Are These the 11 Hardest Resupply Towns on the PCT?

Just Your Average Hiker Meal Planning

This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.

Hiker Hunger

Food. Food. Food. During our 20 day stint on the John Muir Trail, food is what I thought about and what we talked about the majority of the time. I really liked what we packed for our trail meals, except the dehydrated hummus (blech). My breakfast rotation consisted of instant oatmeal with powdered soy milk, Raisin Bran Crunch cereal with powdered soy milk, and Pop-Tarts. Snacks were always a welcome treat; trail mix, obviously, dried fruit, peanut butter, all of the Clif Bars, Luna Bars, Kind Bars and Bobo’s Bars I could fit inside my bear canister. After discovering that the rehydrated hummus powder was awful, we narrowed our lunch menu down to dehydrated pinto bean burritos or ramen noodles. Dinners were pretty baller; every vegan Backpacker’s Pantry option available and couscous with assorted dried vegetables, beans and vegetable bouillon. The Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai was amazing. Dessert was numerous squares of Trader Joe’s Pound dark chocolate bars. Despite all this delicious sustenance, I couldn’t stop thinking about food while hiking.

How many calories did I consume on the JMT? No clue. Was it enough? No. Hiker hunger is real. The first couple days, my appetite was low, as is expected when starting a LASH (Long-Ass Section-Hike), or a thru-hike. My wife and I started off sharing the 2 serving backpacker meals for dinner. When our appetites came roaring back each of us would consume an entire 2 serving meal. If my wife didn’t completely finish her dinner, I’d eat the rest of that too. I was still hungry as we’d ration out our snacks between meals, and was still losing body weight. We would all play make-believe food games while we hiked, like “What restaurant do you wish was on top of this next mountain pass?”, and “If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?” If I recall correctly, the most popular answers were always pizza, burgers, sushi, beer and ice cream. Or all of the above. This was for a 220 mile, 20 day hike. On the PCT I’ll be doing this for 2,650 miles for 120+ days.

My Daily Calorie Target

I’ve read a wide range of suggested calories targeted and consumed on a thru-hike. I am expecting to have a lull in appetite in the first week, just as with the JMT. Using the Cronomter app, I input an 8 hour day of “moderate” backpacking. Once my appetite is fully functioning I will be craving the Cronometer target of 5500 calories per day. I will check-in with myself to moderate my calories and calorie sources. Am I tired in the morning, or only as expected at the end of the day? Am I recovering appropriately for the effort exerted? Do I feel better/worse depending on what meals or snacks I am consuming? Are my clothes and backpack fitting looser?

Two other loose guidelines I have read are that food carried will be 1.5–2 pounds/day, and aim for foods that are 100 kcal/ounce or better. Caloric density is key. A 16oz jar of peanut butter is 2,660 calories. 16oz of celery is 64 calories. I’d have to carry 41.5 pounds of celery to get the same calories as in one 16oz jar of peanut butter. That’s a ridiculous comparison, but you get the point.

A quick math check: If my goal is 5500 kcal/day, and my food is 100 kcal/ounce, then I am carrying 55 ounces of food for a single day. That is 3.4 pounds of food for a single day. Many people reference the magic number of 1.5–2 pounds of food per day. This is clearly a large discrepancy. My food would have to have roughly 170 cals/ounce in order for it to weigh 2 pounds and to contain 5500 kcal/day. So ideally my food would need to be much more calorie dense than 100 kcal/ounce, closer to 170 calories/ounce.

I entered a preferred day of hiker food into Cronometer, attempting to reach 5,500 calories. Looking at this list, it seems a bit obscene in the volume of food I will be eating, or attempting to eat. I am still over 500 calories shy of maintaining my body weight, according to the app. That’s why it’s normal for a thru-hiker to consume 10,000 calories in a day when in town. Pizza + beer + Oreos = Hiker Fuel.

How will I carry all this food?

(Vegan) Hiker Meal Ideas

So now that I figured out the insane number of calories I am attempting to carry and consume, what form will those calories take?

*Caveats about my meal estimations:

  1. Spoiler alert, I am not a nutritionist.
  2. This is food that I like and fits my personal preferences.
  3. I’m not telling you what percentage of macros (carbs/protein/fat) you should be eating.
  4. I am going to do everything I can to maintain my plant based food choices.
  5. Choosing not to eat popular omnivore items like tuna packets, cheese and cured meats, presents a challenge in finding calorically dense plant based alternatives. I do me, and you do you. HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike).*

Breakfast

  • Old fashioned Oats or Instant Oatmeal with nuts, dried fruit and peanut butter
  • Pop-Tarts (strawberry and brown sugar are vegan friendly)
  • Coffee
  • Bananas

Lunch

  • Dehydrated pinto bean burritos topped with a crunchy, savory chip and Valentina or El Yucateco hot sauce. The beans may be difficult to resupply.
  • Anything else I have, wrapped in a flour tortilla. Peanut butter? Nuts? Oreos? All of the above? Yes.
  • Avocados added to bean burritos or just some avocado wraps

Dinner

  • Backpacker Pad Thai: Top Ramen with peanut butter and hot sauce (Nissin brand Soy Sauce and Chili flavors are vegan friendly)
  • Ramen Bombs: Top Ramen with instant mashed potatoes (Idahoan Original and Hungry Jack plain are vegan)
  • Couscous with dehydrated vegetables and vegetable bouillon
  • Knorr Rice sides with dehydrated vegetables (Spanish, Yellow, & Cajun Red Beans & Rice are vegan)
  • Dehydrated beans, minute rice, vegetable bouillon and hot sauce
  • Vegan friendly mac n cheese (like Daiya)
  • Backpacker’s Pantry brand vegan meals (these are expensive and will be a rare and savored treat); there are many other companies making backpacker meals. I’ve eaten this brand and enjoyed them.
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil or coconut oil is a fast and easy way to add some fat and calories to most meals.

Snacks

  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Clif Bars, Luna Bars, Kind Bars, Bobo’s Bars are all vegan friendly and really good. The nut butter filled and builder bars by Clif Bars have extra calories and protein.
  • Dark chocolate
  • Oreos
  • Peanut, almond, cashew butters. I haven’t tried PB2 powder, but could be a good weight saver.

Supplements

  • Plant based protein powder (Do you even thru-hike, bro?)
  • Super greens powder drink mix
  • Nuun electrolyte drink tablets
  • Vitamin D3*
  • Vitamin B12*
  • *I may switch these to a multivitamin

Where Will I Buy Food?

Depending on my average daily mileage, I will go into town to resupply my food every 3–7 days. The exception to this will be the Sierra section, and the North Cascades.Those sections will be more remote and will require longer food carries, or more time between resupply towns. Supermarkets are ideal, and gas station convenience stores a last resort. When I head into town, I will look at my Guthook map app to estimate the miles to the next town, divide that by my estimated daily mileage, depending on the terrain. This will provide me with the number of days of food I need to resupply.

A cool trick I heard in a hiker video for resupply shopping, is to multiply the number of days to the next resupply by your daily calorie goal. For example, if I estimate it will take me 5 days to reach the next town, I’ll multiply 5 days x 5,000 calories = 25,000 calories needed to purchase for my resupply. I’ll enter 25,000 on my calculator app when I enter the grocery store, and begin subtracting calories as I add food to my basket. When I get to zero, then I know I have enough calories to make it to the next town. My food might not always be perfectly divisible by the number of days I am hiking. I may have too much oatmeal, or not enough tortillas. Once I have purchased my resupply, I can divide the meals and snacks as best as I can into separate ziplock baggies, portioned out for each day. If I make it to the next town with food, then I am either not eating enough, or I was carrying too much food. I expect I will get more accurate and comfortable with this as the hike continues.

For better or worse, the PCT is not always close to a town, or even a town with a well stocked grocery store. Thanks to Halfway Anywhere’s annual PCT surveys, he has compiled a list of the most difficult locations to resupply along the PCT. I combined that list with an article I read, specific to vegan thru-hikers. After drafting this a new LongTrailsWiki article was posted by a hiker subreddit admin user here. Huge thanks to all of the above for the great information.

I’ll Take One of Everything, Please

Here is my Top 11 list of difficult resupply locations broken down by trail section, including the PCT mile marker and mailing address for a resupply package.

Top 11 Difficult Resupply Towns

Desert

1. Warner Springs (Mile Marker 107.2)

Mail to USPS:

Hiker Name (Your legal name on your ID, not your trail name, “Tiger Blood”)

℅ General Delivery

Warner Springs, CA 92086

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

2. Acton KOA (Mile Marker 444)

Mail to Acton KOA:

Hiker Name

ETA: MM/DD/YY

7601 Soledad Canyon

Acton, CA 93501

Sierra

3. Kennedy Meadows (Mile Marker 703)

Mail to Kennedy Meadows General Store:

Hiker Name

ETA: MM/DD/YY

96740 Beach Meadow Rd.

Inyokern, CA 93527

Nor Cal

4. Sierra City (Mile Marker 1198)

Mail to Sierra County Store:

Hiker Name

℅ Sierra County Store

213 Main Street

Sierra City, CA 96125

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

5. Belden (Mile Marker 1289)

Mail to Caribou Crossroads:

Hiker Name

℅ Caribou Crossroads

PO Box 1

Belden, CA 95915

ETA: MM/DD/YY

Oregon

6. Crater Lake (Mile Marker 1831.5)

Mail to USPS:

Hiker Name

℅ General Delivery

Crater Lake, OR 97604

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

7. Shelter Cove (Mile Marker 1917.8)

Mail to Shelter Cove Resort UPS ONLY:

Hiker Name

℅ Shelter Cove Resort

27600 W. Odell Lake Road, Hwy 58

Crescent Lake, OR 97733

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

Washington

8. White Pass (Mile Marker 2310)

Mail to USPS at the Kracker Barrel Store:

Hiker Name

℅ White Pass Rural Branch PO

At the Kracker Barrel Store

48851 US Hwy 12

Naches, WA 98937

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

9. Snoqualmie Pass (Mile Marker 2409)

Mail to Summit Inn:

Hiker Name

℅ Summit Inn

603 WA-906

Snoqualmie Pass, WA 98068

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

10. Stevens Pass/Skykomish (Mile Marker 2483)

Mail to Stevens Pass Ski Resort:

*PCT Hiker Package service pending COVID-19 update for 2021 season

Alternate Mail to USPS, 16.5 miles from Stevens Pass:

Hiker Name

℅ General Delivery

Skykomish, WA 98288–9801

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

11. Stehekin (Mile Marker 2575)

Mail to USPS:

Hiker Name

℅ General Delivery

Stehekin, WA 98852

Plz Hold for Thru-Hiker

ETA: MM/DD/YY

* Make sure you load up at the Stehekin Pastry Company. I know I am.

*Here is a Google Sheet with additional information such as fees, hours of operation and amenities.

*Please verify shipping address, accepted methods and hours of operation.

*If you find better information, options or discrepancies let me know and I will update this list.

This is how we shipped our food on the JMT, SOBO August 2018

To Ship or Not to Ship?

The reason for these places being on this list varies in being difficult to access from the trail, having limited options, being expensive or not being hiker friendly. I will tentatively plan a combination of pre-packaging myself resupply boxes and bouncing boxes ahead to myself for these towns. These places will either have a USPS office that can hold my box for me until I arrive, or a hiker friendly business that can hold hiker packages.

The thru-hiker materials and method of choice is usually the USPS Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box. The flat rate fee is $21.90 for the large box. This is something to consider if your personal priority is cost. It may not always be cheaper to mail yourself a package versus resupplying in town. You can buy a lot of top ramen noodles and granola bars with $21.90. *Note that #7 Shelter Cove, OR is UPS only.

If you feel inclined and have a magic 8-ball, you could in theory package up a resupply box of food for every single resupply along the PCT. A few things could go wrong with this: 1) What if you decide you really hate some of your food choices that you selected months ahead of time? 2) What if you have some unforeseen delay, and your package is returned before you can pick it up? 3) What if you decide you don’t want to hike 2,650 miles? You purchased a lot of trail food that you will now be eating at home, thinking about how you quit your thru-hike. You also need a really generous person, or a really good bribe, to have someone agree to mail out all these packages of food to you for 4–6 months.

Seasoned thru-hikers may know what foods work for them, and the odds of quitting are much less likely, therefore spending all the preparation to package months of food could be worth their while. Perhaps you have a food dehydrator and are saving a lot of money by preparing your own secret blend of herbs and spices for hiker recipes? If you have dietary preferences or restrictions, this could also be a necessary investment of time and preparation.

For most attempting the PCT, this is their first major thru-hike. Like me, most will spend their time trying to figure out what cat hole trowel they need, the Deuce of Spades #1, #2 or #3? I am going to prepare two boxes for the desert section before departing: Warner Springs and Acton. The rest of my list of challenging locations, I’ll prepare a box in a town a week before, then mail the resupply package ahead to myself. Maybe I’ll be tired of Double Stuff Oreos, and want regular, old, original Oreos by the time I reach Belden, CA? Or I could be super sick of Skippy chunky peanut butter, and I’ll want JIF creamy peanut butter when I’m in Shelter Cove, OR? There’s just so many possibilities. The vast majority of my resupplies will happen when and where I reach the next town. For me, this is part of the experience and not as daunting as it may seem.

Food for Starting at Campo

How much food will I start with on April 15th at Campo, CA? I’m going to estimate I’ll reach my first major resupply in Warner Springs on Day #6, which is mile marker 107.2. I’ll pack all meals for those 6 days, and snacks for the first 2 days. I’m going to restock my snacks as needed at Lake Morena, Mt. Laguna, and Julian on my way to Warner Springs. Packing 6 full days of meals is plenty conservative, because I can always supplement my food supply at those places I mentioned. I will consider cutting down my starting food supply even more, since I know I can stock up as needed.

Resupply Recap

  1. What is my total calorie target per day? It won’t matter, I’ll still be hungry.
  2. Which foods do I love that are calorically dense, don’t need anything to prepare except hot water, and preferably have some nutritional value? Don’t judge me as I eat Oreos in my sleeping bag at night.
  3. How many miles and how many days until the next town? I’m still daydreaming of pizza and beer from the last town, wondering if it will be even tastier in the next town.
  4. Repeat until I reach Canada.

Next up, water…need water.

Thank you for reading.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store