The Zillion Dollar Question(s)

Dem Questions

Almost everyone who knows I’m hiking the trail has asked me these questions repeatedly. What do you eat to fuel those hiker legs? How do you dehydrate 5-6 months of food for the trail? How are you preparing your food drops? How do you know what to eat?

Em’s Trail Food Shenanigans 101

Let’s start with how I’m preparing for my drops. Shout out to my trail friend who helped me roughly calculate a drop schedule – I’d seriously be so lost without guidance from previous AT hikers. I’m thinking of doing a drop in a town every 110 miles – this would be about 20 total boxes of food drops, and means I’d finish around 5 months. However, I know things happen, so I’m still having my wonderful mother ship the boxes out as I get closer to each town as I’m not sure how fast my hiker legs are going to perform in the beginning. I’ll also probably prepare an extra stash of food in case I need another few drops. This is all I know so far.

Dehydration Station

As for how I’m dehydrating and planning my drops – I’ll be honest I haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m doing. I think that’s what makes this all so fun, and a bit stressful. I’ve morphed what I know about food prep for my meals working at summer camp and working in the hospital with what I don’t know together into a game plan and I’m trying it. If it doesn’t work – I’ll just make adjustments and try again.

I’ve started by making a few extra meals each week to dehydrate. I’ve budgeted some extra money allocated to buying extra veggies and meat for these. I’ve also emptied my cabinets of all non perishable food I haven’t eaten and don’t plan on eating anytime soon and baggied them up for snacks. Anything and everything is good when I’m hiking. I’m always hungry. I’ll eat almost anything within my dietary guidelines.

Each week I make a sheet of paper with what I’m eating for my breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners and label it and the food according to the week (week 1, week 2, and so on) and then store everything in Ziplocs. Eventually I’m going to vacuum seal all the dehydrated meals because I have limited freezer space, but until then my freezer is going to be having quite the party.

What am I Eating Each Week?

I’m still figuring this out, to be honest. But so far, I’ve planned one container of Dr. Axe’s Bone Broth Protein powder each month of the trail. I’m also planning on having two packages of dehydrated coconut milk per month. I plan on using the coconut milk to mix with the bone broth protein, to mix with my morning super power porridge, to make golden milk with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper  coconut oil packets for an anti-inflammatory boost, and just to drink on the go. Some weeks I will eat my super power porridge of buckwheat groats, chia seeds and hemp hearts with some coconut milk powder and some weeks I’ll probably just make extra meat/veggie stir fry for breakfast.

I’ve always been a dinner for breakfast eater as grainy and sugary breakfasts foods have always left me feeling hungry immediately after and make me feel sluggish until my next meal. As long as I mix the porridge with some sort of healthy fat it seems to sustain me pretty well since it has a lot of protein. I’m planning on always having peanut butter with me, as it’s pretty essential to my diet already.

I’m planning some weeks I will dehydrate rice and gluten free pasta for dinners (with meat and veggies too) and others I will just stick to veggies and meat as my body hasn’t been tolerating gluten free grains well. I was also gifted six boxes of thai rice noodles expired from work so I’ll be making pad thai for dinners and sifting those out through the weeks so I don’t eat too many grainy meals each week (hurts maa stomach). I also plan on dehydrating veggies and then adding bouillon packet to each and having soup some weeks.

God bless Trader Joe’s boxes of coconut oil packets – this saves me always having to carry a glass jar of coconut oil in my pack. I think they come with 15 packets per box so I will plan to have at least two boxes a month of those to add to my dinner or one of my meals throughout the day. I’ve noticed a little bit of coconut oil makes all my dehydrated meals taste significantly better, so I’ll probably save it for dinners.

I’m thinking of doing snack foods for lunch – nut mixes, pumpkin seeds, scoops of peanut butter with chia and hemp seeds, fruit leathers, or bone broth protein powder, but I’m still kind of figuring it out as I go. I’ll plan on always having thai seasoning, some himalayan salt for electrolytes, nutritional yeast, and possibly all purpose seasoning with me to add to whatever meal. I also have two bulk boxes filled with tea bags here I haven’t used, so I’m planning to pack those in each week for a relaxing beginning or end to my day.

How do I Know What to Eat?

The truth is, I really have no clue. I’m just trying to prepare as wholesome meals as I can and then supplement with the protein powder, jerky, peanut butter, trail mix, fruit leathers, and some food bars. I’m planning on getting fresh fruits and veggies in town to eat along the way, but obviously not in every town. My intuition usually guides my dietary choices now – which makes planning for meals 5 months ahead of time a bit tricky. I won’t starve though, and I can eat according to my own dietary needs by preparing my own drops so I think this is a win – win for me.

Anyone else as clueless as me in preparing and dehydrating food drops? What helped you get a good system going?

Love and snap peas,


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Comments 6

  • COMMANDO : Jan 15th

    Awesome post! But as a successful 2016 AT Thru-hiker I can say this: You have nothing to worry about with food resupply on the AT. I’m not saying that what you’re doing is wrong or anything. It will save you time in a lot of towns not having to find and go to the grocery story. But I only sent my self one food drop before the 100 mile wilderness and I was able to resupply with almost everything I wanted along the way. Good luck with your hike! It’s going to be awesome!

  • Victoria : Jan 15th

    Girl, I feel your pain in preparing for mail drops! I have gluten allergies, so I am planning to dehydrate the majority of my food for my thru hike, and it can definitely be overwhelming trying to think of what I’ll want to eat months from now. Best of luck to you on your journey, both in preparing for the trip and your hike itself!

  • Paul Boulay : Jan 16th

    I would suggest that you eat out of a grocery store. Carry a backpacker stove. Mine was a SVEA 123 but many use the small rockets that are only good at boiling water fast. That’s what I did: instant oatmeal, instant grits, PB&J sandwiches (bread), noodles or rice with this & that (hot dogs, bacon bits (from Pizza Hut salad bar), mac & cheese. When you get to the grocery store, get a half gallon of ice cream and down it on the premises. The ONLY place that this worked poorly: the One Hundred Mile Wilderness. I carried dehydrateds for 14 days (inexperience -SOBO) and traversed it in 11 days. The dehydrateds lacked something that I needed: electrolytes, glucose, something. I was miserable by the Chairbacks. Forget food drops. Give you support team (parents) POA over your checking account and have them send USPS Postal Money Orders to the local post office, “AT Through Backpacker, please hold”. The AT local post office knows the drill. Use that post office for equipment revisions, not food.

    • Emily : Jan 16th

      Thanks for the feedback! I however have severe food allergies and cannot eat most(any) of those foods you listed, so for me, food dropping is the best option. It’s hard to find safe foods for my dietary needs at most normal groceries stores so a lot of my meals consist of homemade varieties of fresh foods and meat stir fried. I also am planning on using an esbit stove and titanium pot (all fits nicely in one) with homemade fuel tabs.

  • Kim Dickerson : Jan 23rd

    Blog as often as you can- I am doing my first backpacking trip in May- 5 days on the AT- I’m an avid camper and hiker but have never backpacked so I love reading all of your ideas

  • Angie : May 2nd

    Happy to have found your blog. My husband and I plan to hike SOBO in 2018, and I have celiacs and will be doing a lot of the meal prep beforehand. Really excited to hear that there are coconut oil packets at trader joes!


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