PCT: Southern California: Finance break down

PCT Expenses

As middle aged hikers we represent a minority of the total thru-hiker population, 14.7% of all hikers are older than 50. Even if we don’t want to admit it, there are some big differences between hiking in your early 20’s and hiking in your 50’s. We (older hikers) don’t have youth but we may have a little more financial and scheduling flexibility.

I believe ours is a reasonable analysis for middle aged hikers but may not be entirely applicable for younger hikers operating on a leaner budget.

The Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hiker Survey (2018)

As older hikers we have the advantage of maturity (well, sort of I suppose) and finances. Our financial breakdown may have little value to a 18 year old hiking the trail right after they graduated from high school. (True! We met him!) Other hikers that we’ve met closer to our ages seem to have similar financial methodologies in relationship to hotel/motel expenses on the Southern portion of the trail.

Our expectation is that the lodging expenses will decrease as we move forward. The addition of the camper van equates to somewhere to sleep when we’re not on the trail so we wont need to stay in motels/hotels quite so often. The van will also remove Uber and bounce box expense categories.

PCT Expenses
Ah… my first chart in months

Trail town meals and lodging are entirely discretionary spending. We could dramatically decrease the expense buckets size by not eating in towns and not staying in motels/hotels.

It’s important to keep in mind that we started on March 26th during a heavy snow year. The majority of other hikers that started with us, but hiked faster, arrived at KM much sooner. Without exception they left KM to go home, go on a vacation, go to friends houses, etc. If we hiked faster and stayed in fewer hotel/motels our lodging expense bucket would be smaller but we would have added an additional bucket for finding something to do with ourselves while we waited for the snow to begin melting in the Sierra.

We spoke with hikers that were bailing out of the PCT at KM because they didn’t have the funds to both hike and wait for the snow melt in the Sierra. Waiting can be really expensive.

PCT Expenses
Expenses by USD

The dollar amount of the gear category somewhat surprises me. We were entirely geared up before hitting the trail so I didn’t expect this category to be quite so significant.

I keep a Google sheet and try to update our expenses as we go so that we have a rough idea where we’re at with our finances. It’s not a perfect system, we may not track a soda here or there, but it’s relatively close to the mark.

I went back to the spreadsheet and analyzed the gear bucket and broke our gear purchases.

Warner Springs

  • Water filters-switched from Sawyer mini’s to Sawyer, the flow was too dang slow on the mini’s.
  • Tent stakes-Added four additional stakes for added tent stability in the wind
  • Steve shoes -Altra TMP 13’s to Altra Olympus 14’s. Blistering issue led to the shoe change. I had roughly 250-300 miles on the TMP’s prior to hitting the trail.
  • Steve socks-Added two pairs of Injinji toes socks
  • Noelle pants-Switched from Fjalraven leggings to Outdoor research hiking pants
  • Noelle shoes-Altra long peak 7.5 F to Altra TMP 8 M (Achilles pain)
  • Noelle socks-Added two pairs of Injinji toe socks


  • Steve-Microspikes
  • Noelle-Microspikes
  • Two or three tent stake replacements due to bending/broken stakes

Wrightwood Steve Kindle. Not necessarily gear, but kind of gear. This has been a great purchase. I’m back to reading almost every day. Worth every single ounce in added weight.

Steve -Replaced two pairs of Injinji toe socks

Steve -Shoe inserts-Superfeet- (Huge! Improvement in early morning mobility)

Noelle – Shoe inserts-Superfeet

PCT Expenses
Shoe inserts


  • Noelle-Garmin-InReach Explorer; Added second unit for Noelle allowing for remote Explorer to Explorer communication when we’re in separate locations with no cell reception.
  • Steve-Short sleeved shirt to leave in the van
  • Tent-Nemo Hornet Elite 1P: Augmenting existing tent; Zpack triplex. Use 1P tent for Steve solo and Triplex for Steve and Noelle. Smaller footprint and the frame were the key decision factors for the purchase with the Sierra in mind.
  • 20000 mah battery-We each carry 10000mah batteries but added a brick to the mix. The brick stays in the van to recharge our devices when we’re off trail. Noelle charges the brick when she’s driving the van between locations.

KennedyMeadows: Preparing for Sierra Mountain Range

  • Rain gloves
  • Bear canister
  • Ice axe
  • Replaced Altra Olympus 14’s to Altra TMP’s 14’s
  • Replaced three pairs of Injinji toe socks
  • Krampons

Bakersfield:Preparing for Sierra Mountain Range

  • Boots-Lowa Camino GTX hiking boots size 14
  • Socks- Darn Tough Micro Cushion Hiking socks
  • Liners-Injinji Nuwool liner crew socks
  • Ben’s Inspect repellent

Looking at the list it’s difficult to say which items I would change. The Sierra prep was close to $800. The biggest expense being the boots at roughly $300. Yes, pretty much everyone at KM says to use Altra’s for the Sierra. Yes, most popular thru-hikers say the same thing. Me, well, my feet were freezing at Baden-Powel and at San Jancinto. I don’t like cold, wet feet. The microspikes didn’t fit worth a darn either. I upgraded from micro-spikes to actual krampons and added extra sock liners and socks.

The additional Garmin bumped our cost by $400, but it’s well worth the initial and ongoing expense. Communication is key.

So perhaps overall the amount of socks we used surprised me. The small items adding up to a big total surprised me too. This thru-hiking business isn’t cheap!

I know that there are other hikers who do this trek on the cheap based on free hiker box resupply. Taking left over/almost empty fuel canisters, taking shoes, socks, shirts, water filters, food, etc. There’s certainly a method to hike much cheaper than how we’ve chosen to hike, but that would be an entirely different blog!

PCT Expenses


  1. Anonymous

    Wow! Impressive, I wish I could keep detail like this. Karen

  2. rosiewalking

    I see hikers using low gaiters to keep rocks and dirt out of shoes but for the snow you might get some high gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots when you sink down into the deep snow or just to keep your pants dryer at the bottom………


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