PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Grateful Red

Backpacking Experience
Life long backpacker. In 2014 and 2015 backpacked much of the PCT in California going Northbound but was injured both times.

Many day hikes and overnighters in the local mountains near his house on the weekends. Generally averaged 20-35 miles a day on these practice hikes.

Harts Pass north to the Terminus and then turned back on July 17th

Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
September 29th

Hike Result
Finished at the Southern Terminus on October 23rd (99 days!)


Grateful Red grew up in the Mojave Desert of Southern California and was exposed to the Pacific Crest Trail at a very early age.  He went hiking and backpacking all the time during his youth in the High Sierra, San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino Mountains.  He meet lots of PCT Hikers during his time in the mountains but never thought he would go and do it.  One day he found himself back up on Mt. Baden Powell, and not knowing where he would be after he graduated from his university thought that maybe he should hike the PCT.


"This was my third attempt to thru-hike the PCT.  The first time was in 2014 and I started going north since I live in Southern California and can drive to the Southern Terminus.  I developed a Hernia around Tehachapi and was told by a doctor that I could keep hiking as long as it didn’t become painful.  Unfortunately it became strangulated and I had to leave the trail to get surgery.  My second attempt was also a Northbound Hike and it was in 2015.  I have a lot of feet problems since my shoe size is 15, which makes it hard to find shoes in my size with proper support.  I managed to step wrong with some worn out shoes, and it caused me to crush a nerve in my foot.  It is kinda impossible to hike with a damaged nerve in your foot so I had to leave the trail again.  My third attempt I decided to go South because if I was to get injured again I would see things I haven’t seen yet.  I didn’t do anything particularly different this thru-hike to make it successful, it’s just the other two attempts I had some uncommon and unlucky injuries that stopped me from finishing."


"I made my own Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Quilt, Stove, and Stuff sacks for this thru-hike.  I also modified some other pieces of gear that I already owned in order to cut down weight.  A lot of people ask me why I made my own gear and I always tell them that only you know what you want, and some manufactured piece of equipment might not be what you want.  I had no sewing experience but that didn’t stop me from doing research on other peoples DIY Gear, outdoor fabrics, and just looking at what I liked from other gear manufacturers to draw inspiration.  Most of these things are actually pretty easy to make once you think about it.  A backpack is just a bag with straps, and a sleeping quilt is just 2 layers of fabric with some insulation between them.  I used a esbit stove, which is unpopular due to the smell and residue it leaves, but you can make one with just a beer can, cat food can, and foil windscreen.  The tent is the tricky piece of gear I made since it needs to be staked just right to work.  For this I used a 3D design program to design a tent similar to other ultralight tents in order to get an estimate for where I needed to cut and sew the fabric." 

"Another reason I made my own gear was to be a cheapskate, since the materials for these things are really cheap.  I ended up spending roughly $30 on a backpack, $80 on a single wall, non-freestanding tent with bug netting and bathtub floor, and $80 on a synthetic Sleeping quilt.  The finished weight on these were 12 oz for the 60 L Backpack, 16 oz for the Tent which was 54” tall with a 9’ by 4’ bathtub floor, and 1 lb 14 oz for the zero degree quilt.  I would recommend anyone with sewing experience to make their own big three and see what they can do.  Also if you don’t you can still try I just would say test your gear before taking it on the trail, but everyone should do that with any gear they buy."  

Veganism on the PCT

"I was Vegan for the whole thru-hike and it was no problem.  I have been vegan for 4 years now and the thought of giving it up for the trail seemed like a dumb idea back in 2014 during my first attempt.  Being Vegan I was pretty much forced to send resupply packages, since I knew I couldn’t sustain my diet from the stuff they sell at convenience stores.  A lot of people think it would be hard to eat Vegan on trail, but actually if you stop and think about it most high calorie nutritious food is Vegan.  Hikers love Peanut butter, Nuts, Dried Fruits, Tortillas, dried beans and rice, and Oatmeal, well not everyone likes oatmeal.  I mostly ate  these things on the trail and had no problem carrying about 2 pounds of food per day at about 4000 to 4500 calories per day."  

"The biggest downside to being a trail herbivore is finding food to eat in Trail Towns, but as any long time Vegan would know it isn’t anymore difficult than going on vacation to anywhere new.  Another downside is finding Vegan-friendly gear, since most hikers use wool, down, leather, and silk somewhere on their clothing or gear.  You just have to look around and you can find synthetic sleeping bags and socks, as well as synthetic puffys and Vegan-friendly shoes."


"I completed the trail in 99 days total, which includes Zero and Nero Days.  I only took 6 zero days because I come out on the trail to hike and not idle in towns.  This means I did a lot of days over 30 miles, actually most of the time I did over 30 miles.  I am naturally a fast walker and so this was easy for me to day in from sunrise to sunset.  I never walked at night the entire PCT.  If you want to hike the PCT quickly I would recommend training before getting out there.  Also keep it in your mind that you want to do it quickly.  Keep focused and most importantly don’t take too many zero days.  I would say I hike slightly above average from most hikers, but I didn’t go into many towns and took way fewer zero days from the rest of the hikers I meet.  

One thing I can say is that if you hike fast like me prepare to see a lot of people in the beginning and not too many near the end.  I started much later than most people and finished ahead of most.  I ended up not meeting a lot of other southbounders because they were in a Town I didn’t go to and after I passed the town they never caught up to me.  This means I hiked alone almost the whole trail, yet when I did hike with someone else it was sometime for a day or for a week, but almost always my pace differed too much from others.  So if you do want to hike fast expect to hike alone, I enjoy hiking alone, but I know it’s not for everyone."


"Don’t listen to any negative comments from people who aren’t hiking the trail, I was told countless times I wouldn’t make it going South because I started too late in the Season.  Only 2 weeks after most people.

Don’t change yourself to fit the trail stereotype.  I met lots of former vegetarians, and vegans who gave up their lifestyles because someone told them it couldn’t be done on the trail.

Be persistent and don’t sacrifice your Health to complete the trail.  If you have to choose between finishing the Trail or keeping your body healthy, please choose to keep yourself healthy.  The Trail isn’t going anywhere, is it worth being in physical pain the rest of your life for one moment of glory? NO!

Prepare your body and mind before going.  The Southbound time frame is shorter than the Northbound so plan accordingly.  Train your body and mind by going on practice hikes and reading as much information as you can."