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new news: [July 31st, 2018]
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The PCT is closed south of White Pass near the Goat Rocks. I grew up in this area and detailed the detour here.
My PCT Hiking Tips
PCT Hiking Tips: Food

Food Overview
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Remember, you can mail order stuff and have it sent to you on the trail.
This is probably the most intimidating part of deciding to hike the PCT, what to eat.

If you are new to all of this, keep one thing in mind...you are not planning an overland expedition to the South Pole. Especially if you are leaving Campo, you will have plenty of opportunities to figure things out as you go. Until you are about 360 miles down the trail, civilization is at most about 20-30 trail miles from any given point on the PCT. Over the course of the entire PCT, 50 miles is about the furthest you have to hike (north or south) in order to reach civilization. By this point you will know what works and what does not work for you and can adjust accordingly.

You will read of hikers meticulously planning (and mailing) out their meals for the entire trail, keeping calorie counts in spreadsheets and everything. Do not be intimidated by this. I know plenty of hikers who finished the trail just fine eating whatever food they found in trail towns, even if it meant posh gas station foodstuffs. There is nothing wrong with obsessively planning out all your food in advance, I'm just stressing that you should not feel like you are going to fail because other people are putting more thought into food planning.

To nutshell it, you basically have three choices:
  1. Buy food along the way.
  2. Buy food in the larger towns and mail out a few resupply boxes for sections of trail to get you to the next big town. (eg, Buy food in Ashland and mail out boxes for all of Oregon).
  3. Prep all your food resupplies at home and mail them out.
If you are really unsure about this "whole PCT thing", just do A or B and you will be fine. You will also be out a lot less money if you get to Idyllwild (two weeks / 180mi in) and decide the PCT isn't for you.

My Food Planning
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I made a few humanclock.com times out of my food.
In 2013 I prepped out my food all in advance for two main reasons.

The first is that I wanted to have a lot of dehydrated vegetables, and means that I live on the West Coast, mailing out boxes (using regional rate priority boxes) was cheaper because I could buy food in bulk. The other reason is that I just wanted to get all of the food planning over with. I knew I would have enough to do in dealing with my photos and blog, the last thing I wanted to do was have to plan out food, I would rather eat and drink beer instead.

Some people count up all the calories they are going to eat in a day, itemize it up on spreadsheets and such. I couldn't be bothered with this. I would stay aware when buying foods that were empty of calories (like Miso Soup), but trying to make sure I got a certain amount of calories per day seemed a bit futile and too much work. While I was on the trail my calorie counting and nutrition consisted of following one simple rule:
If I was hungry I ate something, if I was not hungry I did not eat.
For a typical hiking day I made sure I had a breakfast and dinner. Lunch was kind of a bunch of random snacks and confusion. Rather than add calories and endlessly itemize them, I basically just made sure I had "something" to eat for every five miles. By "something" I mean a serving. It might be a handful of chips or a few cookies. If I had 10 Oreo cookies, well, that is about two servings...so that would be good for 10 miles of trail.

Dehydrating
Although I dehydrated vegetables for the trail, I didn't make any actual "meals". I just wanted to be able to add some vegetable flair to my pasta dishes. Drying and vacuum sealing them worked well. I had an The Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator. It worked really well and was not annoying to use. I had never dehydrated anything prior to February 2013, so I had to learn as I went. I never really had any bad luck in dehydrating things, most everything worked. Corn was about the only thing that didn't work so well...it dried ok, but took a long time to rehydrate. Things I had good success with were:
  • pasta sauce (one jar spread over parchment paper on two trays...about 2-4 servings)
  • frozen peas
  • stir fry mix
  • mushrooms (dry and rehydrate really fast)
  • sliced apples
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Cutting up onions with a food processor in the backyard
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Tip: Dry the onions outside! I dried tunafish and onions outside on our screen porch. The drying onions made the backyard inhabitable.

Dehydrating Food
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Dried Spaghetti sauce
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Apples getting ready to be dried
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Cherry Tomatoes
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Cherry Tomatoes
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Peas. I must have dried about 15 pounds of peas
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String Beans. These didn't rehydrate as fast.
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Canned chili
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...then spread out
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...Dried Canned Chili
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Apples and Pears
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Slicing apples with a madrel
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Drying canned tuna fish
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Yup, all the cans were from Costco
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Tuna fish spread out to be dried
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Canned beef stew
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Canned refried beans
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Preparing sauces
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Mushrooms dry and rehydrate really fast. They also lose a lot of weight when dehydrated
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Stir Fry Vegetables

Vacuuuum Sealer
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Food Saver! Costco usually has a good deal on the rolls.
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Apples prior to sealing.
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I had to put the apples in a ziplock bag first, otherwise the sharp corners from some of the apple slices would pierce the vacuum seal bag.
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I would buy huge bags of candy at Costco and then reseal it up into multi-day portions. Resealing them up into single servings was too time consuming, so I ended up just sealing up enough for that resupply box.
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You can buy the cheap cookies at the grocery store and reseal them. I didn't have problems with any going stale, even after several months.
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A digital scale helps to measure out portions.

Shopping
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I bought a lot of stuff in bulk at Costco, Trader Joe's, and WinCo. Not much to say here but buying in bulk and resealing with the vacuum sealer worked pretty well.

Breakfasts
This was just raw oatmeal mixed with brown sugar and NIDO Instant Full Cream Milk Powder. Nido milk you can usually find in Asian or Latio markets. It is a Nestle product. I would add raisins and nuts. Breakfast could also be candy bars or an extra dinner I might cook if I was wanting to stick around a place a little longer.

Dinners
Idahoan potatoes were quite the staple. Various noodles/rice and sauce mixes worked pretty well too. These I would add vegetables to.
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These are a staple. You can buy them for as low as 80 cents in town. The highest I ever saw them on the trail was $2.99
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I would add my dried veggies to various rice, noodle, and potato mixes.

Snacks & Lunches!
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1996: I did this many times, this was also back in the days when a half gallon of ice cream wasn't 1.75 quarts.
When chosing snack bars, I followed this rule:
  • If a product has the word "energy" in it, don't buy it.
You will find a lot of awful tasting Power Bars/etc in hiker swap boxes, but things like M&M's and Snickers are a hot commodity and don't last long. Watch buying Pop Tarts at Costco since you only get a couple of flavors. Those of you that read the lunky.com blog know my distaste of Brown Sugar pop tarts.

I didn't have a single Powerbar on my 2013 hike. Why? Well because in 1996 I thought buying a bunch of Powerbars would be a good idea..that lasted about a month and to this day nearly 20 years later I still can't stand the sight of those focking things.

I would also buy cookies and snacks in bulk and then vacuum seal them. The only thing that ever went stale over the course of five months were Cheetoes. Everything else stayed pretty fresh and crispy. Some things you have to put in a paper towel because when you vacuum seal them it will pierce the bag.

In towns I would buy random things I was craving. It was not uncommon to buy a jar of peanut butter and have it as a snack along the trail.

I originally carried olive oil but I started throwing the bottles into hiker swap boxes because I wasn't using it. It was heavy and I didn't need the extra calories. It also made my cooking pot a little harder to clean, so I just didn't even bother with it.
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Disclaimer: all calculations and data are believed to be correct but are not guaranteed.
Please double check the calculations and trail/resupply data before starting a hike.