Having read through a number of forums in preparation, one quote definitely stuck with us: hiking the Pacific Crest Trail involves spending lots of money to live like a homeless person. We read this blog from Halfway Anywhere early on and were shocked at the cost. But from the prep we’ve done so far this has proved the case for us and we haven’t even started yet!
Why does hiking the Pacific Crest Trail cost so much?
There are a number of reasons why the trail costs so much ranging from general cost of food, motel rooms etc. but another massive expense is the gear required. Focusing on the gear, the reason for this is that most hikers don’t want to recreate scenes from the movie Wild and end up carrying a bag that is half their body weight. Instead hikers end up buying gear which is easily packable and lightweight. Over the years lots of community resources have sprung up promoting the idea of going ‘ultralight’ like Reddit’s Ultralight sub: https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/. As I mentioned in our West Highland Way writeup, we also felt the pain of carrying too much, and for that trip we didn’t even carry all our food/drink. From the 2017 hiker survey showing the average base weight of 7.49 kg, Joal’s sleeping bag, tent and rucksack would have been hitting near that, and that’s without any clothes, hiking poles etc., so we decided to upgrade our big 3 (plus sleeping pad) to give ourselves the best shot at completing the trail.
Item 1 – The Packs: Osprey Exos 58
We spent a long time looking at packs and ended up with the 2017 model of the Exos weighing in at little over 1kg. This bag is not only extremely light, it has a design that keeps the pack off your back, keeping you cool for that 700 miles of desert in California. It is also one of the lightest framed packs you can get. Framed packs help when carrying a heavier weight which might be important with the lack of snow the PCT has seen so far this year.
The cost of this bag was £100 during a Black Friday sale
Item 2: The Tent: Tarptent Rainshadow 2
Tents are one item that can range wildly in price with some two person tents pushing the £500+ mark (e.g. the Zpack Duplex). Unfortunately the state of cryptocurrency meant that that wasn’t going to be an option for us. Our current tent is a Vango banshee 300 which weighs about 3 kg. it has been a great tent for us and has gone on multiple backpacking trips but it’s going to be overkill for this trail.
We explored a lot of different options here ranging from Big Anges, hyperlite and a bunch of others. In the end we settled for a tarptent which uses your hiking poles and the main structure. Whilst this is a 3 person tent, we wanted enough space for our bags and gear not to get wet. This tent costs about £200 and weighs 1.2kg. One of our main concerns was that this wasn’t a freestanding tent, but having watched homemadewunderlust with the Zpacks it looks feasible.
Edit: 6/March/2018. After some more research we’ve opted to go for the Tarptent Double Rainbow instead. This is a two person tent so smaller than the Rainshadow 2 whilst still weighing and costing the same. So why did we change? Well, there are two benefits from this tent. Firstly this tent has entrances on both sides which we saw could come in handy – especially if someone needs the loo in the night. Secondly the tent can be set up as freestanding using hiking poles alleviating some of our worries about not being able to set up in the desert. The bonus final perk is we can set up the tent with a porch if we get caught in the rain, something which looks inevitable as we get to Washington.
Item 3: Sleeping bag: Enlightened Equipment Accomplice (850 down, -12c, 6ft6in)
Next up is our splurge purchase. With our current synthetic sleeping bags weighing in at over 3kg combined, this was the area where we were looking to trim the most amount of weight. We also needed to find something that would keep us warm in the Sierra Mountains. This will be the first time we move from sleeping bags to a quilt so is also the piece of gear we are most worried about. The accomplice comes in at an eye watering £350 but at 1.1kg it is probably the biggest weight saving we’ve made.
Item 4: Sleeping Pad: Synmat Hyperlite Dou
The final item on the list sits outside of the big 3 but is an essential part of our sleeping system. We’ve had this pad for 2 years now and it is a brilliant piece of kit. It weighs just shy of 800g but is brilliant in keeping us warm due to its insulating properties. We hope that the pairing with our sleeping bag will work well as a couple’s sleeping system that lasts us the trip. To improve the longevity of the pad we’re going to take a groundsheet for the first part of the hike. This way we hope to stop the cactus spines from deflating a good nights sleep!
All that gear together comes to ~5kg of combined weight which gives us a load of room to play with for clothing and other equipment.
For a complete breakdown of all the gear we’ll be using check out our lighterpack on https://www.lighterpack.com/r/fezk0v.