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Tips and Tricks for Thru Hike Resupplies

As many of you know, fellow RRT staffer Will Babb and I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2021.  A year ago, I was buying food, gathering supplies, and packing boxes.  I spent years planning my resupply strategy because I obsess over these things, and ultimately only partially stuck to it. I’ll break down what I learned into two parts: general tips and tricks for thru hike resupplies and the optimal PCT resupply strategy. If a thru hike other than the PCT is on your radar, Part One will help as you navigate food logistics.

Part One: Tips and Tricks for Thru Hike Resupplies

Thru-hiking has a few big challenges. Gear, travel logistics, and food are the top three concerns for most hikers starting out. When it comes to food, I met hikers who didn’t send themselves any boxes. They often had to go out of the way to get things and be less picky about what they ate. I also met people who sent all their food in prepackaged boxes because they bought in bulk, had dietary restrictions, or had concerns about food availability. In either situation, or anywhere in between, it can work. Here are my suggestions to consider when thinking about your resupply strategy:

  1. Have someone you trust send your boxes.
  2. Pack foods you absolutely love and won’t get tired of.
  3. When you pack your boxes, set aside extra food.
  4. Use every cubic inch of the box.
  5. Establish a system for when and how to send resupply boxes.

 

First, if you’re going to send yourself boxes you need someone you trust to effectively communicate, mail stuff on time, and re-organize your boxes as your situation changes. You’ll also need to focus on packing food you really enjoy into your boxes. Fruit snacks, Clif Bars, and cookies were stashed in all my boxes. I bought everything in bulk so I could add extra food to boxes I thought would be a little light or as my appetite increased (like when it got cold). I used large USPS boxes for most of my drops. A four-day resupply left extra space in large boxes, so I’d throw an Ale8 and other treats from home in to enjoy in town. These goodies always left me excited to get boxes.

 

The first and last suggestions on the list go hand in hand. You need to trust your at-home support, but you also need to have contingency plans for when to send boxes, what to do if that person can’t send a box one week, or what to do if there’s a fire and your box is already sent. It’s important to think through these things beforehand. Emma sent most of our boxes and got us what we needed, but when she was traveling we had someone fill in for her. When there were fires, some people had to frantically call USPS and forward boxes further up the trail. Understand your options when sending yourself things. The PCT was a lesson in logistics and how two-day shipping isn’t really two-day shipping when you’re in the mountains.

 

Part Two: The Optimal PCT Resupply Strategy

For those of you looking to hike the PCT, I give you what I would do if I hiked the PCT all over again.

 

This is my best shot at the optimal PCT resupply strategy. Some of the stores might get picked over during peak season, but if you want to limit boxes and maximize flexibility, this is the way to go. I’m not sure what my savings would come to if I compared what I spent on mailing boxes to just resupplying at stores along the trail, but if you choose to shop on trail you have the satisfaction of bringing money into small mountain towns that rely on hikers.

 

My journey along the PCT was amazing, but it was my own. What worked for me might not work for you. I hope these breakdowns give you a better idea of how to plan your next big adventure, and as always, if you’re prepping for a long trail, swing by RRT to ask for advice.

by: Ben Shaw

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