When we tell people about our PCT hike, they often ask how we will handle the food aspect of the trip. Fortunately, we won’t have to carry 5 months of food all at once. Instead we will replenish our food supplies periodically, either by buying food from grocery stores near the trail, or shipping ourselves packages to post offices convenient to the trail. Both options have pros and cons.
Preparing food for a five month journey is daunting. The photo below was taken while preparing for a one month trek in the Australian outback with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Looks kind of intimidating, right? NOLS made our meal decisions for us — we just had to repackage the food. Prior to our PCT thru-hike, we have a lot more decisions to make and work to do. We need to figure out when we will mail food boxes to local post offices (vs. buying food from a local grocery store), what food we want to eat (best nutrition, taste, and cost), and how much of each item to bring. Once we have those questions answered we will embark on a massive grocery trip. And finally, we will repackage items into smaller containers, and fill shipping boxes with our meals.
I’ve decided to tackle the food planning challenge bit by bit. Here I’ll discuss thru-hiker nutrition.
When backpacking, as with any exercise, you burn more calories than when you are sedentary, so you need to consume additional calories to maintain a high energy level and keep a neutral weight. Reading the NOLS Cookery book and various websites, I determined that 4,000 calories per person per day is about right for our daily hiking mileage, temperature ranges, and trip duration.