The PCT offers an incredible journey through stunning landscapes, but one challenge every hiker must face is resupplying along the trail.
Proper planning and organization are key to ensuring you have enough food and essentials to sustain you throughout your trek.
Here are some strategies and considerations to resupply on the Pacific Crest Trail:
- Buying Food Along the Trail
- Mailing Resupply Packages
- Combined Strategy
1. Buying Food Along the Trail
Forget lugging months’ worth of dehydrated mush! The Pacific Crest Trail isn’t a culinary wasteland.
Every few days, civilization peeks through the wilderness, offering a delicious oasis in the form of resupply towns.
These towns come in all flavors, from bustling supermarkets overflowing with trail staples to cozy gas stations with surprising gourmet delights.
No need to adjust your expectations. Imagine grocery shopping from the comfort of home, only with the stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks or sun-drenched canyons.
Resupply towns offer the familiar – granola bars, cheese, fresh veggies – alongside local specialties like juicy California peaches or Oregon microbrews.
Prices are generally on par with your corner store, although remoteness can sometimes bump them up a notch.
But what about those tiny outposts with more dust than Doritos? Fear not! While some stores may have limited options for hungry hikers, you can always skip them or mail yourself a supplementary package.
Supporting these local communities is part of the PCT experience. Their hospitality and fresh food are a welcome change from the monotony of pre-packed rations.
Buying as you go offers another perk: flexibility. Got tired of your meticulously planned trail mix after week two? No worries! Ditch it for a juicy burger in the next town.
Don’t get stuck with a backpack full of unwanted food if your journey takes an unexpected turn. Trust me, stale rations are a cruel motivator to keep going.
Cost, of course, is a consideration. Remote stores might sting your wallet, but most towns are surprisingly affordable. Mailing food can save money in some situations, but factor in the hassle and potential delays. Most PCT towns offer a price point comparable to your usual grocery run.
Now, when I say “along the trail,” don’t envision a supermarket nestled amongst the pines. These towns are usually accessed by side trails, hitching, or a friendly trail angel with a spare seat.
But trust me, the trek to your resupply haven is a small price to pay for a delicious, local, and flexible feast.
So, ditch the anxieties of pre-packing and embrace the culinary adventure the PCT has to offer. Bon appétit, trailblazer!
2. Mailing Resupply Packages
Mailing food for your Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike isn’t just a pit stop; it’s a logistical ballet.
Don’t wait until trail dust is swirling in your face to whip up a box-o’-fuel. Planning ahead is crucial, transforming pre-hike days into a delicious symphony of preparation, not a panicked scramble.
Why mail? Some crave dietary control, others revel in the trail-food tango – dehydrating feasts, scouring specialty stores, and meticulously calculating calorie counts.
Whatever your motive, a prepped box can be a town-saving hero. No more frantic post-hike dashes, battling grumpy post office timetables.
Plan around closures, embrace the pre-packaged peace. But flexibility is your trail buddy too. Consider mailing to hospitable stores, lodges, or hotels with extended hours.
They’ll be your trailhead angels, offering a welcoming haven when your travel plans take an unexpected turn.
How to mail to the trail?
Now, let’s talk postage. Don’t be penny-pinching when it comes to fuel. The PCT association recommends using the USPS postage price calculator to avoid sticker shock.
Priority Mail might be your speed demon, but its wallet can be a bit lighter. Embrace the flat-rate boxes – they’re your trail-weight-saving saviors. Remember, miles matter for cost, so pack smart.
Mailing to post offices? Use “General Delivery” and scrawl “Please hold for PCT hiker, arriving [date]” on the box. Don’t forget your photo ID – some post office pickups require a friendly face check.
Private businesses? They may charge a handling fee for your mailed-and-stored goodies. Time is of the essence here, especially in remote locations. Give your package plenty of time to play catch-up with your trail boots.
3. Combined Strategy
The Pacific Crest Trail, with its ever-shifting terrain and challenges, demands a resupply strategy as dynamic as the landscape itself.
Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all approaches; success lies in a dynamic hybrid approach, capitalizing on the strengths of both mailing resupply and buying food along the trail.
But how do you know when to dance with mailboxes and when to tango with trailside stores? Let’s waltz through the key factors to consider:
- Remote Sections: Opt for mailed packages when traversing stretches with limited access to towns or stores. The Sierras’ high passes and Northern California’s sparse sections benefit from pre-planned resupply boxes ensuring you don’t run low on essentials.
- Dietary Needs: Mail specific dietary staples if you have unique needs not readily available along the trail. Gluten-free, vegan, or allergy-specific foods are best sent ahead to avoid scrambling in isolated towns.
- Bulk Savings: Maximize cost-effectiveness by mailing heavier, bulkier items like rice, pasta, or protein powder. You’ll save money compared to buying these at trail towns with inflated prices.
- Gear Replacements: Plan ahead for potential gear issues (lost shoes, broken poles) by including spare parts or replacements in your mailed boxes. This saves precious time and avoids relying on limited options in remote towns.
- Trail Town Quirks: Research towns with limited resupply options or inconvenient store hours. Sending yourself a box can bypass unnecessary detours or frustrating waits.
- Fresh Produce Cravings: Treat yourself to the juicy delights of trail towns! Purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items to boost morale and combat trail-food fatigue.
- Spontaneous Treats: Embrace the unexpected! Discover a local bakery with irresistible cinnamon rolls or stumble upon a charming farmers market – indulge in these unplanned goodies for a memorable trailside experience.
- Ultralight Adjustments: Adapt your resupply on the fly based on your daily mileage and changing needs. Buy lighter meals if you’re pushing long distances or indulge in heavier options if you’re taking rest days.
- Supporting Local Businesses: Show your appreciation for the communities along the trail by purchasing food and supplies from local stores. This boosts the local economy and fosters a sense of connection with the trail towns.
- Gear Repairs: Utilize trail town resources for minor gear repairs like replacing worn-out insoles or patching ripped trekking poles. This avoids carrying unnecessary spare parts in your pack.
The concept of a perpetually “bouncing” box packed with town clothes, chargers, maps, and other non-consumables has undeniable appeal.
However, it’s crucial to weigh the undeniable convenience against potential drawbacks. Be mindful of the increased weight and shipping costs associated with this strategy, as well as the potential inconvenience of post office hours.
Consider a simpler and more budget-conscious alternative – the humble plastic 5-gallon bucket. Filled with strategic essentials and mailed Priority Mail, these robust containers can be forwarded twice for free if unopened, making them a cost-effective solution for those seeking a middle ground between minimal and maximal resupply strategies.
Immerse yourself in the PCT’s generous spirit by embracing “hiker boxes” found at hostels, trail angel havens, and even some stores.
These communal pantries operate on a simple principle – “leave a little, take a little.” Contribute your leftover trail snacks, fuel canisters, or any other usable items, and feel free to borrow what you need.
Remember, act with courtesy – label your donations and avoid leaving unusable items or creating unnecessary mess.
Read Next: Backpacking Meal Planning & Food Ideas
How to Resupply on the Pacific Crest Trail? Final Thoughts
Resupplying on the PCT isn’t just about staying fueled, it’s about optimizing your adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned thru-hiker or just dreaming of conquering the trail, don’t let logistics leave you sidelined. Plan your resupply strategy today and turn every town stop into a victory lap.
Ready to unlock the secrets of PCT resupply? Browse our comprehensive guides, discover PCT resupply locations and towns, and connect with the vibrant PCT community. We’ve got everything you need to ditch the anxieties and embrace the epic.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning, pack your appetite for adventure, and let the trail lead the way! Happy hiking!