Afterthoughts on Food

After a successful thru-hike of the PCT, I can say I learned a lot about what I will and will not eat. These things evolve on the trail. To my surprise, I was affected by this issue much more than I had anticipated, and perhaps more than other hikers. In general, the first month on the trail you are so freakin’ gung-ho and psyched to be out there, you’ll eat anything and think nothing of it. Then, things change.

For me, I had the real food crisis between Dunnsmuir (mi 1510) and Etna, CA. (mi 1610), which isn’t so bad really, right? After the 1/2 way point! I got to where I would just starve rather than eat the crap I had, because I now found it unappealing. To be honest, it’s now the end of November and I STILL CAN NOT even think about opening a pouch of tuna. And that pre-sliced sort of chemical-y pepperoni- NO freaking way! I ordered a gazillion MealPack bars and could not touch one except in dire circumstances since month 1.

Be flexible. If you’re doing mail drops be SURE to have a super amazing sweetheart of a loved-one on call for you. You can not at all anticipate how real and vital to your hike your appetite and ability to consume will become. You have never, ever eaten like this (unless you’ve thru-hiked before!). I literally discovered that if at every town stop I did not consume a pint of Ben and Jerry’s full-fatty ass ice cream… well, it might become a liability later when I collapse from a calorie crisis.

Ok. So what did I like? Once I got into high-mileage (20-27 mile) days I really loved Mountain House dehydrated ready to go, no dishes dinners. With beef. But not too many, you get beefed out!! I friggin LOVE the lasagna and the spaghetti both w meat sauce. Teriyaki chicken not bad. Beef stroganoff sometimes. To each I always add a packet of 1 oz organic olive oil (order online) and a big packet of shelf-stable parmesan (which I painstakingly made). I never, ever tire of mac-n-cheese, Annie’s shells and white cheddar and aged cheddar are the best flavors. I add Butter Buds from a packet, a packet of olive oil, some powdered Nido whole milk, and diced sausage if I have some.

Snacks become vital. Often you will not stop for a proper lunch. You need variety. You must sometimes buy the fancy pants expensive snack bars. Options: fig newtons of many a variety, Clif bars, Lara bars, Luna bars, Power bars, Power bar crunch, Builder bars, Snickers Marathon, there’s all kinds of stuff. Look at the health food store for what is on sale: even the small like 100 cal. cereal and granola bars are great: when You’re doing a final push in elevation and need some calories it’s easy to pop one of those. Try the Organic Pop Tarts!

You will seriously need some of those extreme sports energy thingies. Besides carrying NUUN electrolyte tablets and Emergen-C packets. You will have some hardcore days. Esp by the end of Oregon, you will do anything to keep hiking, so be prepared! Try Cliff Blocks and those energy gels you suck out of a packet. REI always has one on sale every month.

You totally need Starbucks VIA instant coffee packets. Add powdered Nido whole milk. I tried chocolate covered espresso beans as a faster get-going, but they suck. Coffee is the joy of joys in the AM. I also really came to love organic flavored oatmeal packets. You can just add hot water into the paper packet and stir. Really! Get some freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries and bananas to add. I also enjoy boiling water for coffee, adding the milk to it, then pouring some into the oatmeal packets, or making the coffee in another container and using leftover hot milk with granola. Add flax seeds and the freeze dried fruit. YUM. Way better than a pop tart of Clif bar. Not everyday, just when you have a bit extra time. Consider Carnation Instant Breakfast packets, I often added it to my coffee. I don’t like to eat much in the morning, so this is a good way to get calories.

You will come to hate gorp. You will come to need more nasty candy bars. Come to terms with it. try different gorp. My mom made some with macadamia nuts and dried cherries. wow.


About wanderingdot

Thru-hiking the PCT 2011, CT 2014, Ice Age Trail 2017 Artist/sculptor, professor, master fabricator
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3 Responses to Afterthoughts on Food

  1. Thanks for sharing and congrats on finishing the PCT! I will be hiking next year and had been wondering how people bring olive oil. You mentioned 1oz packets. Where did you purchase those online? Also, what was your oil strategy when buying from a local grocery store? The bottles are typically glass and on the larger side…not ideal for a backpack.

    • wanderingdot says:

      My mom bought the packets, maybe from I’m not sure. Super convenient. One Pan Wonders had the same packets available as freebies at the KO, so be sure to stop by and see her. I only carried it in packets. As a guy, you might need more fat than me. Get those small squeeze bottles and re-fill. Generally a restaurant will let you do so, or you do it stealth. If you use a bounce box/bucket, keep a bottle in there. I met an Italian guy who dedicated a smaller platy to olive oil! Aah, watch it freeze in Washington.

      Trying to update the blank spots in my journal. Slowly.

      • Thanks for pointing me in the right direction for the packets of olive oil. Although, thinking about it more, I think your suggestion to have a small refillable bottle is best since there are two of us and then we will create less trash. Thanks!

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