As Monica and I set out for the trail one of the questions we get a lot is what we are going to do in regards to food while on the trail. First off, we are not going to be carrying all of our food for the entire trail from day 1. The trail goes through and near a decent amount of towns along the way which allows for several possible options to resupply our food.
Option 1 — Buy Food in Towns
This option is by far the easiest option as it does not require much pre-planning for food beyond estimating how much to buy in order to get us to the next town. As our tastes change along the way we can easily switch things up by buying different things in each town. The downside of this option is that food in some towns can be quite expensive.
Option 2 — Mail Food
Planning is the key for this option as we need to know before we ever set foot on the trail how much food we need between packages as well as know where all to send the packages. We need to have someone to send the packages out so we don’t send them too far in advance of when we will arrive to pick them up. It can be expensive since we would be paying for shipping on top of paying for the food itself. If we don’t have variety in the packages we will probably get tired of the food. I like having food, but I like it even better when I enjoy what I’m eating.
Option 3 — Hybrid
Instead of picking one of the above options, they can be combined to somewhat eliminate the negatives of each. Expensive towns can have a package sent to them and inexpensive towns are where we can buy food.
We are going with the hybrid option weighted heavily on the mail food option. A store near us, BBs, has some great deals and we were able to get 120 days worth of food for two people at under $1,000. With 30 large flat rate USPS boxes and 6 UPS boxes that should come out to around $750. Add food and shipping together, divide it by the days times 2 (since we have food for two people a day), and that comes out to ~$7.29 a day. That’s cheap in my book and my PCT budget likes cheap.
In order to figure out how much food to send where we planned ahead of time. We used a tool called Craig’s PCT Planner which allowed us to figure out what stops we would make and how much distance there was between towns and resupply points. We estimated 170 days on the trail and 120 of those days would be mailed food. The other 50 are going to be fun since we can mix things up and avoid the foods we’re tired of eating.
What are we Actually Eating?
Cheap is great, but if it’s the same food again and again that can get old quickly. Well…we have a lot of the same food. We’re probably going to hate it, but at the end of a long day hiking I’m just going to want to eat and go to bed.
Our mailed breakfasts are almost all the same: coffee, honey, peanut butter, oatmeal / granola, and Pop-Tarts. Monica and I both love coffee. It helps us wake up, and on the trail it can be helpful with…well it helps get other things moving in the morning... Anyway, we were able to find coffee tea bags which are great since you just drop it in hot or cold water (cold in case you’re a hipster and want that cold brew, or if you’re lazy) and boom, coffee! The oatmeal and granola is a variety of different flavors, but in the end I don’t know that it will make much of a difference. Lastly, the Pop-Tarts — I’m looking forward to this and also dreading it. BBs has a plethora of Pop-Tart flavors — think root-beer, mocha, vanilla latte, raspberry, salted caramel. Oh, and you know how after you open a box of Pop-Tarts they’re all packaged in silver without the flavor written on them? Yeah, we’ll get a Pop-Tart surprise each morning.
Lunch is either homemade trail mix or protein / granola bars. Another score at BBs was random M&M flavors along with different nuts trail mix fillings. We’ve got the classic good old raisins and peanuts, savory options, fruit and nut, strawberry M&M and nuts, and other random surprises.
The two main dinner options are Idahoan potatoes, and mac & cheese. Mixed in between those two are tuna with tortillas, rice dinners, and soup. Missing in there are meats. We’ll miss meat and will probably pig out when we hit town.
Overall we’re happy with our nourishment options. I’m sure we’re going to have days where we hate what we eat, and other days where we love what we eat. Either way it’s all part of the experience and we might never want to eat oatmeal, Pop-Tarts, Idahoan potatoes, and mac & cheese again.