Shelter: a Home Away From Home

To walk and carry everything in a pack allows a hiker to get back to the basic necessities of life: water, food and shelter. Life really can be that simple. In my two previous posts, I’ve discussed how water and food are obtained on trail, today’s post will quickly talk about our shelters.

So far, everyone I have met and camped with in the cold of the desert and mountains of Southern California has a full tent. Some tents are ultra-light trekking pole tents which means that the hiker actually uses their own trekking poles as the only poles of the tent. A very common version of this is the beloved Durston, apparently designed for the PCT, and the very lightweight Z-Packs tent with a different pole configuration. 

Instead, I use a full free-standing tent which means I have to carry additional tent poles. Although this does equal a bit more weight, I’m able to pitch more easily in windy, slopey and otherwise marginal conditions. And I haven’t had any of the condensation issues that other hikers are having on trail. 

My beloved 1-person Big Agnes Ultralight Copper Spur HV tent protected me through all types of conditions in Patagonia so I’m depending upon it again for the PCT. Inside, I’m also kept warm by my Sea to Summit 15-degree sleeping bag, a Thermarest Ultralight air mattress, and a Gosamer Gear 1/8 inch foam pad which adds warmth and protection to my air mattress. This setup has kept me toasty every night of my trip.

Before hiking each day, I use my Far Out App to map out a proposed end-goal for the night. Using the mileage, elevation cross-section, the weather forecast, and other hiker’s comments regarding trail and campsite conditions, I set my sites on a campsite far ahead. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t.

After a long, hot day, I was glad to reach the Fred Canyon Campground

Although I really like the social aspects of group campgrounds, I do prefer the silence and privacy of finding a place just off trail on my own. With a few exceptions, it is allowed to pitch anywhere along the PCT and small mostly-flat sites are frequent along the trail. 

This beautiful site in the pines above Mt. Laguna called for me to stop my day early to enjoy.

I’ve found some fantastic campsites! 

On this particular day, my feet announced that they were done, and the perfect campsite appeared with rocks to protect me from a very windy evening.

One day, a storm was so fierce in the San Jacintos, I only hiked a few miles before I sought refuge in the vegetation to get out of the freezing rain and wind. It’s hard to see, but my tent was wedged into the bushes and I tied the rain fly to the shrubs. 

Do you see the snow on my tent? The next morning the rainfly was literally frozen to my poles.

Another hiker I know who was a bit higher in elevation was camping on snow and his stakes froze into the ground overnight. Everyday on the PCT is another learning experience!

I know that as the evenings warm up, many other hikers will relinquish their tent to “cowboy camp” out in the open off the trail. I don’t plan to do this. I love to crawl into the womb of my shelter at night. As my Dad always used to say, “Going to bed is the best part of the day.” And going to bed on trail is a dream come true! 




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Comments 2

  • Tracey : May 5th

    You are killing it Becky! Wow! I missed a few posts and am caught up now! Sending you power!

  • Lin : May 16th

    Thank you for speaking so openly. My daughter and I will be trekking next year in celebration of my 70th year on Turtle Island. I see I shall be learning a great deal from your experience. I will pay close attention.
    God bless you. Talk to you again.


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