thru-hiking dinner

Packing It Out: Thru-Hiking Food And Logistics

We are going to hike the PCT. Wait, how many miles? How many days? How much food? How many miles without water? How many calories per day? Resupply boxes or town shopping? Hold up! Pull it together now.

thru-hiking dinner

What do you need first? A plan. There are many ways to plan a PCT thru-hike, but this one is ours and it seems to be working out quite well.


Article written by Paul Twedt, a ‘Packing It Out’ founder.

Food Resupply

In planning our thru-hike, I spent hours reading books, deliberating over guidebooks and forums, and attempting to analyze all the data available to me. With so much information available from the experiences of others, it seemed obvious to rely on some of that info. To get things rolling, we chose to ship most of our food in resupply boxes that we organized in advance and with the help of encouraging family members.

I opted to use Yogi’s PCT Guide to compile addresses for where our resupply boxes would be sent, and Craig’s PCT Planner to estimate how many days and miles per day between resupply locations.

This was great for me because I enjoy being analytical. Some people choose to wing it and seem to be surviving, but I want to thrive, not just survive, so putting in the extra work and prep to send resupply boxes let us choose what we would eat so we aren’t limited by small grocery store selections.

thru-hiking resupply stop

Vary Food On Thru Hike

Variety is the spice of life. This statement has never been more true than while thru-hiking. Let’s face it, who do you know that eats the same breakfast and dinner every single day for five months? Nobody? A thru-hiker is likely to be one of few honest answers and most of the time that is because of small selections available at even smaller stores, not personal choice.

Last year on the AT, we ate oatmeal for breakfast and brown rice with tuna for dinner almost every day. Sure we spiced it up different every day (the name Spice came from an elaborate spice kit), but it was still pretty boring by the end. We only ate this way because we had very minimal funds to be hiking the trail and we were trying to make it last.

This year we are better prepared financially and have the ability to not only provide ourselves with a wide variety of foods and flavors, but also to get much more nutritious options.

thru-hiking food

We opted to fill our resupply boxes with Justin’s nut butters, Purely Elizabeth granola, Wild Planet tuna packets, and Clif Bar products because these companies make food that tastes great, utilize sustainable harvesting techniques and primarily organic ingredients, and because they have so much variety in flavors. Your journey will be much more enjoyable if you prepare financially for your hike and are able to eat meals that you enjoy, include variety, and are nutritionally superior.

Nutrition Is Key

Nutrition is a vital factor in an enjoyable thru-hike. I speak from experience in saying that you will feel much better at the end of every day if you are feeding and supplementing your body with the nutrients that it needs when performing so much physical activity. That bag of gummy bears, snickers bar, and bag of chips is going to taste great and fill your belly, but it won’t supply the necessary nutrients to rebuild muscle tissue.

food to pack on pacific crest trailWe opted to get a product called SP Complete from Standard Process, which is essentially a packet of powdered whole foods and vegetables that we add to our dinners. This satisfies our need for lightweight foods, but provides excellent nutrients for recovery. Paired with Ligaplex, a joint support complex, also by Standard Process and a recovery powder from Clif, we feel like we could go for a run when we take our packs off at the end of a 28 mile day.

Nutrition is paramount to feeling good while thru-hiking. If you treat your body like a temple and take care of it, you will be able to go farther and feel better.

Unexpected Thru Hike Logistics

Now, regarding some of those fears and logistics that apply to our cause of Packing It Out. Will we find another mattress? Yep, we did, and it wasn’t much easier to pack it out, again rigging up a stretcher to haul it. What if we have to carry heavy loads for many miles? Well, to be honest, that is and will be a concern for the whole trip. There is no easy answer.

packing it out crew mattress

Sometimes we have to carry 60 pounds of trash over 15 miles to the next dumpster. Other times we find ourselves traveling for 7 days, or over 100 miles, before getting a chance to dump it. Luckily those long stretches have yielded less trash so far, but what if they are heavy hit areas? Perhaps we make multiple trips or rally other thru-hikers to help do the job, and sometimes we have to be realistic and admit that we can’t haul “that car” away from the trail. It just isn’t possible.

Plan Well, But Be Flexible

All in all, having a plan is helpful, but flexibility is imperative to your thru-hike planning, because it will never go exactly as planned. You may roll your ankle and take an extra town day to recover, like I did. Maybe you realize it will only take 6 days to your next resupply location instead of 7.5 days that you planned for, so you eat double dinners and desserts, like we did. So make a plan, then let it roll and have a blast!

camping on the PCT

–Follow the crew on our ‘Packing It Out’ page. To date, the group has hiked 1,195 miles from the U.S./Mexico border to Sierra City, Calif. Connect with Paul and Seth on InstagramTwitter, and their blog.