Fortunately we will not need to carry five months of food on our backs as we hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Instead we will resupply every few days at a town, post office, or small business which holds packages for hikers. This approach required a great deal of planning and preparation, which was by turns exciting and monotonous.
On the advice of many previous thru hikers, we are striving for variety in our trail diet. Thus, while planning, we taste tested numerous meal options. Drawing on our knowledge of thru hike nutrition, and in conjunction with our food planning math spreadsheets, we created a massive grocery list. We have just updated our Food page with many details about our food choices. You can access the page by clicking the “Food” link at the top of our blog.
Although we were organized before heading to the grocery store, we still spent several hours in the bulk food section. Shopping for variety while purchasing a large quantity of food takes time. It was exhilarating to see our extensive planning turn into piles of food in a shopping cart. We were surprised to realize how much food we will eat over the next five months. That really hit home when we saw all the food in one place.
Planning food for five months is challenging. We don’t want to be hungry, but we don’t to lug around a lot of extra food either. Because we’ll be mailing ourselves food, we need to calculate ahead of time exactly how much food to put in each box. This could make for a difficult shopping trip. Luckily, math is on our side.
Good maps are essential. We plan to use two types of maps on our thru-hike, plus a third map type to keep folks at home informed about our location.
As a public service, a hiker named Half Mile has created a wonderfully detailed set of topo maps covering the entire Pacific Crest Trail. The maps include terrain, notes, and points of interest like campsites, post offices, and water sources. The route of the PCT is well-marked on the maps, as are side trails. Elevation profiles are placed at the end of each section. Check out Half Mile’s website to download free PDF files of the maps. We had the maps printed double-sided (less paper to carry) on a color laser printer (they won’t smear if wet). We’ll send ourselves the appropriate map sections in our food boxes, so we won’t have to carry them all at once.
Even if you have a GPS, it’s important to carry a paper map and compass as a backup. The GPS might fail, and it can lose its view of the sky in steep canyons or dense forests. If you don’t know how to read a topo map or take a bearing with a compass, orienteering is a fun way to learn!