With Just a week left… it’s time to make the final PCT gear selections.
Given the limited space in a pack and clear need to balance light weight and high function, making the final selections for my Pacific Crest Trail through hike gear is tough. The internet is littered with photos of through hiker’s gear set out on the floor, just as I have done in the photo below, and with good reason. Searching for redundant items… anticipating needs… pondering wants… being surprised at how much that “extra” pair of zip off pants really weighs. Dealing with the fact that a pile of items that individually don’t weigh much of anything, collectively weighs ‘too much’. Struggling with the fact that cutting out any one item only saves a couple of ounces and hardly seems worth it especially when you’ve paid a small fortune for that light weight gear to begin with.
I’m not going to do a detailed ‘What’s in my PCT pack’ article or video at this point as I want to wait until I’ve paid my dues on the trail before I begin making gear recommendations, but I will state that the amount of time, research, and training I have put into getting to this point has been substantial. The gear currently strewn about my bedroom floor represents the general consensus of successful through hikers processed through my own hiking, athletic, and life experience. The 18lb pack base weight goal will not quite be met, I’ll likely end up in the 21-23lb range, but having that lower weight goal has helped bring clarity to the need vs. want decisions.
Sometimes extra weight will not be optional… I’m ready for that.
The photo above contains most of the items that will be coming with me… there will be a few things in the photo that are left behind as I make the final decisions in the next few days. While there is a tremendous emphasis in the through hiking on-line community on ultra-light base weights and minimalist packing, my final pack weight decision is being driven more by my own training hikes and the type of hike I want to have. I know from these training hikes that my pack rides quite well up to about 38lbs. There won’t be that much weight on my back on a daily basis, but with a full food compliment and extra water on dry stretches of trail there will be times when I start my day with that much weight. I will adjust my stride and step to handle whatever the day’s weight and terrain dictate. While the redundancy of an extra pair of zip off pants might not make the cut, I’m not going to head out into a dry stretch of desert without plenty of water. Water is heavy… water is not optional… so be it. Training hikes have me confident that those extra heavy days are doable. Keeping the base weight down gives me greater temporary weight range when I need it.
It is likely that I will start my through hike with more gear than I need. I’m quite ok with that. I have enough experience to be confident that I have made reasonable decisions and will continue to refine my kit as I make my way north. The PCT is a long way from an ‘end of the earth’ hike. With the postal service, hiking outfitters, general stores and services, routinely available along the route I will be able make gear changes as I see fit. Eventually I will do a comprehensive PCT gear recommendation article and video to share what I learn from my hike. I have appreciated those successful through hikers who have shared their own experiences, but I have some miles to put in first.