Hungry Hiker Fuel | My Meal And Nutrition Plan

Food

A few weeks back I wrote about how I go about finding and making my own vegan backpacking meals. That is all well and good, but what is a bunch of recipes worth if you aren’t equipped with a plan? Well fear not, here is my full meal and nutrition plan for my 2018 PCT thru-hike!

The Strategies

If you are unaware, there are three main ways to resupply your food on trail (no, I won’t carry all my food for the whole trail).

Resupply Boxes

The first strategy is to buy all your food ahead of time and send it to yourself along the trail in boxes. This is a good option if you have dietary restrictions or special food needs. It is also good if you are looking to save a little money as it allows you to buy things in bulk, which is generally cheaper. The problem with the send-ahead method is that you generally get really sick of the food that you thought you could never get tired of. Not to mention that if you get off trail for whatever reason, you are left with lots of probably-not-so-great-for-you hiker fuel.

Town Resupply

The second option is to buy all of your food in town. This is a good option if you aren’t on  a restricted diet. Not to mention if you don’t want to bother with the hassle of post offices or sending yourself things ahead of time. This also allows you to buy food that you actually want to eat, not just food that you have to eat. The downside with this method is that you are at the mercy of your resupply. If you get into town and the only place to get food is a gas station, it looks like you’re eating lots of Oreos and peanut butter.

Middle Of The Road

The third option is to do a combination of one and two: mailing yourself partial resupplies, or only sending full resupply boxes to towns that have limited (or no) options. This option is a mix of the best and worst of both of the previous strategies. You get to buy food that sounds good, as well as getting some of your special staple items (like powdered nondairy milk). It also means that if you miss getting to the post office in a podunk town, you run the risk of either taking an unexpected zero day, or resupplying in the gas station.

Decisions, Decisions

So which strategy am I planning to employ? If you guessed option three then DING DING DING we have a winner! My resupply plan is to send myself partial resupply boxes to most towns as well as several towns that I will be sending full resupplies to. In these boxes will be mostly dinners that I have made, along with certain staple foods, snacks, and supplements that may be harder to find, especially in smaller towns.
Now that we have nailed down my resupply strategy, let’s break down my nutrition plan.

The Goal

I have two main goals in terms of my food while on the Pacific Crest Trail. One, I aim to never get tired of the food I will pack out. That is a tough enough goal as is, but I am working hard to make that goal a feasible reality. Two, I aim to hike the trail as healthy as possible (while still allowing for some Oreo binges here and there). I have also set some secondary goals for my hike. I want to show others that it is 100 percent doable to hike while staying completely vegan, and that vegan trail food is absolutely delicious.

Breakfast

Ahh, time for the most important meal of the day! Breakfast for me is going to be pretty simple. It will mostly consist of whole-grain, complex carbohydrates for long-term sustained energy, with some simple carbs added in. Ya know, to get my body ready to make it 10×10 (10 miles by 10 a.m.). The plan is for breakfast to mainly be oatmeal in the form of rolled oats.
Rolled oats are extremely variable, allowing for a wide range of flavors on both the sweet and the savory side. Not to mention that it can be prepared hot or cold. Irish or steel-cut oats will probably make an appearance once or twice as well. A huge bonus for me is that I LOVE oatmeal. I have eaten it for weeks on end, sometimes for every meal of the day. One of my favorite oatmeal snacks is a packet of maple sugar quick oats made with cold water and topped with half a mango. Talk about decadent.
Other than oatmeal, I plan on bringing sweet quinoa breakfasts and having the occasional granola cereal in reconstituted nondairy milk. I am also experimenting with a sweet polenta/grits recipe, just to switch it up. Breakfasts for me will usually be accompanied by some sort of hot beverage, either hot chocolate or tea. The idea here is to enjoy the morning, but also to be able to eat quickly and get out on the trail before the heat hits, mosquitoes peak, and the snow melts.

Lunch And Snacks

Lunch and snacks are the same category, because for me they are pretty much the same thing. I am not a huge lunch person. I am more of a grazer and I plan on having mostly cold lunches. Lunch will probably be on-the-go quite frequently (when I’m not hiding from the midday Mojave heat). It will mostly consist of simple carbs to keep my cylinders firing at maximum capacity. The goal here is to basically shove lots of calories in carb form into my gullet while allowing for versatility. Here is where I will probably be allowing myself the most unhealthy food. Oreos, bagels, tortilla wraps, ramen, bars, any vegan fare that I can get in town, you name it. It is all fair game when lunch rolls around.

Dinner

Hooray! Another day of hiking crushed, and it’s time to refuel and recharge before the next day of 20-plus miles. This is the time to get settled in and to feast on fat and protein. Night is when your body rebuilds muscle, so it is one of the best times to eat protein. Dinner is also a great time to pack in the fat. Fat (and protein) are harder for the body to digest. After you eat a meal high in fat and protein, your body diverts its attention to your digestive tract (not a good thing at lunch when you have 10 more miles planned). This is why it’s better to eat your high-fat meals when you don’t plan on hiking anymore that day.
Dinner for me will mostly be hot meals that I have made at home and sent to myself. I have lots of diverse recipes ranging from mushroom burgundy stew to pulled not-pork sliders. The goal for dinner is to get the main bulk of my fat and protein in, while also making my camp mates jealous at the delicious smells wafting from my pot.

Supplements

B Complex Vitamin

While I am hiking I do plan on bringing a few supplements with me. The most important actual supplement I plan on bringing is a coenzymated B complex vitamin supplement. Coenzymated simply means that the B vitamins are in their most bio-available forms so they are easier for the body to actually use. While I am usually able to get enough of my B vitamins from my food, even B12, I want to cover my bases since B vitamins are so important for creating and maintaining energy.

Amazing Grass

I’ll admit it: I have become a huge salad eater. Since I won’t be able to have my morning green smoothie, lunch salad, or dinner salad (I warned you of my salad intake, right?), I also plan on bringing little individual Amazing Grass packets, which are sold at most stores now. This is great because they are chock-full of vitamins and minerals that I may be missing out on otherwise. It is basically like taking a multivitamin. There are a variety of flavors, and to be honest, I don’t mind the flavor of the original powder. I just mix it up in some water and drink away. Talk about a trail win.

Turmeric

One of the last supplements I plan on bringing is hidden in the dinners I will be sending myself. One of the grocery stores near me sells whole turmeric root, which I have been incorporating into my trail meals. Turmeric (and curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric) is an amazing natural anti-inflammatory and brain booster. It has even been proven to help people with arthritis. Since I have an easy access to the good, fresh stuff, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to bring along in some dinners. It is a very mild flavor that goes along will in most hearty dishes. I am hoping that by adding turmeric into my meals, I am able to stave off some aches and pains while out on the trail.

Flexibility

To be honest, figuring out my meal plan has been somewhat stressful. Truthfully, I only just nailed things down right before writing this article. The real idea here is to be flexible. There is no way to know what I will crave while out on the trail. I am hoping that the above plan can accommodate my changing tastes as best as possible. I hope that my meal plan can help you sort out what your plan out on the trail will be!
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Comments 4

  • Diana : Jan 8th

    Awesome article Robin! I am glad to see another plant based hiker. I am attempting a 1500 mile plant based hike this year on the PCT and I am really excited to see what food ideas I can come up with and how it all works out with my resupply. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    Reply
    • Robin Sorenson : Jan 22nd

      Good luck!

      Reply
  • Brandon Chase : Jan 10th

    I’m definitely feeling the same meal-planning stress! My plan is almost the same as yours – oats for breakfast, snacks throughout the day, and a hot meal at night that I send to myself. My dehydrator is running 24/7!

    Reply
    • Robin Sorenson : Jan 22nd

      Mine has been too!

      Reply

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