- Nov 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm #1323217
Matthew StengerBPL Member
@matthewstengerLocale: the beautiful northwest
I successfully finished my AT thru hike this year on October 10th, spending a total of 193 days for the journey.
Turns out 2185 miles is not enough, so I am gearing up for the PCT next year.
I used a hammock and loved it on the AT, but will be going to ground for the PCT. I know that it is theoretically possible to hammock the PCT but I do not want to deal with the trouble.
So now I am trying to decide what sleep/shelter system I should use.
I plan to start around mid April and finish around mid October.
Its important to me to be able to sleep under the stars – I never put my tarp up on the AT when I didn't think it was going to rain, and I'd like to continue to do this for the PCT. Which means single-wall shelters are out.
Mainly I am considering a tarp/bug bivy set up, or just a tarp tent notch, which I own.
I used a 30* RevX for the AT and found it to be plenty warm. Will I need a warmer quilt for the PCT?
As far as sleeping pads go, its likely a Neo Air or a non-inflatable ground pad. I know the inflatable ones are more comfortable, but watching people have to blow those up every night made me very glad I didn't have to mess with that.
Anyway, just looking for some input, any experience on the PCT you can share that will help will be appreciated.
Thanks!Nov 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm #2153059
Ryley BreiddalBPL Member
@ryleybLocale: Pacific Northwest
Sounds like you've got it nailed down pretty well!
NeoAir is totally fine. In the desert you'll want to carefully scour your sleeping area to clean out any barbs/spines that are lying around before you put out your tent.
Notch – go for it! I used a Contrail, it did the job just fine. Do think a bit on how you intend to pitch it in sandy conditions. Practice in your area on a sandy beach or desert… in the wind ideally :) I ended up carrying a snow stake for digging cat holes, and then a 2nd one so I could use them in deep sand as either deadmans or just solid stakes for the key points of my tarptent.
Sleeping bag – I used a Western Mountaineering Megalite (rated conservatively at 30F). It was definitely cold the at night those first couple weeks, and then most of the Sierras as well (I hiked out of Kennedy Meadows on June 15th, 2007 – a very low snow year, didn't camp on snow at all). I carried a down jacket and full long underwear suit and was still up a few nights due to the cold. So, your call :)
FYI, finishing mid-October is dicey. You'll find the miles easier to churn through on the PCT, especially from Northern CA onwards. If you can, you want to be done mid-September. We had our first snow storms in northern Washington Sept 15th, 2007. Many people had to bail and finish the next year. This is not unusual. Just do the stuff you've learned from the AT – minimize zeroes, aim to at least do a double nero if you need to have a night in motel. If you're feeling good, go in and out in a day.Nov 30, 2014 at 5:40 pm #2153085
Jeff JeffBPL Member
A down sleeping bag of your choice. Nights sometimes get below freezing in the desert and in the Sierra so pick a temp rating accordingly. Still most nights were frost free.
Foam pad of your choice. I like the Z-rest, but the evazote pads are also nice. I used 3/4 length with my pack under my feet.
Bivy for wind and bug protection. Should be breathable but not waterproof.
Tarp for those rare nights where you think it will rain/snow. I prefer a shaped tarp (like a MLD patrol or hexamid type) for this because storms usually mean wind. You'll almost never use it.
Enjoy!Nov 30, 2014 at 6:28 pm #2153096
Dan DurstonBPL Member
"I used a 30* RevX for the AT and found it to be plenty warm. Will I need a warmer quilt for the PCT?"
You might have a few chilly nights in the first month, but that'll be plenty warm thereafter until the end of September. This past summer on the PCT we had a few nights around 30F in the first month, but it never got near freezing after that but we did finish Sept. 5. I'd use the RevX 30.Nov 30, 2014 at 6:48 pm #2153099
You can do real cowboy camping on the PCT no matter the shelter – just don't set it up! There are so few bugs over most of the trail (northern and southern parts mainly) you can sleep without any kind of bug protection just fine. For me it was buggy part way into the Sierra, some of NorCal and parts of Oregon but that's about it and nothing like east coast mosquito's.Nov 30, 2014 at 7:06 pm #2153105
I used a 20F degree down quilt for the entire trail. No problem keeping the down dry. I will talk worse case. Some of the nights in SoCal were below freezing and ice formed on the bag. If its a big snow year in the Sierra, you may find yourself camping on or surrounded by snow. Temps could drop into the high teens there. Northern California is normally hot most of the time. Oregon can be either warm or cold (but not 20F cold). Washington is the big question. My coldest night was in late September in the Glacier Peak wilderness in N.Washington with a low of around 20F with some wind chill added in. Up to mid-September, you probably could get away with a 30F bag (if its really a 30F bag) if you supplement with some clothing and don't mind being cold occasionally at night. Finishing any later, you'll wish you had a warmer bag.
I don't use inflatible pads. However, those that did had mixed results. Some had several flats, others were okay. Some would use a lightweight 1/8" thinpad from Gossamer Gear under their matress to protect it from anything they missed with good results though this adds some weight. I used a foam pad and still do. Many use a Zrest. I used a Gossamer Gear Torso Pad with a Sit Pad for an extra section along with a 1/8" Thinpad for the entire trail. But I also avoided heavily used camping spots where the ground is harder and more likely to pool water in a rain storm (a nono with a tarp).
I used a solo sized tarp/bivy for the trip and would do so again. I had less condensation issues in Washington compared to some of my single wall shelter friends due to better ventilation. However, I only used the tarp 9 times and cowboyed camped the rest of the time. I got caught by rain twice while cowboy camping. First time during a light rain that happened around midnight, I moved my bivy under a large Spruce tree with thick coverage and went back to sleep. The second time I just got up and started hiking since it was only an hour before light. I will do anything to avoid setting up my shelter as I'm very lazy in camp.
When I started planning my 2009 hike, I read a ton of journals from previous years going back to 2002. I've also kept track of whats been going on since I hiked. In many years, you can hike til mid October and sometimes even later (prepare for cold weather though). One guy I followed online finished in November! You may see some snow after mid September, but it shouldn't bethe type that can stop you physically (perhaps mentally though). In 2007, what ultimately sent people home was a series of winter storms that started to roll in on October 1st. The next one would hit before the previous one could even think of melting off so the snow just got deeper every few days. I was originally going to hike that year so I knew people who did. Which is why my goal was to finish by that date when I hiked 2 years later. I finished in snow on Oct.2. It was 6-8 inches going over the highest point in Washington on the last day(but the last section is in a bit of a rain shadow so further south can get hit harder). But the week after was clear and the snow melted off for those who finished behind me. Last year, big storms rolled in at the end of September which did send people home the earliest I've seen in the last decade. Though a few pushed on with proper gear and finished during the first week of October. So the lesson in all of this is, try to finish before October! Hiking in October is a crap shoot. You may have nice but cold weather or lots of snow. But if you find yourself on a schedule that finishes sometime October, don't panic. You may still be able to finish. Some people,even if they hit deep snow further south, were able to flip up to Stehekin and finish the last section where it wasn't as deep. Giving them a sense of completion even if their continuous footpath was ruined.Dec 1, 2014 at 11:39 am #2153226
Matthew StengerBPL Member
@matthewstengerLocale: the beautiful northwest
Thanks for all the replies everyone.
I went ahead a purchased a 20* Rev from EE with the sale that was going on. Its lighter than the 30* RevX so that's a plus. Hopefully that will allow me to send some extra layers home early.
I think I may shoot for the bivy/tarp/foam pad. Seems like it may be the easiest as well as the lightest. I'm also pretty lazy about setting up camp.
Do people usually carry their down jacket the whole time? I was able to drop mine for almost half the trip on the AT.
Also I plan on using a trekking umbrella and I have a windshirt. How much of the trail would that be sufficient for as rain gear? All of California? I also have a Luke's Ultralight Gore-Tex jacket I could pick up for the areas with heavier rain.Dec 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm #2153248
You don't need the down jacket everywhere if you have other warm layers to use. The nights in SoCal can be below freezing at night (the lack of humidity doesn't hold the heat at night) so you may want it there and in the High Sierra. You will not need it in NorCal (north of Lake Tahoe), but pick it up again some place in the first half of Oregon (no later then Sisters). I carried mine and the rest of my gear the whole way, but I didn't want to deal with swapping out gear along the way except for the bear can.
You will need proper rain gear for the entire trail. For the most part, the weather on the PCT is very mild. But a hard rain is possible at any point along the trail. Yes, even in the desert. It also has snowed on people in the mountains of SoCal in early June (the mountains climb over 9000ft at least twice down there) and it should be obvious that snow is possible in the High Sierra at any time of the year. A jacket is sufficient most of the time, though I'd pick up rain pants or skirt for the Pacific NW. I used a Rain Jacket with a 2oz pair of wind pants for most of the trail. The pants were mostly for warmth in the cold mornings until it warmed up rather then for weather. I added a long rain skirt for Washington as 2 days of straight rain in northern Oregon convinced me that wind pants weren't going to be good enough since the wet brush ensured that my legs were wet all day and the temperatures were getting cold. The problem with using an unbrella is that you can encounter strong winds in SoCal that will make it difficult to always use the umbrella. I know hikers like Wired used one for the rain on the CDT and AT so its obvious it can work, but even she had a rain jacket with her. When I used an Umbrella for SoCal (more for the sun), there were some days it was impossible to use due to the wind. YMMV For sure, I'd have a real rain jacket for Washington.
For my hike, a rain system hit the northern desert one day, thunderstorms over the High Sierra, a day of rain in NorCal, 3 days of rain in northern Oregon, and some rain/snow in Washington (though I dodged most of it by hiking in a perfect weather bubble while hikers behind and ahead complained about the rain).
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