Q & A

I’ve decided to set up this page (thanks to Sarah’s suggestion), for people to ask questions (preferably hiking related) 🙂 and for me to provide responses; so the information is contained on one page rather than spread out over different posts throughout the blog.

I will try to respond to all questions, even though there may be some delay, I will try and get back to you as quickly as possible.

It would be great if you could put the topic of the question first in BOLD LETTERS so people can easily identify the subject, eg, FOOD: Can you still stomach oatmeal? Haha, etc etc.

I’ve been told there’s no such thing as a dumb question… although I’m pretty sure I had about 1000 of them when I was planning my hike. So don’t be shy, let the flood gates open!

165 thoughts on “Q & A

  1. Hi, I was wondering about your experience with the World Nomads insurance. What is their insurance policy regarding the PCT? And did you have to use your insurance on your trip?

    • I spoke to them and yes they were willing to cover me on the PCT, but I never had to make a claim. I called them once when I thought I might visit a doc for my nerve pain and they were great over the phone, but I never had to follow through with anything.

  2. I have been planning a 2014 thru hike for the last year and have followed your blog since the summer. As a solo female hiker with minimum backpacking experience, I have to rely on what I do know (organization, preparation and determination) to get me through this journey as I plan, prepare and learn as much as possible in the coming months before I set off.
    I was wondering how much planning you did in advance as far as daily mileage and town stops/zeros you did vs. just going with the flow of things as they came about. I am a planner by nature and want to be as prepared as possible but also open to change as the days bring new adventures and circumstances.

    Wishing you the best
    Elise

    • Thanks Elise. I spent a good two weeks of solid planning on town stops because I was concerned about hitching and also wanted to stop in the best towns along the way. My advice would be to use Craig’s PCT planner, assume less miles per day at the beginning and have a good read of Yogi’s town guide. I would actually recommend a stop every 4 – 5 days if possible. If you’re prepping all your food you need to be quite diligent about this part, but if you buy as you go you can definitely improvise a lot. My schedule worked pretty well but my biggest regret was not sending a box to Tuolumne Meadows. You’ll soon learn on trail how much food you need and you can always make an unplanned stop in a town for more food if necessary. Good luck and feel free to ask more questions as they come to mind! Muk

  3. I thought you made a page or some comments regarding international visitors. Can you point me to the link. I’m going to add some links to my blog as I see many struggling and the resources seem somewhat limited.

  4. I hope you don’t mind this question. I carry a SPOT, also, and wanted to know how much it would actually cost me to press the emergency button. How much did it cost you?
    Thanks,
    Craig

    • Hi Craig, when I registered with SPOT I paid for the emergency insurance so there was nothing to pay. I think it all depends on where you are when you get rescued and who comes to get you, but if you pay the extra $10 (I think it was) you should be covered.

  5. Hi Muk Muk!
    Have loved this blog so much! But one question I have is about shoes. Why does everyone wear “trail shoes” like cascadias etc?? Most people who hike places like the inca trail, or Himalayas wear “proper” hiking boots with ankle support etc. I’m curious as to why people don’t wear boots on trail? Thanks in advance, and look forward to reading more of your travels on serial nomad!

    • Good question. It definitely comes down to personal preference but like pack weight, you really want to travel as light as possible including your gear and shoes fall into this category. Most people want something as lightweight as possible on their feet, but you also need a good balance as the stones on the trail through the desert absolutely killed my feet. Heat is also a factor as you want your feet to breath as much as possible which is hard in boots. If your shoes get wet you also want something that is going to dry quickly, especially after river crossings where you need to keep your shoes on (or wear crocs as an alternative). Boots were good in the snow so I don’t think there is one perfect solution for the entire trail. If I did it again I would wear trail runners until I hit snow and needed to keep my feet warm and dry in boots. Happy trails!

      • Thanks for the prompt reply. What you said makes sense now, but I do love my sturdy chunky boots! Cheers!

  6. Hi Muk,

    Just a quick question re: your sleeping bag. When you experienced warmer nights was a 20 degree bag too hot? I know you probably didn’t experience too many warm nights, even in the desert, but just curious, as I’m trying to decide on a temp rating and a sleeping bag vs quilt. Thanks and enjoying the new blog as well!

    • Hey Ian, there were a few nights where I was too hot, especially Yosemite during the heat wave locked inside my bivvy sack, but you can always unzip it or just lie on top of it. I think 20 degrees is pretty spot on actually! Great to hear from you and hope this helps!

  7. HI not sure if you still logging in , meant to ask this ages ago .
    noticed that you used Knee Braces , how did you get on with these as my knees are in bad shape. 50 days for me to go before I arrive at the start whoop
    Roger Snailtrainer

    • Hey Roger! The elastic style knee braces saved my knees. I don’t have really bad knees at all but the downhills and heavy backpack were a killer and the knee braces definitely relieved the pain! Success on your journey. So excited for you! Muk

  8. hey there! a friend and i are considering doing the pct this year but i am trying to figure out if i have enough money saved up. Do you think two grand would be enough? (to cover food at least?)

    thanks for your inspiration! ❤

    • Hi Katie, it really depends if you already have gear and how comfortably you want to travel. Two grand is not a lot of money for 5 months even if you are living in the wilderness. If you bought all your food in bulk and pre-made all meals you’d still be looking at postage costs etc. I would recommend a minimum of 5 grand to allow for replacing gear, additional food, some creature comforts and the unexpected! Wishing you all the best!

  9. What Currency are we talking about ? Im budgeting on 2K English pounds But have a spare Grand (UK pounds Contingency ) that relates to 5K USA dollars
    IM planing as buy as i go But Im basically going to wing it and hopefully not be proved wrong .Im bring a 60lb pack and a 30lb bounce and i’m sure ill sent most of it home possibly by mile 5 :0)

    Roger Snailtrainer

  10. Sorry if this has already been asked, but where did the Mountain Lion incident occur? Also did you know about Helen “Cat” Becker’s similar experience on the JMT in August 2013?

  11. PLANNING: Did you find it hard coordinating the planning of your trip from Australia? I live in Perth and am planning a thru-hike of the PCT in 2016 and am a bit worried about how I’ll go about coordinating everything!

    • Yes it was more difficult because all the good gear is in the US but I just got it sent to Oz. The hardest will be the food prep. Find a place in the US you can spend a week or two preparing your food and then post it before you go. I was so thankful I did all the prep beforehand! Good luck and keep the questions coming if you have more!!! 🙂

      • Oh, I have another question (although it’s non-planning related)… how did you get your trail name Muk Muk? If it’s too personal a question then please excuse me- I just find trail names enthralling 😛

      • Haha! There is a post somewhere on my blog about it. Probably just before I started the trail. It was given to me by a close friend who hiked the trail herself in 2004. We worked on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Muk Muk was a sidekick mascot who is a rare breed of marmot (rare like an Aussie hiking the trail), loves the mountains and loves to eat (just like me!)

  12. I recently received an email with questions about the trail from a man named Chris who plans to hike the trail with his 18-year-old daughter next year. See below for the detailed Q&A:

    Question #1 – Are resupply packages really necessary? I saw that you sent supplies ahead of time. The thought of the prep time needed for pre-made resupply packages is overwhelming me so I would rather not. It seems that you can buy as you go. What adjustments to your resupply would you make now that you completed the trail? Or would you do it the same? What mandatory re-supply package points would you recommend.
    My current plan is to resupply as I go and then send ahead resupply packages from the towns I’m at to points I know were supplies are scarce as opposed to putting together packages pre-trail and having my home base send them as needed. Is this strategy doable?

    Answer: Preparing your resupply ahead means that you can buy the food you really want to have out there in BULK, saving a lot of money and TIME during your trip. There are so many things you need to do when you get to town, preparing an entire resupply box would have sucked all the life out of me. I bought all of my lunch food in town like tortillas, cheese, salami, avocado etc, and even that was overwhelming enough. You’re tired and exhausted; your brain isn’t adapted to function in the ‘real world’ anymore. My recommendation would be to prepare as much as you can before you go, while you have time and are in a sharp state of mind.

    Yes you can buy supplies in trail towns, but they will be more expensive in the smaller towns and you might not find everything you need. You will also be able to pick up bits and pieces in hiker boxes, especially at the beginning of the trail when everyone realises they’re carrying WAY too much! I would never rely on these boxes, but they’re good to keep in mind.

    It took me 8 straight days to prepare all of my resupply boxes for the state of California and just beyond the border into Oregon. You may also need these boxes if you’re planning to take pages of Yogi’s guide and printed maps (I’m sure you know already not to take the entire book).

    The towns I went to that I think you will struggle to find the food you want are:

    – Warner Springs (small store in community centre)
    – Kennedy Meadows (has supplies but expensive)
    – Drakesbad Guest Ranch (if you can even still stop there)
    – Crater Lake Mazama Village (small store)
    – Big Lake Youth Camp
    – Stehekin (there probably is a store but I can’t remember it)

    Things may have changed as this was two years ago so don’t quote me on specifics.

    Remember also that some supermarkets are on the other side of town to where you’ll be staying (Tehachapi for example). All you want to do in town is put your feet up and rest, clean your clothes, repack, and speak to loved ones at home.

    My trail mix was a little stale by the end of California, plus I was pretty tired of eating the same meals over and over; but I would take that any day over resupplying on the go. If the thought of preparing a resupply box now is too much, it will be triple as hard out there (in my opinion of course).

    Question #2 – I noticed knee braces. I have Arthritis in my knees, so I’m planning on wearing them right from the start mainly for injury prevention. Why did you start wearing them? What conditions were your knees in before you started the Trail? Did you injure your knees on trail or was it to prevent knee injury?

    Answer: I didn’t have and do not suffer any knee injuries thankfully, but my knees began aching from all the downhill walking with such a heavy load on my back. I felt like they were simply going to snap at one point, and they began hurting all the time even in Southern California, so I got the elastic knees braces to provide some support and they worked. I think they actually just kept my knees warm so the muscles weren’t as tight, but if you have arthritis, talk to you doctor or physio about what to take.

    Question #3 – This is what prompted me to write in the first place. I’m doing this with my 18yr old daughter so I was researching the Diva Cup and came across your video. You seemed a little squeamish talking about it, so if you would rather e-mail my daughter directly instead of a 40yr old male you can. But I’m a father, so this topic is nothing new for me nor does it bother me. Basically, what I am asking is your experience with it. Did it work? Did you use it before the trail? Did you ever have to use traditional tampons? Would you simply go without the menstrual cup and use traditional tampons if you were to do this again? Details and specific incidents in dealing with menstruation would be appreciated so if you need to get graphic and don’t want to share them with a male I understand completely and as I said, you can send your reply to my daughter directly. She is really worried about it.

    Answer: The Diva Cup is the most phenomenal invention out there. I still use it even to this day. The one issue I have now is that I get much worse menstrual cramps, which for whatever reason I attribute to wearing the cup.

    Having said that I don’t know how I would have survived without it. I certainly didn’t want to be carrying dirty tampons along with me in my pack although a lot of female hikers do. I bought it a few months in advance of the trail so I could practise using it because it does take some getting used to. You daughter needs to be prepared to get her hands dirty but she will be so thankful for the convenience once she’s mastered it. You can leave it in for up to 12 hours which means you take it out and empty it in the hole you dig in the morning, rinse it with filtered water, and put it back in until the evening when you repeat the same process. If she loses a lot of weight her periods may become very light and become more infrequent, but either way, the Diva Cup will save her from the mess of tampons and it’s a much cheaper option too! My suggestion would be to simply buy it (it’s only $40 approx.) and test it out. It’s not as scary once you try it.

  13. Hi! Love your blog, heaps of great info especially from an Aussie’s perspective! I’m planning on doing the PCT in 2017. Just a few questions regarding your experience getting your visa. What specific info did you take to your B2 visa interview? Bank account? Proof of address? Proof of a job? Also do you have any idea of what the people at US immigration think is a reasonable amount of money to “sustain yourself for six months”? I’m currently living in the UK but I’m moving back to Aus for the 6 months leading up to my departure date for the PCT. I think I may have read that you were in a somewhat similar situation? Was this any sort of issue with US immigration as you have to show “significant links to your home country? Sorry for the heap of questions! Any help would be great! Cheers!

    • Hi Andrew, great to hear you’re taking on the PCT!! Awesome! I remember being nervous about the visa interview but in the end the guy was super nice and in truth it was harder at the actual US border convincing the guy to give me a 6 month visa for hiking the trail. At least these days you can just say ‘Wild’ and people know what you’re on about. I can’t remember exactly the docs I took but get that all from the website and have it clearly organised. I didn’t have a permanent job at the time but had a suitable amount of money in my bank account (10k should be fine, maybe even less). Just go with confidence. You’re going to be boosting their economy and they want you there unless they suspect you’re going to try and work illegally. Regarding ties to Oz I don’t remember any questions about it but again they’re just making sure you’re not wanting to stay in the US forever without permission. Best of luck and I hope that helps!!

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