When I tell people, I’m getting ready to hike the CDT, one question quickly comes up: “So what do you eat when you are hiking for 5 months?”
Good question! And definitely one that is a major source of fixation when out on trail and the body is burning all the calories it can readily convert to propel forward movement. I’m definitely a food-oriented hiker and have been known to push extra miles in pursuit of a milkshake, pizza, or dark leafy green salad. So thinking about trail food is important and fun.
In January and February, Gabriel and I put much effort into buying enough food for about 2,000 miles of the trail. (We figured we’d make about 20 resupply boxes and also resupply in towns for about 900 miles.*) Food for 3-4 months quickly took over our kitchen and it was good motivation to begin packing boxes: Operation Reclaim the Kitchen Floor.
So what are we packing? As much calorie-dense, whole food as possible, with as much variety as we can find in food that is shelf stable. As well as a few junk food treats too, because while they don’t sound good now, they will sound amazing when we’ve hiked 50 miles over the last day-and-a-half and are another 60 miles from the nearest road that leads to a diner with fries and milkshakes.
A typical day’s worth of food amounts to 1.5-2 pounds and includes:
A pre-breakfast snack:
- 1 Rebar, MacroGreens bar, or Go Raw spirulina bar
- 1 granola bar
- 1 serving of powdered veggie greens mixed with a liter of water
Breakfast (a few miles down the trail):
- Option 1: Nutty nuggets (aka soy-free generic Grape Nuts) with coconut flakes, walnuts and dried cranberries
- Option 2: Chia seeds with peanut butter, currants, coconut flakes, whole fat powdered milk and cocoa powder
- EPIC bars, tuna in olive oil, turkey or bison jerky, dried figs, dried mangoes, dried apples, dried pineapples, salted almonds, curried cashews, raw nut trail mixes, soy-free granola bars, just fruit bars, veggie bars, power wraps, pretzels, Sumersaults, Newman-Os (like Oreo’s but slightly better ingredients), Nutella or Justin’s chocolate hazelnut spread, and random treats that looked good while shopping-often at Trader Joe’s.
- Dehydrated black beans, corn chowder, lentils, or golden pea soup mixes from Taste Adventure supplemented with olive oil, cheese, spicy cashews or nuts, nutritional yeast, kale chips, sun dried tomatoes, and corn chips.
- Occasionally couscous or dehydrated mashed potatoes will replace the dehydrated soup as the base, but the extra toppings will remain the same.
- To mask the flavor/color of some of the less than ideal water sources we are bringing powdered beverage mixes. These are also great for boosting electrolytes, on the list: Arnold Palmer lemon-ice tea, Ultima, True Lemon limeade, lemonade and raspberry lemonade.
- Also, to maximize calories: Instant Breakfasts.
That’s about it. This sort of variety worked well for us on the PCT and works on our shorter trips in the Cascades. So hopefully we’ll still be happy with ourselves when we are eating food in August that we packed in January.
*As much as I’d like to support the local economy of all the trail towns we go through by buying all of my food on trail, I learned the hard way on the PCT that buying food at the average convenience store or limited supply grocery store, means I’m not always getting the foods that fuel me. Hopefully we’ll do our part in contributing to the local economy through restaurant purchases, motels, and sundries.