View Full Version : Hey look, another CDT question

05-17-2010, 21:58
Ok, so I will probably try the CDT regardless but I still would like some opinions on my idea. I thru hiked the AT in 2008 and 2009, so I do have two long distance hikes under my belt. Even though the AT is pretty tame and pretty much a controlled environment compared to the PCT and CDT I atleast have an understanding of resupplying, my food and water needs, gear, mileage, etc.

All that being said I am planning on hiking the CDT with my 08 hiking buddy in either 2011 or 2012. I have my pack weight down into the mid teens, and may be able to get it down to the low teens minus food and water. I am very comfortable with reading a map and compass. I know everyone will say hike the PCT first. I enjoy doing things differently. I also don't know if a thrid hike will happen for my hiking buddy, and the CDT appeals to the two of us more. So what advice, concerns, or comment about our blatant stupidity does anyone have?

I know not having done the PCT it will be harder. I don't have the experience that you would gain from the PCT. I have looked at all of the websites Mags posted in the sticky at the top of this forum. I have emailed Ley for the map cd. I will order the Wolfe guidebook.

A couple questions I have. Is a bear canister needed? I read that in grizzly country pear poles are supplied.

What is the lowest temperature I should be prepared for roughly? I plan on using a Gossamer Gear The One tarp tent and a down blanket. Should I get a 10, 20, or 30 degree blanket for the colder months?

What is the most water I can expect to carry, and how often am I likely to carry this amount of water? Then what is the average amout of water you usually carried on your hike. This will help me decide what pack to get to account for the extra weight of water.

Is Aqua Mira suitable for treating the water or will I need a filter? On my second AT hike I treated my water twice. Every other time I drank straight from the source, so if that is the preffered method then great. If not treating is the preffered method I would still carry aqua mira for when the water source is a little iffy.

Well, that's all the questions I can think of now. I am sure I will have a few more. I appreciate anyone who can help. I know every question can have hundreds of answers. I'm really just looking to get an idea. Thanks

05-17-2010, 22:34
My advice is to hike a regional Western trail first if you can to give you some idea of Western hiking. Much different than its Eastern counterparts. The CO Trail is an obvious launching point. At 500 miles, it goes through some beautiful terrain (including part of the CDT), will give you an idea of larger carries, smaller resupply stops, higher mileage and less trail culture...but very well marked (by Western trail standards) and, other than the San Juans, not really all that isolated. Plus it is fun. :)

Having said that...

I suggest a 20F bag as you are high up for a good chunk of the trail
A rough rule of thumb is 5 liters/per mile until you know your own personal water needs. Add another 1.5 liters for dry camping. I don't recall more than 20 or so miles between water spots.
I used chemicals on the CDT and rarely treated. Other people use filters. It doesn't matter really. It is what works for you.

Again, you may want to consider something like the CO (or even the JMT) to get a better idea of Western hiking before the CDT. It will probably help a lot. I know I wasn't ready for the CDT after the AT...

Good luck!

05-17-2010, 22:39
If you're comfortable with map and compass there's no reason why you can't hike the CDT.

Bear canisters would only be required in Glacier depending on snow depth. Otherwise, although I went without on many occasions, in griz country, the PCT method of hanging is best in absence of bear poles.

Nobo you should only need a 20* bag, maybe 10* for southbound.

Depending on route and conditions, the longest waterless section are about 20 miles although some may be longer. Prior to starting a section you need to do your homework as you may have to pick up an extra container. Since I did a lot of dry camping, capacity wise, I carried 2- two liter Platypus and a 1 liter soda bottle. Normally you'll only be carrying 2 liters or so.

I didn't filter or treat very often, sounds like you'll be fine.

05-17-2010, 23:16
Alright, thanks for the replies. Unfortunately Mags, I won't be able to do any other western trails before the CDT. Due to finances and my friends situation it's either do the CDT, or do another trail like the CO trail and that's it. Just the travel fees alone to do a shorter trail and having to leave my job long enough to hike that far will rule out going back out west again. I am even considering staying out west after the CDT and working where I can to save up for the PCT. My friend on the other hand will have to go home. We know we are taking on a bigger undertaking than either of us realize, but that's part of the appeal.

One area I feel I am a little more fortunate than most AT hikers is that I didn't really hike a traditional hike and 09. I did a lot of bushwacking, night hiking, blue blazing, side trails, old AT trails, and just generally walked along the AT corridor. So I was very alone in 09, used map and compass a lot to follow my own trail, went longer without resupply, had to find my own water by reading maps, went long times without water, and just generally hiked my own trail while utilizing Springer and Katahdin as my southern and northern terminus. So I know it is very far form the CDT, but I am pretty comfortable with a less controlled and supported hike. I figure I have atleast a little bit of an advantage over most AT thru hikers because I went beyond the white blazes and guidebooks.

Oh yeah, what southern terminus do yall suggest? I will be going nobo. Again, thanks for the help.

05-17-2010, 23:51
I think you have gotten some very good answers from both Mags and Sly, who by the way, are both Triple Crowners.

Sure, doing the PCT after two recent AT thrus would give you that much more experience, but it's not necessary, IMO. There are plenty of hikers who did the CDT as their first or second thru-hike. No, not everyone thru-hikes the PCT before thru-hiking the CDT. Ok, eastern trails and western trails are different and certainly a CDT thru is definitely different than an AT thru in many ways. I'm not going to go into how they can be compared and contrasted;that's been done so many times before. BUT, I think you have a good realization of how your AT thrus are going to benefit you on the CDT. And, I think you are now filling in some of your unknowns about completing a trail that's new to you. IMO, you are working through the process of getting prepared.

I whole heartedly agree with Sly on this: "If you're comfortable with map and compass there's no reason why you can't hike the CDT."

05-18-2010, 00:21
Yeah, I have no misconceptions about the AT being like the CDT. The AT is very controlled and supported. With all the trail angels, hostels, towns, and various support systems you can easily become dependant on others for your hike. I loved the AT, so I'm not bashing it.

05-18-2010, 00:22
The AT is as hard (physically) as they come, especially the northernmost 350 miles or so.
Lots of lessons have been learned on it that you need to know on the CDT: rain, food supply, post office drops, steepness of trails, gear, shoes, etc.

The thing about the CDT is, you have to be smarter!
You have choices everyday.
I found myself often emptying my pack to see how many days food I could possibly get away with with my maps spread out in front of me and weighing all options.

Experience of a western trail was mentioned above and it helps.
Desert hiking , that is: mostly finding water and/or figuring out how much you need until your next water and whether that next water is a sure thing or not. Not an easy problem sometimes.
I learned not to hike from noon to 4 pm in the hot desert.

Also, you should know if you are happy hiking alone or without the social aspects of the AT and it's hostels, shelters, trail angels, etc.
There is very little of that on the CDT. I personally prefer the wilderness to the crowds almost in everyway. Although when things get really tough: hailstorms, snowstorms, being lost, out of food, water, etc. Well that's when it's nice to folks around to lean on and figure your way out of your present problem.
You will get lost a lot.
You will ford more rivers and streams then you ever thought.

Snow travel is another problem sometimes. Hard to make miles when you are postholing.
Hard to find trail when it is 6 feet under the whitestuff.

I think you'll have an incredible experience but there's a good chance one of you won't make it. Will you continue alone? Will your friend?

05-18-2010, 00:31
A rough rule of thumb is 5 liters/per mile until you know your own personal water needs. Add another 1.5 liters for dry camping. I don't recall more than 20 or so miles between water spots.!

That's about 30 l between water points! Is that really what you meant? 66lb of water. Hmm.

Maybe 0.5 l/mi? About 6 or 7 ib between water points Or something in between. I'm confused. No, really. :confused:

05-18-2010, 00:38
I never needed a bear cannister in Glacier on a couple of hikes there. I hear Rocky Mt NP now has a cannister policy, but the CDT loop through that Park is optional if it's a problem. There are probably cannisters available to rent in both places. I don't think Yellowstone requires them yet.

If you're experienced at desert hiking, you shouldn't need much more than 4 or 5 liters of water. But that's one of the lessons you learn on the PCT--how much water you need in the desert. I remember carrying ridiculous amounts, up to seven liters, at the beginning of the PCT, as part of a learning curve. You may need to do the same. I do remember a hot dry 25 mile carry just south of Cuba, NM to a dry well, which required another 10 mile hike. We were experienced enough to carry enough to go 10 more thirsty miles in case the planned source was dry, so no problem there.

Aqua Mira and a bandanna will be fine. Most of the water in the Chihuahua Desert is excellent well water pumped by windmill, so I treated very little. But when it's bad, it can be pretty bad, bad enough to really ruin a filter.

A good 20F bag will be fine all the way NOBO.

Learn what you can about lightning, too.

Nothing wrong with doing it differently. I hiked the PCT first and the AT last, so I can appreciate that. Best of luck getting the trip together.

05-18-2010, 00:47

That's about 30 l between water points! Is that really what you meant? 66lb of water. Hmm.

Maybe 0.5 l/mi? About 6 or 7 ib between water points Or something in between. I'm confused. No, really. :confused:

Mags must be dyslexic today (Dyslexics, Untie!). I think he meant 5 miles per liter. That's a pretty conservative and safe number. I know I can make 10 miles per liter if I start out well hydrated. I also know I can dry camp with less than one liter, often as low as 1/2 depending on what's for dinner.

Last year on the AZT I had two consecutive 40-mile water carries in 80+F temps. The first one took two nights out. I did them with six liters each, so 10 miles per liter for walking and 1 liter for each camp. Later on the trip I met a guy, more desert experience than me, who hiked the same sections with only four liters!

05-18-2010, 00:53
In 08 I was in the crowds the whole time, and it wasn't bad. In 09 I hiked alone every day except maybe 20 days over the entire trail where I hiked wiht someone else. Between the night hiking, and taking my own path I rarely saw people. I enjoyed being alone, but talking to people in towns made a good balance. That's one thing I look forward to on the CDT, less people but not completely isolated.

As far as water goes, I have a decent idea of how my body uses water, and my own daily needs. I will probably carry a little more water needed at first until i get a feel for how my body reacts to the elevation and western weather.

As far as snow hiking, not a whole lot of experience there. I guess I will just have to suck it up and posthole.

If one of us got off the trail, the other would be capable of hiking on. We won't share any gear. That way if we split up for any reason we aren't crippled. Mentally, I don't know if he would keep hiking, but I know I would.

05-18-2010, 10:18

That's about 30 l between water points! Is that really what you meant? 66lb of water. Hmm.

Maybe 0.5 l/mi? About 6 or 7 ib between water points Or something in between. I'm confused. No, really. :confused:

It was later at night. I meant 1 liter per 5 miles. :) As Garlic said, it is conservative..but good for noobies until they have their own water needs dialed in.

NEST: Sounds like you are mentally prepared... (ESp the corridor approach mentality!) The only other advice I can offer is to make sure you like HIKING all day as opposed to AT-style 'get up on the the trail at 9:30 am and be in camp by 4pm' Nothing wrong with more camping and less hiking...but not really good for Western thru-hikes.

Also, don't sweat the gear. It really is the least important part of the outdoors. :) I know you said time is tight for you..but I drove from the Front Range of CO to the Smokeys in less than 22hrs driving time. Split up the driving and you and your buddy can get a good 4 or 5 days in New Mexico for some prep hiking. Again, you don't need Western hiking experience..but I think you'll find it different from the AT. Plus, do you want to wait so long to take a few days of backpacking? :)

Good luck!

05-18-2010, 12:39
It sounds like you harbor no illusions, you are gaining more understanding how your AT thrus and a CDT thru will differ, you are getting many great comments from hikers who have thrued the AT, PCT, and CDT or who understand a CDT thru-hike that are helping you fill in some of the blanks and getting you to understand and adapt to a CDT thru-hike, you are asking the right questions, and seem mentally headed in the right direction. You are looking at a hike 1 or 2 yrs away, plenty of time to gather additional info and resources and prepare for a CDT thru. You are only 26. Stay on your present course of preparation and outlook and do it. FWIW, I wouldn't tell that to everyone. IMO, it sounds like you'll be ready in a yr to hit the CDT well prepared.

Spirit Walker
05-20-2010, 18:26
Good answers so far. My only difference is that if you are likely to be out after mid-September, you may want a much warmer bag. We did six month hikes both northbound and southbound, and in both cases we had snow and very cold temps around September 15th. We switched to 5 degree bags and were glad we did.

We did the CDT before the PCT. Yes, it would have been a bit easier had we done the PCT first, but it was doable.

05-20-2010, 22:41
I appreciate all the help everyone. I will keep the possibility of needing a warmer bag in mind.

Mags, I never picked up the AT style of hiking. I was never one of those to wake up early and get hiking, and finish by 4 or 5. I literally hiked until I felt like not hiking that day. Some days were 5 miles days, a couple were 40ish. On my first thru I would often hike from noon till 3 am, so long days aren't foreign to me. I will just have to move my clock back a little I guess. Never did like the idea of waking up at the same time every day, and finishing the day at "hiker midnight". Also never had any sort of schedule or set distance to hike every day. The whole point of the trail is to get away from the rules and restraints that are forced on us in the commercial world. Why would I want to bring those stresses with me?

A week long hike out west may be doable for us though. I just started my job in November, so I don't know if I will have any vacation days built up though. Besides, if they find out I am taking a week off to go hiking they may just fire me. I worked at this place before my first AT thru. I took a two week vacation to just go on a hike and relax for two weeks. Took a 2 week hike with no intention of doing a thru. After my two weeks I came back to work and turned in my notice. When they re-hired me last year after 2 years of hiking they asked me when my next trip is. I told them I don't know, but it probably won't be for a couple years. So they hired me expecting me to be there for atleast two years. So they may be gesitant to let me back out in the woods, because they know they won't see me again when I come home.:D

Fred G
05-21-2010, 16:35
I'm hiking the sequence backwards: first the Arizona Trail, then the CDT over 4 years, and then the PCT over 3 years--I'll be southbound on the AT in 4 weeks. Since you're compass familiar and have Ley's maps, go for it. Just remember that once in a while--or more often, the trail will get lost or just isn't there. Suggest that you might get Yogi's CDT book. Its similar to her PCT book that has great info about towns, etc.

In terms of a water treatment, suggest that you carry something. If a filter, than have something for a backup, such as pills. There are dirt stock ponds, especially in New Mexico and Wyoming, that are the only water source for miles. Since cattle are around, the water does get very gross and filters will clog. I got giardia twice. First time was when using a (cracked) filter getting water from a bear dam creek: spent 4 days in the hospital in Rawlins, WY with severe dehydration. The 2nd time drank water running down from a high mountain ridge in Colo.

In NM, parts of Wyo and Mont., the most important question you should always be asking is: Where is the next water? If 10 to 15 miles, okay. If 25-30, that will require more water to carry. And as Mags and Garlic said, let your body help determine how much water you carry. Our bodies are different, for example on a 10 mile, 4,000' climb, I drank twice the amount of water than Garlic.

I didn't carry bear canisters, but I did have bear bags--Ur Sacks--while camping in grizzly country. I also carried bear spray in grizzly territory. In Glacier and Yellowstone Nat Parks, there are bear poles, but nothing in the Bob nor south of Yellowstone.

05-21-2010, 17:15
My hats off to you Fred G. Taking 4 consecutive yrs to thru the CDT or 3 consecutive yrs to thru the PCT is a whole other level of commitment than doing a straight continuous non-stop thru-hike.

05-31-2010, 18:34
And Welcome to Whiteblaze, Fred! Good to see you on here--a real voice of experience. Best of luck in your SOBO AT section this year.