When your pack weight goes down, your enjoyment goes up!
-Not using a tent (when rain is unlikely). The view is much better without a tent. You have less weight to carry. You can cook while you are in your sleeping bag = breakfast in bed. The early morning light gets you up for a much earlier start. Not sleeping in a tent is wonderful! You can lay you bivy sack in a great many places that are too small for a tent. I saw two brothers lay their sleeping bags right on the trail. I have had the most scenic camps ever. Beautiful panoramic views with alpenglow from the setting sun, stars for my nightlight and best thing of all is being able to cook and do all my camp chores while sitting in my sleeping bag. The mosquitoes haven’t been a problem if I use a little DEET. I am better able to deal with animals roaming around the campsite. Where bear canisters are not required, I place my food in an odor proof sack (O.P. Sak) which I place in my pack and use as a pillow. I use the 6.5 oz. MontBell W/.B sleeping bag cover for wind, cold or possible rain. If the ground is covered with vegetation, carefully pick a spot where there is a depression for your butt and back. One morning I noticed I had matted the grass down as if a deer had slept there.
-Shaping the Ground to the Contours of Your Back and Side – I sleep just as comfortable without a foam pad as I do in my own bed. The secret is to very carefully contour the ground to fit the contours of my back. These same contours also fit when I roll on my side. With your foot, scoop a depression in the dirt/sand for your butt. Scoop a smaller depression at a right angle for your back. Sit right down in the depression and adjust it for a perfect fit. I make two small depressions for my heels. Place the middle of your tent, trap, ground sheet, bubble wrap or bivy sack over the depression for your butt. The depressing also makes an excellent chair. Be sure to return the ground to its original condition when you leave.
-Bubble wrap for a sleeping pad. It weighs almost nothing. It serves as a ground sheet. It takes up little room. It needs to be replaced at each re-supploy point, especially if the ground is cold because air leaks out of the bubbles. Your comfort comes from preparing the ground to fit your body. For cooler weather, I would take extra bubble wrap.
-Cooking with an Esbit cube, pop can stove and using the freeze dry pouch to warm your dinner in. This technique took too long and did not get my food and coffee hot enough. I switched to my JetBoil, which is one of my favorite items.
-VestPacking – I switched to a regular pack after 3 days, because my VestPack can’t hold my JetBoil.
-Avoid the brutal mid-day heat of the desert by waking up at 3:00 AM and being on the trail with a headlamp by 4:00 AM. Take a mid-day break in the shade. Hike until dark.
-I love my re-supply car. It gives me freedom! I especially love taking the winding mountain roads in my sports car. It does take extra time to get a ride back to my car. Ideally 2 to four hikers with 2 cars would be perfect for re-suppling.
-Navigating – I found my GPS of almost no use, so after a few days I left it in my re-supply car. It is extremely important that you don’t miss any water re-supply stops in the desert. Careful dead reckoning on your map by writing down what time you reach each landmark is important. Calculate your Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) to the next water re-supply, so you don’t miss it. Carefully calculate how much water to carry at each water hole. A rule of thumb is to carry a liter for each 3 miles if the temperature is between 85–100 degrees, a liter for each 5 miles if the temperature is between 65-85 degrees, and a liter for each 10 miles if the temperature is below 65 degrees. A fellow PCT hiker suffered heat exhaustion and had to be brought water, because he had failed to take enough with him. My backup plan in case a water hole is dry is to wait in the shade until the sun is low in the horizon, then hike by headlamp slowly to the next water supply when it’s cooler out. If your urine is clear while hiking in the desert, you could consider carrying less water to lighten your pack. If your urine is light yellow, you are probably drinking the right amount of water for desert backpacking.
-For cold wet weather hands and feet tend to get cold. Waterproof mitten shells with wool liners wouold be perfect for your hands. Miltiple pairs of wool socks would help keep your feet warm.