Everything You Need to Know to Hike the PCT

Are you planning a PCT hike for next season? This is a round up of round ups. It’s the crème de la crème of information about hiking the PCT. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about hiking the PCT. Okay, those last few sentences may be an exaggeration, but there is a TON of info to be had here. Thank you to Tim Kennedy and his partner Vee for living, and then writing, this informative series. Dive on in!

1. So You Want to Thru-Hike the PCT?

A great place to start. This article outlines all the little considerations you need to take before heading out on your big adventure.

Aside from endless hours spent simply being entranced by the idea of a PCT thru-hike, it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that we decided to start making our fantasy a reality. The planning process certainly could have been completed in under a year, but seeing as a thru-hike can often entail a lot of life changes (e.g. transitioning housing, losing income/employment, acquiring insurance, obtaining gear, physically preparing, securing pet-care) we decided that more time wouldn’t hurt, so our research began!

A quick Google search of “How to prepare for the PCT,” can lead one to down an endless rabbit hole of gear, conditions, advice, resources, and trip reports. This is a rabbit hole that we inevitably found ourselves in, however we did find ourselves coming back to particular resources frequently.

2. How to Prep for the High Sierra on your PCT Thru Hike

The High Sierra present a whole new set of challenges. You thought you had this hike thing under control? Enter: High Sierra.

Prior to hitting the trail, there is only so much information that thru hikers are able to acquire about the existing conditions in the Sierras. While many make good use of tools such as, the PCT Water Report and FarOut, a lot can happen between touching the southern terminus and arriving at Kennedy Meadows. While much of the west coast had received a strong December snowpack the previous winter, there wasn’t much more notable snowfall to mention after that. Between this and heat waves occurring upon our arrival to Kennedy Meadows, we began to question the gear that we had shipped to us at the General Store in town. In order to get a better grasp of the conditions, we decided to contact some hikers that we knew were ahead of us via our Garmin inReachMini as well as checking out some recent comments about the terrain on our FarOut app. 

After gaining some additional insight, we made the game time decision to ship some unnecessary technical gear back, including our Ice Axes and MicroSpikes

3. Gear We Kept and Gear We Ditched after 700 Miles on the PCT

We’re out here dropping knowledge bombs. This was a highly popular (still is) article on what gear the team used and what just wasn’t worth it. If you’re packing, it’s time to read this one.

Better preparation will pretty much always have its place when it comes to any journey or pursuit, however there are certainly some areas that will also be an inevitable challenge. Regardless of how much heat training you commit to before starting, desert heat, and mountain cold will not come without its difficulties.

4. Thru Hiking the PCT: Gear We Loved and What to expect in Washington

You’ve made it through a few states, now to tackle the last one, Washington! What worked gear wise, what didn’t? Dive in to find out.

After hiking through all of California and Oregon, surely you’ve experienced it all right?! Wrong. As with hiking through just about any terrain, one can expect to have some elevation gains and losses, as well as the possibility of changes in the weather/conditions. Washington certainly presented these encounters, but on a scale that we had not experienced previously:

Elevation change: While the state doesn’t boast the highest elevation on the trail, it certainly has the most dramatic changes, as you are constantly in a cycle of deep canyon descents and high mountain passes. With 111,000 feet of elevation gain and 107,450 feet of elevation loss over 512 miles, your body will feel it!

Cold weather: As the summer weather dwindled and we got closer to the Canadian border, we found ourselves ending and starting our days in our Enlightened Equipment puffy and wind pants to keep warm.

Fire danger: In the past, Washington has often been looked upon as a section of the trail where large fires are uncommon occurrences due to its wetter climate. However, in recent years, there has been a large increase in the number of wildfires in this area. This impacted us directly, as we were constantly just ahead of blazes that were closing trails.

5. We Completed the Pacific Crest Trail: Our Tips and Advice

What’s it like to be totally done and look back at the adventure? Tim details how the thru hike went and shares some finisher wisdom.

All in all, we are very happy with our thru-hike and considering we successfully made it from the southern terminus at the Mexico border to the northern terminus at the Canadian border, there aren’t many large changes we would make. However, if we could hike it all over again there are some slight changes that could have minimized some of our challenges:

6. Keeping the Romance Alive on the PCT

Oh it’s getting juicy! Thinking of hiking the PCT with your partner? This one is for you! They’re still together, so there must be some good advice in here.

Attempting a thru-hike with your significant other is one of the most amazing escapades that you can embark upon! It will generate experiences and memories that will last a lifetime and you’ll gain skills and perspectives that can carry over well past the trail’s terminus. However, unlike the trail ahead of you, there are no topographic maps or weather reports to predict what challenges lie around the bend. In addition, one hiker’s (or couple’s) experience is not a blueprint for what to expect as it pertains to relationships. Nevertheless, after walking 2,650 miles together and sharing the same tent day after day, my wife and I certainly do feel we have some valuable advice, tips, and tricks for keeping the romance alive and well on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Let us know what your favorite article was in the comments, and if you found any info helpful! Happy trails!

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro
Roxy Dawson
Content Marketer :: Outdoor Prolink | Website

Roxy Dawson lives in a van full time and travels around the country working as an adventure journalist, searching for backcountry adventure, and using her dog as a pillow. Like most adventurers, she loves coffee, hot springs, and getting pretend lost. She works for Outdoor Prolink as the Content Marketer. She is trying to make a small positive impact on the world, and a larger one in her community. Follow her on Instagram at @roxyjan_

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