Gear Guidance from Grace Dawson, PCT 2018

Gear Guidance from Grace Dawson, PCT 2018

This is the second 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.

A Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike was Grace's first multi-day trek, beginning on April 12 and finishing on September 20, 2018. Remarkably, Grace had only camped twice before she set out on the PCT. She started out with her friend, Mother Hen, but ended up hiking a few weeks solo when her friend had to get off the trail. Interview has been edited for clarity.

What did you bring?

I ended up with a Gregory Maven 55L pack. I had a tough time finding a pack that fit my small frame. I carried an Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt 10 degree and was always cold! Other gear included: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, Sawyer Squeeze, Vecto bladder, Big Agnes air mattress.

Grace smiling next to PCT signWhat excited you about the Vecto?

I LOVED the wide mouth! It was so much faster and easier to fill than any other bladders I saw. I had more than one hiker ask about my bladder and end up ordering one.

How did you handle hygiene on your PCT thru-hike? 

I carried baby wipes with me and would wipe down the face, hands, armpits, and lady areas every night. Not only did it make me feel much better but my hiking partner and I were told multiple times that people didn't think we were thru-hikers because we were too clean! For periods, I would suggest bringing iron supplements to help with fatigue and some instant heating pads if you get bad cramps. I also swear by the DivaCup, I don't know how gals do a long distance hike without one!

Did you have any fears about being a woman on the trail? How did you deal with those concerns?

I wasn't really concerned, there were enough people around if I got into trouble and I never met anyone that made me nervous. Hitchhiking probably gave me the most pause but it always ended up great. I didn't carry anything for protection.

Going in what did you anticipate to be the most difficult stretch of the trail and what ended up being the hardest part of the trail?

I thought the High Sierras would be the most challenging but Washington ended up being the most difficult because of the cold, rainy weather that made the final weeks on trail miserable.

What was your resupply strategy?

I sent about 10 boxes while on the trail and resupplied in towns the rest of the time. If I were to do it again I would send more boxes while on the trail. I'm a vegetarian, so many of the small towns had really bad options for me.

What was your training schedule?

I walked about 7-10 miles a day for the month or two leading up to the start of the trail. Honestly, it didn't really do much. Your body will train itself the first 2-3 weeks on trail. It's kinda hell, but if you can survive it, you can make it to Canada.

Grace atop PCT monument

Any budgeting tips?

Budget about $1,000 per month, that seemed average. I would also say, if this is your first thru-hike, save extra money for gear replacements. I ended up switching a significant amount of my gear because some of my original choices just ended up not working well for me.


Finally, any big trail plans for the future?

I'm back in Texas now, so I'm thinking I'll thru-hike the Lone Star Trail this year, but I have my sights set on the CDT in a year or two!


Be sure to visit Grace's website. She has written a detailed blog about her journey on the PCT to help you know what to expect.

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