Last Updated on April 13, 2021
Deciding on a PCT resupply strategy is a decision that faces all thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Since the hike typically takes 5-6 months to complete, hikers can’t carry all of their food at once. A PCT hiker usually requires 3500-5000 calories a day once they get going, which roughly equals at least 2 lbs of food a day. That’s A LOT of food. So, what’s a girl to do?
Which PCT Resupply Strategy is Right for You?
Some folks choose to resupply as they go and shop at towns for the upcoming section (or sections) of the trail. The advantage of PCT resupply this strategy is that you can tailor your food choices to what you are craving at the time. Also, it requires minimal advanced preparation and is a good option for folks who can’t easily have resupply boxes mailed to them (such as for international hikers).
Another strategy is to create resupply boxes in advance filled with food and everything you might need on the trail and have the boxes mailed to you. The advantage of this strategy is that you can pack foods that might be hard to find in small towns – which is especially helpful if you are vegan or have dietary restrictions. The downside, of course, is that it is a lot of work up front and it requires arriving at specific towns and times. This is the approach I chose for my PCT 2017 thru-hike.
A third approach is to primarily resupply as you go and only prepare a few boxes in advance (or along the trail) for shipping to remote destinations that don’t have big stores (or any stores at all). If I had it to do over again, I would probably choose this strategy. I did end up giving a lot of my food away in 2017 because I grew sick of it. But I don’t regret going through the process of preparing all these resupply boxes. I was *so* excited before my PCT hike that I kindof couldn’t help myself.
My PCT Resupply Strategy
For my PCT 2017 thru-hike, I decided to dehydrate and prepare most of my food in advance and have it shipped to me in resupply boxes – 30 resupply boxes to be exact. I knew that I had no way of knowing what foods I’d be craving 4 or 5 months down the road, so I ran the risk of tiring of my pre-made foods. However, the advantage is that I could cook my own own gluten-free and (mostly) organic foods to ensure I am putting the best fuel into my body . Also, I don’t have to worry about shopping for food at trail towns that may have already been picked clean by the hikers who have arrived before me.
And, let’s face it – I’m a super planny person. I love planning things! I was a Program Manager at Microsoft before I quit my job to hike the PCT. Figuring out my resupply strategy seemed like a walk in the park compared to the last few projects I’ve managed. Planning my PCT hike sounds like fun! Bring it on!
And it has been fun – but WAY more work than I anticipated, especially since I am dehydrating and preparing most of my own meals from scratch. I’ve dried everything from ground beef, bananas and ham to peas, quinoa and barbecue sauce. The idea, more or less, is to dehydrate (or gather) dried foods that can be combined into meals that are heated on the trail with a minimal amount of fuel. You just add boiling water to your food and insulate it for 15-20 minutes. If the food takes more cooking to rehydrate than that, I will pre-cook and dehydrate it (I did this for all of my rice, noodles, quinoa and vegetables).
What’s in my PCT Resupply Boxes
Here’s what I packed into my resupply boxes for 163 days on the trail. Recipes adapted from Recipes for Adventure: Healthy, Hearty and Homemade Backpacking Recipes by Chef Glenn McAllister (possibly the best book title EVER!) and from The Hungry Spork: A Long Distance Hiker’s Guide to Meal Planning by Inga Aksamit.
- Dinners – ranging from 900 to 1300 calories each:
- Mexican Fiesta Beans and Rice with Ham
- Teriyaki Beef and Broccoli with Quinoa and Rice
- Indian Peas Stew with Quinoa, Rice and Chicken
- Thai Curry Chicken with Rice
- BBQ Chicken with Instant Mashed Potatoes and Corn
- Instant Mashed Potatoes with Chicken and Cheese Powder
- Indonesian Rice Noodles and Ham
- Miso Rice Noodles with Chicken and Veggies
- Gluten-Free Penne with Marina Sauce Leather and Ground Beef
- I’m also bringing a few pre-made meals, including some packages of Idahoan mashed potatoes with tuna fish pouches as well as some pre-made meals from Mountain House and Backpackers Bistro)
- Apple Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Oatmeal
- Banana Walnut Oatmeal
- Strawberry Almond Oatmeal
- Granola mixed with Rice Crispies and Dried Blueberries and Dried Coconut Milk Powder
- Gluten-Free Tortillas with peanut butter and jelly packets
- Gluten-Free Tortillas with spam singles or tuna fish pouches and salsa packets
- Dried meats (salami, summer sausage) and cheese purchased in trail towns
- Rehydrated veggies – such as peas, corn, or green beans
- Power Bars – I’ve purchased over 300 Clif Bars, Clif Builders Bars, Luna Bars and Kind Bars in a variety of flavors … enough to eat roughly 2 a day.
- Bobo’s Oat Bars
- Trail Mix – I bought my favorite nuts and fruits in bulk and concocted my own trail mix – including some fruits that I dried myself (apples, bananas and pears)
- Dark Chocolate Bars – I’ve bought enough dark chocolate bars to have 1.5 oz of chocolate a day. I don’t mess around when it comes to chocolate.
- Justin’s nut butter packets – in almond butter, maple almond, peanut butter, honey peanut and chocolate hazelnut flavors
- Coconut Oil and Olive Oil packets – to add to food for extra calories
- Condiment packets – such as salt, hot sauce, teriyaki sauce, and jam
- Random treats
- Toiletries/first aid supplies
- Joint pills
- Electrolyte capsules
- Dr Bronner’s natural soap refills
- Toothpaste powder
- Triple antibiotic packets
- Hydrocortisone packets
- Toilet paper
- Paper maps
- I plan to primarily use Halfmile’s PCT App and Guthook’s App for navigation, but I’ll be bringing Halfmile’s paper maps with me as a backup.
- Also, I’ll be bringing the corresponding pages from Yogi’s Pacific Crest Trail Handbook (2017-2018) along for each section. Affectionately referred to as the PCT Bible, Yogi’s book is an indispensable guide that most PCT hikers rely on.
A Big Thank-you to my Friends
I have to stop here and thank several folks who have helped me out with the resupply process. Putting this together was a huge job and I couldn’t have done it without their help:
- Thanks to Angel for loaning me her dehydrator so that I could have two dehydrators running 24 hours a day instead of one
- Thanks to Frank and MaryBeth for helping to assemble 96 baggies of oatmeal
- Thanks to Dina for helping to assemble 70 baggies of granola with coconut milk powder
- Thanks to Katjia for typing all my resupply addresses into my USPS Click-n-Ship address book
- And, most of all, thanks to my main squeeze Daniel. He’s helped me pack my resupply boxes, bag foods, vacuum-seal bags with the food saver, shop for power bars, and a million other little things that I won’t take the time to mention here. He’s been my main cheerleader and supporter and put up with my PCT obsession for the past couple of years. And he’s going to mail all my resupply boxes to me when I’m on the trail. Thanks baby!!
Now the food is all dehydrated and bagged and the boxes are (almost) all sorted and packed. We are shipping each box two weeks before I arrive at a resupply destination and have already mailed two of them. It’s crazy to think that I’ll have already have picked up two of my resupply boxes two weeks from today.
I’m sure I’ll be sick of some of this food in a few months but I don’t know which ones yet. I’ll blog about it when that happens 🙂
I fly to San Diego on Wednesday! Squee!!
Follow along on my 2017 Pacific Crest Trail adventure here: Pacific Crest Trail Blog.
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