Monday, November 5, 2012

Reliable, Lightweight Gear


All of shoes needed for Tuna Helper's hike.
When attempting a speed record that spans 60+ days without outside support, reliable and lightweight gear is essential. One can't have some key piece of equipment fail when days from anywhere that can replace it, let alone if you have to get off trail, you're wasting time on the record. Furthermore, if you are carrying reliable gear but it weighs a lot, you will be slowed down and run out of steam faster. Therefore, there is a balance between reliability, weight and necessity. I'm not going to go into much detail about what I used and why, because everyone is different in what works for them and what their essential items are. There is more than enough information out on the web about lightweight and ultralight backpacking, so I won't touch on that here either.


In the long distance hiking community, weight is a top concern because of the large amount of miles that have to be covered. The more weight one carries, the more energy one has to spend on carrying that weight versus using that energy to go further. For example, if one was to carry 1 lbs for 2,000 miles (the 3 major long distance trails in the US are all over 2,000 miles), the energy spent to move that 1 lbs would be equal to carrying 1 TON a mile. That's a whole lot of extra calories! Therefore it is in ones best interest to reduce as much weight as practical. Some people (like myself) go to the extremes of taking the labels off my water bottles to reduce those few extra grams of weight. My thought is, if it serves no function and I can eliminate it, why not do so? Grams, however minute, do add up in the end.

Light enough pack to hold with one arm.
When I started my hike my base-weight,  that is my weight of everything excluding food, water and what I was wearing, was about 8-8.5 lbs. That weight included, the backpack, a shelter, sleeping pad, ground cloth, sleeping bag (quilt), cook pot, stove, fuel, knife, water bottles (empty), toiletries, maps, GPS, camera, mp3 player, my phone, an extra pair of socks, a rain poncho and a few other odds and ends. When in list form, it seems like a quite a number of things, however compare that to what people in today's society need to live and it's pretty much bare minimum. I could have cut more weight by doing without some of the 'luxury' items like the mp3 player (which was also my journal voice recorder), smartphone and camera, but for me, they were worth their weight. Plus there would be no journal or photos for this blog if I had left the camera and mp3 player behind! Most people, when out on the trail for long enough, begin to realize that it doesn't take nearly as much stuff to survive as they first thought. Simplicity is a thru-hikers best friend.

With a low base-weight, my pack was usually around 25 lbs when fresh out of a resupply. The weight varied depending on the length between resupplies and the availability of water. My longest stretch without resupplying was from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows - 6 days through the high Sierra Nevada Mountains - and  upon starting this stretch, my pack was around 35 lbs.

The following table is my rough gear list from my 2012 hike. The actual contents of my backpack varied as I hiked along, and I added a few things after making this list, but this is more or less what I began my hike with.

Item Amount Weight (g) Weight (oz) Description

415 14.64 Mount Laurel Designs – Exodus XL
Shoulder Pouch
10 0.35 For Camera and GPS -zpack
Hip Pouch
22 0.78 For Snacks and TP and quick things
608 21.45 Enlightened Equipment - Revelation Quilt long/wide
Stuff Sack
6 0.21 Cuben Fiber – zpack medium
Sleep Pad
196 6.91 29” x 33” closed cell Gossamer Gear
Ground tarp
41 1.45 Gossamer Gear polycro - thin stuff
282 9.95 Gossamer Gear Spinshelter w/ cords
Stakes X6 @ 6g each 36 1.27 x6 stakes, with tyvek homemade pouch

252 8.89 Mont Bell Puffy Jacket, synthetic, full zip, pockets
125 4.41 Zip off legs for REI Sahara Convertibles
Socks X2 @ 53 each 53 1.87 Stoic light hiker wool/acrylic
26 0.92 Fleece zpack beanie
24 0.85 Glasses, micro fiber cloth, ziplock
86 3.03 Dry Ducks poncho w/ ziploc
Rain Mits X2 @ 3.5g each 7 0.25 Dog poop bags

Water Bottle 2 @ 52g each 104 3.67 1.5L Smartwater – no labels
Extra Water Capacity
36 1.27 2L Platypus
116 4.09 REI Titanium 1 L
6 0.21 Pie tin foil cut to fit
Stove Set
120 4.23 Alcohol Stove, Wind Screen, Pot Stand, Extra oz Alcohol in 1oz container, mini bic lighter, 5 waterproof matches, ziplock.
14 0.49 Titanium long handle Sea to Summit
Water Treatment
91 3.21 Aqua Mira w/ drop cap, 2x 1oz bottles
32 1.13 Mini tooth brush, tooth paste, floss
44 1.55 Neosporin 1oz, pills – imodium, ibuprofen  giardia one dose, allergy, mega pain killer, pepto chews
Repair Kit
10 0.35 Needle, super glue, 3x safety pins, nylon string.
16 0.56 Mini Swiss Army – Blade and scissors, broke off one side and nail file, no tooth pick. Added a needle

6 0.21 Click Pen Shortened by 1.5”s
84 2.96 Small section of maps and data book and record logs w/ gallon zip lock
29 1.02 No Straps, has temp gauge
170 6 CX Legend W/ 2 AA batteries and 6” string.
190 6.7 Canon S100
148 5.22 Droid X2 no covers
44 1.55 Fenix LD 15 w/ AA battery and 6” cord
AAA battery
12 0.42
AA battery
25 0.88
Extra Camera battery
19 0.67 knockoff
Extra Memory Cards and Case
9 0.32 2x 32gb – 1 SD 1 micro sd (music player)
Camera Pouch
4 0.14 Tyvek and Bubble wrap – homemade

3518 124.09 oz

7.76 lbs

The one piece of gear that I highly recommend (and isn't on the above gear list and haven't seen anyone else using) is the Olympus WS-710M combination voice recorder/mp3 player. To some, this may be a luxury item, but weighing in at 51g (including the AAA battery) it not only can take the place of a heavy paper journal, but also doubles as your source of music and audio books. It runs on a single AAA battery, unlike most modern portable electronic devices that run on rechargeable batteries, meaning you don't have to carry a charger, saving you more weight. Also, the fact that you can replace the battery after its LONG 30 hours of playback time, instead of having to ration the usage until the next opportunity to charge it makes it much more useful. Furthermore, it is much easier and convenient to record your trail journal by voice rather than spending the time writing it all out. Heck you can do what I did and hike and record the previous days journal! On top of all this good, it has 8gb of internal memory and can expand up to 40gb with a 32gb micro SD card (yes they work, even if the manual only says 16gb), making it on par with iPods etc. It even comes with a built in FM radio and doesn't require any special software to upload your music - just drag and drop. It seriously does it all and is a long distance hikers wet dream. 

Olympus WS-710M Voice Recorder
There are only a few quirky things I've noted and want to make sure to point them out so you don't have to struggle with problem solving why certain thing won't work 'right'. 1. Individual music folders can only hold up to 200 songs and won't show up on the device if over that number. 2. You must use a program like iTunes or Windows Media Player to upload an audio book, otherwise the tracks will not be in the proper order when played. 3. There is no shuffle all music on device, you can only shuffle the music within the specified folder. 4. The voice recorder will not record if the battery is too low, however the music will still play for a few more hours until the battery is completely drained. That's it. I use it as my primary music player now with the included rechargeable battery and it works flawlessly.

Panorama along the 'Hiker' PCT at Crater Lake National Park, OR - July 5th, 2012.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

PCT Speed Records

Speed Records

Socks and shoes after 700 miles of hiking, time for new ones!
There is no governing body that times people on these types of record attempts. When it's all said and done, new records are taken at face value from the individual, believing that the honor system will prevail. Because of this, I kept a GPS tracking my position for the entire length of my trip, as well as had other hikers sign a witness log to add some proof to my claims. The website Fastest Known Time is the best resource for finding out about specific records on a very wide range of trails, mainly in the US. These records are not necessarily verified by outside observers, and again, are mostly believed on the persons word. Trust in the honor system.

There are wide variety of records for the Pacific Crest Trail, because one can hike from south to north (NOBO - north bound) or north to south (SOBO - south bound) and either hike supported or unsupported. There are varying definitions of supported and unsupported, however in general supported mean that you carry a minimum of gear/supplies and other people aid you on trail by giving you what you need, negating the need for resupply in towns. Unsupported mean that no outside aid is given to the hiker and they must carry all their needed supplies and resupply themselves. Furthermore, there is the overall speed record - simply the fastest time the trail has been completed in any way shape or form, regardless of direction or support.

The following are the current accepted PCT records as found on the FTK website (Link):

Overall Speed Record: 64 Days 11 Hours 19 Minutes - Scott Williamson (SOBO- 2011)
NOBO Speed Record: 65 Days 9 Hours 58 Minute - Scott Williamson & Adam Bradley (2009)

The only known recorded times for completing half the trail (midpoint) and all of California were recorded on Williamson and Bradley's 2009 NOBO record hike. Therefore, by default, these times became new records.

Mexico to Midpoint Record: 34 Days 18 Hours 47 Minutes - Williamson & Bradley (2009)
Mexico to CA/OR Border Record:  42 Days 18 Hours 27 Minutes - Williamson & Bradley (2009)

On my 2012 speed hike, I managed to best both the Mexico to Midpoint and Mexico to CA/OR border Records with the following times:

NEW Mexico to Midpoint Record: 30 Days 9 Hours 55 Minutes -Ryan Weidert (2012)
NEW Mexico to CA/OR Border Record:  38 Days 10 Hours 0 Minutes - Ryan Weidert (2012)
Tuna Helper resting at the PCT Midpoint after setting a new speed record to that point!
Tuna Helper at the California/Oregon Border after setting a new speed record for hiking all of California!

My Speed

*Both spreadsheet table files can be found under the 'MY PCT Download' section in the 'PCT Documents' link. on the right side.*

Day to day mileage and therefore speed varied constantly, so a better judge of speed is the overall average of miles per day. This number also fluctuates, but not nearly as much. When I finally got off trail, I had  managed 1864 miles in 42.5 days averaging out to be just under 44 miles a day. The following table is a summary of my 100 mile split times and corresponding miles per day average. The mileage split locations are  the blue markers viewed on the 'My Nightly Campsite Map' below.

Place Date Time Elapsed Time Mile/day Average UTM E/N Coords
PCT Southern Terminus 5/25/12 6:05am 0 0 550008 3605930
Mile 500 5/6/12 11:34:10am 11d 5h 29m 44.53 354129 3841957
Mile 600 7/6/12 1:36:46pm 13d 7h 32m 45.07 382585 3914681
Mile 700 9/6/12 4:18:56pm 15d 10h 14m 45.38 397129 3984597
Mile 800 12/6/12 1:31:40pm 18d 7h 37m 43.68 371871 4081999
1/3 PCT 14/6/12 7:49:22pm 20d 13h 44m 43.12 329161 4151241
Mile 900 15/6/12 8:15:37am 21d 2h 6m 42.68 320815 4157967
Mile 1000 17/6/12 2:38:46pm 23d 8h 34m 42.81 274963 4230390
Mile 1100 19/6/12 4:46:24pm 25d 10h 41m 43.23 749845 4305095
Mile 1200 21/6/12 9:35:11pm 27d 15h 30m 43.41 704590 4384563
Mile 1300 23/6/12 11:19:03pm 29d 17h 14m 43.74 638237 4432825
Mile 1402 26/6/12 8:44:30am 32d 2h 39m 43.66 631509 4527604
Mile 1500 28/6/12 11:34:15am 34d 5h 29m 43.82 562958 4554956
Mile 1600 30/6/12 12:28:22pm 36d 18h 23m 43.52 503459 4576454
OR/CA Border 2/7/12 4:05:00pm 38d 10h
507526 4650182
Mile 1702 2/7/12 5:48:21pm 38d 11h 43m 44.22 509686 4651967
Mile 1800 4/7/12 7:41:59pm 40d 13h 37m 44.37 563390 4714546
Off Trail 6/7/12 6:00pm ~42d 12h 43.9 N/A

I was only able to accomplish these large miles per day by maximizing my 'moving' time, which entailed limiting my stopped and chatting time, short 2-3 hour resupplies and usually 18 hour days which normally required hiking until 11 or the latest at 1 am. I averaged about 6 hours of sleep per night. The following map and table are my detailed daily mileage log and the location of where I camped every night, including my 100 mile split locations

Date Start Time Finish Time Daily Miles (Halfmile) Total Miles (Halfmile)
5/25/12 6:05 8:35 49 49
5/26/12 6:40 9:45 48.5 97.5
5/27/12 6:25 12:55am 46.5 144
5/28/12 6:10 9:45 39 183
5/29/12 6:50 12:40am 47 230
5/30/12 7:10 10:25 41.75 271.75
5/31/12 6:40 12:20am 46 317.75
6/1/12 6:20 1:31am 40.75 358.5
6/2/12 7:20 3:00am 42.5 401
6/3/12 6:25 6:00am 39 440
6/4/12 6:00 10:30 45.75 485.75
6/5/12 7:15 11:30 45.5 531.25
6/6/12 6:45 6:05am 46.5 577.75
6/7/12 5:10 11:40 47.5 625.25
6/8/12 6:12 10:55 43.75 669
6/9/12 6:35 6:05am 35.75 704.75
6/10/12 6:45 10:15 42.25 747
6/11/12 6:25 11:05 40 787
6/12/12 6:40 11:00 31.75 818.75
6/13/12 6:15 10:45 38.25 857
6/14/12 7:25 10:45 38.25 895.5
6/15/12 6:33 10:40 42.5 938
6/16/12 7:09 10:27 38.5 967.5
6/17/12 5:43 10:50 47 1023.5
6/18/12 6:09 10:31 49 1075.5
6/19/12 6:07 10:37 44 116.5
6/20/12 5:56 7:55 43 1159.5
6/21/12 8:26 12:05am 47.25 1206.75
6/22/12 7:25 11:02 49 1255.75
6/23/12 6:20 11:40 45.25 1301
6/24/12 7:25 11:24 47.25 1348.25
6/25/12 6:23 11:30 48 1396.25
6/26/12 6:47 11:50 45 1441.25
6/27/12 8:50 11:32 43 1484.25
6/28/12 6:22 11:50 48 1532.25
6/29/12 6:37 11:13 50.75 1583
6/30/12 6:38 11:25 47 1630
7/1/12 6:50 11:55 44.25 1674.25
7/2/12 6:55 11:16 45.5 1719.75
7/3/12 7:02 11:00 46.5 1766.25
7/4/12 8:06 11:50 46 1812.25
7/5/12 7:03 11:30 35 1847.25
7/6/12 7:15 6:00 16.75 1864
Morning panorama of the the foggy Hat Creek Rim, CA, about 50 miles after the PCT Midpoint.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hiking Intentions

Hiking Intentions

May 25, 6:04:31, officially starting my hike!
I'm the type of person who is always questioning where his limits are - how far can I push myself until I can no longer continue. As a result of this, over the past few years, I've been setting goals in that I am unsure if I can accomplish. It started in 2009 with hiking the PCT for the first time, 2010 with cycling across the country along the TransAm cycling route, 2011 with climbing Mt. McKinley and finally 2012 with trying to speed hike the PCT to break the overall speed record. My attempt in 2012 was the first time I had actually attempted one of these goals with a good deal of experience pertaining to what I was about to do.

The true drive behind my hike was not to set the speed record, but to see what I could accomplish. Since I had hiked the entire trail in 2009, I knew I could complete it again, but the new unknown variable was speed - just how fast could I do it? A new record would have been the byproduct of if I could push myself to hike fast enough. The current record is/was the bar in which to judge myself and what I could accomplished. I know the distinction is very fuzzy between these two concepts, especially since 'Speed Record Attempt' is plastered all over this blog, however, it was the easiest way to label what I was attempting, rather than explaining that I wanted to see if I could go that fast, with the actual breaking of it not being the true goal.
Tuna Helper poses next to PCT graffiti under Interstate 15 at Cajon Pass.

Here are the exact intentions I posted to the PCT-L, a mailing list of new and old hikers that acts somewhat like a forum. I posted to the PCT-L so that the general PCT hiking community would become aware of my attempt and, in the event that I did break the record, it would give my claim more credibility because I wouldn't just suddenly pop up and say that I had broken the record when no one knew that I was even attempting it.
"Hello Everyone!
Ryan Weidert, AKA Tuna Helper here. I’d like to let my intentions be known that I will be attempting to break the overall speed record (64 days 11 hours 19 minutes by Scott Williamson 2011) for hiking the entire length of the entire Pacific Crest Trail going northbound. I will adhere to the same “self-supported” and “unassisted” style as the current records. This style means a great many things, most of which I’ve copied directly or paraphrased from the posts and correspondence of current record holders (Scott Williamson's (Bink) and Adam Bradley (Krudmeister)). In adhering to the guidelines of the current records, ‘I will NOT have anyone following, or otherwise meeting me in prearranged manner to give me support. I plan to do this hike as a backpacker, carrying all of my food, equipment, and water between resupply towns. I will walk into supply towns to pick up mailed, prepackaged food boxes or to purchase food, then walk back to the trail via the same route I came in on. I will not be getting into a vehicle for any reason during this attempt, or skipping any section of trail. If I receive a lift from any vehicle or skip a portion of trail (no matter the distance) the attempt is off. I will be following the official PCT route, taking no detours, road walks or alternates of any kind.’

I will be attempting to break this record as a solo hiker and will be starting sometime between May 20-30th. I will post my official start date once I have it pinned down. My main reasons for this attempt is to test myself and what I am capable of, the record being the bar in which to compare myself with other awesome endurance athletes. My ultimate goal is to hike the trail in under 60 days, however, completing it very fast is good enough, as I love the PCT. I am also planning my food and schedule to attempt a Yo-Yo. This, however is highly dependent on how I feel once (and if) I complete the trail. I’ll periodically be in contact with family members and relay my progress, which I hope to have posted on FTK. I’m willing to contact someone else I don’t know as an outside contact to help verify my progress. I am considering taking a GPS to have extra verification of my hike since I am hiking solo and independent verification is more difficult. I want to be as open as I can with this so there is as little possibility of ‘drama’ or questions if I manage to succeed. Any suggestions or comments as to how I can possibly improve my openness and or verify my hike more clearly will be welcome and considered. My admiration for the trail and those who hike it runs deep and I can’t wait to test myself and get dirty!

-Tuna Helper"
I followed my intentions to the letter because any discrepancy and or differences from what I said and how I completed my hike versus how Scott Williamson completed his record would only breed criticism and skepticism. Overall, the main intent of using a GPS to track my progress, having hikers sign a witness log and letting my specific intentions be know was to give some evidence and credibility to my claims to try and minimize doubt. I think it worked out well, even considering I didn't manage to finish the entire trail. Shucks.
Panoramic view nearing the top of Silver Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA, looking south.