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PCT Backpacking Questions Answered - 2

Posted on January 01 2024

1. I’m arriving in San Diego, how do I get to the Southern Terminus?

There are 4 ways hikers usually arrive at the Southern Terminus to begin their Pacific Crest Trail Northbound (NOBO) hike. 1) Family/Friend, 2) Bus, 3) Uber/Lyft, 4) Trail Angel. 

The Southern Terminus can be found using Google Maps. Pacific Crest Trail Southern Terminus, 601-735 Forrest Gate Road, Campo, CA 91906

  • Where can I camp near the Southern Terminus?

    There are several places to camp near the Southern Terminus. The most popular place is Camp Lockett Equestrian & Event Facility (CLEEF). Follow the signs from the Campo Trading Post (green store) located at the corner of Highway 94 and Forest Gate Road. CLEEF is near Mile 0.6 of the PCT. Look for picnic tables and porta potties. There is water available here. We encourage hikers to leave a donation for their stay here.

    How much water should I start the PCT with?

    Veteran hikers recommend 1 liter per 5 miles. However there are a lot of different factors that contribute to the actual amount of water one needs while backpacking the PCT. The number 1 thing you need to know when you start the PCT is how far to the next reliable water source. In wet years it maybe only be 4-5 miles. In dry years it could be closer to 20 miles - the distance from the Southern Terminus to Lake Morena.

    The next thing to consider is temperature. If it's sunny and warm, above 80F/26C, you may choose to carry a little more water than if it's cloudy and cool. On cooler days hikers tend to drink less because they sweat less. Another factor is body size. Larger guys are likely to require more water than a petite female.  

    A good exercise to do during PCT training is to carry 1 liter of water and head out with a full backpack and see how long you can walk before you need to drink any water. Start hydrated but just carry the one liter of water. Take note when you become thirsty, drink a little and walk some more. The idea is to determine your own water consumption rate during different conditions. Once you have practiced this several times and you have determine how far to the next reliable water, you will easily be able to determine the exact amount of water you need to begin the PCT with. 

    One last thing, if you do not plan on reaching the next reliable water source during your day hiking, you will need to carry a little extra water for dinner and breakfast.  To determine how to locate the next reliable water source on the trail, check out the PCT Water Report.  

    How much should my backpack weigh when I start the PCT?

    The weight of your backpack for a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hike is a critical consideration, as carrying too much weight can lead to fatigue and increased risk of injury. As a general guideline, many experienced hikers suggest aiming for a base weight (pack weight excluding consumables like food and water) of around 15 to 20 pounds (6.8 to 9.1 kilograms). This weight range allows for a comfortable and manageable load.

    Here are some tips to help you achieve an appropriate backpack weight:

    1. Ultralight Gear: Invest in lightweight and compact gear. Look for high-quality, lightweight options for your shelter, sleeping bag, and other essential items.

    2. Multi-purpose Items: Choose gear that serves multiple purposes. For example, a multi-use cook pot or clothing items that can be layered for different weather conditions.

    3. Eliminate Non-Essentials: Be ruthless in evaluating each item's necessity. Minimize the number of luxury items and non-essential gear.

    4. Resupply Strategy: Plan your resupply strategy carefully. You don't need to carry all your food for the entire hike, so resupply at designated points to reduce the weight of consumables.

    5. Food and Water Management: Be mindful of your food and water weight. Carry enough for the stretch between resupply points but avoid carrying excessive amounts.

    6. Clothing Choices: Choose clothing based on the expected weather conditions. Layering is key for adapting to various temperatures.

    7. Trail Fitness: Prioritize physical fitness and trail conditioning. The stronger and more accustomed you are to hiking, the easier it will be to carry your backpack.

    Remember, the ideal weight can vary from person to person based on individual preferences, comfort, and hiking style. It's recommended to go on shakedown hikes and gradually adjust your gear based on personal experience and needs. Additionally, consider consulting with experienced PCT hikers or seeking advice from gear experts to fine-tune your setup.


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