Pro Tips from a PCT Thru-Hiker

Pro Tips from a PCT Thru-Hiker
Day 1: Let's go! Emily stands at the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) ready to take on the 2,650 mile journey to Canada.
Every year, 4600 permits are issued to Northbound PCT hikers which starts in San Diego along the Mexican border, and ends in British Columbia, Canada. This year Ridge has welcomed many PCTers as they make their way through Mammoth Lakes to pick up supplies on their way to the Northern Terminus.

We were thrilled to meet up with Ridge Merino Trail Ambassador, Emily (@emilyhikes_pct), who started her journey on March 30th and arrived at Ridge Merino’s HQ in Mammoth earlier this month. We caught up with her to see how the 906 mile journey has been going so far.


Ridge: Tell us a little bit about where you’re from and the organization you are raising money for while hiking along the PCT.

Emily: I'm from Hampshire, UK and super excited to be in Mammoth Lakes finally! While I'm hiking, I'm raising money for a charity - @koto.vietnam, a non-profit that empowers at-risk and disadvantaged youth to pursue a life of dignity by providing training, life skills and opportunity through its hospitality training programs. Pre-PCT life, I had lived in Vietnam while working in hospitality with a degree in Food Science and saw how the lifelong skills acquired in these industries can help the youth lead a healthier lifestyle. 

Ridge: The PCT is no easy task to take on, you’re averaging 15-20 mile days. Back at home in the UK, what did you do to prepare? Do you have any tips for first time thru-hikers or any recommended prep that worked for you?

Emily: I realized in my planning and daydreaming of the PCT, that I had quite a long list of things I didn't know how to do or was worried about so I worked through my list over two years to try and prepare myself. On that list was hiking in snow, so I went to Scotland in winter conditions and took a snow skills course. I'd also never attempted to walk more than 20 miles in a day with my heavy pack so I planned a 100 mile route to see how I felt and what I could improve on.

One of the snow fields Emily faced along the journey, after a late spring storm in the Eastern Sierra.

A big aspect of thru-hiking is knowing your body and your capabilities. I chose different weather conditions and terrains to hike and camp alone in so I could really get to know my gear and be aware of my own abilities. For example being tired and hungry but continuing to hike is a key skill out here on the PCT.

PCT Pro Tip: Prepare for different weather conditions and challenges before tackling the trail. 

There’s something special about cowboy camping: being able to settle down wherever you are and sleep under the Milky Way.

A lot of people have not hiked much or even set up their new tent before starting the PCT so intense preparation is not essential but having the right frame of mind and perseverance is important. I've found all my multi-day hiking and camping trips in the UK have sped up the trial and error process that I've seen a lot of hikers go through in their first month. 

PCT Pro Tip: Bring a tarp for the ground, especially if there's rain the forecast, to keep you protected and dry.

Ridge: Let's talk gear. What are the essential and non-essential items? Do you have a favorite piece of gear that helps you get through the day? What is your favorite non-essential/feel-good item you have to have with you on the trail?

Emily: Some may not see this as an essential item, but for me chocolate is necessary, everyone should keep a 'happy-snack' with them at all times. Otherwise my Solstice Sun Hoodie helps me stay protected from the sun and mosquitos this time of year. The big hood is THE BEST. Now with my new High Trail Tech Hat I feel like my Merino kit is complete. Merino on my head while I'm hiking and sweating feels so good. Honestly, everything I've worn on the trail from the Minaret Socks to the Aspect Base Layer in March and April helped me get through the colder nights. 

PCT Pro Tip: The essential spring hiking kit includes feel-good, lightweight Merino - the Solstice Sun Hoodie, Aspect High Rise Base Layer, Minaret Socks are Emily's faves.

Ridge: Favorite food on a zero day (rest-day off the trail).

Emily: I crave salads and fresh juices when I get into towns. Eating lightweight processed food on trail takes a toll on my body, and I really want proper nourishment with fruit and veggies. Breakfast is my favorite meal so I always find a good breakfast place in town. 

Emily took a quick detour to hike the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at sunrise, 14,505 foot-high Mt. Whitney. 

Ridge: Tell us about life on the trail: meeting other thru-hikers, trail names, personal hygiene, and trail magic...

Emily: I've been surprised at how easy it is to make friends on trail. Everyone is so friendly. We all have the same goal and it's easy to connect with other PCT hikers on trail or in town. There are some fun trail names out there that make it easy to remember people. I've been walking with a German lady called "Beast" because she got that hiker hunger for a burger and fries in the first few weeks and had to 'feed the beast.' I've been given the trail name "Dim Sum" because of my love for food and my career in a Dim Sum food factory. 

Exploring new areas is more fun with friends!

Hygiene is important, to me at least... Wet wipes are essential but I've gotten used to the hiker trash stink after a few days on trail, we're all in it together so it's not so bad.

Trail magic, for those that are unfamiliar, is an act of generosity from a trail angel who is not thru hiking but enjoys being a part of the thru-hiking community. The best trail magic I had, so far, was in Onion Valley after Kearsarge Pass. A man had cold beers at the trailhead as we were getting off trail to head to Bishop to rest. He even gave us a lift into town. Nice guy!

PCT Pro Tip: Hiker hygiene must-have - wet wipes. 

Ridge: If you had only one word to capture what you love most about the PCT, what would it be? 

Emily: Change. Scenes change, people change, everything is changing every day. I enjoy the constant stimulation of change, and I am hiking the PCT to experience a temporary change away from normal life.

PCT Pro Tip: Be open to change - seasons, conditions, people, terrain. Nothing stays the same on the trail. 

Smiles and miles - what the PCT is all about!

PCT Pro Tip: Everyone should pack a "happy snack," something to keep them going for long days on the trail. 

Ridge: Thanks for stopping in Emily, enjoy the rest of the trek to Canada!
Emily: I'm so excited to be in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, thanks for everything Ridge!


To learn more about Emily's journey and fundraising along the PCT visit 

Learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail HERE


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published