First a joke.
Q: “How do you know someone on the PCT has hiked the AT?”
A: “They will f@!$ing tell you!”
So now a few things I wish were shouted from the mountain to prospective PCT hikers.
1) DO NOT bring a dog in the desert section. Seriously, it is cruel in the desert and no dog can thru-hike the PCT because half the parks do not allow dogs and will send you ‘back’ down the trail with a big ticket if you try. Some try to do the ‘service dog’ thing but this is California and they will ticket you to prove it (it is apparently a dog version of a fix it ticket that costs you money). So your option is to board the dog, not cool for your fur friend. Also your hitching and zero options become hyper limited. I don’t care what anyone says, if you bring a dog on the PCT I will consider it animal abuse and think you suck, and I am not the only one, most people I have met feel this way. Don’t do it. Bring them later.
2) If you are considerably overweight you really should consider section hiking and/or smaller trails first. I think it is amazing you are looking to lose weight but the PCT is difficult for people already in shape and many of them have to drop out because of injury and that they didn’t expect it to be so difficult, with added weight that difficulty goes up wildly. Definitely try out small sections before making a commitment to thru-hiking, you will thank yourself.
3) Nobody cares about the AT on the PCT. They are two vastly different trails and the only similarity I see is that you walk, otherwise everything is different, everything. Bringing up the AT all the time is tiresome for PCT hikers who are worried about water and could care less about how the AT follows the ‘fall line’ and had rodents and ticks and water everywhere.
4) There is weather out here, nasty weather. In the desert section I saw rain, snow and hail and had my tent freeze over in several sections. You need a good shelter, you need a sleeping pad foe warmth and you need good clothes for the cold. Going with no shelter or just with just a tarp is asking for trouble. I saw it plenty and saw tarp guys leave trail or buy tents. This obviously depends on the year, but this year was bad for tarps. Why risk your whole hike on not having a tent?.
5) You need money. This trail costs about $4,000 minimum for you if you want to thru-hike it. You cannot get by on hiker boxes alone, you cannot live off the land, you need money for food and trail angels. Some people I saw had just sleeping bags and Tyvek and we’re trying to hike the trail with no money. It didn’t work.
6) It is windy, really windy. Like, you climb over mountains and hike through the second largest wind farm in the world. It is windy and you need a wind breaker and a tent that can handle wind. You may also need chapstick.
7) The sun is intense. I now have permanent scars on both my index fingers from massive sun burn. Yes, my fingers, the rest of me was covered up. You need sunscreen and also a sun umbrella.
8) Take a zero if you are sick! Nobody wants to be exposed to being sick out on the trail as it is dangerous because we go through big sections between towns. If you are coughing stay away from other hikers, you could ruin someone’s hike and years of planning. Besides it is common courtesy and part of not being a jerk.