PCT vs. AT Hiker Prep Smackdown

There is strangely little to do this time around.

Having hiked the PCT in 2015, I originally thought there would be the same amount of prep work to be done for the AT. Sounds like a reasonable assumption, right? Well, as it turns out, I can practically hear the crickets when I sit down and think about what I need to do. Here is a PCT vs. AT prep list for your consideration.

PCT Prep

Food

–Make a spreadsheet of expected per-day mileage to calculate the amount of resupply boxes. Don’t judge; spreadsheets are pretty awesome, especially if you have a type A organizational personality. I also had to use the Halfmile app and judge mileage based on elevation gain each day and reasonable hiking mileage. This actually took days to complete.

–Buy food. Lots and lots of food, enough for 17 resupply boxes.

–Buy more food because you keep eating the food slated to go in resupply boxes… you know, to make sure it’s suitable.

–Load boxes, which was surprisingly fun.

–Address and stack boxes in Mother’s spare bedroom because you just sold your house.

–Prepare separate spreadsheet with dates for resupply boxes to be sent by logistics personnel… aka Mother.

–Transfer money for resupply boxes and possible incidentals to logistics personnel.

Pack

–Yes, you have two of everything, but buy lighter stuff anyway… because researching and buying gear is a drugless high and you are a true addict who is 50 years old and working a real job. Hello Western Mountaineering sleeping bag that compresses to the size of a butternut squash. Hello Neo Air that you will grow to hate because its crackling will keep you and everyone within a one-mile radius up at night.

Incidentals

–PCT  hiking permit. Yes, they check for it, especially within the first 15 miles from Mexican border.

–Post picture on Facebook so you will look like an idiot if you back out of hike; self-manipulation is a thing.

–Halfmile app on phone. It’s free and really the only thing you need for the trip.

–Halfmile maps printed out and placed in resupply boxes.

–Flight to San Diego. Baggage tag with note saying “if this pack is lost I am fucked.”

–Ride to PCT Southern Terminus. Oh, you lucked out here, didn’t you. Had a friend to hang out with for two days and a ride straight to the Mexican border by a Mexican national. I told Enrique at the time that Lexus or no Lexus, I hope he had his papers on him because there was some serious surveillance going on.

AT Prep

Food

–Make a spreadsheet of expected per-day mileage to calculate amount of resupply boxes.

Just kidding, I’m buying food on the trail this time, so I just needed to know how many days between towns. My average food carry on the PCT was six days of food. Looks like I’ll have one day with five days worth of food until I get to Maine. Giddy just thinking of it! Besides, Guthook’s guide does not allow you to simulate a position on the trail, so calculating elevation gain is near to impossible. I just made assumptions based on the visual elevation profile. Seriously Guthook, Halfmile’s app is free and they do a better job?

Gear

–Buy lighter pack (Windrider 2400) and tent (Echo 2) because you are so excited about how little food and water you will have to carry compared to the PCT that you decide to go ultralight.

Hello Hyperlite Mountain Gear and 3.63 pounds total for both! That’s New England ingenuity at its best.

Incidentals

–Get new tattoo, which is completely relevant to this blog because it’s a compass.

–Put mail on hold. Yeah, I bought a new house so my Mother can’t collect and review my mail.

–Lock house.

–Flight.

–Shuttle to Springer.

All in all, I have more time to hang out just waiting to start my hike on March 28.

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Comments 13

  • Zach : Mar 2nd

    This should serve as a brochure for why someone might consider thru-hiking the AT first.

    Reply
    • Kimberly Huber : Mar 2nd

      Until you read my next post, which deals with the bug situation. Almost makes me wonder if I should have gone west again……

      Reply
  • Uturn : Mar 2nd

    lol

    Reply
  • COMMANDO : Mar 2nd

    Oddly I experienced way more mosquitoes on the PCT last year than the AT in 2016. Though I had one hellacious night in Vermont where I ran and threw my food up in a tree and almost dove head first into my tent. No dinner that night….

    Reply
    • Kimberly Huber : Mar 2nd

      I hiked the PCT in 2015. It was not only a drought year, but the coldest year recorded in PCT history (or so I was told). Consequently, I had a couple of sketchy days in Tuolumne Meadows and a few in Oregon. All in all, super lucky! I live in NE, so naturally pessimistic. lol

      Reply
    • Kimberly Huber : Mar 2nd

      P.S. You don’t cook in your tent fly?…….that’s all I did on the PCT! lol

      Reply
  • April : Mar 6th

    Would you say after hiking the PCT that it would be easier and fine to buy food along the way?

    Reply
    • Kimberly Huber : Mar 6th

      On the PCT I only bought food to supplement my resupply boxes. I knew a lot of people who bought along the way, but that meant leaving the trail more often. For instance, in the Sierra’s, I carried 9 days of food and hiked strait thru, while others dropped out to re-suppy. This meant a 7 mile hike up and over a pass and a 35 mile hitch. Re-supplying sometimes meant a full day or more off trail as the towns were often more remote. Great if you like zero days and time iff trail.Many people also shopped in towns and sent boxes ahead. I felt it was easier to buy in bulk and send to specific drop points, but it was not unusual to carry 7 or more days of food. Whatever you do, make a plan. For the AT, I will be buying food as I go becausee the towns are more accessible and there are more of them. I won’t ever have to carry more that 5 days of food (until Maine), so it’s not worth sending re-supply boxes. Hope it works out!
      Oh, and do ‘t buy Guthooks guide, get the Halfmile App. It’s free and a better app. You can simulate your position, and use it to plan your hike. I planned my days an re-supplies for the PCT from Boston!

      Reply
  • Moondance : Mar 8th

    I’ll be living vicariously through you as you hike the AT! My thru hike is in the works; I’m retiring in 3 years when I’m 55 and plan to hike it then. My belongings are in a POD, I’m currently living in my Mom’s spare room and I have a slight obsession with gear substitutions every time I return from a section hike lol. Post when you can. Have a wonderful string of “day hikes”!

    Reply
  • Chris G. : Mar 11th

    I’m pretty sure if you had most of the gear you could just pack up and thru hike the AT and just figure it out along the way. Towns every 3-5 days the margin for error is large.

    Reply
    • Kimberly "Ronin" Huber : Mar 11th

      LOL, I agree! My start time is entirely due to wanting to avoid (at least a little) rain if possible, and take care of some family business.

      Reply
  • Kate : Mar 11th

    Gosh so many of us were raving about Guthook on the PCT last year. We LOVED it, especially for the comments, where people would post snow or water conditions. For elevation, we’d zoom in the elevation profile to the mileage we’d want to cover on a given day or section between resupplies. Not only does it give elevation gain, but loss as well. Hope that helps!

    Reply
    • Kimberly "Ronin" Huber : Mar 11th

      It’s not that Guthook isn’t any good (I’ll be using it for the AT), it’s just that Halfmile is free and can be used off the trail. There is a Simulator function where you can input a simulated position on the trail and use the app as if you were there. This is a great feature when you are back home planning mileage for your trip. I planned my whole hike from Boston and was able to figure out daily mileage based on elevation and miles hiked. I would also recalculate whole weeks at a time between resupplies while on the trail by simulating each day. With Guthook, you can only figure out elevation gain/loss if you are on the trail and for only one day at a time, which is interesting as you pay a good amount for the app. Halfmile has everything Guthook does plus this one feature I happened to use a lot. I also downloaded the water report on a regular basis, and that had all the hiker reported info I needed. Everyone has their own preference. If planning from home is important, I would still recommend Halfmile.
      Also, Halfmile would give me a compass reading back to the trail if I stayed off. This was useful on rocky slopes and in snow where the trail was not evident, or if I occasionally just took the wrong trail (it happens…). I haven’t found this function on Guthook, but was waiting to see if it showed up when I was closer.

      Reply

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