If you haven't read my PCT FAQ, then you may be wondering how one replenishes their food supply whilst hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
The simple answer is: you either buy food along the way, mail food to yourself ahead of time, or employ some combination of the two. The PCT-L and the hiker community stand divided in regards to which strategy is “best”, but as with most of the ultralight bickering nonsense that goes on, it is really about what suits your needs best.
How you will resupply in any given area depends on a variety of factors including: what services are available on-trail, how far you plan to travel before your next resupply, how structured you want your hike to be, and how much you want to plan ahead of time. I have opted to go the way of a hybrid strategy utilizing both mail drops and local purchases, but with an emphasis on buy-as-you-go.
What follows are the arguments for and against each strategy (keep in mind there is only one right answer – hint: it's the hybrid strategy).
The buy-as-you-go strategy means that you will stop at (or hitch to) the various towns along the PCT and purchase your resupply at the local businesses.
- More flexibility in your hiking schedule (last-minute detour to Reno? Let's do it).
- Ability to change-up your diet as you become disgusted with your initial food selection.
- Support local business along the PCT to reduce the amount of animosity harbored towards toilet-paper stealing hikers.
- You are stuck with what's available in town (only one gas station selling snacks? Looks like it's chips and candy for the next week).
- Food can be much more expensive in some smaller towns along the PCT.
A popular strategy among hikers is to mail themselves (or more likely, for some unfortunate friend/family member to mail them) food to post offices, hiker friendly businesses, or trail angels along the trail.
- Buying in bulk ahead of time saves money over the course of the trail.
- You can resupply in places where purchasing food is not feasible (or possible).
- Helpful for anyone with strict dietary restrictions or allergies.
- You are tied to your mail drops and deviating from your planned hike can forfeit your resupply.
- …but what if the package doesn't show up/isn't there? Looks like you're going hungry my friend.
- Postage is not practical for people traveling long distances to hike the PCT.
THE HYBRID STRATEGY
As with most things in life, the best (and therefore correct) solution is to utilize the advantages offered by both sides of the argument.
- You have the flexibility of a buy-as-you-go strategy with the comfort of knowing that you will have a resupply waiting in the smaller less convenient resupply sites.
- Allows for the inclusion of things you enjoy eating along the trail without having to eat them every day.
- Should you find yourself wishing to change your PCT plan, you don't have to worry about missing your resupply box.
- No valid arguments against this strategy exist.
So there you have it. The comprehensive answer to the question: how do you get food along the trail?
I hope you're happy.