Resupply is probably one of the most overwhelming things to think about before you start a thru-hike. There's a lot of planning and research and you just don't know where to begin. I know that it was something that I DREADED starting and put off until I really had to dig into it. But I'll share with ya'll my process on how I tackled everything. But yes, none of it really matters in the end. As long as you have somewhat of an overview, you'll be golden.
You can read about what I did PRE-HIKE. Let me tell you, it was butt load of work/time and I would not do that again. It's true when they say that you really don't know what and how much you're going to want to eat 5 months down the road. I'll try to break down what I did and keep it as organized as possible. :)
MY RESUPPLY PROCESS PRE-HIKE:
- I created a draft of what my whole hike would look like via Craig's PCT Planner. The planner generates all possible stops and exits between resupplies. It's actually quite helpful.
- I purchased Yogi's book. A lot of people give her mixed reviews but I do think her resupply and town tear sheets are VERY helpful on trail. Basically, she's called and confirmed all of the possible stops throughout the entire trail and tells you all the info you ever needed: how to address boxes, hours of operation, recommendations on where to buy or send a box to, EVERYTHING.
- In conjunction with data from Mac's survey from the class of 2015, I then chose which locations I would mail boxes to and which I would buy in town. Btw, his blog is the best and he is hilarious. You have to read all of his posts if you haven't yet, it's addicting and you can't stop reading.
- From there, I counted how many boxes I would need to make at home which would give me an idea of how much food I would think I would need to buy. I'm not really sure why I thought making boxes pre-hike was such a good idea. I guess the thought of making boxes as I go on trail would've been too much of a hassle but it would be something I regretted down the road.
- I spent so many days, hours and nights preparing meals and food into my pre-made boxes. I chose all healthy foods that sounded good at the time. Bad idea. I basically just weighed each day and made sure it was around 1.5-2lbs of food. But really, who knows how much you'll actually eat out there? It's something you've never done before, you have no clue what your appetite is going to be like.
- I started my hike with the help of my amazing friend Nancy, who would be my resupply person at home, mailing me my boxes. It's a very big responsibility for someone at home and I couldn't have done it without her! I always hated burdening her with arranging my shipments and keeping in contact when I'll be arriving at my next stop, which is another reason I will not do this method again. You have to tell your home people to mail it about like 7-10 days in advance, sometimes the box gets there right on time and sometimes it just sits there for weeks, risking it to be returned to sender. It's just a lot coordinating and it's hard bc we don't always have service all the time to check in.
- I would have all the boxes that I sent myself ready for me to pick up at each stop and then resupply in the towns that I had planned on. Not much flexibility on where you will stop since you've already decided that pre-hike.
BUT THIS IS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED:
- Early on, I got sick of all my food. Because I was cold soaking, all of my dinners had terrible texture and flavor. Basically, my entire palette changed and I needed more flavor/salt and texture was VERY important. If the texture wasn't right or the flavor was bland, I wouldn't eat it, no matter how starved I was. I just couldn't do it.
- I ended up dumping most of all my meals (my snacks were ok, minus the ones that got stale) in hiker boxes and purchasing some other dinners to replace them. That wasn't too hard bc most stops had at least some type of meal to purchase. But if there were no options, I'd have to suffer and try to eat my pre-made dinners. This sucked bc I was wasting so much money. :(
- This happens to most people, but you always end up sending yourself too much food. After a few hundred miles, I would start knowing how much I would eat throughout the day. Some people have their food down to an art and eat the exact same amount each day, but that wasn't me. My hunger is sporadic. Some days I would eat way more and some days I would just skip meals or not eat very much. Even though I when I would attempt to count out all the things I would maybe eat in a section, I always ended up with either way too much or just enough. I never ran out of food but I was never consistent. My next strategy became my main rule of thumb of knowing how much to pack: if I was doing a 5 days resupply, I would just fill up my food bag to the top and hope that it would last. This actually ended up pretty good for me and I didn't have to stress out about counting all these snacks.
- Nobody counts calories on trail. Just make sure it has a lot and you'll be fine. As much as you would like to eat more healthy fats, it's just really hard. Basically nuts are gross and olive oil is your only other option but those are for meals. It's hard to find snacks that have that. Most of our calories come from sugar and carbs, yikes.
- I thought I wanted to eat well but that went down the drain almost immediately. As much as you want to eat healthy, your body is going to crave all the junk food. Basically if your morale is low and you get to camp w shitty food, it's gonna suck. Most of the time, I just want to eat a spoonful of nutella for dinner and that's okay. Don't get me wrong, there are some folks who eat AWESOME and have the time, energy and money to do that and I wished I could, but much respect to them. I do think part of the journey is the junk food and laughing about all the gross processed food we eat bc we would never eat this in real life.
- The downside of eating like shit is that I think it really affected my hormones and skin. Though the eczema on my hands completely disappeared, I had a bit of a breakout on my face from MSG. But once I realized that was the cause, the rash slowly faded. I don't think the food affected my performance too much, I don't really have many gut issues. Sometimes I would get tummy aches or be constipated but it wasn't very often.
- I also started realizing early on that I needed to pack out at least a bag of chips and a candy bar from each town. It was the best. And later on after the Sierra, I had to always pack out some type of real food option to eat for the next meal. Whether it'd be a sandwich, pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets...ANYTHING that was not trail food. It was always worth the weight to me.
HOW I WOULD DO RESUPPLY NEXT TIME:
- I would not pre-make any boxes at home before the trip. It is very time consuming and you really don't know what you'll crave.
- The only boxes I would have a friend from home send me of is gear for KM and random things I need on the way, like maps and gear replacements.
- I would make boxes in the towns that had a good grocery and mail them ahead. By then, you know what foods you'll eat and how much. Though it is extra chores in town, I think it's worth it in the end bc the food is good and you're not sick of them yet.
- I want to buy bulk dried veggies and mail them to myself to add to my meals. I had ZERO nutrition on trail.
- Resupply isn't as complicated once you get the hang of it. It's nerve wrecking bc you don't want to run out of food, but you've gotta just trial and error.
- I think I would send myself a stove if I had made it to WA, I've heard a warm meal can really boost your morale. Especially if I were finally able to eat mac & cheese. :D
Okay, this next section I want to share are examples of the CRAP I ate on trail. I'm a little ashamed to admit this went into my body all summer, but it's just funny and somewhat nostalgic to look at. Going into Safeways and gas stations will never be the same again!!
(btw, I didn't exactly eat these same things for each meal, I would eat dinner for breakfast sometimes or scatter things throughout the day, doesn't matter, it's whatever that sounds good at the moment)
I never ate oatmeal, couldn't do it. You want something quick and fast you can eat while you walk. Some people eat right when they get up before they hike out, but I liked to walk for a few miles before stuffing calories into my face. These are just some options, I basically would do a few bars and fruit snacks before lunch.
Snacks are actually breakfast things and breakfast things are actually snacks. I would just eat them throughout the day. These are low calorie things but was worth it for me to carry that I wanted to eat if I was a little hungry but not hungry enough for something heartier or if I wanted to save my appetite for my next meal.
My lunches were basically the same as my dinners. It was whatever I was soaking in my jar with a combination of something cheesy, meaty and crunchy, wrapped in a tortilla. The soaking thing would be a nice binding for all the other crap you mix in there. I would eat half of my jar (sometimes the whole thing if I was hungry enough) and eat the rest for dinner.
I would soak these throughout the day and do them for lunch too.
Lots of candy, always craved it. Would eat bites during lunch maybe eat candy for dinner but always some type of candy after dinner. :)
Condiments and random things.
A lot of people have been wondering about this type of what may seem like an insane way of cooking but it's really not that bad, depending on if it works for you or not. I don't ever want hot drinks, so it was pretty easy for me to transition into. Basically, cold soaking is just another way to eat your meals rehydrated. There are only a few things that soak well though: instant rice meals, mashies, couscous, stuffing (gets soggy though), ramen, beans (but I never got my hands on any for some reason. Pasta gets really gummy and it's incredibly disgusting. I've heard if you soak for the perfect amount of time, it's good, but that rarely happens when you are watching the clock. I soak the next meal at the current meal's time. So, start soaking dinner while you eat lunch, etc. It's not that I chose this method for weight or anything, I am just lazy and hate cooking/clean up. I can't imagine trying to fit a bulky stove into my pack these days. Benefits of cold soaking:
- food is ready to eat right when you get to your destination, no cooking/waiting, basically a lazy person's meal setup
- I set up camp and roll into my tent and just eat in there, then I never come out after that
- if I ran out of snacks, I would soak a meal and just eat spoonfuls throughout the day
- you don't have to worry about buying or carrying fuel
- I could save my dinners for the next morning if I didn't finish the night before
- usually when you're so tired and hungry, not having a hot meal doesn't really bother you
- no clean up
A bunch of food pics from my phone, here's a walk down memory lane.
Oh my word, that was a ton of information and pics. I hope it was interesting, funny and shocking. I never would've thought I'd ever eat like this but I did. NOTE: not everyone will eat like this, but most will. :) I've never felt so unhealthy in my life. I've heard bc your metabolism is working so much, some of it doesn't actually get absorbed so we don't get diabetes or something, but who really knows?? As much as I tried being healthy, I just couldn't. All of my morals about nutrition went down the drain almost immediately. It's part of the journey, eh?