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Resupplying on a PCT thru
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Brian Ahlers
(bahlers7) - F

Locale: Idaho
Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/01/2010 19:39:43 MST Print View

I'm planning my PCT thru (1st thru-hike) for next year and have a question on resupplying. As of now my plan is to head NoBo on the PCT starting no later than June 1st and maybe as early as May 15th-ish. I have a rental contract that I need to fulfill and a couple other things that are up around May, so I can't leave any earlier. So my window for going NoBo is about 4 months.

From what I have read I need to finish no later than mid October so I'm shooting for around October 1st. That gives me approximately 4 months to finish, and after reviewing the math I feel this is definitely doable given I don't run into anything major.

Anyways, doing my planning and I would like to keep my spending to a minimum. I'm planning to carry food for roughly 5-9 days depending on the leg I'm hiking and where I can get resupplied. The resupply points are based off Halfmile's resupply list you can get for free as well as his/hers maps (will be using those too, any objections to these?). My total resupply packages will be 16 or 17 and from my reading the typical is around 25.

I'm wondering if my planning is going to be too "thin" or should I add a few more resupply drops?

I think the drops I have are definitely workable because I won't be carrying food for no more than 10 days, my base weight will be roughly 7-8lbs and I'll be packing with my Ohm. I usually pack 1.3-1.5lbs of food per day depending on my menu.

A big reason for the drops rather then buying food along the way (which I read is possible) is because I'm pretty particular about diet and would like to stay away from mini mart foods.

I also thought about going SoBo because I'm starting a little late but I feel at the end of the PCT my funds will be pretty slim. I have a sister that lives in Monroe, WA that would be able to pick me up at the end of the hike and take me to her place.

Looking for any and all input on what others have done, I want to be as prepared as possible (if it's possible, haha) so I can do this as smoothly as I can.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/01/2010 23:42:13 MST Print View

I can go on that small an amount of food for only about one week, and then I have to increase it. You may need to plan on 1.5-2.0 pounds of food per day. It depends on too many variables. What is your body weight to start? How many pounds can you afford to drop and still stay healthy? If you are pretty particular about diet, that might impose an extra food weight penalty.


Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/02/2010 00:08:32 MST Print View

I'd strongly advise against sending boxes the entire way. Most resupplies aren't minimart style on the pct. It's difficult and restrictive to figure out reasonable resupply stuff from home, especially if you're planning on skipping towns like you are.

Brian Ahlers
(bahlers7) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/02/2010 00:44:47 MST Print View

Bob-- Starting out I'll probably be around 180 lbs and I'm 6'1". I can probably lose about 10 lbs but I would be pretty lean then.

Jack-- Would it be better to just look on the maps and see where each town is close to the trail and plan where I could drop off the the trail to resupply? I originally thought about doing it this way but the thought of eating gas station food the entire way didn't sound appealing but I guess I should have looked into it further before I made any assumptions. Also, it sounds like you have done the PCT Jack, give me a quick idea of what you did.

Thanks for the info so far!

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/02/2010 01:12:53 MST Print View

Doing mail drops is fine as long as you have someone back home to do them for you, and it sounds like you have that covered.

Some people prefer to have all their boxes laid out before they start their hike. I think that's impractical unless you're very experienced. Here's how I would do it:

- Keep two identical lists of mail drops, one for you and your support team.

- Fill a bunch of freezer bags full of food.

- Make easy instructions for filling the boxes. Like for me, 6 days of food means 6 bags of powdered meals, the same number of vitamin baggies and half that of gorp. There is some variety to my food and I leave that to my support team to choose on their own.

This means I can call/text/email home can be as short as "Idyllwild PO, 4 days food".

This allows you to figure out what you want as you go along. There's plenty of time during breaks and at night to do your planning.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/02/2010 06:18:25 MST Print View

I sent a box to Warner Springs, Kennedy Meadows, VVR and Stehekin I believe. Buy Yogi's for outlines on how to resupply. She'll tell you why type of stores are in each town and how easy it is to get to them. It's very useful. On the CDT this year, I supplanted town food with some random boxes of dried veggies and specialized organic stuff. 4-5 boxes along the trail made my diet so much better. I'll do that for the AT in the future.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Ditto ... on 12/02/2010 07:01:40 MST Print View

I second Jack's suggestions, get Yogi's book.
You can also look at postholer's resupply list,

I had way too many resupply boxes on the PCT; I had planned pretty well and it didn't turn out that badly, apart from on occasion rushing to get to a post office before closing. Your number of boxes sounds decent to me.

Recognize that as you get more experienced along the way, you can take a bit of extra time in a town with a big store and mail ahead a box or two for places coming up soon where there aren't good resupply options. It takes extra work in town, but that way you're likely to put stuff in the boxes that you know you'll want to eat and in about the right quantity. OTOH, boxes from home can contain some things you can't get from a random town, like prescription meds if any, new shoes, that sort of thing. Ditto things you can buy cheaper in bulk ahead of time.

There's no perfect answer to this stuff, but all things being equal I'd incline to less boxes rather than more, adjust along the way. And get Yogi's book, read through that carefully.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/02/2010 08:24:02 MST Print View

I did the resupplying for two friends of mine in the summer of 2009. Overall I sent out maybe 6 boxes? And much of that was gear swaps. (They left with me a couple bins of items they thought they might need and as well I had to buy some items for them.) Having someone like me paid off for them - they could phone me or email me and I'd go do it.

But on food? They did fine outside of one stretch in Ca and even then would have been fine without packages. Now though, getting treats was nice and I did break up the monotony of the meals for them with packages.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Resupply on 12/02/2010 09:00:44 MST Print View

I have a total of 21-22 resupply points planned for the PCT. Most will be 3 days apart for SoCal with some heavier 5 day carrys up in Washington. Still to be determined is whether to do a 6 day haul from KM to MTR or split between two 3 days.

As for your plan... I suspect you will end up going to more potential resupply points than you have planned. If you are within .5 miles of civilization at Cajon; for example, I supect you will hit McD's and have a local partial resupply to boot. (resupply box or store)

As far as your start date: While it is still early the current snow year is tracking with 05-06 so I suspect that your May start date for NOBO may be about right. My start date will be May 22nd so may meet at the border.

My tenative resupplys:
Big Bear
Aqua Dulce
Kennedy Mead
Near Kearsarge?
Tol Mead
Echo Lake
Sierra City
Burney Falls SP
Seiad Valley
Big Lake Youth
Cascade Locks
HWY 12 White Pass

Edited by gg-man on 12/02/2010 10:31:43 MST.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Re: Resupply on 12/02/2010 10:34:50 MST Print View

You could skip Dunsmuir easily.

Take the roadwalk south to Castle Craigs State Park. There is a big grocery store with deli, gas station, and PO there. You could easily resupply there. Spend the night at the campground. There is a dedicated PCT camping site with a trail directly back to the PCT. The park also has pay showers in their bathroom buildings. Bring quarters.

I notice you are skipping Etna for the sake of time, no doubt. However, that's one of the crown jewel stops along the PCT.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Resupply on 12/02/2010 11:35:18 MST Print View

A lot of great advice here, as usual. Spot on.

I echo Brian's sentiments - it is possible to send yourself boxes ahead on the trail. The issue with getting food together before the trip is that you can get pretty tired of certain foods over time - the idea of tuna-in-a-pouch sounds great but after 250 miles, you will be sick of it.

I often would just buy extra food at some of the bigger stores along the trail and send boxes ahead. That way I could pick stuff I actually would enjoy. (Or sometimes, not dislike as much).

I would also recommend thinking about where you are going to send yourself new shoes. I swapped out the trail runners every 500 miles and by then, they were on their last legs.

The further north you go, generally the longer you have to go off trail to get to towns. In Oregon, there are several small stores/lodges/camps/resorts that will take hiker packages, for instance, but some can only accept UPS while others you have the USPS option as well. So Yogi's book helps with this. (She also sells a set of cards that has all the information on drops there including post office and store hours - be sure to call ahead and confirm. Hours change a lot at some of these places).

Your base weight is absolutely amazingly low for a thru hiker. You will be certainly near the lighest end of the PCT spectrum. I will be very interested in how this works out for you. I carried a bomber down bag and roasted in SoCal but found it nice in Washington. BTW, don't forget you need to carry a bear canister in the Sierras beginning around Kennedy Meadows until Sonora Pass.

Finally, if you consider the SOBO route, be aware that your hike would have to start much later in the year because of snow in the Cascades. This is supposed to be a big snow year here in Washington, just something to consider.

Greg, do you think you will go out at Kearsarge Pass? That's a beautiful through that area. I was actually glad I did go out there after initially wanting to go straight through.

Also, you can send a drop to Steheiken which is 90 miles or so from the border. It's a funky place reachable only by boat or the trail, and has a great bakery that I would recommend. You can camp for free near the landing if you take a zero day there. They have a post office, the bus will take you down the only road between the trail and the landing (10 miles or so away).

(BTW, Big Lake Youth Camp is a great place for a drop - I sent my cold weather gear there and was glad I did - the weather was changing fast. I was among the very slow people who hike the trail, so you might not need yours until much later).

Oh, and Bob is right - Etna is a great little town. Funky. Neat. Has a grocery store, a brewery and very nice folks who live there. Great resupply point.


Edited by dirk9827 on 12/02/2010 11:42:39 MST.

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Re: Resupply on 12/02/2010 18:46:33 MST Print View

Brian, I think you're doing pretty well for the planning. I resupplied at grocery stores along the way for the whole trail except for most of Oregon and all of Washington. There are pros and cons to each, but if you have a picky diet and don't think you can get good food at the stores, mail drops are a fine way of doing things. Check out Eugene's suggestions for mail drops earlier in the thread... I'd say that's a very reasonable approach. I like having some things mailed to me and then supplementing those things with snacks bought in stores. One other thing to remember, though, is if you do mail drops you'll save yourself a bunch of time. Grocery shopping takes time when you're in town, which may be limited for you with your 4-month itinerary.

In general, if there's a Safeway, Albertson's, or Vons' in a town, you can count on those being very well-stocked grocery stores. Other markets are hit and miss. Yogi's book can be misleading about a lot of these places. As can advice from previous hikers (myself included). I tend to suggest taking advice from anyone with a grain of salt. Case in point, I disagree with both things Bob mentions-- Castella and Etna. Both nice places, but I wouldn't consider them essential. Everyone has a different experience, though.

There's no perfect way to hike the trail, and no really wrong way, so however you choose to do it, as long as it works I think you'll be fine.

edit: forgot to mention: Halfmile's maps (it's a he, by the way) are very good, and the price is right. Many people used them this year and were happy with them. I didn't, and kind of wish I had. I don't think there's a perfect guidebook for the PCT yet. Halfmile's maps are pretty much the best option as far as I saw.

Edited by ryan.c.linn on 12/02/2010 18:48:43 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/02/2010 19:38:57 MST Print View

I just thought I'd throw out a contrarian argument. Last summer I followed Boston and Cubby's PCT journal. They resupplied completely from pre-prepared boxes sent ahead. Here are the relevant pages from their journal describing and justifying their strategy:
and also the following page. The PCT was the third leg of their Triple Crown, so they really had it worked down to a science. You might also look at the page before the one I show the link to, which is a post-hike analysis of their gear and other items.

I dislike most prepared supermarket food and mixes--too much salt and always white rice or white pasta which to me are tasteless--so I spend the winter drying nearly all my own food (using whole grains) for the following summer (except for a few items that tend to remain buckshot-like when rehydrated, like peas). I would therefore necessarily have to use Boston and Cubby's technique for resupply.

On the flip side, if nobody buys provisions at the little backcountry stores, they will soon go out of business, which would be a shame.

This is an issue where you will have to do what suits you best--Hike Your Own Hike!

And footnote for Greg: It's a long way with lots of ups and downs from Skykomish to the border; I strongly urge adding Stehekin to your list.

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/02/2010 19:44:40 MST.

Travis Naibert
(outwest) - F
A few comments on 12/02/2010 19:44:30 MST Print View

I hiked the PCT in 2009 and had mail drops sent to 26 places. I bought almost all of my food ahead of time (mostly bulk and home dehydrated meals). I made a list of how many meals to send to each town and my mother just had to place that many breakfasts and that many lunches in the box with some lunch snacks and send it. I think this works well, especially because if you rely on someone at home to actually pack the boxes then you can call and tell the person what you are sick of.

That said, if I do another thru-hike I am going to choose fewer mail drops and shop some along the way. I think it is easy to get sick of a lot of the meals you pre-planned and then you end up with a lot of leftover food at the end. I still have dried meals I haven't eaten a year and a half later. I think the best way to do it is to have mail sent to the smaller towns and stop in larger towns to get good food at the grocery. See Yogi's book.

I would definitely recommend upwards to 2 lbs of food per day. I started out the trail at 5'6" and 153 lbs and finished at 128 lbs. My average was about 1.8 lbs/day food, so you can see that you will still not be eating enough.

@Greg - I know you weren't the original poster, but I wanted to chime in on your schedule. I hiked from KM to VVR in 8.5 days including a side trip up Whitney (so 7.5 days). Afterwards I had to take 2 zeros @ VVR, buy a lot of expensive meals there, and then do three sub-20 mile days in order to get over a severe case of exhaustion. And the high sierra's are one of the most beautiful parts of the hike. So from my experience I would suggest taking it easier through the sierras and probably going out at Kearsarge. You can make up for a few days longer in the sierras when you get to Oregon, I promise you'll be doing 35 miles a day or more if you want.

Have fun, I'm jealous now that I have a job.

Brian Ahlers
(bahlers7) - F

Locale: Idaho
Great suggestions guys and gals! on 12/02/2010 23:28:59 MST Print View

Great suggestions everyone and thanks for the help, I love BPL for this reason! It looks like it will be a mix of drops and buying on the way and possibly shipping to myself. I'm definitely going to get Yogi's. From what I've read it's a must have for the PCT. Does anyone happen to have a used copy from 2010 they want to give up? Also, for those that have finished, what shoes were you wearing and how many pairs did you go through?



Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/03/2010 00:26:06 MST Print View

A friend of mine did the PCT a number of years ago. He started out NOBO and intended to resupply by store about once per week. After a couple of months of that, he had to start taking breaks from the monotony, so he would duck into a town and gobble down an extra large pizza, drink a pitcher of beer, and then continue along. He would take those breaks once per ten days or so. Then after he got into Washington, it was getting so monotonous that he had to take more and more pizza breaks, but the pizza was getting harder and harder to find. He finished at the border right after the first few rain storms of the fall had frozen.


Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Great suggestions guys and gals! on 12/03/2010 04:17:27 MST Print View

I hate to be THAT guy, but I'm going to have to say it: I found Yogi's book to be far from essential. In fact, I found it to be full of... shall we say not the best advice. As far as shipping info and phone numbers it was great (although I'd still suggest calling places to double-check mailing addresses before sending important packages). But way too much opinion and outdated info loaded into that book. I found that if I took the advice in the book as absolute truth, I was frequently disappointed.

But like I said before, take anything that previous through-hikers say with a grain of salt. Just make sure that once you start your hike you still have the option to change your original plan from time to time. Flexibility is key.

For shoes, everyone's feet are different, but I found that the shoes I wear hiking on the east coast (New Balance) did not work well for me on the west coast. I switched to Montrail and Vasque sneakers for the PCT, and liked them quite a bit. I found that having a shoe that was snug around the ankle yet not too tight around the toes was nice, especially with the heat and dustiness of most of the trail.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Re: Great suggestions guys and gals! on 12/03/2010 05:24:03 MST Print View

I'd say skip yogi. Halfmile has the most of the same town info listed minus the witty comments.

I'll add to the course of people suggesting buying food as you go, shipping ahead from the trail and get some treats sent from home. Shipping a bunch of 15 lb boxes is expensive and large supermarkets are very accessible through most of California. A little harder on or and wa but still very doable.

Lisa Frugoli
(alfresco) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Resupplying on a PCT thru on 12/03/2010 05:43:07 MST Print View

Ditto the remarks about Yogi's book. Eric the Black's Atlas is a lot more expensive, but has all the info you need. I started out with both this year & finally realized that I was only using Eric's book. I also carried a smartphone that worked in 90% of the towns.

Be flexible on your resupply options. I mailed most of my food ahead which worked great for me. I only bought snacks in towns. Many others did all their shopping enroute. It comes down to how you want to spend your town time - shopping or resting & eating.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
some random added comments on 12/03/2010 08:29:44 MST Print View

Yogi's guide: you're walking 2600+ miles, I'd get it. Take the advice you like, ignore what you don't but it's worth reading, and I liked having the "town guide" stuff along with me.

"So from my experience I would suggest taking it easier through the sierras and probably going out at Kearsarge."

+1, though a lot of people are sold on the idea of "staying out" for as long as possible through the Sierras. My focus was to minimize food carried, not least because it was tough to force everything needed into a bear can. So I had a box sent to Independence; Kearsarge pass is a fairly long side route, but worth it for me. Then I went to MTR rather than VVR, a faster approach, minimally off-trail. This split the distance between Independence and Mammoth Lakes rather well.

+1 on a food drop to Stehekin.

To Greg, I wouldn't send boxes to Big Bear, Ashland, or Mojave --- those at least all have good sized stores.

Shoes: 500 miles per pair sounds about right for me; I think the Sierras were a bit tougher on shoes than other parts, but can still get 500 miles easily on most pairs. As someone else said, pointless to ask what model is "best", have to figure that out for yourself (see several threads on this topic here and on other backcountry forums ...).

If you do go with the "lots of boxes" approach, think through exactly why a given box is going to a given location, because there are definitely downsides. I.e., schedule adjustment to wait until post office is open, unwanted or excess food going into hiker box offsets cost savings (as does postage). I think that a person who already has significant long distance experience will be better able to make up a box that they'll actually want to receive later on but, ironically, that person is likely to have less boxes to begin with. After learning my lesson on the PCT, I was happy with 5 boxes on the AT (new shoes in each), and I'm thinking something like 7 boxes for the CDT.