This is the first interview in a series about preparing for and reflecting on the three long-distance trails that comprise the Triple Crown: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.
Maleen Scholl is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this year with a start date of April 8 and expects to finish by the third week of September. Already an experienced hiker, she has done the Chilkoot Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Trans-Catalina Trail, and High Sierra Trail. Are you getting ready for the PCT? Here's a link to Maleen's PCT gear list to help you plan. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Why have you chosen the gear on your list?
Most of the gear on my list is what I have used in my past thru-hikes, hence, they have been proven to work for me. Besides my gear's durability and efficacy, I chose them because of their low weight.
Why are you choosing to bring a Vecto?
I prefer to use the Vecto because it seems durable and it has a dual purpose, hence, it cuts down weight on my water filtration system.
Do you have any fears about hiking alone as a woman on the trail?
I am comfortable hiking alone in the wilderness, but I never get complacent even with my backcountry experience. I do not have fears being a woman on the trail, however—most men and women alike—I have common apprehensions, such as running into wild animals, crossing a raging river, traversing on a steep snow slope, getting struck by a lightning on an exposed ridge or meadow, and getting mugged on high-trafficked areas, such as the interstate underpass, etc. Fortunately, those "healthy" apprehensions were helpful to me in preventing any accidents and injuries. I do not own a firearm and my means of protection are my wit and my bear spray. The need to carry protection highly depends on the area where I will be hiking. In Alaska or Montana, for example, I would feel comfortable carrying bear spray. For the PCT especially in sections where there are high-trafficked areas, I would carry a pepper spray for human predators.
You’ve done a number of shorter trails. How do you think the PCT will be different from your other hikes and how are you modifying your gear?
The PCT is a longer trail, thus, it requires more time and planning than the previous trails I have hiked. I have cut down my base weight for the PCT by purchasing new lighter gear, like my tent and pack, and bringing items that will have a dual purpose such as:
- My iPhone will double as my camera and navigation system.
- My Vecto will serve as a filtration system and water bottle.
- My Tyvek will serve as my ground sheet for cowboy camping and tent camping and hitch sign.
- My Vargo BOT will serve as a cook set and container for cold-soaking food.
My first aid kit is dialed down. Lastly, there are sections of the trail–such as the Sierra and PNW–that I will be swapping out my gear.
How do you handle hygiene on the trail?
Baby wipes are my best friend and my luxury item! Hand sanitizer is a must and whenever I have water or come across an abundant source of it, I always wash my hands. My advice for dealing with menstrual cycles is do whatever works for that individual woman. I know that most women prefer menstrual cups and tampons, but I prefer to use sanitary pads because it is less messy and it is an easy process.
What do you anticipate to be the most difficult stretch of the trail and how are you preparing?
I believe that the sections with scarce water will be the most difficult for me. The obvious strategies to counteract dehydration are to carry 1 liter for every 5 miles and to hike in the late afternoon into the night.
What are the details on your resupply strategy?
I prefer to send myself resupply boxes since it will cut down the time that I have to spend in town and I want to focus on taking care of my basic needs (i.e. rest, shower, and laundry).
Any budgeting tips?
Don't bite more than you can chew or live within your means. Use the gear that you currently have, provided that it still does its job. Wait for discounts or sales before buying any gear. Don't spend too much time in towns, as it will increase your spending expense. Stay in hostels or campgrounds or share rooms with other hikers. As if your life on the trail is not simple enough, continue to live simply.