How I Decided What’s in My Food Bag

Backpacking

As you will quickly notice as we are hiking along, thru-hikers love food. We dream of town food while hiking, we endure ridiculous food challenges, we pride ourselves on the calories we consume, and we talk practically nonstop about food. So how do we decide what we eat and what goes into our food bags? That is answered differently by each hiker, but I’m going to outline my strategy.

I started with the resupply master list that is available on the thru-hiker page at thecontinentaldividetrail.org under resupply info. I knew that I wanted to do about 100 miles between stops, aiming to make about 30 boxes, so I began to plan stops about that distance apart. After looking up trail about 100 miles I would look at how far off trail the post office was, post office hours, and look to any notes on the spreadsheet about the hitch. There were a few places that were really far off trail and I opted to skip them. After picking the spot I would divide the miles needing to be hiked by an average of 20 miles a day and that’s how many days each box would contain.

Then came the fun part: what I actually would be eating. My diet doesn’t actually vary that much when I’m off trail and when I’m on trail, and I already eat pretty much the same food every day, so planning what to eat for six months wasn’t too hard for me. The difficulty lies in making sure you have enough calories and foods that will sustain energy. Having tried different strategies on the AT and the PCT, I had a better idea of what I need for energy. On the PCT I ate a lot of bars, which contain a lot of sugar, and I realized I wasn’t getting the longer-lasting energy needed to hike those big days. Realizing this, I made cutting down on bars a priority and instead switched to trying to eat more energy-producing food.

Here is a simple breakdown of my food bag that is the same for each box:

Breakfast: Oatmeal and Coffee

I made my own packets for this trip, opting out of the Quaker packets. Although those are super convenient and would have saved me four hours of making my own packets, I wanted to be able to have super oats in the morning. My packets are full of oats, flax seed, chia, powdered peanut butter, and dried fruit.

Lunch: Hummus on Tortilla or Bagels and Crackers

Every lunch will be powdered hummus with seaweed and almonds on tortillas or bagels and crackers. I have found that the salty and crunchy mix of crackers at lunch is exactly what I’m craving at that time of day.

Dinners: Couscous, Rice Sides,Backpacker’s Pantry, or Ramen

I have a mix of the foods above supplemented by dehydrated veggies. All of these are meals to fuel muscle recovery and are easy to cook.

Snacks

I do have some bars, but much fewer than in hikes past, and I researched deeper to find ones in which the second ingredient was not brown rice syrup, organic or not. I selected Kate’s Real Food Bars, Redd bars, and Clif filled bars.

Trail mix and dried fruit: Each box contains a bag of each of these.

Edamame and garbanzo beans: Each box contains a bag of dried and salted beans as a protein-filled snack.

That is an overview of what my boxes contain. There of course are cookies and candy in some drops as well, because sometimes the only thing that pushes you through a hard day is your stash of black jelly beans.

In any case, boxes are done, which is a huge step in my prep for a thru-hike and my days are edging nearer. The excitement is growing and I’m looking forward to being on trail.

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