Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tips for a pleasant hike

Here are a few things I have done that have made my hike a pleasant trip. Perhaps some of these tips will help you prepare for a hike, too.

  • Put toenail clippers and other similar things (callous remover, hair conditioner etc) in your bounce bucket. You don't need to carry them but you do need to use them periodically, and those little scissors on the swiss army knife are just not strong enough for toenails.
  • Be flexible with your resupply plans. You can resupply as you go. In larger towns buy extra food to mail ahead to smaller towns. It doesn't have to all be completed before you go.
  • Internet is more and more available. You can order gear as you go, too. But beware that you can't use the faster shipping options to ship general delivery.
  • If sun bothers you, the Ray Jardine umbrella method really does help a great deal. But forget the mylar and buy a Golite Chrome Dome. Being able to do miles in mid-day sun comfortably is wonderful.
  • In colder climes, make your camp half-way down a descent (or halfway up) rather than near a creek or lake at the bottom of a canyon. You'll stay much warmer. Also, hike late into the evening so that you arrive at camp, eat and go right to bed. You'll stay warmer. By staying warmer you can carry less insulation. Visit lakes in the afternoon when swimming will feel good rather than at night when you'll be asleep.
  • Put a bathing suit and clean clothes in your bounce bucket. Many hotels have a no street clothes in the pool policy and I think it feels nicer to wear regular clothes while doing laundry rather than rain gear.
  • Ordinary consumer plastic bottles work better than Nalgene. They are lighter and come in many shapes and sizes to fit the nooks and crannies of your pack. They do break sometimes, but are easily replaced.
  • Resupply more often. The less food you carry the further you can travel.
  • Town stops don't have to be for resupply. They can be for fun and for replenishing extra calories. A meal eaten in a restaurant is a meal you didn't have to carry, and probably has lots of gravy on top.
  • I am not a gadget person and generally scoff at cell phones, but I've used mine to call cabs as well as family. It's helpful for coordinating things on the trail as your plans change, too. Turn it off when you're not using it. The battery will last a very long time.
  • Sporks and forks are useless. What hiking food requires a knife and fork? It's all mush you can slurp with a spoon.
  • Big shoes work for me. Really big. Like 4 sizes too big. My feet are wide and my little toes suffer with all shoes, so the bigger the better.
  • Crocs are as light as flip-flops. Both have their pluses and minuses. Best thing about extra shoes is being able to rush out of the tent in the middle of the night to go pee. My bladder control went haywire out there.
  • Scoff if you will, but I brought a travel-sized deoderant. When nearing town I'd wash up a little in a creek and apply the deoderant. Hopefully that made me a little less offensive when I arrived.
  • When it's cold, wearing your rain gear in your sleeping bag is surprisingly effective. It'll also protect your bag from your own sweating.
  • An onion and some fresh veggies and fruit is worth the weight. Not a lot of calories but they perk up your food and provide surprising energy. Some towns will have grocery stores large enough to pick up some fresh Romano, Asiago or my favorite Swiss Gruyere cheese. These last well and taste great in mashed potatoes. Tuna packets are good for protein. I ate the fresh stuff early on and saved the tuna for days when I thought my body needed protein.
  • Hand sanitizing gel gets pine sap off your hands like magic. Probably off other things, too.
  • Tactics to poop in mosquito country (not all of these are mine): 1) Dig your hole at night so it's all ready for you in the morning. 2) Dig your hole, then go stand several feet away until the mosquitos find you, then run back to your hole and do your business before they find you again. 3) Fan your fanny while you are squatting.
  • How to use less toilet paper if you are female: Carry a small squirt bottle of water. Hose yourself off instead of using TP. Now you can pee anywhere and leave no trace.
  • Many people use Tyvek home wrap for a ground cloth. I use a polycro plastic sheet. Weighs almost nothing and is incredibly resilient. You can get them online at Gossamer Gear.


  1. Your posts are well written and fun. I was following along from my desk. I hope to read more from you, until I take my own PCT jouney in 10 years (kids, work, etc.)...

    Al S

  2. Diane,

    It was great having you and Tony at our humble place in Wrightwood, and you are such an inspiration to me. Even if you got off the trail and choose not to go further, I am still quite impressed with all that you've accomplished and couldn't come to any conclusions where you had failed. Walk your own hike girl, enjoy it, change it, just do it your way. If there is anything I can do, shoot me an email. You are awesome, take care.


  3. Thanks so much, Mollyann. I'm surprised you remember me, you had so many people at your house!

    Al, a 10 year old girl did the PCT. Maybe you can take your kids with you. You don't have to do the whole PCT, either. I have decided that some sections really would be better done at their optimum time, not just when you get there.