Identify Primary and Secondary Contact Person
Select a primary and secondary contact person that you will use while your on the trail. This will reduce the number of people you will have to contact while your on the trail. Other family members or friends could check with these contacts to verify your whereabouts.
Set up Auto-Payment for Recurring Bills
While your on the trail you may find it difficult to pay your bills. Setting up an auto-payment plan prior to your hike may help resolve this issue. Due to the varying amount of time it takes to process new payment plans it is recommended that you set up your auto-payment months prior to your scheduled departure.
You can have your mail forwared to a designated person responsible for processing your mail. Visit USPS.com for details.
You will need a valid passport to reenter in the United States from Canada. You can obtain a U.S. passport at many post offices, check USPS.com for details.
You can obtain a PCT hiking permit (free for members, $5 donation for non-members) at PCTA.org.
Mt. Whitney Permit (optional)
If you plan on hiking Mt. Whitney and departing Whitney Portal you can obtain a permit at the same time you apply for a PCT permit. For details visit PCTA.org
California Fire Permit
The California Fire Permit can be obtained for free at any U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or California of Forestry office. The fire permit is only valid for the year issued.
If you plan on entering Canada using the PCT you will need to fill out the Application For Entry To Canada Via the Pacific Crest Trail. The form is available at the pcta.org site. You should file this application two months prior to your departure date. See PCTA.org for details.
Determine the distance you feel comfortable traveling between resupply points. Then review the available resupply points to determine a resupply strategy. Many thru-hikers resupply in towns and also receive packages in the mail. The Pocket PCT contains a detailed list of the most popular resupply points and includes resupply information.
Verify Mailing Addresses and Requirements
Prepare labels and verify resupply addresses and mailing requirements. Addresses and mailing requirements constantly change. You can verify Post Office mailing addresses at USPS.com
HikeThru recommends that hikers should always carry maps. Checkout Halfmile's collection of free maps at pctmap.net .
The Pocket PCT: An Elevation Guide to the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the lightest (3.8 ounces & 4.25 x 6.88 inches) and most affordable guide book available. The guide provides an accurate elevation profile of the PCT and has mile-by-mile markings for water sources (graded by reliability), resupply points, and other landmarks (such as other trails, roads, etc.), including directions to get to off-trail resupply points and landmarks. The Pocket PCT also comes in a three book series for section hikers and the ultra-light backpacker. Each book in the series weighs 2 ounces or less.
Check with the PCTA for a list of other recommended PCT maps and guidebooks. Always hike with a map and compass.
Obtain or Verify Health Insurance
Save Money for the Hike
It is estimated that a typical hiker spends about $1 to $2 per mile on a PCT thru-hiker. Therefore one can expect to spend between $2,700 to $5,400 on their PCT thru-hike . However, many hikers have done a thru-hike for far less than $2,700 and there are hikers who have spent a lot more than $5,400. The variable cost is mainly due to the expense at town stops. Staying at lodging and eating at a lot of restaurants can really increase the expense of a thru-hike.
Obtain the appropriate bear resistant storage container
Appropriately storing food is essential in protecting the wildlife and preserving the PCT. Certain areas along the PCT require hikers to use bear resistant storage containers. These containers limit the amount of food that can be carried so planning is crucial.
Practice Hike and Test all Gear
One of the most important ways to insure a successful hike is to be in good physical shape. You will have to hike about 18 miles a day on average to finish a thru-hike in five months. A series of short backpacking trips prior to your thru-hike can not only test your physical fitness but also insure you have the right gear. Optimizing hiking gear and being in good physical shape prior to leaving on your thru-hike are probably the two most important things you can do to insure a successful hike.