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Editor’s Note: Patricia “Blackpacker” Cameron is the founder of Blackpackers, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to the outdoors, and Backpacker’s 2022 Pacific Crest Trail correspondent.
Backpacking always gives me a greater connection to my belongings because the stakes are so high. For one, everything I carry has to justify its weight, because I can literally feel every ounce in my pack. Second, any particular item not functioning as intended is a much bigger issue in the backcountry than in the frontcountry, where repair or replacement is a short hike and a car ride away. Aside from a couple of luxury items, everything I am carrying has a specific and integral role in my journey.
I spent months researching gear for this trip. Unlike my first thru-hike on the Colorado Trail, I knew I would have to really focus on cutting weight for the PCT due to the length of time I would be on trail. I’ve also learned a lot since my first long walk: I have many more miles and outdoor education courses under my belt that inform my gear choices. My Colorado Trail pack was weighed down with plenty of stuff I didn’t need. This time, I was determined to whittle my equipment down to absolute necessities. A lot of that changed, however, as soon as I stepped foot into Southern California.
One of the first changes I made was to my shoes, swapping out my zero-drop trail runners for a cushier pair of Hoka Speedgoats with a 4mm drop. I’ll probably still use zero drops for my runs back home in Colorado Springs, but the super rocky terrain of the Sierra made the cushioning necessary for my flat feet. While I don’t usually get blisters, I decided to add toe socks as liners underneath some Grateful Dead Smartwool socks. (It’s paid off: To date I haven’t had even a single hot spot on my feet.) For camp shoes, I swapped out my beloved closed- toe Crocs for Teva sandals. A lot of people consider camp shoes a luxury but I …….