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[pct-l] lightweight hiking response

Let me respond to a couple things.

I agree that a water filter isn't needed until Mt. Laguna.  I also think 
that a tarp could be sent there too if the hiker thinks they can make it 
to Mt. Laguna in two days.  This could be a challenge for some hikers, 
but most likely you will have to hike 20 miles to Lake Morena to get 
water the first night anyways.  A 22 to 23 mile second day would get you 
to Mt. Laguna for a restaurant meal if you wanted!  That would mean you 
would only have to carry 1.5 days of food for the first section of the 
hike.  Just another way to cut a couple pounds off those first couple 
days. :-)

I found the Olympus Infinity Zoom to be a nice hiking camera.  It's 
lightweight and takes great pictures.  I only had a couple slides out of  
a 1,000 that came out bad.

I thought that Birgitte Jensen brought up some good points in response to 
my post on lightweight hiking.  I'll try and clarify some points. 

First, let me say that I was referring to lightweight hiking in relation 
to successfully thru-hiking the PCT.

Second, when I said a hiker should be in good shape before attempting a 
thru-hike, I hope I didn't make it seem like they had to be able to run a 
marathon.  I simply meant that a person should be in good enough shape to 
hike 15 miles for a couple days straight (or longer), without feeling 
wiped out the next day.  If you start from the border, the first possible 
(not guaranteed) trickle of water is 15 miles away.  The first guaranteed 
water is at 20 miles.  And it doesn't get any easier.  The first week 
will be very tough for anyone that can't hike these distances somewhat 
comfortably.  Not impossible, but not fun.  Those that can't reach a 
water source will have to carry enormous amounts of (very heavy) water.  
Unlike many trails, you can't take the beginning slow, say working up 
from 10 miles a day to 15 and then 20.  You better be ready to do at 
least 15 miles a day from the very beginning.  Also, I don't run to get 
in shape for long-distance hiking, I just go hiking on weekends.  
Anything you can do to increase your endurance will help you.  That 
usually means putting in the miles with a pack on your back before you 
begin the trip.

Third, I agree that those over the age of "twenty-somethings" are usually 
not as in-shape as me and my brother.  However, we were some of the youngest 
hikers that finished the trail.  Most (but certainly not all) of these 30-60 
year old hikers were in good shape.  In fact, there was a man on the 
trail last year that was 75 and hiked over 2,000 miles!!  Talk about an  
incentive for life-long fitness and wellness!  I could list off a lot of  
other examples if you want me too.  (Hopefully I haven't embarrassed 
anyone, sorry Andyman and HH).  Sure, many older hikers are out-of-shape, 
but plenty of twenty-somethings haven't seen the gym or a pair of 
running shoes in a long time either.  The fact is, a majority of 
Americans (regardless of age) are overweight or out-of-shape. 

I also agree that "older" hikers have more of a chance of getting a 
trip-ending injury.  That's one of the best things about lightweight 
hiking, it puts much less stress on the body!  I think this is one of the 
stongest selling points for lightweight-hiking in general.

The truth is, a thru-hike (especially the PCT) cannot be completed by a 
majority of hikers.  Most people at the border are experienced and fit 
to begin with, and still less than 50% will finish.  On the AT, it's 
barely 10%, and you can do that trail in 7 months if you want to.  I can 
discuss the reasons for this at a later date if you want, but much of it 
has to do with being mentally and physically prepared.

Fourth, I must admit that I met a couple "potential" thru-hikers on the 
trail last year that lacked "outdoor common-sense".  Most of these were off the 
trail by the half-way point.  The trail seems to do a really good job of  
weeding these people out after just a short time.  I hope I didn't make 
it sound like I thought that thru-hikers shouldn't be "experienced", 
however.  Not at all.  My quote was something like "need a thousand 
miles experience".  If you re-read it, a short while later I state that  
hikers should experiment with all their lightweight equipment on weekend  
hikes before they attempt a thru-hike.  A hiker needs to know the potential 
limitations of their gear before going on their thru-hike.

Fifth, I will state again that "saving a few ounces" is not worth putting 
yourself in danger in the backcountry.  If you look at the original 
equipment list that this whole discussion started with, you'll notice 
that the hiker had a 19 pound pack to begin with.  This included a nice 
pack, tent, 20-degree sleeping bag, stove, water filter, plenty of warm  
clothes, the ten essentials, etc.  What part of this list puts the hiker  
at an increased risk in the backcountry?  None that I can see.  Most of 
it is just lightweight equipment that any "traditional" hiker would take 
into the backcountry!  I suggested even lighter-weight gear for this  
particular hiker because he has a lot of experience (completed the AT)  
and because he expressed an interest in going even lighter.  As I said 
in the original post, I think that anyone can get down to a TWENTY pound  
pack.  I'm down to a 15 pound pack because I have a lot of experience in  
many types of backcountry situations and I can get out of potentially dangerous
ones very quickly (as bj indicated).  I have also researched the lightest 
weight (high-quality) gear on the market.  In my opinion, I think that for 
each pound you decrease below 20, you better have an increase in hiking 
experience, hiking pace, and hiking endurance (remember Wolf and his 
20,000 miles?).

Sixth, about hiking mileage.  The PCT is 2700 miles long.  Due to weather 
and snow factors, a thru-hiker really needs to finish the trail in about 
5 months.  April means snow in CA (especially this year) and late 
September/early October means potential (trip-ending) early-winter storms 
in WA.  At 150 days, a hiker must average 18 miles a day, without a day 
off!  If you want to rest, the thru-hiker will have to AVERAGE about 21 mpd 
(actual hiking days) for the whole trip.  Maybe slightly less than 20 a day
if they really stretch it out.  This is a fact.  Anyone that can't do 
this has a very slim chance of successfully finishing the trail from end 
to end.  Most hikers don't do 30 mpd, but they better be able to average  
20-25 mpd.  That's just the reality of thru-hiking the PCT.  In fact, 
this is another perfect example of why I think lightweight hiking is the way to 
go for a thru-hike.  Does anyone really want to lug around a 40-50 pound 
pack for 20+ miles every single day for 5 months straight?  I don't 
think I'd have too much fun.

Seventh, I agree that more experienced hikers have a better chance at 
finishing the trail.  I just don't think that you have to have done a 
thousand miles or finished a thru-hike before you are prepared to go 
into the backcountry with a lightweight pack.  A series of weekend hikes 
in varying conditions (not just sunny weekends :-) should be good 
enough preparation.  Practice hiking with your lightweight gear in sun, 
rain, snow, hot temperatures, cold temperatures, or whatever your region can 
throw at you.  For example, I had only hiked 20 miles once before I 
began my thru-hike.  I had never gone on a hike longer than a week.  I 
had never desert hiked.  I had never done extensive hiking on snow, 
except for mountaineering, and never for longer than a weekend.  I had 
never had to ford glacier-cold (and deep) creeks.  I think that many 
hikers don't have the "experiences" that are necessary to be confident in every 
situation they will come across while thru-hiking the PCT.  Only a 
former thru-hiker would have those.  Instead, we must rely on books 
(pre-hike research) and forums such as this mailing list, along with an 
open mind, to gain the insight needed to conquer these challenges.  
That's  one of the reasons why I'm taking the time to write this message 
for the '98 thru-hikers.  Common-sense often comes from what we've read
and heard, not just from what we've actually experienced.  With this in 
mind, I hope that all the '98 thru-hikers have researched their PCT 
thru-hikes carefully and know what they are getting themselves into.  It 
would be a shame to spend all that time and energy planning a five-month  
hike and then have to end it after a couple weeks because they weren't 
prepared for some reason (i.e. physically or mentally).

Keeping an open mind is an important characteristic of lightweight 
hiking that I didn't touch on in my first post.  Many lightweight concepts 
are "non-traditional".  Only by experimenting with lighter and lighter 
gear will the hiker be able to break out of this traditional mold and 
develop these new techniques.  I know.  I've been there, done that.  I 
was a "traditional" backpacker for 12-13 years before switching.  It's 
hard to describe, but I think that lightweight hiking is much more 
exhilarating than "traditional" hiking.  Instead of you against nature, 
it's you working WITHIN nature.  Instead of you deciding when it's time to 
wake-up, eat, drink, go to sleep, etc., nature dictates your schedule.  
Its really a way to get more in tune with your natural surroundings.  
Isn't that why many people go on a thru-hike?

A note on shopping for lightweight equipment.  I live in the 
"mega-recreational" city of Seattle, and I have yet to meet a 
long-distance lightweight hiker salesperson at any recreational store.  That 
means that I rarely get the kind of advice I'm looking for when shopping 
for lightweight gear.  The salespeople are not familiar with lightweight  
techniques and the sort of gear that you as a lightweight long-distance 
hiker need.  Just as an example, my brother and I went to a very 
reputable outdoor store in the Seattle area (not REI), and the 
"experienced" salesman was trying to sell him a gigantic Dana Design  
Terraplane, just because he was going on a thru-hike and must therefore 
need "a heck of a lot of space" and a "massive suspension system" to 
carry everything.  Don't believe this line for a minute!  Get the facts  
before you go into the store and determine YOUR lightweight needs, not 
what that non-thru-hiking salesperson THINKS (not necessarily knows) you  
need.  Also, leave all the gizmos and "comfort-providing" accessories on 
the shelf, not in your pack.

Finally, I hope that I didn't make it sound like a thru-hike (even 
with a lightweight pack) is easy!  This was the most challenging thing I have 
ever done in my life.  It was also the most rewarding.  Funny how that 
works.  Anyway, the PCT will give you challenges like you wouldn't 
believe.  It will probably give you massive amounts of pain.  Your mental 
stress will skyrocket at times.  This trip is very mental.  It seems like 
N. CA is the worst:  you've finished the grand High Sierras, it's 100 
degrees out, there's little water, you've been on the trail for two 
months, and you still have three months to go!  I have tremendous respect 
for this trail, and anyone who thru-hikes it.  I hope I didn't make the 
trip sound easy.  Hiking OR in 15 days is not easy!  Not taking a day off 
for a month is not easy!  My brother and I chose to do this for a variety 
of reasons (usually dealing with girlfriends or schedule conflicts), and 
not because 30 mpd was easy.  The 30 mpd was not from hiking faster, but 
from hiking longer hours each day.  A lightweight pack certainly helps 
you do this!  I don't advocate doing the trail in 4 months unless you 
really like hiking all day.  One last thought:  A lightweight pack gives you 
the freedom and flexibility to hike the trail anyway YOU want to hike it!

I hope this clears up anything I left out in my last post (and sorry for 
rambling on).  If anyone else has questions, don't be afraid to ask.

Jeremy Rice
(Ricebrothers '97)

Disclaimer:  this is all IMHO! :-)

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