Food: Feeding the Hiker Hunger

Hiking for me is an opportunity to get back to the basics of life. All I have to do is worry about three things a day:

Where do I get water?

What do I eat?

Where do I sleep?

In my last blog post, I detailed how hikers get water along the PCT. Today I want to talk about food!

I have my Talenti Gelato container for my first day cold-soak meal on the trail!

Eating on a long hike is the other “everything” after water. In fact it’s so important, that it is probably the topic in which I spent the most time considering, researching and preparing before my hike.

Of course, there are many young hikers who depend completely on fatty/ salty carbs (think gas station food) throughout the hike and then power-up with more substantial and nutritious food every 4-5 days when they get into a town. I knew that regimen would not be sustainable for my body. I needed to plan for a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and nutrients for everyday. And, I wanted to try to prepare my meals without a stove, only cooking by cold-soaking.

This is my typical grocery resupply for the next five days of hiking.

That said… I will admit to already craving and indulging in more fatty/ salty gas station food than I expected! However, eating more healthy is still my goal!

At a road crossing, myself and another hiker hitched a ride to a nearby gas station to get water and the fried chicken looked really good, too!


So What Am I Usually Eating?

Surprisingly, many carb-rich meals are easy to cold soak. And, after carrying my water bottle through the heat, my meals don’t end up being cold at all! Here’s some of my favorite trail recipes:

Couscous is a favorite easy meal with nuts and dried fruit, or a chicken packet.

Ramen is a great pasta option with a chicken packet, or olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

Instant mashed potatoes come in a variety of flavors and are delightful with chicken, jerky, bacon bits or cheese. Instant mashed potatoes with instant gravy powder and instant Stove-Top Stuffing also make a great “Thanksgiving Delight”!

Instant refried or black bean flakes make a great dip for Fritos or the base of a yummy burrito with a tortilla, cheddar cheese, and instant ranch dressing.

Instant hummus is great with crackers or, if I really want to carry the weight, raw vegetables such as a carrot, cucumber, and pepper.

Cheese and summer sausage make a great burrito, too!

Although I haven’t experienced true insatiable “hiker hunger” yet, I carry individual packets of mayonnaise and olive oil to add necessary calories and flavor to many of these meals.

Pop-tarts and protein powder-milk shakes are my go-to breakfasts.

Protein bars, trail mix, packets of peanut butter, sour gummy worms and licorice round out my day.

For now, all of these flavors and ingredients are easy to buy and are sustaining me well. But before leaving home, I did mail myself several resupply boxes with a variety of other kinds of meals. So of course, I’m looking forward to those.

Off-Trail Eating

Generally, about every five days we do get to a town to eat more substantially- think big burgers, fries and salads! Julian, California is famous for giving a free slice of pie to every PCT thru-hiker and other restaurants draw us in with discounts. 

My strawberry-rhubarb pie with cinnamon ice-cream at Mom’s Pie Shop was certainly a memorable experience!


For my birthday, I treated myself to a night at a yoga retreat center and the owner surprised me with a birthday brownie!

So, as you can see, trail food isn’t all bad and it certainly makes a great incentive throughout the day! 





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