Whenever we tell anyone that we are hiking the PCT we get a lot of questions. Many of the same questions come up over and over again. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions:
What do you do for food on the trail?
Even though the PCT goes through some very remote areas, it does pass through or close to towns. In the larger towns we will simply buy food at the grocery stores like we would back at home. In the small towns, we will have food mailed to us that we have prepared ahead of time. We are planning on 28 stops along the trail to either buy or mail food. This works out to about five days between resupplies.
What do you eat?
Food is your fuel on the trail. It is important to eat nutritious food that is high in calories. There is nothing low-fat or diet on our menu. Since we will be carrying all of our food on our backs, our food must be lightweight and calorie dense. Oatmeal, granola, cheese, peanut butter, nuts, olive oil, along with freeze-dried and dehydrated food are all great foods for backpacking.
Do you cook your food over a fire?
Fires are great for ambiance and cooking when you have time to get one going. For us, though, the last thing we will want to mess with when we get to camp is starting and maintaining a fire. Fires are also banned in a lot of areas that the PCT travels through due to the extreme wild fire risk. Instead, we will be relying on our trusty camp stove that screws onto the top of a small gas canister. With our stove, we can have boiling water for our meals in a matter of minutes.
How heavy will your backpacks be?
Once we have our gear list finalized, we will know for sure, but it looks like the weight of all of our gear minus food, water, and fuel (aka base weight) will be 15 pounds for Alan and 11 pounds for Janel. On average, we will have 3 days of food, one liter of water, and a canister of fuel. This will add about 9 pounds to our base weight making our average pack weight about 24 pounds for Alan and 20 pounds for Janel. The maximum we will carry on the trip should be 40 pounds for Alan and 35 pounds for Janel when we leave Tuolumne Meadows with 9 days of food and our bear-proof food canisters.
What about bears?
The only bears we might encounter on the trail are black bears. There are no grizzlies on the PCT. The most important way to stay safe in bear country is to use proper food protection. The majority of the problem-causing bears are in the Sierras in Central California where some bears have learned that people food is easier to obtain than foraging for their own. In this section, we be carrying bear-proof canisters to store our food in. We will also do any cooking away from our camp site, and we will not camp in any high-use areas that are known to have bear problems.
How many pairs of shoes will you use?
Most of the people we have followed have replaced their shoes every 500-1000 miles. That means we will should go through 3-5 pairs each!
Are you hiking in a group?
Yes and no. Thru-hikers cannot get into the Sierra Nevada Mountains too early because of the snowpack, but they cannot get to Canada too late or they risk snowstorms in the northern Cascades. This means that anyone thru-hiking on a given year has a very small window to start the hike – generally April through May. So even though we are hiking by ourselves we will cross paths with many people on our way to Canada.