I was on the last leg of a 28-day, 529-mile trip through the California backcountry. On the hiker’s hierarchy, that put me in a middle class—below the PCT demigods hiking from Canada to Mexico, but well above those people poking along the 222-mile JMT.
PCT hikers are known to carry ultralight 15-pound packs, while JMT hikers often haul 40 pounds or more. The former hike more than 30 miles each day, while the latter almost never go beyond 15. I averaged slightly over 20 miles per day, and carried a 23-pound pack.
Where pack was concerned, this middle ground was the product of judicious (but not quite unforgiving) weight trimming.
Unlike many JMT hikers, I left the slackline, climbing shoes, and Bowie knife at home. I ditched all unnecessary stuff sacks. My tent, sleeping bag, liner, and mattress all fit into one. And forget razors and deodorant—they couldn’t possibly keep me clean anyway.
A few luxury items separated me from the PCT die-hards. I left room for a small waterproof e-reader, a Tenkara fishing rod, and a pair of cheap earbuds. While I didn’t carry the fresh beans, grinder, filters, and drip-funnel that some JMT hikers carried, I did stash some packets of instant coffee.