Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Filtering by Tag: Pre-hike

My Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike gear list

PCT gear fully loaded

Long distance thru-hiking is undoubtedly a gear sport. What you bring, and what you leave at home, can make a huge difference not only to one's comfort on the trail, but also ultimately to either making or not making it. Lightweight and multi-use are the name of the game.

Here are all the gear I will be bringing along for my PCT thru-hike, sorted out by category. I've also included some reasoning on why I chose to take these, or why I chose to leave something out. I've also include item weights where it makes sense in the context of this article.

For more detailed breakdown, see my full gear list on my lighterback page.

The Big Three

The big three for PCT thru-hike

The Big Three consists of your shelter, sleep system, and backpack. These are usually the heaviest items you carry, and also where you can save the most weight.

My backpack is Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet (463g). It's a 48L frameless pack (meaning, unlike generally, it doesn't have a frame inside) and carries really well. I've attached MLD's Bottle Pocket shoulder pouch to the right shoulder strap, and ZPacks Shoulder Pouch to the left where I keep my camera and camera accessories for easy access while hiking.

For shelter I use MLD's cuben fiber Patrol Duo (310g), coupled with cuben fiber Serenity Duo (310g) innernet. While ZPacks and Big Agnes are the most popular shelter brands on the PCT, I chose to go with the Patrol tarp for its modularity and openness. Unlike the ZPacks shelters, with the Patrol, you can pitch just the innernet, or the tarp, or both – depending on the weather and bugs. And unlike the fully enclosed tents from Big Agnes, the tarp offers a bit more "scenery" and allows you to be more connected with your surroundings.

For sleeping bag I use the ZPacks 10F sleeping bag (709g). Up until the last minute I was going to use my old 20F bag, but seeing how many of the 2016 thru-hikers complained that it was too cold, and looking at all the snow on Sierra, I ordered the warmer 10F bag. I should sleep nice and warm.

My sleeping pad is the good old Z Lite Sol (260g) from Therm-a-Rest. While I enjoy the comfort of inflatable pads, on longer hikes I get tired of inflating and deflating them. You can just throw down the Z Lite and you're ready to sleep, no huffing and buffing required. The Z Lite is also almost indestructible, which is great when you're crossing 800 miles of desert full of poky things looking to puncture your pad. I've cut the Z Lite to about torso length to save some weight and space.

I'll also bring a strip of tyvek (98g) for cowboy camping and GooseFeet Gear's down pillow (68g) as a luxury item.

Clothing I wear while hiking

PCT clothing for hiking

All my Patagonia clothing and gear comes from Camu, my favorite outdoor gear store in Finland. They were kind enough to sponsor my thru-hike and have been nothing but amazing! Check them out online here, or if you're in Helsinki, visit their store in Kaisaniemi.

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I love hiking in shorts. For the past couple of years I've tried all kinds of different shorts and finally found the Patagonia Strider Pro 5 shorts. They are a great compromise between having enough pockets, and still being minimal and staying out of your way.

For the shirt I'm starting with the Columbia Silver Ridge long sleeve shirt. It had great online reviews and from all the shirts I tried on at REI, I liked the Silver Ridge the most.

On my feet I wear Darn Tough 1/4 hiker socks, Dirty Girl gaiters to keep the debris and sand out of my shoes, and Brooks Cascadia 11's will be my go-to shoe from the start. I might switch to 12's at some point along the way.

This year I'm also testing out a fanny pack. I don't like to have hip pockets on my pack as they get in my way, so I needed a solution to have my snacks and other small items easily accessible while hiking – enter Thru Pack. I ordered the cuben fiber Astronaut (43g) with the Comfy Strap upgrade and so far I'm loving it. It fits a ton of snacks and small gear, is easily accessible at all times, weights almost nothing, stayes out of way while hiking, and when in trail towns I can use it to carry small items and camera gear around town.

I cover my head with a standard Patagonia Trucker hat and use the UV/Insect Shield Buff for bandana/neck warmer/beauty goggles/towel. For extra sun protection I use the umbrella.

Clothing packed

Warm clothes for PCT

In southern California it's going to be mainly windy, so the Patagonia Houdini jacket (102g) is going to come handy. With the DWR protection, coupled with the umbrella, it can also withstand light rain. The As Tucas Millaris pants (57g) work as windpants, and against the mosquitoes in the Sierra and Oregon.

I'll use the Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck (175g) for cold nights and when I need some extra warmth on the trail. For the same purpose I have the Salomon AdvancedSkin ActiveDry tights (180g). I can also wear the tights under my shorts, which comes handy on Sierra and when glissading.

Montbell Ex Light Down Anorak (177g) works as my insulation layer. I chose the Ex Light instead of the ever popular Ghost Whisperer as it's cheaper and in my opinion provides better value.

When it gets cold, I'll keep my extremities warm with OR Versaliner Gloves (75g), extra pair of Darn Tough socks (65g), and a general Oakley beanie (64g) I've always used.

Cooking gear, hygiene, and first-aid

Toiletries for PCT

My personal hygiene kit consists of baby wipes, TP, and MSR Blizzard Tent Stake (28g) which I use as a trowel (meaning, to dig holes to poop in). Then a toothbrush, toothpaste, and sunscreen and electrolytes for desert hiking.

My first-aid kit is pretty simple. There's just some Leukotape, water treatment tablets as a backup, vitamin I, and items for blister treatment.

As I’m hiking stoveless, meaning I'm not using a stove to heat or prepare my food, my cooking gear is quite simplistic. I use the empty Gatorade container to hydrate my meals in, or as a mug, and my spoon as a, well, spoon.

I’ll start with the ZPacks cuben fiber food bag (not pictured here), but if the critters get really bad, I’ll probably switch to Ursack with OPSak. In the Sierra I’ll use the mandatory bear can for food storage.

Why I’m going stoveless?

I’ve noticed that, especially on longer hikes, I really don’t enjoy hot foods. Also, not having to boil water and wait for it to cool saves time, and not having to carry the stove or the fuel saves weight.

Camera gear and electronics

Electronics for PCT

This is the hardest category for me personally and it's way too heavy, but I just can't cut anything from the list.

The DeLorme inReach SE 2-way satellite communicator (203g) keeps me connected when there's no cell signal, and keeps my parents happy as they can follow my progress on a map where the inReach sends a ping every 10 minutes. It also allows me to call and communicate with Search and Rescue if something would happen while on trail.

iPhone 7+ (188g) is for editing photos and video, writing and publishing these blog posts, and generally communicating while there's a signal. Apple's Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter (22g) is used for transferring photos and video from the Sony RX100 V (not pictured here, 299g) to my phone.

Pedco UltraPod tripod (56g) is used for stability, and StickPic Adapter for selfies (11g).

As I will be doing lots of night hiking, I opted for the heftier, Scandinavian winter quality headlamp. The 300 lumens from the Petzl Reactik+ (115g) is more than enough for the PCT, but as I already owned one, I didn't want to buy a headlamp just for the PCT. It should at least make it easier to see all the rattlesnakes and mountain lions ahead.

Suunto Spartan Ultra All Black Titanium (73g) watch is used for easily seeing the distances while hiking, seeing elevations, and generally assessing where I'm at on the trail without having to take out the map constantly.

All these are powered by Anker PowerCore Speed 10000 QC (200g) battery pack and Suntactics S5 (202g) solar charger. Why I chose to go with a smaller, 10,000mAh battery pack and solar charger, is a compromise between weight, need for power, and time spent in towns. The smaller battery pack and solar charger combo weights about 400g, the same as a larger, 20,000mAh battery pack. But while the smaller battery pack takes about 3,5 hours to charge, the larger one takes up to 8-9 hours. This means that you're stuck in a trail town every 4 to 5 days waiting for your battery pack to recharge. With the smaller battery pack and solar charger combo I can just do my resupply and quickly get on my way. It should be noted that if you bring less electronics than me, none of this is an issue and you can easily get away with just the smaller battery pack.

I'm also bringing along a 4-port wall charger, the Anker Quick Charge 3.0 (141g) as wall outlets in trail towns are in high demand. With this, I can charge all my electronics from a single outlet.

Hydration & other gear

PCT water carriage

For the water carriage at the beginning, I have a 6L capacity. I'll use a 2L Evernew bladder and four 1L Smart Water bottles. Smart Water bottles are great as they have the same threading as the Sawyer Squeeze water filter (65g). They are also strong, light, and easily available anywhere on the trail. For backflushing the Sawyer Squeeze, I'm using the sports drink cap from the 0,75L Smart Water bottle. This way I can leave the heavy backflush syringe at home.

For trekking poles I'm using Locus Gear's CP3 carbon fiber poles. I also use them to pitch my shelter.

Liteflex umbrella is used as sun protection in the desert, and as light rain protection.

My old SpyderCo Dragonfly knife is again coming with me. They make one that uses plastic for the body, and it's half the weight, but I just couldn't make the switch as this knife has been with on all my adventures.

Gear for the Sierra

PCT Sierra gear

Most thru-hikers ship their Sierra gear to Kennedy Meadows which is the last resupply stop before the Sierra's start. My Sierra gear consists of: Camp Corsa ice axe (205g), ZPacks cuben fiber Rain Poncho (144g), DIY cuben fiber rain skirt (55g), Sea to Summit Nano Mosquito Net (82g), Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent, and Kahtoola MICROspikes (338g). For the reguired bear canister, I'll use the BearVault BV500 (1160g) which I'll buy from the Kennedy Meadows store.

My gear list will probably change during the hike, and that's fine. I'll make an "after the hike" gear list to compare what changed, and why.

I'm leaving for the trail tomorrow morning, so the next time you'll be hearing from me will be from the trail. You can follow along on my dedicate PCT blog page or following me on Instagram.

Hiker lingo and vocabulary for the PCT thru-hike

Like any hobby or a pastime, hiking has its own lingo and vocabulary. Here’s a short introduction to some of the terms and acronyms used in thru-hiking and hiking in general.

Please enjoy!

AYCE (acronym): All-You-Can-Eat. For when you get the hiker hunger.

Base-weight (noun): The weight of your pack excluding food, water, and other consumables. Very important for Gram Weenies like me.

Bear Box (noun): Bear boxes are generally found in established campgrounds along areas of high bear activity. They are lockable bear proof boxes where you can store food and anything else that might smell attractive to a bear (cooking pots, toiletries etc.). The boxes are usually located a safe distance from tent sites.

Bear Can (noun): Short for a bear canister. Similar to a bear box except that it is portable and designed to be carried by hikers. A bear can is mandatory in several sections of the PCT, mostly through the High Sierras. It should be stored at least 100 feet (30m) from your campsite but also well away from cliffs, ledges, and rivers. Bear cans are typically loathed by hikers because they are bulky, rigid and heavy. But they do make a convenient camp stool.

Bonus Miles (noun): These are all the extra miles that aren’t officially part of the PCT but will nevertheless need to be hiked during the course of a typical thru-hike. These include miles to and from resupply points, post offices, lodgings, off-trail water sources, scouting for sheltered and/or flat campsites, prospecting for a nice Cat Hole and the inevitable navigational mishaps.

Boink (verb): Running out of energy to hike due to eating too few calories.

Bounce Box (noun): The Bounce Box is a package that you continually mail to your future self as you travel along the trail. Not all hikers use this.

Bubble (noun): Also known as the Herd (check below).

Cache (noun): Stuff that is stored or squirreled away in a secret or inaccessible location, for use at some point in the future. Trail Angels and hikers themselves have increasingly cached food and water along the trail, particularly in the dry desert sections of Southern California.

Cairn (noun): A man-made stack of stones indicating where the trail continues.

Camel Up (verb): The act of drinking as much water as you physically can when you are at a water source. The theory is that you over-hydrate yourself as much as possible to lessen the need for carrying heavy water. “Cameling Up” at a cache is not considered good trail etiquette. Instead, hikers should only take what they really need, leaving as much of this precious commodity for a potentially more desperate hiker behind them.

Cat Hole (noun): One of the cornerstones of LNT (Leave No Trace) philosophy, and also, considered good trail etiquette. It's a hole you dig to not leave your poop out on the trail. Cat hole should be 6-8 inches deep, 200 feet from campsites or trail, and far away from all water sources. You should always carry out your TP (and for the love of god, do NOT burn it!).

Cowboy Camping (verb): Sleeping outside in the wilderness without an overhead shelter (i.e. no tent or tarp). If weather, crawlies, and bugs permit, this is a fast way to setup and take down your camp. Also, a good way to enjoy the stars on a clear night.

Day Hiker (noun): A hiker who is only hiking for a day.

Dry Camping (verb): Camping without a nearby water source. For the most part, thru-hikers will want to camp close to a water source to save the hassle of lugging water to cook or to drink. In bear country, hikers often cook their dinner close to a water source and then carry on hiking for a few hours after dinner.

FKT (acronym): Fastest Known Time. Every few years someone will test themselves by attempting to hike from one end of the trail to the other, faster than anyone else has ever hiked it. If they accomplish this goal, they have the fastest known time. Current supported FKT is held by Karel Sabbe, who in 2016 finished the 2659 mile PCT in 52 days, 8 hours, and 25 minutes. That’s averaging over 50 miles (81km) per day.

Flip-Flop (noun): A tactic used to complete the trail in a single season whereby you do a section of the trail, then skip a section with the intention of going back and doing that section later. For example, in a heavy snow year, a thru-hiker might skip the Sierras, finish the rest of the trail and then return to the Sierras once the conditions are more favorable to finish off the missing part.

Floaties (noun): Any item found floating in your water after filling up your water bottles. Usually, poop.

Giardia (noun): A nasty intestinal parasite that causes acute stomach upset, chronic diarrhea, nausea, and all of the other associated unpleasantries. This unsavory little character is transmitted outside of the body via feces and seems to somehow always find its way into water sources. Giardia is a major incentive for thru-hikers to practice good trail hygiene, adhere to the LNT philosophy and always filter or treat questionable drinking water.

Glissade (verb): From the French word for sliding. In theory, glissading is a controlled way to expedite one‘s path down a steep slope of snow or ice by gliding gracefully on the feet or buttocks. In practice, it’s hikers sliding down snowy or ice-covered hills on their asses while having an incredible time. Also known as ass-path.

Gorp (noun): Another term for trail mix.

Gram Weenie (noun): A hiker who becomes obsessed with reducing his or her Base Weight. I would consider myself to be a Gram Weenie.

Herd, The (noun): A large group of thru-hikers that sets off together along the trail. Usually happens in the Southern California and thins out by the time hikers reach Northern California. The herd can cause congestion, overcrowding, and damage to the trail. Being behind the herd has the benefit of bountiful Hiker Boxes.

Hiker Box (noun): A box where hikers donate unwanted food or gear for other hikers. Typically found at resupply points along the trail.

Hiker Funk (noun): This obnoxious smell is the result of a unique combination of excessive sweat, economical use of laundry, irregular showering and a generally scant regard for personal hygiene.

Hiker Hunger (noun): Walking dozens of miles per day, every day, up and down mountain passes burns a lot of calories. Since you can only carry so many calories on your back, your body is constantly running a deficit and you are constantly hungry. This insatiable, bottomless hunger that torments thru-hikers is called Hiker Hunger.

Hiker Hobble (noun): A phenomenon where once the hiker removes his or hers backpack, he/she starts to limp and wobble. Usually, develops after the first hundred miles, and doesn’t let up.

Hiker Midnight (noun): 9:00 pm (although hotly debated). Most serious and well-mannered thru-hikers will be tucked up by this time so that they can get a good 8 hours of sleep and still be up at the crack of dawn.

Hiker Trash (noun): Hiker Trash is a term used to describes the consequences of living in the wilderness, surrounded by your own funk for months on end. Often confused with homeless.

HYOH (acronym): Hike Your Own Hike. Everyone's hike is different so be respectful of other people‘s needs, gear choices, pace, and so on. Not meant to be used as an excuse for acting like an asshole on the trail.

JMT (acronym): The John Muir Trail which overlaps the PCT for almost 200 miles / 322 km in the Sierra. JMT hikers typically head southbound while most PCT hikers head northbound.

LNT (acronym): Leave No Trace.

Mail Drop (noun): One of the ways for thru-hikers to resupply themselves with food, equipment, and other essentials while on the trail. Packages are sent for general delivery to post offices in towns along the trail where they are held until collected by the hungry hiker. As this method of resupplying depends on the inconvenient opening hours of post offices, many thru-hikers choose to resupply as they go and only send mail drops to locations where groceries are not available.

NoBo (noun): Northbound hiker.

Nero (noun): Nearly a Zero. A day when you only hike very few miles. Neros often occur when a thru-hiker arrives in a trail town and needs to take care of resupply, laundry, and other town activities before heading back on the trail.

Pee Rag (noun): A small piece of fast drying, absorbent fabric that some/most female thru-hikers carry on the outside of their packs. Helps to keep the Hiker Funk at bay.

Pink Blaze (verb): The act of hiking more quickly than you normally would, with the intention of catching up to a certain female hiker; to hike according to the schedule of a female hiker.

Postholing (verb): The term is derived from the hole that would be dug to sink a fence post into. When hiking across snow and your feet break through the snow your legs look like aforementioned fence poles sticking out of the snow. Postholing slows movement to an agonizing crawl, takes a ludicrous amount of energy and can be dangerous because it’s often impossible to know what's hidden beneath the surface. Postholing is one of the things hikers dread as they head into the Sierra. Can be mitigated by timing snow travel to early morning when the surface of the snow is still frozen from the night before.

Puffy (noun): A name for a down jacket.

Ray Day (noun): June 15th. In an average snow year in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Ray Day is the best date to leave Kennedy Meadows on a northbound thru-hike. Named for Ray Jardine, the Author of the Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Handbook. This date is based on two factors: it’s late enough to allow sufficient snowmelt in the Sierras for a safe hike, and it’s early enough to allow time to reach Canada before winter.

Resupply (noun): When a hiker hobbles out of the wilderness and back into town to get food and electricity.

Ride Bride (noun): A female hiker accompanying a male hiker when attempting to hitch a ride to town. A male thru-hiker who is accompanied by a female is far more likely to pick up a ride.

Section Hiker (noun): A hiker who's only hiking a section/sections of the PCT.

SoBo (noun): Southbound hiker.

Stealth Camping (verb): The term given to camping in an unestablished site or on land without permission from the landowner with the intention of not being seen. Offers a greater degree of solitude and can also reduce the chances of bear encounters.

Sun Cups (noun): An uneven surface of snow resembling a giant egg carton. As the snow melts in the spring, pockets of water form on the surface of the snow. This water warms up in the sun and causes the snow under it to melt faster than the surrounding snow. The resulting uneven surface is difficult to walk on.

Thru-Hike (noun): Traditionally a contiguous hike from one end of a trail to another. Usually, the term is only applied to hikes longer than 1,000 miles /1,609 km.

Thru-Hiker (noun): A hiker who is attempting to complete a Thru-Hike.

TP (acronym): Short for toilet paper. LNT code of conduct requires that if you pack it in, you must always pack it out.

Trail Angel (noun): A person who performs acts of Trail Magic and assists hikers expecting nothing in return, monetary or otherwise.

Trail Family (noun): A group of hikers that stick together and become very close as a result of their shared experiences along the trail.

Trail Legs (noun): About 4-5 weeks into a thru-hike your legs start to get used to the grueling long days and become incredibly strong, allowing you to hike for miles and miles.

Trail Magic (noun): Any random act of kindness that is offered or provided to thru-hikers. These amazingly generous deeds are like magic because they seem to always occur at a time or in a place when they are most needed; a water cache in a desert, a ride into town on a rainy day, or otherwise awesome occurrence.

Trail Name (noun): A nickname used by a hiker during their thru-hike, given by other hikers. An easier way of identifying hikers instead of their actual names, especially if you have numerous John’s on the trail. There are few unwritten rules when it comes to trail names. Generally, you don’t get to choose your own trail name, it is given to you by other thru-hikers and it will reflect your personality, appearance, style of hiking or some quirky thing that you do on the trail.

Trail Register (noun): A logbook, piece of paper, or otherwise inscribe-able object used for documenting hikers passing of a point on the trail.

Triple Crown (noun): The Triple Crown of Hiking is an informal title awarded to those who complete all three of the major U.S. long-distance hiking trails; The Appalachian Trail (AT), The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and The Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Only about 500 people have completed this 7,910 mile / 12,730 km feat of endurance. Only a small handful of hikers have managed to get the job done in a single calendar year.

Ultralight hiker (noun): A hiker who’s base weight is under 10lbs / 4,54kg.

Vitamin I (noun): Trail name for Ibuprofen.

Vortex (noun): Anything off of the trail that sucks a hiker in and is difficult to leave. A vortex will keep a hiker off the trail for an extended period of time.

Yogi (verb): The act of cleverly soliciting food, drink, rides, or otherwise useful things from unsuspecting strangers hikers meet along the trail, often without directly asking. From Yogi the Bear who managed to obtain picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers, though Yogi’ing doesn’t involve the same techniques. Yogi’ing is often done "Columbo style”, by striking up a conversation with a non-hiker, asking leading questions, and allowing the person to decide whether he wants to offer help.

Yo-Yo (verb): Whereupon reaching the end of the trail you simply turn around and head back to where you started. This is pretty rare but does happen.

Zero (noun): A rest day when zero trail miles are walked. Zeros are typically spent in trail towns or at the home of a Trail Angel but can sometimes be taken on the trail. Some zeros are planned, others are forced upon the hiker by injury or exhaustion.

So, I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer

pacific-crest-trail-blaze

There, I can say it out loud: I’m hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. It’s been a bumpy 5 months of organizing, but I finally have all my permits in check, flights booked, work sorted out, apartment packed up with all my stuff in boxes, and I'm ready to head out to the trail.

I’ve planned for this for the past 1,5 years and on 25th of April, I’m flying from Helsinki to San Diego where I'm staying for a few days with a good friend of mine. And if everything goes well, I'll be standing on the southern terminus of the PCT in Campo, California, on the 30th of April, ready to take my first steps along the 2,659 mile long trail – hoping my feet will carry me all the way to Manning Park, Canada.

What is this Pacific Crest Trail?

The Pacific Crest Trail (commonly abbreviated as the PCT) is a long-distance hiking trail located on the U.S. west coast. The trail starts on the U.S.–Mexico border, just south of Campo, California, and ends on the U.S.–Canada border, on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia.

The 2,659 mile/4,279 km long PCT corridor spans through California, Oregon, and Washington, passing through 26 national forests, 7 national parks, 48 wilderness areas, 5 State Parks, and 4 National Monuments. The trail closely aligns with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon–Washington border, to 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

Usually, the PCT is hiked from the southern terminus in Campo, to the northern terminus in Manning Park. For most thru-hikers hiking through the PCT takes about 5-6 months. Those that complete the thru-hike have climbed up 428,011 feet (130,458m) and descended 426,486 feet (129,993m) – that is the equivalent of almost 15 ascents and descents of Mt. Everest from sea level.

PCT sections

The PCT is typically divided into 5 sections:

  • Southern California: some nice higher mountains, mostly dry desert mountains, some flat desert areas, some really hot places (Mojave Desert).
  • Sierras: gigantic granite mountains carved by glaciers, snow, no roads, huge glacial valleys, lots of mosquitoes, bears.
  • Northern California: less dramatic mountains (except for Mt. Shasta), lots of massive river valleys to climb in and out of, fewer mosquitoes. Transitions into the Cascade Range (i.e. volcanoes).
  • Oregon: mostly flatter trails, lots of lakes, lots of mosquitoes, larger volcanoes.
  • Washington: lots of climbing, massive mountains, gorgeous views.

Timing

Due to the terrain, seasonal weather patterns, and the length of the trail, there’s only a short window for northbound thru-hikers to start their hike. They need to start their hike early enough to make it out of the desert before it gets too hot, get to the Sierra late enough for the snow to have melted for the high mountain passes to be passable and still have enough time to make it to the northern terminus before the on-coming winter. During a regular year, this means that most hikers start from the middle of April to early May and aim to get to Sierra by June 15th.

Southbound thru-hikers start a month or two later. They can start once the high mountain passes in Washington are safe to pass through.

Most common questions and answers

The more I talk to people about the trail, the more I find myself answering a lot of similar questions. To help out a little, here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers to them. If I didn’t answer some question, please ask me in the comments and I’ll update this list.

Are there any [insert dangerous animal] there?

In the desert, you will meet rattlesnakes, scorpions, spiders and other desert critters. All of them want nothing to do with you. Having your ears and eyes open and being extra careful around dusk and you can avoid any unpleasant confrontations with rattlesnakes.

Further up north, there will be black bears and mountain lions. Abiding by good bear etiquette (not leaving food around, using bear canisters, not getting between mommy and her cubs…) and traveling in groups when in mountain lion country is more than enough. If you'll see these animals, they are most likely running away from you. Fatal animal encounters along the PCT are almost non-existent.

Most animal problems I'll encounter will be caused by mice, marmots, dogs, cows, bees, ticks, and deer who like to eat the ends of hiking poles for the salt.

Are you going to carry a gun/bear spray?

While the bear spray is useful in brown bear country, black bears are more mellow and less aggressive and usually need just a little yelling to spook away. Also as far as I can tell, bear spray is illegal at least in Yosemite.

Gun? Hell no.

Are you afraid of [insert a fear here]?

I'm most certainly afraid, but usually, it's not by the things most people think. What I'm most afraid of are things like hypothermia, lightning, bees, giardia, river crossings, falling through a snow bridge, postholing endlessly in the Sierra snow, running out of water in the desert, and mostly, my body failing on me mid-hike.

How are you connecting with family/friends from the trail? Is there cell phone coverage?

My main contact with my family is going to be my DeLorme inReach satellite messenger. This way my parents can follow my hike using the satellite pings on a map and we can send messages through the satellite network. This will work anywhere with a clear view of the sky.

There’s also an S.O.S. button on the inReach that allows me to contact SAR if I, or any other hiker, needs to be rescued from the trail.

I'll also carry my iPhone and use it when there's coverage, meaning mainly close to trail towns and few others spots.

Are you going to carry all your food?/where do you get your food?/are you going to forage/hunt your own food?

I will be resupplying from small trail towns along the way and when there are no towns available, I'll send resupply drops or hitchhike to towns further from the trail. Generally, I will be resupplying every five to seven days, but my longest stretch between resupplies is 9 days.

Where are you going to sleep?

I carry my own shelter. Depending on the weather and bugs/crawlies, on most nights I will sleep in my shelter or cowboy camp (sleep on the ground). Sometimes I need to stay in trail towns and then I'll sleep in a hotel/hostel.

Is Fire coming with you?

Sadly I can't take Fire (my Australian Shepherd and hiking partner) with me. Instead, he's staying home in Finland with really awesome caregivers.

Why can't you take Fire with you?

For multiple reasons, but mostly logistics and his own safety and welfare. Along the PCT corridor, there are many areas where dogs are not allowed. Working around this as a non-US hiker would be a real headache.

Secondly, the food and water carriages would be too much. There are long waterless stretches on the trail and carrying his food and water would be too much.

Thirdly, I know him well enough to know that he wouldn't enjoy hiking for 20-30 miles per day for 5-6 months. And for a dog who doesn’t like heat, 800 miles/1,200 km of desert hiking is not the most inviting idea.

Are you going to keep a journal? Can I follow your hike?

I will be updating this blog as I go along, and also updating photos to my Instagram account.

Why are you doing this?

First and foremost, I love hiking. While I love sitting around the camp, by the fire, chilling, I actually like the hiking part more. And while there are some great trails in Finland and surrounding countries, I’ve always felt I wanted to do a longer trail. Hike longer days. Really push myself to the limit.

I originally wanted to do a longer hike in Europe, or in New Zealand, but the more I’ve hiked, the more I’ve learned what I like, and once I started studying the PCT, I immediately knew it was the trail I wanted to hike. I hate hiking in a “green tunnel” and love being high in the mountains and open vistas.

On a more personal level, this April marks the ten year anniversary of working in the advertising industry. For some time now, I’ve felt that I’ve been doing the same thing for too long, and felt like a little pause – taking some distance – would be a good thing. Is there anything better than spending 5 months in the wilderness, away from emails, meetings, and deadlines to charge one’s mental batteries?