Food on the PCT

The journey of 2,660 miles begins with one step, but is actually made in sections; 32 to be exact. I have to resupply periodically either by purchasing food and fuel or by mailing myself a box filled with Food/Fuel and possibly equipment. Things like replacement shoes or socks or cold weather gear like Crampons and long underwear. Most sections are 3-6 days on the trail with a few at 8-9 days.

The 32 (33 if you count the first day) sections need food and fuel for a total of 150-160 hiking days.  (Days ON the trail)  Of those, I need to mail a box to myself 14 times. (Roughly half) Most of these are in Oregon or Washington as the trail doesn’t come close to any towns after southern Oregon. Fourteen doesn’t sound like much, but each resupply package has to support from 3 to 9 days on the trail. Adding them up equals 83 days! Counting the beginning section there are 86 days of food I must pre-purchase.

If we figure Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner plus 4 snacks each day, (2 mid-morning, 2 mid-afternoon) we have:

  • Breakfasts 86
  • Lunches 86
  • Dinners 86
  • Snacks 344

This is a LOT of food to buy and store even before I have boots on the ground. All of that has to be sorted and pre-packed into boxes so my wonderful and saintly sister, Debra can seal and drop them off to be mailed 2-3 weeks before I arrive at that destination.

—- I will edit this page later to add pictures of the process.

Meal planning is tough. I must plan a mix of different types so I don’t tire of any one food too quickly. I was told by an old PCT Hiker (Joe) that he threw away most of his food (100’s of dollars’ worth!) later in his PCT hike because he got tired of it.

Resupply Breakfasts: (No cook) (500-800 Calories)

Homemade Oatmeal baggies or granola baggies with raisins/dried blueberries/dried cherries and nuts. Both may have powdered milk or powdered protean mixed in to add calories.

Resupply Lunches: (No cook) (500-800 Calories)

Foil Packets of Tuna, foil packets of Chicken, sausage or jerky for the protean. Or some kind of spread, like Peanut butter or Almond butter on Tortillas or crackers. I will have packets of Olive Oil to mix as needed.

Resupply Dinners: (500-800 Calories)

I am planning on Freeze Dried dinners. While expensive, ($7-12 each) they have a long shelf life, low weight, taste good, high calories and are simple to prepare.  Add dessert if dinner is at lower end of calorie scale.

Resupply Snacks: (130+ Calories each)

One snack: 1-2 ounces of Gorp or a bar of some kind. (Candy bar, protean bar, whatever)

— Add links to recipes

Each day requires 3000-6000 calories. (I’ve been told by many sources this is true) Long distance hiking, 9-14 hours covering 15-25 miles per day, is hard work. A person MUST eat the amount of calories they are burning or they just burn out or “Bonk”. Pretty much NO ONE gains weight on these hikes. The good news: I may finally lose that last 20 lbs!  The bad news: I don’t know HOW to plan for more than 3000 calories!  Which meals do I double up on?  On a typical plan I can see all the food adding up 2500 to 3000 calories…and this is eating every 2 hours ALL DAY.  I might have up the snacks to 6-7/day just to be safe.  (600+ snacks?  😛 )

The breaking point is weight and size.  I figure roughly 2lbs of food per day.  Some sections have 9 hiking days.  That is almost 20lbs of food PLUS the base pack weight PLUS water.  This pushes me close to 35-40lbs for the pack.  Ouch.

At some point, 3-4 weeks into the hike, a phenomenon called “Hiker Hunger” kicks in.  This happens when the body is starved long enough, it just forces the person to be hungry ALL the time.  Sometimes with weird and comical results.  When in town people go on crazy eating binges; eating two or more breakfasts or lunches at once.  Otherwise sane people will buy $90-$150 worth of candy at a time.  I’ve been out on two week backpacking trips and never had this happen so I’m curious how it will be.

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