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Thread: PCT questions

  1. #1
    Moccasin, 2008 Thru-hiker TrippinBTM's Avatar
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    Default PCT questions

    I'm wondering what size pack one would want to thru-hike the PCT. I just finished doing a thru of the AT this year, and my pack is a goner. It wasn't much to begin with; a cheap external frame. But the point is, I'm in the market for a new pack, and have plans to do the PCT in '10 (and certainly other shorter trips in the meantime).

    So, what size do I need? I'm not ultralight (obvious, as I used a clunky external frame), but AM looking to go lighter. Since most of my old equipment is worn out, I'm keeping that in mind as I re-outfit. But again, I'm no ounce counter (I didn't even weigh my whole pack once until I got to mid PA on the trail... and being horrified, that was the last time too), just your average, if experienced, hiker, willing to forgo some, but not all, comforts (eg, I like hot food/tea at least sometimes, so I will have a stove of some sort).

    Actually, on that... what kind of stove is best? Lots of people used alcohol stoves on the AT, but I hear that's not as common on the PCT. I used a Whisperlite; should I go with that? Or reduce weight by going alcohol? Or what? I'm actually thinking of just using wood fires, I saw a guy do that on the AT with a modified coffee can, worked like a Zip Stove but without a fan. but I'd want at least an alcohol stove as a back up; is alcohol available out there?

    lastly, do I need a bear canister?

  2. #2

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    I'd go with a smallish pack (3600CI or less)

    An alcohol stove (ion, pepsi can, or super cat)

    You can travel pretty light on the PCT if you want. I'd suggest getting Yogi's book if you're looking to do a thru.

    Bear cans are now required in the Sierras. Last year the Ursack was no longer a valid can.

  3. #3
    Moccasin, 2008 Thru-hiker TrippinBTM's Avatar
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    Damn, really? I'd hoped to get away w/o using the bear can. How much do they weigh/cost?

    Thanks for the other suggestions, as well. I have a supercat stove I'm working with, seems to work well and is reliable (in theory... easy to light/use anyways). I'm experimenting with my whole cooking system this winter (nothing else to do), mainly in the area of alcohol and wood burning stoves, and various ways to make them compact and effective.

  4. #4

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    On the PCT many hikers go very light, because so much of the trail is so warm. However there are a few long food carries (Sierras) and you will be carrying a gallon of water a lot of the time - so you will want a pack that can carry some weight comfortably. You also need to be prepared for bad weather in May and June and again when you are in the Cascades, so you'll need some warm gear even in California.

    You might look into a ULA Catalyst. I've been very happy with mine. I used it on the CDT where long food sections and big water carries are common.

    I used a whisperlight on the PCT but switched to alcohol later. It is much lighter and fuel is generally available. I wouldn't go for wood fires - as you will see, fire is a huge issue on the PCT. At least three fires have been started by PCT thruhikers. I would really hate to see you become known as the guy who started a forest fire in 2009. (Which is better than the guy who started the fire burning his TP.) Yes, it has happened with an alcohol stove too. But I think a wood fire is much more likely to be a danger than way.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrippinBTM View Post
    Damn, really? I'd hoped to get away w/o using the bear can. How much do they weigh/cost?

    Thanks for the other suggestions, as well. I have a supercat stove I'm working with, seems to work well and is reliable (in theory... easy to light/use anyways). I'm experimenting with my whole cooking system this winter (nothing else to do), mainly in the area of alcohol and wood burning stoves, and various ways to make them compact and effective.
    I agree with spiritwalker, I wouldn't use wood unless I was in WA because of the fire risk. If you use an alcohol stove you'll still need to be vary wary of this risk, especially in So. Cal, my brother would be pissed if you ruined part of his climbing season.

    As for bear cans. You can rent some, they're sort of heavy. You can usually get good deals on bearvaults. The wild ideas, bearikades look to be the nicest, but are pricey even to rent. I'd suggest buying a bearvault and having it sent to KM and picking it up there. If you cannot fit all of your food in the can, just stealth camp until you can, then do whatever you want, but I wouldn't risk camping near someone whose cooking at their site, especially if you don't have a can (seriously, the bears near yosemite can be a pain in the arse, if you stealth you should be fine, but note, if you get caught w/o a can, you can be ejected from the park).

    In socal, bring something like a driclime, or some sort of nylon type shirt/wind breaker that can shed some water. You might have to deal with rain, odds are you won't. Also, WRT the driclime, it and a balaclava will work nicely as a warm layer in the desert in case you get some odd weather (it can snow, it did last year).

    Lastly, join the PCT-L, you might get better faster answers there.

  6. #6
    Garlic
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    I donated my BearVault to a guy who started a loaner program a couple of years ago. Search the pct-l for that. They're not that bad, and it's only for a couple hundred miles. They're nice chairs.

    Alcohol is definitely the way to go, I think.

    The ULA packs were the most common ones I noticed on the PCT. Henry Shires Tarptents were also very common when I hiked the PCT. So were trail runners.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  7. #7

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    Most bear cans are close to 3 pounds. You only have to carry them in the Sierra. Not the whole way. This is a site worth checking;
    http://www.sierrawildbear.gov/
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

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    Registered User A-Train's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    I donated my BearVault to a guy who started a loaner program a couple of years ago. Search the pct-l for that. They're not that bad, and it's only for a couple hundred miles. They're nice chairs.

    Alcohol is definitely the way to go, I think.

    The ULA packs were the most common ones I noticed on the PCT. Henry Shires Tarptents were also very common when I hiked the PCT. So were trail runners.
    Wow, THANKS, that is really cool of you! I participated in the program, getting a loaner can that I mailed from the Saufleys to KM and used through the Sierra. Mailed it back to Donna in Tahoe.

    I would suggest perspective thru's look into this. Really nice of all you donators and the guy who organized it (AND the Saufleys!).
    Anything's within walking distance if you've got the time.
    GA-ME 03, LT 04/06, PCT 07'

  9. #9
    Kilted Thru-Hiker AT'04, PCT'06, CDT'07 Haiku's Avatar
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    Honestly, even though the weight of a bear can is a pain, it kind of helped with my peace of mind, knowing that I had it. Even when I'd left the required zone, and was carrying it to the next place I could mail it home, it was nice to have because I no longer had to even think about rodents or deer messing with my food.

    Anyway, in answer to the original question, your pack doesn't need to be that big. No bigger than your AT pack, anyway. I'm sure you figured out on your AT hike what you need and what you don't - that's going to be essentially the same on the PCT.

    Haiku.

  10. #10

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    I also used the bear cannister loaner program, what a great service! That's the way I'd try to go if I ever did it again, but they only have so many to loan out per year, fyi.

    I have the old ULA "Catalyst" called the P2, worked for the AT, worked for the PCT. I was impressed by the number of people who were lightweight on the PCT, you just don't see anyone with huge heavy packs, most people have already hiked the AT or some other trail and they know what they are getting into from the start.

    Used alcohol stove, only time it got tricky were some really windy areas in So.Cal, but used the windscreen to the best of its ability and we were fine. Alcohol was everywhere.

  11. #11
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    [/quote from Traildragger] Lastly, join the PCT-L, you might get better faster answers there.[/quote]


    What or where is "PCT-L"? Is it the separate forum on WB?

  12. #12
    Section Hiker - 339.8 miles - I'm gettin' there! papa john's Avatar
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    The link below has my 2003 PCT gear

    http://cwillett.imathas.com/pct/index.html

    This one has my 2008 PNT gear.

    http://cwillett.imathas.com/pnt/index.html

    Not a lot has changed, except in details. I like ULA packs and alcohol stoves are very easy to use and get fuel for. I'd suggest reading as many journals as you can to see what worked and what didn't work for people. www.trailjournals.com is a good place to start.

    I'd use a tarp at the very start and would probably recommend something with a shape to it if this is your first tarp experience. Henry Shires makes good stuff and I've hiked a few thousand miles with the old Virga. If I was in your shoes I'd probably buy the Rainbow.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chickety View Post
    I I was impressed by the number of people who were lightweight on the PCT, you just don't see anyone with huge heavy packs, most people have already hiked the AT or some other trail and they know what they are getting into from the start.
    Hey Chickety,

    You missed Jester.

  15. #15
    Registered User mts4602's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris View Post
    I've hiked a few thousand miles with the old Virga. If I was in your shoes I'd probably buy the Rainbow.
    What makes you recommend the Rainbow over the new contrail?

    I'm looking at purchasing the contrail simply b/c it's 1/2 lb lighter than the rainbow but I'm worried about it being a pain to set up since I've never used a tarp before.

  16. #16

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    You missed Jester.
    Ha ha! I guess so! Though, we did see him at the kickoff, but that was with a burger in his hand, not a pack on his back!

  17. #17

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    Alcohol stove is the easiest to get fuel for, well, other than a wood stove.

    Yes, you need a bear can.

    Pack size depends on how fast you hike. You'll be carrying more water in the desert, so take that into account. In the Sierra, you may also have a couple of longer resupply stretches and a bear can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mts4602 View Post
    What makes you recommend the Rainbow over the new contrail?

    I'm looking at purchasing the contrail simply b/c it's 1/2 lb lighter than the rainbow but I'm worried about it being a pain to set up since I've never used a tarp before.
    The Rainbow is complete coverage, which means you can pitch it where ever you like and a storm isn't going to be a big deal. If you pitch a Contrail, like a Virga, in an open, exposed place and a storm rolls in, you might get wet. Well, maybe. I've rode out some harsh storms in foolish (but beautiful) campsites in the Virga just fine. The body sags a lot on the Virga, however. I would suspect that the physics will be the same. The Rainbow is set up differently and you should be able to avoid this.

    1/2 pound will make absolutely no difference in the quality of your hike. The difference between 10 lb base weight and a 12 pound base weight isn't much.

    Either one would be a fine choice for a shaped tarp on the PCT and will be much more forgiving for a new user than an open tarp.

  19. #19
    avatar= bushwhackin' mount kancamagus nh 5-8-04 neighbor dave's Avatar
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    i carried a 5lb tent on the pct. no probs. got used to the bear can too. it's all in your head

  20. #20

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    don't listen to a thing neighbor says cuz he is nuts !

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