Long distance hikes are unique because of the fact that they span multiple months and a variety of weather conditions. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is no exception to this rule and because of this it is crucial that those embarking on such a journey as the PCT have tested all their gear ahead of time. Being able to trust your gear when you encounter conditions that call for a certain piece clothing or equipment is imperative to success on thru-hikes.
Recently, the San Diego area received a cold front combined with a wet weather system that created snowy conditions in nearby Mount Laguna. The Mount Laguna area is roughly a 45 minute drive east of San Diego city (still in the county of San Diego) but receives, on average, the most snow fall annually in San Diego County. During this weather system the area received roughly 8 inches of snow over the two day storm. Many city slickers made the drive out to play in the snow after the main system had cleared making the roads in during peak times quite congested. In fact, when we were leaving the area there was still a line of cars approximately 10 miles long spanning from the Mount Laguna general store all the way to the I-8 freeway. Our game plan was to avoid all of these less frequent visitors to the Mount Laguna area (Gary and other family members jointly own a cabin in the area which allows us to go up and play in the area on a regular basis, this also allowed us to find a nice spot off the main roads that wasn’t so congested with hundreds of people fighting for sled runs down a slope that was more mud than snow because of overuse…but I digress). We left San Diego early in the morning and missed the majority of the traffic on the way in, we also had the benefit of this trip being on New Year’s Day meaning most of the city folk probably got a later than normal start on their way out. When we got off the main road and to the cabin, we were the only people in our cabin tract which allowed for some great test runs of the gear we wanted to try out as well as some private sled runs later on.
We wanted to take this snowy opportunity to test out a range of cold weather gear that we may or may not need in the Sierra Nevada region. Gary and Jon have recently purchased new snowshoes and Lora is in the market for them so we definitely wanted to test Those out.
In addition to this equipment we also got a chance to test a variety of cold weather clothing that was new to some of the Sloggers’ repertoire. In the picture below you’ll find Sloggers Jon and Lora along with support members Steve, Ann, and Sandy checking out some of the winter gear to be tested on the day. These articles included trail crampons, shell pants, snow gaiters, snow shoes, snow baskets on poles, cross country skis, and various jacket combinations to determine effectiveness with moisture balanced with warmth and weight.
The testing of gear went swimmingly as our entire group spent all morning running around in the snow on skis and snowshoes determining what they like and don’t like about each item. The star of the day seemed to be the Hillsound Trail Crampons that we tested. Originally purchased by Jon, they were tested by all the Sloggers and Gary went home and bought a pair that evening.
The only casualty in gear for the day was Jon’s soft shell pants. He purchased them in hopes of being able to wear a lighter shell pants on the trail but the issue was that the material was just a bit too thin and actually snagged and tore in two areas which would be a disaster if that happened on the trail. This is pretty big benefit of testing your gear beforehand, if Jon had taken those pants and had them snag a hole along the way it would have been quite bad for him and trying to stay warm on the trail. Now he has the opportunity to upgrade materials, which will mean slightly more weight, but will be worth it in the long run to have additional heat and weather protection.
All in all, it was a very successful day of cold weather gear testing and fun in the snow for the Sloggers and crew. We always recommend testing any new gear you have purchased with the hopes of taking these items on a long thru-hike.