When people hear that we’re planning to hike the PCT, they often ask: What are you going to eat on the PCT? How are you going to get food? Do you carry all of your food in your pack?
It turns out that planning and executing our PCT resupply strategy ended up taking a significant portion of our 2.5 weeks back in California before hitting the trail. There was only so much that we could plan from abroad — we developed a general strategy and then left the rest for later.
There are three main options for resupplying on the PCT: (1) mailing pre-packed boxes from home; (2) buying food as you go; and (3) some combination of #1 and #2. Each strategy has its advantages. It’s often cheaper to purchase food in bulk ahead of time and you can take advantage of the varied selection in larger stores. However, estimating what you want to eat (and how much) months in advance is difficult. Extra or unwanted mailed food could end up in “hiker boxes” (where hikers can either discard their unwanted items or can sift through and take what was left behind), mitigating savings. And of course, it costs money to send packages. That said, we’ll be primarily passing through really small towns with limited grocery selections and high prices. Resupplying as we go would mean spending much of our down time shopping for the next section.
We quickly learned during our travels that we are horrible at walking into a grocery store, quickly finding food to put together meals or snacks, and ending up with food we like in accurate quantities. I have a tendency to purchase way too much when I’m hungry (which will be frequent on the PCT). Resupplying as we go would require both of us to be present during shopping to ensure that we’re both pleased (or at least mutually responsible) with the selections. It honestly sounds like a pain in the butt that I’d like to avoid. While we’ll do some shopping as we go to supplement our snacks and at a few particular stops, we’ve decided to simply mail ourselves food.The process was painful. Multiple trips to Costco, Trader Joe’s, and three separate grocery stores. Amazon orders. Lists and more lists. Figuring out shipping options. Figuring out decent lunches and dinners. So much to do!! My parents dining and living room looked like a hurricane had hit a snack shop for at least a week.
But now it’s done. We’ve packed 26 boxes to send ourselves along the trail, to be picked up at post offices, hotels, wilderness camps, country stores, and even a bar. We’ll be sending them through a combination of regional rate boxes, large flat rate priority mail boxes, and book boxes (flat rate boxes are simply too small for two people’s food for 5 days). Our parents have graciously agreed (perhaps unwillingly) to send our boxes, adding and removing food, toiletries, and gear as needed. To say that this is a godsend would be an understatement.
Only time will tell whether our resupply strategy is a good one. Wish us luck!
*Michael’s Note: yes, we are hikers who have a cat named Sierra. Don’t judge.