568325
Down is fine. It might get damp from condensation, but you'll dry it before you can even get your water boiling during your lunch break.
A waterproof bivy would be overkill. A lighter bivy, such as the TiGoat one, would be nice for several reasons. For me, it would be to keep the bugs at bay. You'll probably just use the bivy for 80% of the trail, so it will be nice to block the wind while cowboy camping.
I can't give too much advice about the tarp/poncho, since that plays into your rain gear. I can say that it won't be used much in California, but snow and rain can and does happen. I would get the lightest tarp that you are comfortable riding a storm out in.
If you go through Washington past August, I would consider something that can shrug off a dusting of snow.Jan 31, 2010 at 5:18 pm #1568328
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
How many nights have you slept under the poncho/tarp?
How many of those nights were rainy?
Your answers to these will guide an answer to your questions.
Over thirty years ago, the first guy that I knew that hiked the PCT told me his story…starting April 1 at the Mexican border… ending up at the Canadian border in the fall… and how he had been getting rained on and wet every night for over a week as he finished. Plus, he had what was a normal tent back then.
–B.G.–Jan 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm #1568336
30 years ago they hauled snowshoes through the Sierra and probably finished close to October. I am not discounting the value of solid storm protection in Washington. You'll probably need it.
If I were to do it, I'd get the MLD Patrol Shelter in cuben or the GG Silshelter. It's solid protection when it need it, but light enough for the many many many nights when you don't.Jan 31, 2010 at 5:32 pm #1568340
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
I second that motion.
–B.G.–Jan 31, 2010 at 6:51 pm #1568380
I would suggest a net tent like the one made by alpinlitegear.com.
Get it made with a full silnylon door rather than the half silnylon shown in the pic and you'll have plenty of protection from wind and spray when used along with a tarp. You'll likely have a good 3-4 weeks of bugs and will need some form of protection rather than just a tarp alone.
Mountain laurel designs makes a similar net tent, called the serenity, but it's $35 more and they currently have a 4-5 week lead time so alpinlite seems like the better deal.
If you've still got extra cash get a cuben tarp to go with it to save a few ounces and avoid the silnylon sag.
The nettent gives you plenty of room of you need to hang out and can be used like a bivy for quick cowboy camping.
I used a half bivy half nettent in '09 for my thru. You can see my PCT gear report here. Condensation in the half bivy part was definitely an issue. That's why I recommend the more breathable netting over a nylon or event bivy. Jeff is spot on though about how things dry very quickly as soon as the sun comes out (which is most every day).Jan 31, 2010 at 9:26 pm #1568429
@dlcrandallLocale: North Cascades
You may want to look at the picture I just posted toward the end of discussion of the Be Prepared, Not Equipped article. It was taken August 15 near Hart's Pass. You don't need the tent shown, but you must be ready for bad weather on the north end of the PCT.
Dale CrandallFeb 1, 2010 at 12:33 am #1568467
@dirk9827Locale: Pacific Northwest
I was snowed upon in early October along the PCT this past season….We had a couple of days of snowfall right before we reached Stevens Pass (about half a foot). From then on it was just very cold (down to single digits several nights) and we walked through a bunch of snow, but it wasn't bad.
By mid-September, all bets are off regarding the weather in Washington. Some years, it's warm through October, others, it begins to rain and snow significantly beginning in September. I swore I would get done by September 20th – told people to make it to the border by then – and I ended up finishing October 14th.
I actually switched out tents when I reached Washington. I went from a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo to the MSR Hubba. I did so based upon the fact that the Hubba would shed snow a lot easier because of its poles. When it snowed six inches one night, I was glad i had it. And weight was not an issue by then because I had shed far more pounds than any tent could add.
Here are some photos of the trail (post snowfall) between Stevens Pass and Manning Park, B.C. Please note that these are just a few pictures I tossed up. They aren't really indicative of the amount of snow in a few stretches. But if I could make it, you can too!Feb 1, 2010 at 8:28 am #1568511
Still analyzing all the replies and looking over the links. If it makes any difference, I will be off the trail by the end of August. If I follow my current plan, I should be able to finish the entire thing by mid august, but Im giving myself 2 weeks leeway for weather and possible injuries, etc. However I have to start school by September, so there is no way I will be on the trail past Sep. 1…does this change anything? From what I gather with your posts, the weather in Washington seems to be the main problem with tarp/bivy however only once september passes. Can I count on decent weather in Washington in August, and still tarp/bivy the whole way? Thanks again and I will continue to look over the links and gear reports, but please comment on this with the updated finish time! Looking at average temps for august in Washington, I think I should be ok…no?Feb 1, 2010 at 9:37 am #1568529
.Feb 1, 2010 at 10:44 am #1568544
Like Dave, I used just a poncho-tarp (and a very light, not waterproof bivy) for the first 700 miles, then I switched to a fairly light (single wall) tent at Kennedy Meadows. I'd do exactly the same thing again, maybe without the bivy at the start.
Not much in the way of rain or bugs for the first ~700 miles. At some point in the Sierras you start getting a lot of bugs, typically, and I like an enclosed tent where I can get away from them, spread out my stuff, eat dinner inside, just have a bug-free zone to stay sane in.
Then at some point, indeed perhaps WA state, you could get significant rain. I think a good tarp can handle rain as well as a good light tent, but the tent certainly works too.
So bottom line, my recommendation (or at least "what worked best for me") is a poncho-tarp until the Sierras, then swap for a light enclosed solo tent at the same time you pick up your bear can, use that tent for the rest of the trip.Feb 1, 2010 at 10:56 am #1568547
Brian, after Kennedy Meadows, could you use a hammock the rest of the way?Feb 1, 2010 at 10:59 am #1568548
You don't need a tent to handle bad weather. Here's a picture of me in northern washington in this years October snow.
Ok so I spent a good part of the night banging snow of the tarp and the next day, I woke up hiked 12 miles through sometimes knee deep snow and stayed in town for the next 5 days waiting for the snow to stop. But so did every one who was carrying a tent.
There's actually a lot of space under a tarp. It's just that some of it is outside. No reason you can't use it all.
Really, this is all about state of mind and what you are comfortable with. You will be safe with either system. Or unsafe if you act without engaging your brain. I just don't think you should get scared off by the warnings of folks who have found their comfort level doesn't include tarps in significantly inclement weather. Many others have found their comfort level does.
You will likely get some bad weather somewhere in Oregon or Washington. That's just the way it goes. So be prepared, both in terms of gear and state of mind. Since you'll be off the trail in by September, snow is unlikely. But a week of cold, continuous rain is not unlikely at all.
I would also say that no matter how much planning you have done, be prepared for your actual hike to be nothing like what you expected. If you embrace that you will have a great experience, what ever happens. If you try to stick to your plan at all times, you'll find it difficult to make the trail do what you want it to do. And you will miss what the trail is trying to give you.Feb 1, 2010 at 11:17 am #1568559
I didn't hammock, but there is lots of great above tree line camping to be done through Seqouia, King's Canyon and Yosemite. I'd recommend not going to a hammock until north of Tuolumne or even Sonora Pass. It's not that you can't do it, but it will restrict your options.
I often wished I had a hammock in Oregon and Washington as finding a decently flat spot was difficult. I ended up sleeping on dirt roads a few times as a result.Feb 1, 2010 at 11:25 am #1568561
A tarp is a very versatile shelter. (If you have any doubts, check out http://www.equipped.com/tarp-shelters.pdf for a mind-boggling set of options.) Besides its light weight and mechanical simplicity, this is its best feature. If you're skilled you can use it in just about any kind of weather. It's nice in a prolonged we spell for its spaciousness and ventilation; you can really stay dry. If you pitch it well, as the previous post stated, summer or early fall storm need not worry you (especially as you intend to finish before September).
You'll need something for the bugs; I've used wind-shells with a headnet+wide-rimmed-hat with good success, though the net tent thing works better. It all depends on what you can put up with.
If I had a bottomless chest of gold I'd get the Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben grace tarp. Francis Tapon used one of these on his CDT yo-yo, and Colorado ridges are way more serious than anything you'll have to camp on on the PCT.
That being said, I myself used a hardware store blue woven poly tarp draped over a cord for my trip on the PCT through OR and WA, through a prolonged storm, through hordes of mosquitos, and came out very happy with its performance.Feb 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm #1568601
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Personally I think a TarpTent or other single wall tent from Go-Lite, etc. would offer you more protection from weather and bugs for less weight than a tarp & net tent combo.
I had a TT Contrail for 3 summers and it served me very well. Now I own a TT Moment, which is more wind worthy than the Contrail and even faster to set up, requiring only 2 stakes in most weather. At 28 oz. with 2 stakes it's a light tent with a nice vestibule where you can store your pack out of the way and even cook beneath in foul weather. Ventilation of the Moment is really superb, cutting condensation to a minimum in those situations where it's likely to occur.
At the end of a long, hard day on the trail fast setup of your shelter is important. On a rainy day for lunch or for just a rest you can set up the Moment in 2 minutes and other single wall tents are about as fast to pitch.
Obviously, with a tent you won't need a bivy. But if you decide on a bivy I'd absolutely recommend a tarp as well. Bivys are miserable in rainy weather. Getting in and out of them in the rain means you and your sleeping gear WILL get wet.Feb 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm #1568616
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Over the years I have gone back and forth between and Poncho/Tarp and a 8' X 10' tarp. Currently I am back in the tarp camp, using a GG SpinnTwinn. With a rain jacket and the large tarp, you can handle just about everything on the PCT. The exception would be flying insects. For this a head net would probably suffice. But you could pitch a net tent under the tarp for the buggy sections. Just mail it ahead for the portions you will need, and then mail it home when it is no longer needed. Bivy would be required for with a poncho/tarp for some sections.
8' X 10' tarps are palatial in terms of room and coverage. And in most instances, condensation is a non-issue.Feb 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm #1568621
@maynard76Locale: New England
One of nice things about an 8×10 is the ability to cook under it out of the rain easily. Ive tried poncho tarps and tiny cuben, spinnaker tarps and everything in between but there is nothing like the trusty flat 8×10 tarp.Feb 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm #1568649
Almost anything will work if you have the skill set to use it correctly for the conditions you encounter.
I hiked the PCT last year with a MLD Grace Solo cuben fiber tarp and a bivy sack (started off with a TIG bivy, but lost it and replaced it with a MLD superlite bivy). I had no issues keeping my down bag dry. I cowboyed camp for most of the trail and often found the bivy useful for this (especially when it got cold in late September in North Wash; I finished in 3 out of 4 days of snow on Oct.2) The tarp only came out for bad weather and was more then adequate for hard rain and snow.
Even if your stuff gets damp, there are often short breaks in any Washington weather that you can use to try to dry your stuff out. You have to stop immediately and take advantage of any sun though. If you decide to wait, it may be gone 10min latter.Feb 2, 2010 at 9:41 am #1568876
@dirk9827Locale: Pacific Northwest
If you are going to finish in August, I'd elect to take a tarp or similar tarptent Shelter. The PCT just doesn't require anything sturdier for most of the way.Like the other posters stated the chances of running into significant snowfall is about nil if you are hiking through Washington in August.
I do agree that a tent isn't a necessity for Washington – obviously, camping in a tarptent or tarp in the snow would likely be more an inconvenience than a threat; although it does require a bit more thought when it comes to site selection. But is that a big deal? No. In my case, the decision to switch to the Hubba was comfort-driven; I just wanted to sleep throughout the night without having to wake up every couple of hours to knock off the snow load.
DirkFeb 2, 2010 at 12:20 pm #1568934
Opinions about hammocks on the PCT vary a lot; in part this depends on how much better you personally sleep in a hammock. Also related, for me at least, is whether you can at least be "weight neutral". Most times I find that I have to add significant weight to be reliably warm enough in a hammock vs. a single wall tent or tarp/bivy combo.
I had actually thought of switching to my HH hammock after the Sierras, but ultimately decided not to go that route. For much/most of California and most of Oregon, things are pretty "open". Certainly not always (!), but surprisingly often a person can just find an open space to setup camp. WA state is different there (I live in WA) — almost anywhere there aren't trees there's a lot of brush on the ground, so you're more often restricted to places that other people have camped before you.
But even then I've found myself walking in WA (on the PCT) and finding tent spots as readily as decent hammock hanging spots (or perhaps I should say "equally un-readily"). Sometimes you'll find great trees but enough brush and smaller trees growing among them that it's tough to find a clear hang spot. Sometimes you'll find yourself going through a lot of replanted forest where the trees are too *close* together, or the branches/understory goes all the way to the ground (visualize the Christmas tree in your living room).
If you want to make a hammock work, you'll make it work and I'm sure you'll be happy with it, so long as you have the ability to at least "get by" with setting it up on the ground as a sort of awkward bivy sack if conditions should warrant — I suspect this would be quite rare.
For me, a tarptent is an easier, lighter approach in general.
Best of luck with whatever you select!Feb 3, 2010 at 11:44 am #1569360
Wow I was not expecting such great answers, so thanks! Reading all the replies again, it seems that I can get by with the poncho/tarp and bivy as long as I am off the trail by September, which I plan to be. Although it may be more comfortable to use a single wall tent or tarptent, at 28 oz as I saw mentioned, even using the silnylon poncho tarp and TIgoat bivy I plan to buy I would be saving 10 oz, a considerable weight savings. Add a cuben tarp, and it only goes up. After thinking about it, carrying those extra 10+ Oz over so many miles, even if it is just OR/WA, for a "possible" storm (seems unlikely before Sept)is not worth it. Many people mentioned that it is easier to cook in the tarptent, however I dont plan on cooking so that should not be a problem. Please correct me if I am wrong, but seems like I can ride out any storm I may see at the end of the hike with a tarp/bivy and save the weight the rest of the 2,650 miles?
As a side note, if I do change the 12 oz sea to summit poncho tarp I have now for a cuben tarp (+-5oz?) is there rain gear that I can add to the system and still save weight? Wouldnt want to add expense for no weight savings. I was planning on taking the poncho tarp as rain gear paired with a montbell wind jacket and possibly a trash bag for emergencies. You guys have been great, I really love this forum! Happy travels,
EvanFeb 3, 2010 at 11:53 am #1569363
I think you have a good plan. If I did the PCT again, I'd definitely try to do it as LIGHT as possible, both for comfort and probably as a bit of a challenge. That would probably be a MLD poncho tarp and no bivy for much of it; planning to finish by the end of August definitely means you'll avoid most bad weather. Keep in mind that bad mosquitoes can really make things unpleasant – I'd still probably want some kind of place to retreat into when the bugs are really bad.
When you get a draft gear list together, definitely post it up on the Gear Lists section, and folks can give you great input on your whole system. The PCT (in general) is a great trail to go FAST and LIGHT on, plus it's endlessly beautiful.Feb 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm #1569371
"… it seems that I can get by with the poncho/tarp and bivy as long as I am off the trail by September…"
The wild-card here IMO is how well you deal with mosquitoes. Without an enclosed tent, your options are to use just a headnet (rest of body enclosed in sleeping bag) or one of those units that sort of drapes over you, something like this:
For some people, a headnet is sufficient. Well, so long as it's not too warm to keep the rest of you inside your sleeping bag. For myself, I'll accept the extra weight to have a decent enclosed bug-proof zone.
It "bugs me" a lot when the mosquitoes are buzzing around right at my ears and around my face, even if I know that the headnet will keep them off me. And it's great to be able to quickly cook up something outside the tent and then retreat inside it to eat it.
This boils down to another case of "know thyself", but while I was happy with a poncho-tarp over the first 700 miles, I found a single-wall solo tent worth carrying after that.Feb 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm #1569463
"As a side note, if I do change the 12 oz sea to summit poncho tarp I have now for a cuben tarp (+-5oz?) is there rain gear that I can add to the system and still save weight?"
Well you can always go with a cuben poncho tarp. MLD is the only one I know of who makes these. I would be uncomfortable with this option given how thick the brush is in some places but you can make it if very careful. Plus it is actually fairly easy to patch cuben.
I don't want to get wholes in my expensive cuben tarp and I dislike the floppiness of a poncho tarp so I used separate rain gear.
The rain gear I used was the Montane Lite-Speed H2O Jacket. It's essentially an epic jacket with taped seams. Epic fabric is used both for wind shirts and for tents and is a versatile material. It's not the most breathable wind shirt and it's not the most waterproof jacket. But at 5 oz it covered both needs for me saving a good deal of weight.
I also wore soft shell convertible pants which I found where fine in the rain.
For rain gear I don't think it's important to stay 100% dry as long as you have a thin base layer (I used 150 g/m2 merino wool) that stays warm even when wet. Besides you'll be working hard enough that you'll dry quickly even if a few drops make it through.
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