Australian Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
- Most of this information is useful if a hiker is planning to hike any other long trail in USA such as the Appalachian Trail or Continental Divide Trail.
- For an Australian hiker there are many things that need to be done prior to hiking Pacific Crest Trail.
- Visas for USA for an Australian hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
- Various permits that have to be obtained prior to setting off.
- What kind of resupply strategy will the hiker use. It is already difficult to plan and pack up all the meals months in advance.
- Want to know just how much planning there is to do, keep reading.
Visa for USA
- The Australian hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail needs a visa that allows them to stay in the country longer than 3 months. To get the visa the hiker is required to attend a consulate for an interview. The only consulates available for interviews are only located in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. For me that required a 4.5 hour flight from my home in Northern Territory to Sydney.
- I got my visa when I planned my 2014 cycle trip from Alaska to the Mexico border. They were gracious enough to give me a 5 year visa. Beware, Thru hiking is addictive. Get a longer visa if possible, you might want to hike another long distance trail such as the Continental Divide Trail or Appalachian Trail. Of note, you can only enter USA for a maximum of 6 months on any one visit. That should be enough time to complete the Thru Hike.
- You should make a booking to get your visa AT LEAST 6 months before the start of the hike. Remember there is no guarantee that you will get the visa.
- Secondly the hiker needs Pacific Crest Trail hiking permit. Apply online at the PCT website. They normally open their permit registrations early in the year. My permit was approved in about a week. It arrived via email which I printed and laminated. As the permit was a large A4 size I shrunk it to the same size as my passport.
- To light an open fire in California the hiker needs a California Fire permit. Using a stove requires this permit. Simply watch the video and answer some questions. Even with the permit there may be Total Fire Bans. It is the responsibility of the hiker to be aware of this and make other arrangements.
- The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the international border into Canada at a location that doesn’t have a recognised border crossing. Apply for a Canadian Entry permit prior to setting off on the trail. The application is simple and speedy. My permit arrived in the mail within two weeks. Hikers with criminal convictions may be refused entry.
Buying Gear in Australia or in USA
- Now its time to start organising and buying gear.
- The are many ultralight gear makers in the USA. Most of them produce and sell quality gear, sometimes at a premium price. Almost all of them ship to Australia.
- Probably the best online retailer in Australia is WildEarth.com.au. I have purchased lots of gear through them over the years and can highly recommend them.
- When in USA I almost exclusively used Amazon and REI. I have completed the Hiking Triple Crown and I have a solid set up at the moment. I’ve learned a lot over the years. Check out my current Hiking Gear List.
- Read the following articles about all the Best Lightweight Hiking Gear:
- Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks
- Best Lightweight Tents
- Lightweight Sleeping Pads
- Best Lightweight Sleeping Bags and Quilts
- Current Lightweight 6kg Hiking Gear List.
Travel Insurance for Hikers
- Travel insurance is needed when traveling to USA. There is nothing for free over there, that includes medical costs. A simple broken arm could cost $15000. I spent many hours scrolling through all the different companies and many hours on hold to speak with consultants to explain my trip to ensure that they would cover me.
- I always check, double checked and confirm everything before I settled on using them an insurer. Insurers change their policy regularly. Just because a hiker used a travel company last year doesn’t mean it will be the same this year. Read the Policy first. When you are finished read it again. I use World Nomads travel Insurance. I’ve used them for many years and they covered my thru hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail.
- Check out their prices below.
Getting to USA
- I will assume that most people reading this have traveled overseas. But nonetheless I will pass on some small bits of wisdom.
- I’ll just put it out there that I like Qantas. If you are starting the PCT hiking northbound then you will want to arrive in Los Angeles, not Dallas or San Franscisco. From there it is a short flight to San Diego. Even better, take the train. It is easy and cheap.
- Also, make sure you let your bank know that you are going overseas. Some banks get all security conscious when your card is used in another country. And take two credit cards. It would suck if you lost one and had no cash.
- Now comes the fun bit. Or stressful bit for many people.
- The most difficult thing for the overseas hiker is the constraints on planning and sending food in resupply boxes to themselves on the trail. It is common practice for hikers to buy and post all their food to post offices or other hiker friendly locations along the trail. There multiple blogs that advise to do this. IT IS NOT NECESSARY. You can buy food from local stores as you go. Don’t worry and don’t stress. trust me it will work out.
- If you choose to make up resupply boxes, then all I can do is wish you luck. You will need a couple of preparation days in USA buying, packing and sending boxes. It can be cheaper to do this (sometimes) but it can also be a big mistake. What if you buy six months supplies of Pop Tarts for breakfast only to be sick of them after the first week. If you don’t know what Pop Tarts are then you will within your first week of hiking the PCT.
- So here are your options…
Buy as you go
- A great option, the best option in my opinion. Sometimes that means paying a premium in small towns. I like to support local business when and where I can so I don’t have to much of a problem with spending a bit more.
- The best situation for me was a combination of resupply boxes (only when needed) which I purchased at the larger towns on trail and sent to myself in the small towns.
- Another option is to make use of a resupply company. Sign up, add food or provisions to your cart and have them delivered to you at a reasonable cost. The big advantage of such companies is the ability to only order food when you require it and you can order a week or so in advance which means you can update your meals as your diet changes. Here are two resupply companies. Zero Day Resupply and Sonora Pass Resupply. Note: I have not used any of these companies.
- A ‘Bounce Box‘ is very common among overseas hikers. It may contain your computer, passport, food, toiletries, town clothes when used to enter and exit USA and more. The hiker sends it to themselves along the trail.
- I used USPS priority mail to post my large bounce box. It normally cost about $20 to post. If I didn’t pick up my box at the post office I would advise them to on send it to the next post office. They do this for free and provide a tracking number. I found them very reliable and never had any problems.
Getting to the start of the trail
- We are almost there. All we need to do is make it to the start of the trail. I’d love to help you out with the planning but the best resource is the PCTA website. Check out the link below.
- Chill out, grab a drink and read the daily blog of my hike. Beware, it might be addictive. Thru hiking might be addictive. Really it is.
Are you an Aussie or Kiwi and planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail? If you have any questions let me know in the comments section below.
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