Eat It, Just Eat It: Feeding a Family of Six on a Thru-Hike
Our family of six spent six months and three weeks hiking the PCT in 2019. Before the hike, most of us had no opinion about what to eat on the trail. Now that we’ve logged some miles and are (hopefully) going to do another long trail this year, 100% of us are opinionated about trail food. The children, for the most part, are just complaining about the ramen. My husband finds himself repeatedly says things like “So you never want to eat Top Ramen again? I’m all for it, come up with a meal alternative that fits our budget, is heavy on calories, and lightweight.” And so we’ve been brainstorming.
Pre-PCT Food Planning
In the years leading up to our hike, we read blogs and watched plenty of YouTube videos about what other thru-hikers were eating on trail. Andrew Skurka’s “Trail Pad Thai” quickly caught my husband’s eye and it became our staple throughout our hike. Naturally, our first week on trail we had WAY too much food. The photo below was a typical layout for one person for three days.
By the end of the trail our food supply looked more like this:
A big jar of peanut butter that we had with us is missing in the photo above. Notice the lack of other delicious things like Costco’s Korean BBQ jerky, dried veggies, and Honey Stingers. Turns out we could survive without all those luxuries and the lighter packs sure felt nice. We stuck very closely to the following food regiment: protein bars for first and second breakfast, crackers/chips for elevensies, Hiker Pad Thai (cold-soaked ramen, peanut butter, honey, and oil) for lunch, dried fruit/trail mix for snack, and Knorr pasta for dinner.
Our family stuck to a tight budget, which I’ll go into more in another post, but we quickly learned food was all we really wanted to splurge on. Before approaching a town, we heard through the hiker grapevine which restaurant was a must. We would be drooling/dreaming for days about what we could sink our teeth into. If I had to pick two, I’d say that the Paradise Valley Cafe and Yaks were the most talked up burger joints on our walk to Canada, and both were worthy of all the praise.
Vitamins on the trail
Before we drove from Washington to California to start the trail, I carefully packed tiny plastic bags for each family member with a daily supply of vitamins and minerals. We had about a 2- day supply for the six of us. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get these items along the trail for our first month or so. This is my list of essentials: probiotics, turmeric, glucosamine, and a multi. Turns out, the vitamins were not very popular with the family. The list of complaints included: “they make my sweat smell funny” and “I hate the way they taste.”
Passing out pills became such a hassle that it soon fell off my trail to-do list completely. I, however, took the vitamin concoction daily and think it really helped with injury prevention and post-trail recovery. My number one recommendation would be to have probiotics with you on the trail. I also recommend picking up prunes every time you are in town. Sure they are heavy, but ohhhhhhhh so worth it for a happy belly.
Post-PCT Food Planning
As of a few weeks ago, we were planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail as a family, SOBO, starting June 19. In our research, the juxtaposition between food resupply on the PCT and the AT seemed drastic. We started the PCT planning on just picking up food as we went along. About halfway through, we switched gears, bought an 80-day food supply, boxed it up, and talked our family into mailing it to us along the way. Our goal was to avoid resupplying at the costly resort stops, most of which are in Oregon. For approximately half the time, this plan was cost effective. The other half the shipping costs were crazy high and we could have resupplied easily in town.
We were excited to ditch the whole shipping routine when we heard that typically a hiker could pick up food on the AT every three to five days. Stories of a Dollar General in every town had us day dreaming about all the new meals we could put together. We also intend to eliminate the stove all together. As of publication time of this blog post, none of the children have come up with a better meal than Hiker Pad Thai though.
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