[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[pct-l] lightweight hiking


Since you are interested, here's some info:

My brother and I started on May 1 with the plan of hiking the trail in 4 
3/4 months.  We ended up finishing on September 12.  I started with 
a pretty light pack at about 22 pounds before food and water.  If I did 
it again, I would probably have it closer to 15 pounds.  We started 
out hiking 20-25 miles a day from Campo to Kennedy Meadows.  This was often 
dictated by how far apart the water sources were located.  I remember 
that my feet started getting sore after about 18 miles, so the last 
couple miles weren't the funnest.  Eventually this went away.  We then 
found out that are girlfriends wanted to meet us near Lake Tahoe, and to 
make a long story short, we hiked about 15 miles average (taking it 
easy and taking the time to climb Mt. Whitney) through the High 
Sierras because we had to meet them on a certain date.  We got off the 
trail at Yosemite and spent a week hanging out at Lake Tahoe.  Then we 
got back on the trail at Tuolumne with one of my other brothers.  
Averaged about 15 miles a day for another week to Echo Lake, where he 
left us.  Then we really started to move.  Went from Echo Lake to Seiad 
Valley without taking a day off and averaging high-20's.  Then we did all 
of Oregon in 15 days without taking a day off (31 mpd avg).  Once we did 
that, we realized that we could take Washington easy and we averaged 
about 25 mpd to the Canadian border.  By the time we hit Washington, 
low-20 days were pretty easy.  We needed to get to the border by the 
third week of September because we had our college classes starting up.

My lightest pack was in N. CA when I had it down to 14 pounds, including 
a book.  Gear I shared with my brother was a tent, tarp (not both!), stove, 
pot, water filter, and camera.

I was 24 and my brother had just turned 21.  I have a "cross-country 
runner" build and my brother has a "football" build, which turned more 
into a "cross-country" build by the end of the trip.  I only lost a 
couple pounds, my brother lost about 20.  This trail will get you into 
the best shape of your life!  We both are students, so we both had been 
sitting in chairs for the six months preceeding the trip.  I hadn't been 
working out, but my brother had been running some.  Both of us are in 
good shape though, even if we haven't been "training".  We both were able 
to go 20 miles the first day, even though we hadn't really trained for 
that many miles.  I don't think age matters that much, there were 40-year 
olds out there burning up the miles (hiked with Andyman <hi Andy!> for 2 weeks 
and he can do as many miles as us "youngens", also hiked with Hungry 
Hiker for a month and he matched our mileage from mid-OR to the Canadian 
border).  I think being in shape, carrying a lightweight pack, and having 
sufficient willpower are the most important requirements for a successful 

A note on lightweight backpacking:  Notice I didn't say ultra-light 
backpacking.  Ultra means taking it to the extreme, and I only recommend 
this to the MOST experienced hikers.  Lightweight backpacking just means 
bringing the lightest essential gear for the area you will be hiking 
through.  I don't advocate an 8-10 pound pack unless the hiker is very 
experienced, but I think anyone can get away with a pack under 20 pounds.  
This pack weight still gives me both safety and comfort in the backcountry.

I have only met one true "ultra-light" hiker and that was Wolf.  He had his 
pack down to 15 pounds,including food and water, through the High 
Sierras.  He also has 20,000 hiking miles under his belt.  All 
those miles have given him the experience to carry this kind of 
ultra-light gear.  I consider everyone else who carries a light pack, 
icluding myself, a "lightweight" backpacker.  I don't have to go to any 
"extremes" or endanger my own safety in the backcountry to get my pack 
weight down to 15 pounds.  I just bring essential gear that is 
lightweight, and I don't bring the "kitchen sink".

I've never understood why hikers think they have to have hiked a 
thousand miles before they have the "experience" to pack a lightweight 
pack.  Setting up a tarp isn't that much more difficult than setting up a 
tent.  Carrying a lighter and smaller pack isn't that much different than 
carrying a larger and heavier one.  Turning on a 1 oz flashlight isn't 
any different than turning on a 5 oz headlamp.  Using a 0.8 oz knife 
isn't any different than using a 3 oz knife.  Wearing running shoes on the 
trail isn't that much different than wearing lightweight boots.  Wearing 
a 19 oz w/b parka isn't that much different than wearing a 2 pound one.  
Out of this whole list, the only skill that needs some experience is 
setting up a tarp, and mostly that's common sense.  The rest is simply 
having the confidence that smaller and lighter is just as safe and 
comfortable as larger and heavier.

That's what I like so much about this mailing list.  I'm able to learn 
from other hiker's experiences.  If something works for a hiker and they 
share it on this list, we all get to benefit from this knowledge.  Of 
course, you want to try out all your gear before you go on the big trip.  
That's what weekends are for!  I don't need to carry a piece of gear for 
a couple weeks to figure out if it's going to work for me.  Usually I can 
figure that out on a couple weekend hikes.  See if that lightweight pack 
holds all your gear.  Experiment with running shoes on day hikes first, 
then with a light pack on weekend trips.  Bring a tarp on a weekend trip 
(with a tent, just in case) and spend the night underneath it.  Even this 
limited experience with a piece of gear should tell you if it will work 
for you.  Remember, there isn't any gear out there that will work for 
everyone.  We all need to bring what we are comfortable with.

The other thing to remember is that this all fits into a system of 
hiking.  You can't bring a heavy pack and running shoes.  You can't bring 
lighter clothes and expect that you can stand around in 30 degree 
weather.  You can't bring lighter food and expect that it will give you 
the energy to stay moving all day if it is cold and wet out.  Make sure 
you realize that there is more to lightweight hiking than simply the gear 
you bring with you.  Some people call this experience, I call it common 
sense.  Common sense will be the most essential piece of "equipment" you can 
bring into the backcountry!

I give a lot of the credit for my truly enjoyable thru-hike to my  
lightweight pack.  It often felt like I was out for a dayhike instead 
of a 4 1/2 month long trip!  I was able to wear lighter, more comfortable 
footwear, and for most of the trip I didn't even really notice that I had 
a pack on.  I guarentee you a lighter pack will help you to enjoy your 
trip more.  Getting a lightweight system worked out before the trip will 
also save you a lot of headaches during the trip.  I don't remember 
worrying about my gear once during the whole trip.  Of course, I sent 
home some unneeded gear near the beginning of the trip.  Everyone does.  
But who wants to worry about gear when you are trying to enjoy nature to 
the fullest?

In conclusion (finally!), I think that being in good shape, having a 
lightweight hiking system, and having the willpower to finish the trip 
are the most important attributes a potential thru-hiker needs to have 
before beginning their trip.  Having just one and not the others probably 
won't cut it.  Having a lightweight system, but only being able to hike 
10 miles won't work because you'd have to take mega amounts of food 
between resupply points.  Being in shape, but not having a lightweight 
system works for some people, but a lightweight pack puts you in a much 
better mental state and leads to less potentially trip-ending injuries.  
Finally, a person could be in shape and have a light pack and still not 
finish because they lack the willpower to fight through the pain and mental 
stresses that happen to EVERY thru-hiker, no matter how much weight they 
are carrying.  After the first month, the trip becomes more and more 
mental.  Only those who have promised themselves they are going to make 
it to the border, no matter what, will actually finish.

Jeremy Rice
(Ricebrothers '97)

Hope this helps someone.  If anyone wants to know more about lightweight 
backpacking, or any other questions about a thru-hike, just email me.

* From the Pacific Crest Trail Email List | For info http://www.hack.net/lists *