Getting ready to live out of a backpack for five months takes significantly more prep work than I honestly would’ve thought. There are so many different aspects of it that have to be thought about, planned, and carried out. The more we learn and plan, the more new things we discover that also have to be planned for! Some people start preparing a year or more ahead of time. We have had around 4 months! Here are some of the ways we have been preparing:
Even more ridiculous than how much prep work it takes, is how much it costs to live homeless for five months!! Since Glen hadn’t been working for a year while we waited for his work permit, we decided he would need to go back to the US to work in order for us to be able to save up enough money. But he didn’t leave until less than four months before our start date.
Before he left, we came up with a strict budget that included all of our pre-hike expenses, the debt we needed to pay off, the gear we needed to buy and all of our expenses while on the hike. According to our calculations, in order to cover all expenses and costs for nine months, we would need to bring in $30k in four months. Which sounds absolutely ridiculous and impossible. I even had a moment near the beginning when I was positive that there was no way we could do it. BUT – we’re still on track and looking good so far!
It’s pretty hard to prepare physically to hike 18 miles/30 km per day for 150 days when it’s impossible to recreate that scenario. Glen and I have been preparing differently, mostly because of our living situations.
He is in the US with very little (or no) snow, so he has been able to bike back and forth to work frequently, and he has a free gym membership, so he’s able to hit that up multiple times a week.
I’m in Canada with deep snow or solid ice and temps that are often not pleasant. A paid gym membership is not in our budget, and the roads are too icy usually to bother trying to run. So I have been trudging through the snow with a loaded pack whenever I can. I haven’t gotten to 30km in one shot yet, but anything is better than nothing.
I want to recreate some of it as best I can, because that way I can figure out if there are any injuries or issues with my gear that I can fix now rather than losing time or money on the trail. Or worse – having to quit because of an injury that I could have resolved before we left. But the only way to really prepare is to try to be in the best condition you can, and the trail will whip the rest of you into shape after that.
Because the PCT is a pretty hefty goal (and accomplishment), I think sometimes it has this dream-like quality. We hear about how hard and amazing it is, and I usually tend to just focus on the “amazing” part. But in reality, a large percentage of the people that quit the trail do so because they just can’t mentally get up and hike another day. The lure of home, and a bed, and loved ones, and food, and showers, and clean clothes is just too much. I totally get it.
To mentally prepare, I think people have to seriously take stock of what they’re doing and why. Consider all of the good AND bad about the trail. Recognize what you will have to give up. Doing it alone or with someone doesn’t make you any more or less able to deal with it. I highly recommend Pacific Crest Trials by Zach Davis and Carly Moree. It’s all about preparing mentally, so that you can start AND finish successfully. How am I preparing mentally? I’m trying to be more of a realist about it. I’m trying to make myself more accountable so that quitting would cost me more than just my own disappointment. I’m also trying to focus on the long-term goals along with the short-term. Does that guarantee that I’ll finish? Definitely not. But I do feel more pressure to not give up, which isn’t a bad thing!
I think it’s important to learn as much as you possibly can, not just about the PCT, but about thru-hiking in general. And camping. And nutrition. And survival. I definitely don’t think anyone needs to be any sort of expert in all those areas. You don’t even have to be above-average. Just don’t be the dummy that goes out there and gets lost, or becomes severely dehydrated or frozen or overheated because you didn’t bother to learn a single thing about living outside. Just because you have shiny new super-mega-ultralight gear doesn’t mean you’re equipped.
There are a ton of resources out there to learn about it all. A lot of bloggers have great information that I have found priceless for helping us learn and plan. Some of our favourite sites:
www.pcta.org – The official PCT website with every answer to every question and even more resources
www.pctmap.net/maps/ – Halfmile’s PCT Maps. Detailed information about every single stop on the trail and resources available. Includes some water information, elevation changes, distances, resupply stops, and basically anything you could want to know about the logistics of the trail
https://pctwater.com/ – The official water report for the PCT, and the lifeline for hikers. Nothing is going to derail your hike (and put you in danger) faster than not paying attention to water locations and availability. This site is updated regularly by a volunteer who takes info from people who are actually hiking the trail
www.halfwayanywhere.com – he has loads of data from multiple hiking years, and his writing style is very entertaining
www.thetrek.co – a website from the same guy who wrote Pacific Crest Trials. Lots of info about the various thru-hikes in the US, and he even runs the Badger sponsorship contest every year where they give away a ton of great gear. Even though we didn’t win any of the prizes this year, I’ll still recommend his site 😊
And after all that preparation and work – will we make it to the end?? I honestly don’t know, but at least we start off much better than not doing any of it. We’re cautiously hopeful and intend to make it right to the end! Follow along to see if we make it 😉