In 2018, I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with my brother, “Shocks”. I kept a fairly rigorous account of my trail experience, purchasing everything on my credit card so I could track spending. I journaled every night, noting mile number and time. Whether you’re looking to gain insight for your next hike or if you want to relive the good days spent on trail, keep reading. Here are the stats, the aftermath, the by-the-numbers account of my time on the PCT.
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Here’s a by-the-numbers list of some of the quantitative aspects to my hike. I need to thank “Froggy’s” parents for two nights in a hotel in Ashland, I definitely could have gone further on my longest day, and the hitches always worked out.
Start: May 5; Campo, California.
Base weight: 15.5 pounds
End: September 11; Manning Park, Vancouver, Canada
Base weight: 14.8 pounds
Total Miles Hiked: 2,746
Total PCT Miles: 2,533 (87.4 of closure)
Reroute Miles: ~67 (designated PCT)
Skipped Miles: 31.7 (Day 11, mile 151.8 to 183.5)
Extra Miles: ~115 (side-hikes and leaving trail)
Longest Day: 35.0 miles (Day 67, mile 1216-1251)
Average Miles/Day: 21.13
Highest 3-day Avg: 31.53 mpd
Highest 7-day Avg: 29.17 mpd
Approx. Avg. Moving Speed: ~2.27 mph
Zeros: 9 (and a glorious double-zero in Cascade Locks)
Neros: 9 (less than 11 miles)
Nights in a Hotel: 5
Boxes Sent: 10
Longest Span Without a Real Shower: 43 days
Longest Span Without a Real Bed: 44 days
Bucket and Civilized Showers: 11
Bucket and Machine Laundry: 14
Tuna Tacos: ~56
Pairs of Shoes: 2
Katadyn BeFree Filters: 3
Fire Reroutes: 4
Photos Taken: 3,421
On average, every 4-5 days you’ll want to pick up more food; resupply. These seemed like popular options from previous years. Bolded towns are places we sent resupply boxes.
Julian, mile 77.3
Warner Springs, mile 109.5
Idylwild, mile 179.4
Big Bear, mile 266.1
Wrightwood, mile 369.3
Agua Dulce, mile 454.5
Tehachapi, mile 566.4
Kennedy Meadows (South), mile 702.2
Bishop, mile 788.5
Mammoth Lakes, mile 906.6
Tuolumne Meadows, mile 942.5
Kennedy Meadows (North), mile 1016.9
South Lake Tahoe, mile 1090.7
Sierra City, mile 1195.4
Chester, mile 1331.3
Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, mile 1419
Mount Shasta, mile 1501.2
Etna, mile 1599.7
Ashland, mile 1718.7
Crater Lake, mile 1820.9
Shelter Cove, mile 1906.6
Sisters, mile 1983.7
Cascade Locks, mile 2146.6
Whites Pass, mile 2294.9
Snoqualmie, mile 2393.1
Skykomish*, mile 2464.2
box was stuck at PO, we hitched to Gold Bar and purchased food.
Stehekin, mile 2571.9
For my first thru-hike, I certainly learned a ton of lessons. After the fact, it looks like I spent well-above the average hiker. However, the following analysis should provide some clarity.
How much does it cost to hike the Pacific Crest Trail?
Where My Money Went
It cost me $5,700.
Your results will vary. Research told me to prepare $4,500, but I saved a bit more for three reasons (listed below). A year prior, I knew I was going to hike the trail, so I began saving my money. Preparing in this aspect took a full year mostly because I earn very little as a seasonal employee.
- Here's an entire blog post dedicated to planning, preparing, and problem solving for the PCT.
Three Reasons I Spent $1,775 More:
My iPhone 5c, lovingly used since 2014, barely held a charge for an entire day in civilization. By all accounts, I was going to be listening to podcasts, taking photos, and using GPS for maps and water sources fairly regularly; it was clear I needed a new phone.
So after a week of online shopping, I bought lightly used iPhone 7+ and an Otterbox case totaling $422. Should this count towards trail or life expenses? I could have gotten another year or so out of my 5c, so I guess this was an unavoidable cost.
The phone was physically too big. It served me great, but the lack of a headphone jack was the cause of many frustrations.
Mom and Dad shouldn’t take this the wrong way, but our family isn't one which purchases 'luxury items'. I'm eternally thankful I was taught the value of money. However, I spent a disgusting amount on a pair of sunglasses. Correction: superawesome-steampunk-jetpilot sunglasses complete with prescription lenses.
I went all out. My thinking was 1) good glass is always worth it (quoth the photographer) 2) my eyes are really important 3) I will exist outdoors all day, every day. So I found a style I didn't tolerate, but loved, and Adam showed me a great company for custom lens replacement. They arrived the afternoon before I left! All in all, I spent $365 on my shades. I don't regret it in the least, but that's still hard to justify to this day.
My relationship with photography is complicated, but I can confidently say it will always be in my life. I knew I needed a dedicated camera, just a phone camera wasn't going to cut the mustard.
After much level-headed research (luxury items be damned when buying cameras), I purchased a refurbished Canon SL2 and three lenses. My full kit for the trail cost $988 which is a lot. Period.
- An in-depth camera review will be posted later.
Since these items are in a gray area, they will be left out of further calculations entirely.
With that said, here's my cost breakdown for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018.
Even though I had plenty of prior backpacking experience, I didn't have any gear suitable for thru-hiking. The only items I didn’t purchase were: beanie, pocket knife, buff, and legs base-layer. Most of my gear which returned home could survive another 2,000 miles or more.
Gear Cost Total: $1,879
Spent Before Trail: $1,468
$1,775 not included due to reasons listed above.
Spent During Trail: $411
Pair of shoes, two shirts, pants, two water filters, Z Lite, and $32 in postage mailing gear back home.
Estimation of value in surviving gear: ~$850
Big Three, some clothes, headlamp, and power bank.
Estimation of gear 100% consumed: ~$410
Two shoes, three water filters, two shirts, Z Lite pad.
- Here’s a comprehensive review of the gear I used on trail.
There are two types of food. For the majority of the time, I ate food like tuna tacos, cold-soaked Knorr sides, or tortilla mélange held together with peanut butter; trail food. And while you eat that food and hike all day, you’ll constantly dream about the second type; town food. Burgers, pizza, burritos, and endless ice-cold beverages.
Food Cost Total: $1,685
Resupply Costs (trail food): $865
Tuna, peanut butter, cookies, goldfish, Pop-Tarts, tortillas, olive oil, Chili Cheese Fritos, Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Limón Cheetos, and fruit snacks.
Meals out (town food): $700
Coffee, burgers, brunches, buffets, burritos, ice cream, pizza, fast food, sodas, and a few beers.
I managed to keep my miscellaneous purchases to a minimum for a few reasons. Because of Adam’s great research, we avoided paying package pickup fees for most of our resupplys. Additionally, two stints of 40+ days without buying a hotel also helped. Lastly, we had a friend drop us off at the southern terminus and only needed a cheap flight from Vancouver back to California.
Additional Cost Total: $368
Phone plan: $108 (May through August)
Entertainment and fees: ~$80 (Incredibles 2, Hostel California, various campsite fees, package pickup)
Transportation: $180 (train ticket to southern terminus, flight from northern terminus)
Huge thanks to Mom and Dad who paid postage for our 10 resupply packages. Adam and I each saved roughly $100 from their generous support.
They also visited us at three locations: Big Bear, Kennedy Meadows (South), and Cascade Locks. They offered us full support, even paying for a hotel two nights. They are true Trail Angels.
I don’t have any regrets in the slightest.
I know I spent more than the average hiker and I’m perfectly fine with it. I saved all summer. I worked my ass off in the winter. I splurged on gear which has some lasting value past burgers and beer. I avoided hotels because I knew no matter how nice they felt in the moment, I would remember my nights on trail getting chewed by mosquitoes, not nights spent under fresh sheets. I rarely said no to a huge meal in resupply towns.
“Money is like dirt; one good rain and it’ll all wash away.” - Jean ”Bubbe” Kernes