For our thru hikes we pick foods that are organic, calorie-dense, nutritious, vegetarian, and of course, tasty. Sometimes we purchase ingredients in bulk and combine them. In other cases we choose pre-made meals. Below is a list of our favorite meal and snack choices.
Breakfast: Morning is our favorite time of day to hike because our legs are fresh and the light is beautiful. We like to get up and go so we prefer foods that are easy to munch on while hiking.
- Bars (see list in the Snacks section below)
- Toaster pastries
Snacks: The key to sustained energy on a thru hike is constant eating. About half our calories come from snacks.
- BumbleBar organic sesame bars
- Raw Revolution organic live food bars
- Two Moms in the Raw organic bars
- Variety of other snack bars
- Homemade trail mix: Milk chocolate chips, peanuts, raisins
- Homemade trail mix: Dark chocolate chips, pistachios, sesame sticks, dried mango
- Homemade trail mix: Milk chocolate chips, peanuts, crunchy cereal, banana chips
- Homemade trail mix: Dark chocolate chips, cashews, almonds, dried cranberries, dried fig sticks
- A few unusual store bought trail mixes
- Dried fruit
- Fig bars
- Candy bars
- Gummy candies
Lunch: By midday our bodies want to rest, so we take a longer break, get out the stove, and cook up a hearty lunch. This is our main meal for the day. Sometimes we add olive oil for additional calories.
- Outdoor Herbivore dehydrated organic backpacking meals
- Pasta, dried pesto, Parmesan cheese, vegan jerky
- Macaroni and cheese with vegan jerky
- Instant soups (split pea, curry lentil, or black bean)
- Instant mashed potatoes, occasionally with freeze dried vegetables
- Instant stuffing
- Couscous, dehydrated black or pinto beans, hot sauce, salt and pepper packets
- Ramen noodles
Drink Mixes: These are a fun treat and encourage hydration.
- Hot chocolate
- Apple cider
Dinners: We opt for dinner items which are easy to prepare without cooking. Variety from the rest of the day’s food is also a plus.
- Peanut butter and/or chocolate hazelnut butter with tortillas
- Granola (many varieties) and powdered milk
- Dehydrated hummus with crackers
- Cheese and tortillas
For more information, check out these food-related posts.
Our PCT Photography Book
After finishing our 2660-mile Pacific Crest Trail thru hike, we published a book. It’s a spectacular photographic journey along the entire trail. Visit our book page to learn more, view sample pages, and purchase the book.
Anna and Chris,
Your website is outstanding – and quite helpful. I really like the formatting/presentation in addition to the content. The photography is excellent – Chris, what camera did you decide upon? I am a Nikon loyalist and will be leaving my beloved SLR behind. I crossed over to the dark side for this trip and purchased a Canon G12. We will see…
Hope to have the opportunity to meet you on the trail.
I will be heading north after the Kick Off.
Gman, age 58. – Higganum Ct.
Thanks Gary/Gman! So glad you like the site and the photos. Photography is really important to me and I can’t wait for the chance to do it for five months straight in beautiful places.
I’ve been using an Olympus E-P1 constantly for the last couple years and it’s been great on hikes. The quality is good and it’s light for what it is. But after much research and back and forth, I’ve decided to bring a Nikon D800 on the PCT because I want to be able to make large prints with the best quality possible. My main goal is actually to create a book of landscape images from the trail, and for that purpose, many cameras would suffice, but I want the option of big prints too, at least for certain images. I think something like your G12 is a much more sane choice for the PCT, and I bet it will work quite well. I had a G3 a few years ago and remember it fondly. Anna will be bringing her S90 which is very good, and small.
We’ll be at the Kick Off too, and I’m sure we’ll run into you there, or afterwards! You’ll be able to spot me by my massive camera, haha. Cheers!
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Anna & Chris, Of course I had to take a look at the Food page. Are you planning to eat off the earth as well? We have an abundance of ramps (wild onions) at the moment in the Midwest. They may be eaten raw as well as cooked. Let me know if you are not familiar & I will provide a primer. Of course your Aunt Jan is the expert on mushrooms. Best wishes!! Kathy
Hey Kathy, I’d definitely be interested in learning about ramps. Onions would be a nice addition to almost any meal. As far as mushrooms, the only type I am 100% confident in picking are morels. I have some of Jan’s dried morels in our resupply boxes. Mmmm, what a treat!
Good to hear from you. I took a quick look to see if wild onions grow in the west. I found this web site: http://americanpreppersnetwork.net/viewtopic.php?f=235&t=9216 which lists lots of edible plants in the area you are in. The ramp I am familiar with grows mostly on the east side of the country. There must be a similar plant in the west but probably not in the desert. One way to see if it is an onion is to tear off a bit of the leafy green & if it smells like an onion it probably is. Ramps that grow here have a broad leaf, almost like a limp tulip leaf, the same shape as a trout lily but solid green. But wild onion can also look like chives or scallions – they are part of the lily family. I’ll keep looking for you to see if I find anything more descriptive. Safe travels!!
Thanks for the link. I’ve seen plenty of bluedicks, manzanita, and cholla, but I’m not sure what part is edible. I’ll look up more details when I’m at a computer, not on my phone. There are also lots of yucca here but I believe the huge root is what people eat. Miners lettuce is the most promising from that list as I’ve noticed a few patches of it. Might go well with our crackers and dried hummus!
excuse my ignorance but what is vegan jerky?……i know what jerky is …here we call it biltong and its dried spicy beef…..tasty and a very usefull travelling meat product………im impressed with the olive oil as i read about some trip to the artic and it was established that calories per weight ratio that olives were the most nutritional………i was wondering about traveling olives and believe it or not olive oil never entered my thoughts………..i know the value of instant soups …especially in the cold………….here is something you may enjoy
Thanks, we will take a look at your page. Vegan jerky is very similar to what you describe, but it has no meat in it. Usually soy protein replaces the meat.
Olive oil is a great source of calories, and you can pour it into various dinners to provide you with more energy. With some dinners the taste is a bit strange, but it improves others!
yes i would imagine olive oil and corn flakes could be a bit strange…….
Regarding the dehydrated hummus, are you making your own? if so, what recipe. If not, what brand? I’ve tried a couple that weren’t so good.
We’ve always bought whatever’s available in the bulk bins at natural food stores. When you reconstitute the hummus, adding a mix of olive oil and water enhances the flavor.
Congrats on starting your AT trail!
By the way, I had a couple of food questions. I noticed you included wedges of parmesan cheese in your PCT resupply boxes. Did you have any problems with the cheese sitting in a box for up to 6 months unrefrigerated before you finally received it along the trail, or did you have your box sender keep it in the fridge until it was time to send off the box? Did you use a food vacuum sealer at all?
Also, did you send yourself olive oil or just buy it along the way?
Well, good luck with your trip. You must be so excited to be under way. Sorry about the knee issue. That’s always my biggest worry for myself. Wishing you a speedy recovery and success along the trail.
Thanks Tracy! We are definitely enjoying the beautiful forests of the AT.
The hard cheese we sent ourselves on the PCT became moldy by the time it arrived. It was the one disappointment in our food boxes. On the AT we are sending ourselves small shelf stable tubes of grated Parmesan cheese. We bought olive oil as we went, filling our small plastic bottle if the store only sold larger quantities. Check the hiker boxes and you will sometimes find a bottle of oil there. It was tasty and gave us extra energy.
We didn’t use a vacuum sealer for any of our food. Happy prepping!
We always looked forward to getting a new food box.
you guys are awesome..i only pray someday i find a partner i can do with what you are doing..i love your life!!! i have a silly question…???how do you pack your peanut butter???meaning what kind of container?? thanks guys
Not a silly question at all. We’ve tried several methods for carrying peanut butter on backpacking trips. The refillable squeeze tubes don’t work well for us. They always seem to ooze oil and become a mess. On a short or solo trip I like to bring Justins single serving nut butter packets. Those single serving packets are convenient but can get pricey. On longer trips or when hiking with at least one other person, I’ll bring bring a full jar of peanut butter and share. Make sure to buy the peanut butter in plastic jars, not glass, so it won’t break.
thanks so much
Bit late now, but empty lip balm pots would work too btw
I live in California and do most of my packing here and it gets hot on the trail. I use M&M’s instead of choc. Chips because the chips melt and make a nasty mess.
Agreed, candy-coated chocolate definitely holds up better to heat. But organic chocolate chips are cheaper than their candy-coated organic counter parts which is why we generally prefer uncoated chocolate chips. In hot weather, we hike with all melt-able snacks underneath our Platypus water bladders, which in turn are underneath our puffy jackets. The puffy jackets provide good insulation, keeping our water and snacks cool even in bright sun.
I’ve found Lipsmaking Backpacking (book) to be an excellent resource on this topic.
We haven’t encountered that book. Thanks for passing it along. We’d also recommend the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Cookery book. It’s an excellent resource for expedition food planning, as well as recipes.
Did you not vacuum seal any of your food? I see a lot of pasta and what looks like couscous meals. We’ve already cooked and dehydrated tons of pasta and beans, do you think it’s necessary to vacuum seal or would just putting them in ziplocks be ok?
We didn’t vacuum seal any of our food, but we also didn’t pre-cook any of it. We purchased many of our ingredients, like dehydrated bean flakes, couscous, and dehydrated soup mixes, from bulk grocery store bins. We had no problems with spoilage, except the blocks of parmesan cheese. My instinct regarding your home-dehydrated food is that it should be fine in normal plastic bags (not vacuum sealed). That’s because most commercially prepared dehydrated food is stored in normal bags, or open to the air in big bulk bins at natural grocery stores. I am not an expert though, so I’d recommend double checking with another source.
When you take this amount of food weight can be a problem!
Try sealing your cheeses in cheese wax. The wax makes them shelf stable.
So how much food per day do you pack? My husband and I are very new to this.