If I Could Plan Again

I believe the title says it all, here are all the changes that Smugness and I would have made to our planning process as Canadian thru hikers!

Food and Resupply

When I look back on the way that we planned our food and resupply, I realize now that a few simple changes could have saved us a boat-load of money. First, I would have kept all of our dehydrated and resupply foods in one large bag, or suitcase, and brought it all with us, with plans to take a day or two to organize our resupply boxes. Why? Postage. We dehydrated and packed our own chili for approximately a third of the trail, divided them into portions for each resupply, and then kept the boxes at home waiting to be mailed.

Instead, it would have been much more cost-effective for us to spend a couple of extra nights in a motel or hostel before we started; each of our resupply boxes cost approximately $80 CAD to send internationally. Conversely, the priority boxes that USPS provides for purchase would only cost about $20 USD to send.

Second, I would have planned for shorter food carries. In our planning, I believe we underestimated how tempting and available alternative food supplies would be. Often, we found ourselves taking small detours off-trail to a local General Store/Deli for a fresh sandwich and snacks, as well as a small resupply. Had we worked in more flexibility, I believe we would have saved money, overall.

Last, screw the mass-gainer protein powder. Before we left, I was convinced that I would have a will of iron when it came to nutrition. Au-contraire, it was less than two weeks before Smugness and I found ourselves carrying pounds worth of mass-gainer with a preference of starvation over ingesting another clumpy calorie booster. Moreover, y’all should know, of all the food that I see ditched in hiker-boxes, protein powder is among the most popular… the trail is already hard… don’t make it harder for yourself. In sum, we still value our nutrition, but highly miscalculated how exhausted our willpower would be when the temptation of fresh food and sugary snacks came into view. Nutrition is great, but sanity seems to be more important.


Budget? What budget? I’m going to start this off by admitting to a WILD miscalculation. The amount of money that has already been spent is almost 50% more than we had allotted.

Roofs and Beds

Smugness and the resident cat of the Blue Barn in West Hartford, VT.

Again, it comes down to willpower. Now, I wouldn’t call ourselves Platinum Blazers, by any means, but spending a night inside definitely needs to happen more than once every ten to twelve days. Smugness and I have debated as to whether or not the increase in hostel stays has impacted our budget, and we concluded that it has, but not by as much as one would think.

Initially, we had planned to take a zero-mile day every time we mailed ourselves a resupply box, meaning we spend two nights on site. Instead, we seem to allow ourselves a roof over our heads about twice as often, but without the zeros. You would think that this would balance the budget, except it doesn’t. As we move north, accommodations and food grow in expense. So, every time we move forward, we tend to pay slightly more than the last for our stay—Connecticut is the exception, it was stupid expensive. Roofs and beds are important for maintaining physical and mental health, budget for it!


I imagine this aspect of budgeting to be very personal; you love food, or you don’t. Before arriving, Smugness and I had planned on doing all of our in-town eating at the hostel, with grocery store foods. Instead, we find ourselves doing quite the opposite by ordering take-out. While planning, I think we forgot to account for how exhausted we might be after a 20-mile day, and how little we would want to shop -and then cook- for dinner. Pizza became a staple of our late-night arrivals, and delis became popular for us to visit on our way out. Thus, food has probably accounted for the vast majority of budget miscalculations… I love me some good food!


Transportation is the last place I imagined our money would trickle off to. Before starting, we had high hopes of catching all the hitches into town, and walking to anything within two miles of the trail. Quickly, we realized that we suck at getting hitches. At this point in our journey, we have successfully snagged one hitch. Just one. Though, we always seem to get an offer when we don’t need it. As for the walking, two miles is just short of an hour of walking for us. If we were to walk in and out of every 2-mile-off town, we would add an extra 2 hours to our day, in addition to the time it would take for us to complete our resupply. Furthermore, we often find ourselves paying for shuttles into town. At $20 per ride, transportation costs add up quick.


Thank (insert deity here) for this app! I only wish that we would have downloaded this app and used it thoroughly during the planning process. First, the most up-to-date information on hostel quality, price, and hours can be found in the app. Countlessly have plans changed on the fly due to this app. In one case, we had a pair of Smugness’ shoes sent to a hostel that is permanently closed. The internet, as well as our guidebook, led us to believe that the Amselhaus would receive our mail and grant us a stay. Upon checking the app, multiple people had commented on its closure, as well as the owner, which resulted in us frantically trying to track down the parcel to have it rerouted.

In another instance, we had a resupply box sent to what seemed like a viable and inexpensive hostel in Kunkletown, PA, but once we read the comments, we realized it was just a garage floor, and multiple people commented on ill-behaved dogs. Needless to say, we picked up our parcel and continued on. Next, the app includes far more resupply locations than our guidebook. Had we known of the ease at which we could procure food, we would have packed fewer items into our resupply boxes. In sum, had we made this app an integral part of our section planning, we would have been far more informed of EVERYTHING to do with the trail.

Seriously, if you only ever have one resource, this is it. It’s a map, it’s a GPS, it’s a social media platform, and it’s a register of amenities. FarOut is everything. FarOut is life.


Alright, there’s not much to say about this part, except that it’s annoying. Despite having paid for a USD credit card through my bank, I often can’t use it here. Particularly when ordering online, you will need to enter a zip code, and the credit card still retains your residential postal code. I don’t have a workaround for this, but I can tell you to be prepared for it.

Also, CASH IS KING! I would estimate that 70% of the stores that we have visited have been cash only. Many have ATMs for you to withdraw from, but, unlike in Canada, interac-tap is not widely adopted.

The Theme

As you may have noticed, much of our planning issues revolved around a miscalculation of willpower. Can this trail be completed without the aid of hostels, restaurants, and shuttles? Absolutely. Is it likely you will pass up the opportunity to get dry, do laundry, and eat a proper meal? No. Be gentle with yourself, and realistic.

Bonus Goat Fact: not knowing is better. Let the trail happen at you, or those last two miles will seem like they won’t end until the last syllable of recorded time.

-A Mountain Goat named Sprite.

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Comments 1

  • Shana Payne : Jun 24th

    May or may not work but I have used this method with my Canadian credit card to buy gas in the US successfully: try entering the three consecutive numbers of your postal code followed by two zeros. For example, the postal code M5J 1E3 translates into the zipcode 51300 – it doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try!


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