Expedition Foods (EF): It was great to see you complete your thru-hike of the PCT. How would you summarise your adventure?
Emily Hayes (EH): Physically and mentally challenging yet rewarding from the stunningly beautiful scenery and also the sense of achievement. The trail was a lot more social than the wilderness experience I had expected.
EF: How long were you hiking?
EH: 5 months and 9 days including rest days.
EF: What made you decide to do the PCT?
EH: 10 years ago I watched the film "Wild" and fell in love with the scenery and adventure but it wasn't until the covid lockdown that I committed to preparing myself and making concrete plans to thru-hike the entire PCT. I found I was spending a lot more time outside and walking so the idea to hike the PCT kept coming back to me as I was exploring my local countryside during the lockdowns.
EF: We talked to you when you were training - how much preparation did you do?
EH: I spent a lot of time on research and planning of equipment, hours sat at my laptop and asking other people lots of questions. Every time I purchased a new piece of gear I would go out and test it, that might have been in the garden or further afield in Scotland. I tried quite hard to put myself and my gear under difficult conditions such as rain and snow to check how my gear and I held up in the worst case scenario. I found these mini trips a lot of fun! I also became a more serious long distance runner to improve my general fitness and toughen up my feet and joints.
EF: What was the most challenging aspect of it?
EH: Strangely, being around so many people everyday! The trail is hugely social and most people end up hiking in at least 1 group for some of the journey. I've always hiked alone so it was a little different for me to adapt to the group mentality.
Social aspects aside, the terrain and mileage was physically challenging. There were a few weeks of dramatic elevation change everyday that left me feeling exhausted and generally achy.
EF: What was your biggest mileage day and your shortest mileage day
EH: I walked 47 miles in a 24 hour period due to a storm that rolled in one night it was no longer safe to camp where we had pitched our tents so we had to keep walking into the night.
I've also walked just 3 miles out of Mammoth Lakes on a very lazy day.
EF: Where did you sleep?
EH: Mainly in my 1 person tent, often I cowboy camped under the stars and when in town I would share Airbnbs, hotels and motels with other hikers. I also stayed with a few Trail Angels' homes which was a great experience.
EF: What kit did you take? Did you have to change kit part way through the hike?
EH: My big 3 are: Osprey 36L Kyte backpack, Tarptent Notchli tent, Sea to Summit Flame 3 women's sleeping bag. I chose all of these carefully based on weight and performance. I switched my sleeping bag out for the lighter Flame 1 for a month when it got really hot which was worthwhile to save the weight.
I slept on a closed cell foam pad from Nemo which worked really well for insulation and I didn't have to deal with any punctured inflatable pads.
I wore a merino sun hoody and running shorts most days and carried silk sleeping layers and a town dress for laundry days, I didn't change my clothes much as my down jacket kept me warm when it got cooler. The heaviest part of my kit was my technology! I took a heavy camera and lenses which I ended up forwarding in the mail for a section to save the weight.
EF: What did you eat?
EH: Lots of Expedition Foods freeze dried meals! I tried lots of different freeze dried and dehydrated meals while I was in the states but nothing out there is as high calorie or tasty as Expedition Foods.
EF: What's next for you, do you have another adventure planned?
EH: I've just finished walking the South Downs Way in 3 days which was a bigger challenge than I thought it would be so for now I'm resting and recovering before going back to work. I've got a few plans in my mind for my next adventure but I'll keep them under wraps for now.
EF: What advice would you give to aspiring thru-hikers?
EH: Get out there and start hiking, no matter how small or grand your route is, every step in the journey is fun. Using phone apps like outdooractive or Hiker for maps and navigation will give you some inspiration on local routes you may never have heard about.