Training for the PCT
Updated for 2018
Some things a hiker will learn by completing a shakedown hike and doing some training before a long distance hike.
- Why it is necessary to train for the PCT
- Read blogs written by other hikers and learn from their journey
- How to lighten your backpack by completing shakedown hikes
- Learning to put a little bit of trust in technology
Since committing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail I have spent more time reading through forums and checking out other hikers blogs than I thought about planning and preparing for my own hike. I learned that almost every other hiker is feeling the same combination of excitement and feeling of being under prepared. I’m not letting that bother me, I’m good at adapting to situations. It is ok to feel a little bit overwhelmed by the long journey ahead.
The last couple of months has seen me transition from a traditional hiker to lightweight hiker. Normally, like most people I would carry about 12-14kg in my pack, minus all food and water. Over recent months I have lightened the load to less than 8kg. (Edit: My pack is now much lighter, check out my current hiking gear list) I’m happy with that. I lightened my load by evaluating every single thing that I had in my pack. I did this by taking a series of overnight training hikes. Each with several goals I wanted to achieve.
Shakedown in the Blue Mountains
My first hike was on the 6 Foot Track, which I first hiked a year ago. The trail was an easy 3 day , 44km hike, plus another 6km (for me) of walking to get to the trailhead. Navigation was not an issue so I thought it would be a good training hike. I planned to walk the track twice, a total of 100km in 3 days. On day 2 I hiked 50km. The most I have ever walked in one day, and all this with my backpack. My base weight on this hike was just under 10kg. After the hike I re-assessed everything I was carrying. I found ways to lighten my load, and learned the value of Ibuprofen.
When the hiker finally makes it onto the long distance trail the idea is to start slowly and allow the body to adapt to it’s new job of hiking everyday. It is a process that takes many weeks. Don’t be the hiker that hikes too fast or too many miles at the start. Injury forces many hikers off the trail every year.
2nd Shakedown Hike
After research and learning more about lightweight hiking I set of into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney for another shakedown hike. This time my backpack was down to 9kg. Again I learned things. My blister tape was crap (leukotape is the best), the rain gear had holes in it from a recent cycling crash and my Kindle was dead weight. So I ordered new (lighter) rain gear, will try new strapping tape (leukotape) and I’ve ditched the Kindle in favour of the Kindle Reading App for my phone.
I also noted there was some gear I hadn’t used on both hikes so I will get rid of it too. Now my pack is under 8kg. I suspect within the first month of my hike it will be even lighter. Not that I am obsessed with it. I bough most of my gear from WildEarth.com.au.
Technology on the Trail
I learned to embrace technology and trust my phone. I have set it up so everything I need can be used offline. It has my offline navigation maps from Guthook and Halfmile, my offline kindle (reading app), PDF maps, PDF trail info, PDF water reports, PDF town info and files of all the other info I need. My phone has a wifi app to transfer my photos from my phone to my BikeHikeSafari Facebook site or to this blog, all offline and while out on the trail. I can then write my blog while on the trail, uploading it either when I have reception or WiFi.
When there is reception or wifi I am able to dictate rather than type on the small keyboard, I tried this out while on the trail. It worked great, however, I don’t think I’ll talk to my phone when other people are watching! For those interested the dictation key is located next to the spacebar on the keyboard, touch it and speak! This works on apps for Facebook, WordPress (my blog), texts, notes and more. To keep my phone charged I carry a USB battery which will charge the phone about 8 times while on trail. I learned to embrace the new technology.
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Almost time to leave
In a couple of days I jump on my flight and soon after I’ll be camping somewhere in the California desert on the Pacific crest trail. Time to start packing!
A big thanks to my sister and family for hosting me for the last couple of weeks in Sydney and GT from Charter North for my trip through the outback on route from Darwin to Sydney.
Below are some photos from the ‘outback’ and my recent training hikes.