5 Unexpected Skills Needed on an Ultra-Backpacking Adventure

by A Manly Guest Contributor on July 22, 2011 · 40 comments

in Travel

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tony DiLorenzo from Fit Marriage.

From the Mexican border to the vast expanse of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range to snow-capped Mt. Rainer and beyond, there is truly nothing like leaving everything behind to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  Each year, around 300 brave souls attempt to “thru hike” the entire 2,650-mile trek, experiencing six of the seven North American ecozones in the process.

As I experienced firsthand, adventure awaits along every step of the PCT, as you wake to the sun and lay your head to rest at dusk at the end of each demanding day.  Over the course of 4-6 months, everyday life revolves around your forward progress along the trail.  This is back-to-basics, rugged living at its finest.

There are some obvious abilities that must be mastered before setting forth on an ultra-backpacking adventure, such as carrying a heavy load on your back, way-finding, and fire starting.  In fact, much of the time spent hiking can seem a bit mundane.

However, there are some much more unusual skills that will be needed to survive a trek of this nature and return a better man.

1. Hitchhiking

It is common when hiking a long trail to have to hitchhike into towns to resupply. These can be a short 5-mile hitch or as long as 30-plus miles. The simple thing to do is put your thumb up and get a ride. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s not usually that easy. Even though you may look like a thru-hiker, which is not an uncommon sight along major trails, there is still an unknown element about you, especially when you start to look like the Unabomber between resupply stops.

Over the course of 138 days of hiking, I learned several strategies that saved me hours of sitting by the road. It got me to my resupply towns quickly and effectively so that I could eat, shop, drink beer, and relax for a while.

  • Freshen up before you step out near the road. Get out a towel and some water, and clean off your face, arms and legs. Presentation is everything in the business world, and it makes a big difference when you are seeking a ride in remote areas as well.
  • Make sure you smile when you put your thumb up. You’d be surprised how many times drivers shared that they picked me up because I had a smile on my face and looked clean.
  • Position yourself where a vehicle can pull over. If there is no convenient place to pick you up, most drivers will zoom by without a second thought. Would you pick up a hitchhiker if you couldn’t pull over safely? The optimal spot may not be where the trail crosses the road; it’s worth a short additional walk to find a prime pick-up location.  
  • Humanize yourself even more and lighten the mood by holding a candy bar or something fun. I witnessed another hiker grabbing attention by holding a blow-up pink flamingo. After sitting at one location for a bit longer than I wanted, I held up a Snickers bar and the next car that passed stopped to pick me up for a lift into town.

2. Sleeping Under the Stars

Don’t be afraid of the night. There is much to see and enjoy as the sun sets and the moon and stars shine in ways you can’t experience in suburbia. Connecting with your surroundings each evening provides a greater sense of what’s around you, and I found that sleeping without a tent as much as possible was really enjoyable. Putting up a tent requires work and a specific amount of flat area to set up, but you can sleep almost anywhere you want when you lay beneath the stars.

During the early sections of the PCT, the heat is a major factor that you must contend with each day until you arrive at the gateway to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Until then, you must hike very early in the morning before the heat of the day pushes you to cool places for rest. Once the mid-day heat has subsided, it’s time to hike well into the evening as the temperatures begin to fall. It is during this time that sleeping under the stars is the most easy and enjoyable.

When it is dark out and you are weary from the long day, the last thing you want to do is mess with preparing a tent. Instead, I followed this simple process for setting up camp in just a few minutes.

  • Put down a cut-to-size ground cloth made of Tyvek, place your sleeping pad on top of the ground cloth, and then put your sleeping bag on top of your sleeping pad.
  • Grab your unused clothes, stuff them into a stuff sack, and use this as your pillow.
  • Enjoy the evening air before you fade away into a restful sleep.

3. Confronting Deadly Animals

Rattlesnakes, bears, marmots, osprey and mountain goats are just a few of the wild things you are likely to encounter through the varied terrain of the PCT . However, there are two primary animals that you must concern yourself with during your hike because of their propensity to attack you when they feel threatened.

Rattlesnakes and bears are beautiful and fascinating to observe in their natural habitat. But both don’t want anything to do with humans in their territory, and they can kill you.

When it comes to rattlesnakes, you have to be highly aware of where you are walking. Looking down, striking a walking stick before entering dense brush, and listening for the distinctive rattle will keep you walking toward your destination without a dose of venom in your bloodstream.

When an encounter does occur, you’re likely to be facing a coiled rattlesnake, which will have your arm hairs standing on end. If you have room to circle around it safely, do so. Don’t lollygag here, but move quickly.  If not, take off your backpack, and place it in front of your legs as close as you can to your feet.  With the backpack protecting your legs, pass as far from the rattlesnake as possible, as quickly as you can.

I employed this backpack-covering technique myself and lived to tell you about it.  As I moved past the rattlesnake, it struck and only hit my backpack before falling to the ground. Then it was time to run so it wouldn’t get a second chance.

Many of the bears you’ll see are as afraid of you as you are of them, provided you keep your distance. One of the best things you can carry with you is bear pepper spray while in their territory. Make sure you have it handy. It will not do you any good if a bear comes charging, and it’s buried in your backpack.

The encounters with wildlife are incredible when you hike a long trail. Be sure to bring along a small and compact monocular to get a glimpse of the wonderful creation that is living and thriving around you during your adventure.

4. Crossing Raging Rivers

As you hike your way through mountainous regions, you’ll eventually hit the high country where you’ll be required to cross raging, early-summer runoff rivers. Depending on the snow fall from the winter before, these rivers can be swollen to great and unexpected depths. If not approached properly, these rivers will take you for an unwelcome ride that you weren’t expecting.

During your trip preparations, be sure to include a high-quality trail guide, which will inform you of the raging rivers you’re most likely to encounter. Plan your crossing of these rivers early in the morning when the evening cold has slowed the melt-off.

Many times, the trail crossing is within an area where the river is raging. Clearly, this is not the place you want to traverse. Instead, you need to patiently follow a plan to get you to the other side safely.

  • Walk upstream as you follow the river to a spot where the water is calm.
  • Once you find your spot, locate a large tree branch that can be used while crossing.
  • Take off your backpack and hold it over your head or place all of your contents in a garbage bag so that you can wear your pack high on your back.
  • Enter the river with shoes and move with slow and steady confidence using a walking stick to probe and for balance as you make your way to the opposite bank.

5. Resupplying

Hiking 8-12 hours to cover anywhere from 15-30 miles each day will require fueling your body as often as possible. Each town you come across is an opportunity to take in as many calories as you can before hitting the trail again.

While in town, consume large quantities of burritos, omelets, hamburgers, or fries.  Drink beer, sport drinks, or iced tea. Hit the local buffet and graze for several hours or sit in a local cafe to sip coffee and eat desserts. You won’t have to concern yourself with gaining weight, as you’ll be burning 5,000-8,000 calories a day.

One trick when it comes to resupplying is to get to town as soon and as early as you can in the morning. This way, you’ll be able to eat breakfast, resupply your provisions, grab lunch and then hitchhike back to the trail. You get the bonus of enjoying two big meals and, if at all possible, you should grab something that will pack well for dinner.  It could be days before your next opportunity to interact with civilization.

In most trail towns, you will be shopping at a small grocery store and sometimes at the local gas station. Your options will be limited, so you’ll need to be creative as you purchase what you will be eating for the next leg of your trip.  Here are some suggested provisions for the trail:

  • Breakfast – Brownies, protein bars, oatmeal
  • Snacks – Nuts, cheese, candy bars, seeds
  • Lunch – Chips in a can, cheese, crackers, PB&J, jerky, fruit
  • Dinner – Mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, dehydrated mushrooms, carrots, peas, cheese, canned mussels

If you think you’ve got what it takes to leave modern conveniences behind and go explore the wilderness on an ultra-backpacking adventure, I encourage you to check out one of the three National Scenic Trails in North America:

Get your hitchhiking thumb ready, grab some trail mix in bulk, and Man Up as you prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!

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Tony DiLorenzo is the co-founder of Fit Marriage where he helps busy guys get fit so they can enjoy the everyday adventures of being a strong husband and an awesome dad.  If you’re ready to Man Up, get started today by picking up a free fitness plan.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jordan July 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

In reference to possible bear attacks, would you recommend those “bear bells?” They hang on your pack and make noise to drive the bear away. Great article!

2 Mark Powers July 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

Great post, Tony! I’ve been wanting to attack the PCT one if these days.

3 Ryan July 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Be careful running away from a coiled rattlesnake. Quite often, there can be two rattlesnakes in the same vicinity. I have seen a few situations where someone ran around a snake and was nearly bitten by the other one 15 feet away. It’s not the most common situation, but you should be careful. Best just to move away quickly, with a sure foot and keep watching where you step.

4 matt July 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I was a mountaineering and expedition instructor for about 10 years. I appreciate this post.
The author, however, didn’t sound like he had much experience in river crossings. The information he gave is scant and dangerous.
Reinhold Mesner, mountaineering super-legend was once asked by a reporter, “what is the most dangerous part of climbing mountains.” His answer? “River crossings.”
River crossings won’t take you for an unexpected ride–they will kill you. With a pack on, even knee-high moving water can drag you under and drown you. So with that in mind, I’d like to propose a correction to the post:

Essential for crossing a moving river or heavily flowing creek:
1. Drop your pack on the bank, and scout–up and down stream. This may take 10 minutes, or it may take 2 hours. Be patient and find a safe crossing. Spring runoff is often opaque with sediment, so beware the depth of the water. It will be deepest at the area of fastest flow.
2. Always line your pack with a large, contractor strength trash bag. Line your sleeping bag stuff sack with a separate bag, JIK (at least you can sleep dry this way). Do this in the morning when your packing up, and you won’t get caught off guard when it rains, and you won’t waste valuable daylight repacking on the bank of a water body.
3. When crossing:
–Unbuckle your pack and LEAVE IT ON. With your pack unbuckled, if you stumble you can ditch it fast. You won’t be able to stand properly with a heavy pack over your head in moving water with unsure footing underneath. Only in the calmest, slowest, pedal-a-paddleboat-upstream-with-no-problem water will you be able to get in past waist high.
–Face upstream and shuffle-step sideways (without crossing your feet—right foot out, left meets right; right foot out, left meets right; repeat.). Take your time.
–Some people (including the post author) like to use a walking stick or trekking poles to aid in balance. I’ve done it with and without aids. I find their best use is to probe the water ahead of you, so that in fast moving water, or opaque water, you can get an idea of what is coming. Be careful if you rely on them for balance.
4. Please don’t attempt to carry all of your belongings across a stream in a garbage bag. You’re just asking for disaster.
5. The author is right to advise folks to leave their shoes on. If you want, you can remove your socks and insoles, and put them on after you complete the crossing.

Happy travels!

5 J. Marshall July 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Great post! I have been wanting to attempt something like this for awhile now.

6 Gary July 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I grew up hiking on the coast of British Columbia and had no experience with poisonous snakes. When hiking in Tennessee, I stepped over a small log and my hiking partner warned me to step on the log and look down rather than step over. It never occurred to me that a snake might be relaxing next to the log.

7 ced July 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm

did a small section of the AP trail, we hitched into town and bought beer and liquor then hitched back to camp good times

8 Richard July 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm

To add to number 4 I was taught “A wet crossing is a safe crossing”.Never, even in a shallow river, try to get across dry. Often the safest foot purchase is under water.

9 Tim July 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Good article, however , keep in mind it’s difficult to be aware when hiking for long hours day after day. I fell on slick rocks and went under in swift water in the Smokeys and also walked over a Rattler (while using 2 treking poles) in the Big South Fork in Tn. Lucky not bitten or hurt. It’s difficult to keep your guard up when you’re tired or moving fast.

10 Zach W. July 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Great post, and great addition by matt #4. I am a graduate of the Appalachian Trial, and can stress the importance of having good hitchhiking skills. On note though – Do your own assessment of whether it is safe to get into that person’s car. I had experiences with kids trying to jump me, and people who were obviously drunk or high, but I used my judgment and came out ok.

11 James July 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Good post. A lot of detailed info on thru hiking can be found on the blog http://asthecrowflies.org/

If I ever find some free time in my life, it is something I would like to start doing. For now I will jsut be stuck with short backpacking trips.

12 Frank Adams July 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

People really underestimate the amount of calories you can burn on a hike. You really need to eat.

13 John B July 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Another helpful skill for the PCT: Fly fishing. I did a week long hike from Steven’s pass to Snoqualmie pass in Washington, every lake in WA is stocked with trout.

14 Frank Adams July 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm

People underestimate how many calories they burn during a hike. You really need to make sure you eat enough.

15 Ron July 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Tim’s right–it’s hard to stay aware on long hikes. Walking in the Salmon River country in Idaho, my partner groused “What the hell are you doing?” I turned to face him and there was a coiled rattler on the trail between us. It illustrates why the SECOND hiker gets bit.

16 Emily July 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

These are great tips. My boyfriend and I have always wanted to go backpacking. But you can never be too sure about hitch hikers! That’s the only one on there that worries me..but if I were to do it, those are some great things to keep in mind! Also, the picture is fantastic..what a view!

17 Brian Splash July 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Great article , l have always wanted to walk the appalachan trail after reading Bill Brysons ” a walk in the woods “

18 jeff July 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

You covered everything but how to pay for it. Most people who have six months off from work are unemployed, and sure don’t have the money for this sort of trip. Sounds like the pre-trip might be a more universal experience, and you should share that too. Training has to be very key for something like that. Fun post though.

19 Tony DiLorenzo | Fit Marriage July 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Thank you everyone for your responses. I want to hit on a few comments here to clarify my experience out on the trail. Is it different from one hiker to the next, sure thing. I can only share what I experienced while out there for 138 days.

Jordan – I came across a number of bears and all of them were scared of me when they saw me. Don’t get me wrong I was scared to. ; )

Mark – Make it happen. It is truly a walk of a lifetime.

Ryan – While hiking in the desert section of the PCT, first 700 miles, I came across approx 15 rattlesnakes. From babies to full adults, I even stepped on a few babies that were coiled in shallow holes on the trial. Never did I see two together though. The one that struck was in plain site and I didn’t see any others around when I made my move.

Matt – Great points on crossing a creek or river. This is one area that many thru-hikers don’t learn about when attempting a long backpacking trip. My experiences were ones I employed while out there. Carrying my backpack over my head was doable because my pack weighed 8-10 pounds before food and water. It was easy to carry and hold a stick at the same time. After thru-hiking the PCT I was fortunate to live in Spokane, WA and joined the Spokane Mountaineers. It was there that I learned all that you talked about when crossing a creek/river.

Tim – Luck is all part of the game out there. I tripped on roots, had a pine cone fall from a tree and hit me on the head, and other crazy things happen while out there. Being alert is vital, but unfortunately like you said it can be difficult when backpacking many long days in a row.

Zach – Great call on getting into someones car. You know from experience you gain a sense of who is behind the wheel. All of my ride, but one was enjoyable. I even had an 80 year old couple pick me up while in Sisters, OR. Always feel out and talk to those who offer a ride.

John B – I meet a guy who was fly fishing all through the Sierra’s while he did his thru-hike. Caught and ate his trout dinner every night. The long 18-20 miles days during that section was enough for me. I didn’t want to add something else to my list during the day.

Emily – Totally understand where you are coming from. Check out this book, Kindness of Strangers. I read it before I started my hike and it gave me confidence in hitch hiking and the kindness of our society.

Jeff – For myself and many other who tackle a long-distance trail you work hard for a year and bank up money so that you can take 6 months off. My case was a bit different in that my wife decided to stay home while I hiked. I still needed to stash away money, but she was able to earn enough to keep everything moving along.

The longest pre-trip backpacking trip I did was the Rae Lakes Loop in the Sierra’s. It was 40 miles long and took my wife and I 3 days & 2 nights. Other than that I did numerous 20 mile day hikes and did as many 20-30 mile overnighter trips that I could. Many of these trips were about finding the best and lightest gear for the hike.

To all of you looking to attempt a long-distance hike in the future, GO FOR IT! Hiking the PCT has been and will always be one of the biggest highlights of my life. Now with 2 kids and many other things going on in life I enjoy sharing the adventures I had out there. Just this past 4th of July weekend I took my son out on the PCT here in Southern California for a day hike. It was magical to be on it and share with him the the trail he was standing on went south to the Mexico border and north all the way to Canada.

For more pictures of my trip you can check them out on my Facebook page here, http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1022521715545.2004525.1000263366&l=ab9c5043a0&type=1.

Thanks again everyone.

Tony

20 Tony DiLorenzo | Fit Marriage July 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm

One last thing when it comes to river crossing that should be taken into account is cross as early in the morning as you can. The cold nights will usually stop the snow melt and some rivers and creeks will be inches lower first thing in the morning.

They will also be very cold so look for a nice patch of sun once you cross to warm up and dry off.

21 The Desert Rat July 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Of course, hitchhiking is not only dangerous, but illegal in most areas. Although a bit safer in rural areas, I’d still only use it in a real emergency. The author doesn’t cover the need to legally carry a weapon of some sort, even a small, lightweight pocket gun (revolver or pistol). Can you imagine our fathers, grandfathers or those before them setting out on an outdoor adventure without a firearm of some sort? In the high desert where I live, no one, and a mean no one goes out hiking in the wilderness or overnight camping without a firearm. While experiencing the outdoors, it is also “manly” (in a last ditch emergency) to be able to protect yourself from real dangers – both from nature and man.

22 Dave July 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Great Post. I’ve noticed some of the comments lamenting the fact that it takes so long to thru hike any of the major trails. As an alternative to the “Tripple Crown” hikes AT, CDT, PCT, one might try the Arizona Trail, or the Colorado Trail. Each are about 800 miles and can be done in approximately 2 months. I did the Arizona trail (before it was completed,) in 2003 and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

23 Dennis July 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Good advice (although my long trek was a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, so I’m not sure the unexpected skills line up quite the same way).

Desert Rat – hitchhiking is illegal in many areas, but at the same time it’s a very common activity among thru-hikers getting from trailheads to resupplies and hostels. I think you overstate the dangerousness of it a bit, though. A little situational awareness does go a long way, though: the most dangerous hitchhiking situation I encountered on my thru-hike was a just-off-work paper millworker in Maine who was already one six-pack into his evening (I declined the ride, politely). The gun thing is a bit trickier, or, more accurately, the *legal* part is. On the PCT, only crossing 3 states (IIRC), this might be straightforward, but on the AT, the varying laws related to carrying firearms (particularly in the northeast) might be tough to navigate for what I consider to be near-zero gain (not worth the weight given the critters you generally encounter on the AT, human-types included, IMHO, of course, and a small firearm in Grizzly country is roughly akin to carrying a bear-pisser-offer device; bear-rated pepper spray is a more effective, and lighter, deterrent, by all accounts). I did meet at least one AT thru-hiker carrying, and I know he was considering shipping his handgun home a few hundred miles in. I certainly wouldn’t call it a need.

24 Warren July 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm

When in bear country it is always a good idea to build a good smokey fire and then stand in the smoke letting it saturate you,your clothing and gear. Bear will smell the smoke odor you carry long before you get near them and usually they will head away from the odor for fear of fire. Hydration is probably most important. Problem is that water weighs a good bit. Over eight pounds in a gallon.There are a variety of light weight portable water filtering devices that are worth the investment.

25 Jay July 25, 2011 at 12:52 am

I second some of the points Matt made about river crossings…

Leave your pack on, but keep it unbuckled! Trust me, you want your arms out to your sides holding your trek poles while crossing a fast river, not raised above your head holding all your gear. Your balance will be much better with the pack on, but make sure to unbuckle it at all points. If you fall backwards into the water, you may not be able to get free in time. Doesn’t take much water to drown.

Ultra-lightweight backpackers may not feel this is necessary, but I always bring a pair of beat up running shoes for river crossings (and in the event of a major boot malfunction). If I have a ways to go after the crossing, I usually prefer my boots and socks to stay dry so I can pick up right where I left off.

26 Kurt Weber July 25, 2011 at 4:19 am

I definitely would throw in the Superior Hiking Trail along the north shore north of Duluth MN. Just beautiful!

27 Paul P July 25, 2011 at 7:08 am

It’s good to do research and hear others’ opinions before you head out, but you won’t know what works for you until you get out there and try things. What works for one person may not for another. An example: ever since I was a child, I was taught that every ounce matters, get your pack as light as possible. For years I blindly followed this, cutting the handle off of my toothbrush, getting a smaller sleeping bag, don’t bring a pillow, etc. With my experience, I’ve found that having a real pillow, a decent sized sleeping bag, and plenty of fresh water is worth the extra weight to me. I was able to sleep much more soundly, and had awoke with the strength needed to carry that extra weight. Advice can be great, but put it to the test. You won’t know your own limits until you push them.

28 Mr. Green July 25, 2011 at 7:16 am

Good article.

29 Anne July 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

I loved that this article covers a couple of good key things! I have backpacked extensively and to my surprise the first thing listed is KEY! However, one tactic we used for hitchhiking was to send a gal who was easy on the eyes along with a gentleman to efficiently and safely hitchhike. Worked well in our one and only circumstance that required it. I also greatly appreciate Matt’s post on how to cross rivers. Unbuckling the pack is KEY!! I have had beginners underestimate how slippery the rocks were and how fast that water moves. Had I not instructed her to unbuckle her pack, we would have been in a bigger pickle than we ended up in. This is also helpful in that I was able to reach down and lift her pack right off of her to free her up to get back on her feet.
On that note, I do think it is logical and common sense for experienced packers to take on a bit of the weight when with rookies. They are not experienced in how to efficiently carry a load and will tire muscles quicker leaving themselves vulnerable to injury. Also, as in the case of the nasty river crossing I experienced, I was very confident I could balance on two rocks and lift her much lighter pack off of her(I am only 95 lbs..).

30 Alex July 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

Wish I had read this before attempting my thru-hike this season. I only made it 162 miles from Springer Mountain…hitch-hiking was an absolute necessity that I didn’t plan for, although I still got along…

31 Roach July 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

If you’re looking for a compromise between tenting and sleeping on the ground, you might want to look into hammock camping. Hammock, tarp, maybe a bug net depending on the country.

Most of my experience is further east, though, so I don’t know how much of the PCT is short of trees, but you’ve got a lot more flexibility when it comes to site selection.

32 Tyler S. July 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I did the Appalachian (part of it 3-day trek) with some friends when I was in high school. If you are considering hitch-hiking, just research the local laws of the area, even call the 5-0 is you have to. Hitchhiking, at least by me is illegal and could put you behind bars for a day if it is during the last week of the month – cops need to get their quotas and will look for anything to write tickets for.

33 Seth Albion July 27, 2011 at 2:34 am

Excellent article. One more golden rule of hitchhiking is to never get into a car with more than one person in it. The same rule applies for picking up hitchhikers.

34 JT August 1, 2011 at 2:35 am

@ Paul P I found not taking a pillow gives you extra room for what ever it might be. When I hike or canoe i use my drybag but most nights i just went to sleep with out a pillow and felt fine the next day (mind you i’m 15 and have lots of energy)

35 JT August 1, 2011 at 2:39 am

@ Paul P

When I hike or canoe i just used my drybag inflated with air. it saves a lot of room by not taking a pillow and many nights i just fall asleep with out a pillow and i’m fine in the morning (mind you I’m 15 with lots of energy)

36 Otakop67 August 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

Excellent article with information that often is taken for granted and therefore goes unsaid. Another bit of essential gear I would recommend is a pair of high quality leather gaiters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaiters). These will do more than just protect you from the brambles and the briers, the good quality ones will protect you from chiggers and rattlesnake strikes. It is also good to note that one of the first things taught in scouting about hiking is to never step over a log, always onto the log and the propel yourself beyond it (most varieties of snakes will sleep next to a fallen log to keep warm, dry and hidden from predators).

37 Jonathan March 1, 2013 at 12:55 am

Having been a raft guide, the river crossing skill ideas can get you in trouble. Recognize that foot entrapment can kill you quickly.. With the foot locked in the rocks and being pushed over by the water current ; death can come quickly from drowning.

If possible I would try to hook up with another hiker and cross together by locking each other arms and crossing in crab fashion.

If by myself i would find a heavy 5′ walking stick and brace it upstream .

I would make sure I have a sharp knife with point filed off on belt . I would also depending on the conditions loosen my shoe strings.

I might also tie a 10′ neon line to the pack and tuck it into the small of your back.

Lastly if you end up in the water, actively swim do not just put your feet down stream . In spring runoff there are down trees that are strainers and are a another place to drown.

38 Vagabond September 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I am a world class hitchiker and the advise you offered is legit. Though I’ve never had to use a flamingo or snickers bar, it certainly wouldn’t hurt your cause:)

39 Geared Up October 21, 2013 at 8:35 pm

This hiking year is pretty much over for the PCT. Every year has a facebook page. Usually under PCT Class of xxxx. Look them up. We had an amazing time this year.

40 Rummy December 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Good article! I’m a 2012 AT GAMEr.
You should add “undo your backpack hip belt” to the crossing rivers section. That way if you do get carried downstream, the first thing you want to do is lose the pack so it doesn’t pull you down and drowned you.
Also, when hitchhiking, listen to your instincts. If you get a weird vibe off someone, pass on the ride.

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