Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is the ultimate outdoor challenge. Fewer than 5,000 people have completed the full trail in the past 65 years, and fewer than a hundred have hiked it more than once. That’s because it runs a staggering 2,650 miles from end to end, and only those strong enough, committed enough, and well prepared for the reality of the trail can see it through. Endurance hikes in general and the PCT in particular have received increased attention in recent years, helped in part by Cheryl Strand’s best-selling memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and Reese Witherspoon’s film adaptation. Needless to say, before committing to such an intense experience, any potential hiker needs to do their homework.
“Be Prepared” Should Be Your Motto
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever before to access all the detailed information a hiker needs. The official Pacific Crest Trail Association website lays out virtually anything and everything there is to know about the PCT, basic hiking tips, and how best to prepare. This site includes a Meetup link so that those who would like company on the trail can coordinate with one another. They also maintain a Pacific Crest Trail Facebook group for those interested in taking on the trail, and the site is frequented by users who have already completed it. Most importantly, the PCTA’s website and social media pages provide links to all the essentials needed for both short and long distance hikes, advice on what food to take, and checklists to make sure nothing is forgotten.
Prep Your PCT Hiking Gear
Virtually any reputable gear checklist will include the basics: first aid kits, shelter, sun protection, water and food, and personal hygiene products. This last category is especially important in backcountry scenarios, which makes it all the more unfortunate that it often gets short shrift. Many checklists suggest bringing nothing more than toilet paper, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, and regular toiletries. While a Dopp kit with these items might suffice for a day at the beach, it’s simply not enough for the rugged conditions one can expect to experience along the PCT. Prioritizing hand sanitizer is a particular problem, considering that we now know it can cause just as much harm as good, but fortunately there are safer alternatives that provide a superior hygiene solution.
Take Your Personal Hygiene Seriously
Any serious athlete or outdoor aficionado knows the importance of skin protection, and not just when it comes to shielding it from the sun. Our bodies have a thin protective layer called the “acid mantle.” This natural mixture of sebum, amino acids, and lactic acids provides our skin with a barrier that is not only our first line of defense against disease and infection, but also prevents us from losing excess water. The reason hand sanitizers are so unhealthy is that they are ethyl-based, and the high alcohol content meant to combat pathogens has the unwelcome side effect of raising our skin’s pH, drying us out and breaking down our natural defenses. That’s why it’s so important to trade out hand sanitizers for non-alcohol based solutions like the Combat One Tactical Bath.
You’re Leaving the Comforts of Home Behind
At home, maintaining good hygiene is so routine we take it for granted. Once we head out onto the PCT or any other trail, it’s a whole different story, and getting sweaty, dirty, and eventually funky is all in a day’s hike. We also inevitably expose ourselves to bacteria, and without the ability to wash our hands whenever we want, it’s essential to take precautions. The trail does occasionally run through little towns where you can resupply and send your “bounce box” of additional supplies ahead of you and, if you plan ahead, take a hot shower. These luxuries are the exception rather than the rule, however, which is why it’s crucial to pack several pouches of the Combat One Tactical Bath. It’s the perfect addition to any hike, however long—it weighs less than 10 ounces, is pH optimized, is total-body safe, doesn’t require a rinse, and is a long-lasting hygiene solution.
Shop Smart for all the Supplies You’ll Need
Whether you plan on taking on the entire PCT, just a portion of it, or some other trail altogether, the same rules apply: do your research, know what you’re getting into, and invest in the right gear. Most anything you might need can be found at camping stores, outdoor outfitters, or even big chain stores like Walmart of Costco, but you can often find both a better selection and better prices by shopping online. This is especially true of the no-rinse outdoor body wipes discussed here, and all other Combat One hygiene system supplies.