Food on the PCT: How and what I actually ate

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17 Responses

  1. Thank you for such a comprehensive summary! It helps me put my food choices in perspective as I plan to hike the PCT this year (2015). I especially enjoyed your comments regarding the social aspects and how it affected your cooking & food choices. One question, have you put together your thoughts regarding blogging during your trip? I know from experience that it is difficult at the end of a long day to lay in a comfy sleeping bag and put together a blog.

    • Alice says:

      Thanks, Bob. I haven’t done a write-up of my blogging yet, but I like the idea. The short version is:

      I wrote in a paper journal (for myself) every night, and I’m glad I did. I lost steam on blogging (for others) from town, but would like to try again (maybe shorter posts, nightly or at least more frequent) on a future hike.

  2. Teresia Knight says:

    Thank you Alice for sharing this. It definitely helped me as I plan for my hike in April. I especially liked your section on letting go on the trail. Your description of foods also gave me great ideas in food planning. This was all very nice of you to help the rest of us as we plan. I sincerely appreciate all of your advice and inspiration. Thank you! :)

  3. Noelle says:

    Yes, this is a very helpful post! I’m not a foodie and planning food stuff at home makes me want to run screaming from the room, so planning for food on the trail seems like one of the most intimidating aspects of a thru-hike to me. Your descriptions and advice make planning for the trail sound doable. :-) Thanks!

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hello again Alice! Great post. I definitely struggle with the food ethics thing a lot on the trail. I was raised by hippies and have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of eating things like Doritos etc (I just think, “Holy crap, do you KNOW what kind of preservatives are in this??). But, you make an excellent point about sometimes just needing to let it go. As you mentioned, I’m sure there are lots of great folks out there who eat their organic pre-selected food the entire time, but sometimes I feel like it gets mentally draining to so specific with your food all the time (I sort of experience this is everyday life too). Thanks for all the great info!

  5. Dogwood says:

    I browsed through the article quickly noting the pics assuming you scavenged wild fungi, grouse, nettles and huckleberries the whole way. :-)

    As a LD hiker you are well aware that adaptability and flexibility serves you well. However, with 20+ LD hikes of 600 miles or more in the U.S., three of more than 3500 miles, and being conscientious of eating and drinking habits, I’m strongly of the opinion you don’t need to ignore your food ethics as a hiker.

    I’m a Foodie, pesce vegetarian for 20 yrs,(mostly), and seek out Organic on and off trail. I might slide a bit and eat something fried like fries or chicken or take in a milk shake later into a very long distance hike on trail but it’s not really that mind blowing daunting to eat well on the trail if you mail a few boxes and aim to buy at larger grocery stores. Especially out west where consumers tend to more likely be Foodies or have a higher sensibility of where their food comes from and what’s in it than much of the east coast states’ population, west coast grocery stores are stocked well. Although, even on the more food lenient east coast we’re observing grocery stores such as Krogers, Walmarts( w/ markets), Publix, etc offering minimally processed minimally packaged fresher alternatives, even Organic selections. One has to look though and not give into the Pop Tarts, Snickers, greasy chips, Little Debbies, sugar, trans fats, preservatives, etc. If your typical resupply is bought at a gas station convenience store choices are more limited. Good luck with that.

    Alice, you are so right about food habits that had once been unquestioned off trail becoming apparent once on a LD hike. LD hiking finally made those questionable habits surface to which I couldn’t ignore and continue anymore on trail. The taught regular habit of reaching for easy to obtain convenient seeming junk food like most chips, Pop Tarts, Snickers, sugary highly processed “nutritional” bars, Little Debbies, Moon Pies, etc gave way to higher fiber, slow burning complex carbs, low in added sugar, high in “good fats” whole foods. Dropped much of the added sugar from the hiking diet, ALL of the trans fats(BAD FATS, hydrogenated anything), and MSG(it interferes with the neurological messages that tell the brain were satiated ). Ate lots of fiber rich and slow burning complex carbs in their most natural whole food states with lots of “good fats”( the fats in nuts, seeds, EVOO, avocados, coconut products, oily fishes, etc) using the grazing or “drip method” which reduced hunger, decreased or eliminated energy spikes, and cravings. Drank copious amounts of water in reg sips consistently which not only aids in feeling full but basically keeps our organs, skin(It’s an organ), muscles well oiled, less prone to muscle fatigue, better recovery, etc. Resupplying more often or supplementing so to have more availability to in town food to keep up the caloric load helps. Lastly, consider growing nutrient rich living sprouts on trail. The fiber, moisture, and very good nutrition and ease of growing sprouts as one hikes can help keep the hunger at bay in a tasty way.

    One of the greatest misconceptions of LD hikers is that energy, or more precisely optimal nutrition, is narrowly about consuming mass calories. Food, more precisely optimal nutrition, which is not all that complicated to get on trail especially on U.S. trails like the TC trails is more than calories. It is also about enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins, etc usually lacking in junk food. Eating more and consistently more of these nutritionally dismal foods leads problems as one hikes ie: energy spikes, excess packaging to rid oneself of, excess bulk, excess food wt, etc.

    • Travis says:

      Thank you Dogwood! this post is a much needed post of encouragement to maintain our diet on the trail! If you have any other tips or planning suggestions please share!

  6. Dogwood says:

    In short, rather than opt for those seemingly convenient junk foods – food like products – with empty calories, better to opt for overall nutritionally dense high cal/oz ratio real foods. In the long run they serve many a hiker the best in terms of performance, trail food wt, and even eventual cost.

  7. Susanna Bost says:

    Alice, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. This and your pre-hike post have been, by far, the most comprehensive and helpful posts I’ve found on resupply strategy. Very timely as I’m currently in panic mode for how to approach shopping for and filling all of my resupply boxes for a 2016 thru-hike. This gives me a lot of new ideas for how to approach it!

  8. Erik Carson says:

    As a newbie (capable, but yet completely untried) thru hiker with a JMT trip planned this Sept., I can’t thank you enough for not only your suggestions, but your post-trip feedback. My food anxiety is matched only by the realization that I’m going to be walking….a lot, everyday, for about a month. Your suggestions are tres helpful. thanks.

  9. Noelle says:

    Just read this post through again, and I’m wondering if you’re ever going to put all your wonderful information in a book that I could carry with me places, and make notes in and turn down its corners and stuff! 😀

  10. Michael says:

    Thank you for the info, for your fun and easy-to-read writing style. Now I find myself pouring over your entire site! And bravo for the food / calorie breakdown and for laying out your routines.

  11. Maggie says:

    Thanks Alice for the comprehensive food article. Did you have any challengers getting back into you nutritional eating once you were off Trail?

  12. Valerie says:

    I will be hiking the PCT when I retire and have a question about the food. I would like to shed a few pounds and wondered if this will occur or not if I consume so many calories?
    Did you lose any weight or were you at Ideal weight when you started?
    Also how do you prevent weight gain after the hike?

  13. Hey Alice,

    I happened upon your site Alice Hikes (very cool!), and while clicking around your site I came across this post.

    I am the editor of, and we have recently updated our pretty in-depth article on Thru-Hiking 101 and thought you might be interested. We’d be hugely honored if you would check it out (and possibly consider adding a link to it).

    If not, we would always welcome any constructive criticism!

    Here is the link:

    Happy Trails!

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