I like to buy clothes at the end of the season, when they’re cheap. Last year in fall, when I was buying tank tops for this year, I had to stop myself, saying- I’m not going to get to wear these. I’ll be wearing the same outfit every day. For five months.
What do you wear on the PCT?
What people wear on the PCT is largely influenced by how they decide to dress for the desert. Because you are in the desert for the first five hundred miles of the hike, and then again in Northern California/Southern Oregon. The desert during the day is bright sun, no shade, intense wind, and up to 100 degree heat. At night the desert is very cold.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to desert wear-
As little clothing as possible (running shorts and a t-shirt or sports bra/no shirt) with plenty of sunscreen and, like, a visor
Cover up your entire body– long-sleeve synthetic or synthetic blend shirt (people like fancy hiking shirts or thriftstore button-downs or poly-blend tuxedo shirts, because white reflects the most heat) and convertible hiking pants or this hiking skirt, which I personally think is AWESOME. Plus a big sunhat and sometimes sun gloves, to protect the backs of your hands.
The advantages of the wear-nothing model are that your clothing is ultra-light and traps no heat and you are like a gazelle, sprinting through the Mojave. You have no pants! The downside is that you need to use a lot of sunscreen, which attracts dirt, and there is no way to wash off the slimy mess at the end of the day. And when your skin is exposed to the wind your body loses moisture at a much higher rate, and you need to drink more water. This is kind of a big deal when water sources are thirty miles apart.
The advantages of the cover-yourself-from-head-to-foot model are that you are protected from the sun, so you don’t need much sunscreen, and you are protected from the wind, so you don’t dehydrate as quickly. The downside is that it’s fucking hot, and you’re wearing all these clothes.
I figure I’d rather be hot than turn to leather in the sun, so I’m going to try out the cover-my-whole body model. I’ve got some old convertible hiking pants I’m going to wear, and when they’re unzipped into shorts they look kind of neat, in an early-nineties way. I’m going to wear a synthetic shirt, either the t-shirt I already have or a long-sleeve one like this:
I’m not going to wear sun gloves but I am going to carry a trekking umbrella, which is an umbrella that’s shiny on top, to reflect the heat. It also provides shade for when you want to take a break. In the Mojave there is no shade. Scott Williamson carries a trekking umbrella, and when deciding what to pack for the PCT, I like to ask myself: What would Scott Williamson do?
But I don’t know what to do about the sun hat.
They are all so ugly.
This is the hat I wear every day right now:
Some people wear hats like mine and tuck a bandanna in the back to protect their necks from the sun. That seems clumsy, and the bandanna might blow away. And then, I’m thinking, if I have to wear a sunhat, and it’s going to be ugly no matter what, why not go all they way?
This is a really cheap version from ebay that I like:
So in conclusion, I am going to wear a sunhat that looks kind of dumb, but it’s going to be really, really amazing.
And hey guess what! My kickstarter is 15% funded. They say that once a kickstarter is 30% funded, it has a 90% chance of success. Help me reach that magical 30% tipping point! You’ve got 19 more days to buy my book for $1. And share the campaign with all of the people you know who like things like books and being outside. Yay!
2 thoughts on “Preparing for the PCT: One outfit for five months (or, where do I find a sunhat that doesn’t look stupid?)”
Have you read Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs? It might give you some good ideas about being in the desert.
Hey Dawn- I’ll check out that book. Thanks!
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