Preparing for the PCT: Food

kind of like dog food, but for people

kind of like dog food, but for people

When you’re walking for 2600 miles, what do you eat?

As far as I can tell from what I’ve read about other people’s PCT hikes, you either buy your supplies in little towns and eat junk food for five months, or you plan all of your meals in advance and mail them to yourself.

Which is what I am going to do.

But still, what do you eat?

This week I’ve begun to organize my food for the trail. It’s overwhelming, it’s confusing, there are so many different options and it’s so hard to guess what I’ll want to eat in August, after walking through all of California, but it’s also SO FUN. Food is like a puzzle for me. Figuring out what I should eat and why is calming to me the way that crossword puzzles are calming for some people.

For last fall and most of this winter I followed a paleo diet. This gave my brain something interesting to do when I wasn’t writing, like a little hamster wheel that it could run on (what to eat what to eat what to eat) but then I started writing again and I stopped caring as much about what I ate. Last fall I was like, maybe I’ll be paleo on the PCT! And I’ll make my own pemmican from buffalo suet that I order off the internet and I’ll dehydrate an entire case of sweet potatoes and I’ll carry coconut oil in a platypus bladder! And then I thought about what that would actually look like and all the work that it would entail and I was like, Fuck that! But mostly because I don’t even know if I like pemmican, and it seems sort of unreasonable to commit myself to subsisting off of something for five months that I don’t even know that I like. But I really hope that someday someone hikes the PCT on a paleo diet, because I really want to read about how they do it.

For the last month I have not been paleo. The other day when I was PMSing I made, and then ate, an entire gluten-free pizza. My uterus is like a four-year-old. I want piiiiiiiiiiza! I want moooooore pizza! I want the whoooooooooooooole pizza!! And I’m like Fine! Whatever you want! JUST! SHUT! UP! And then two hours later- I have a tummy ache! My tummy huuuuuurts! And I’m like, Well you shouldn’t have eaten the whole fucking pizza!

So. What I’m going to eat on the PCT this year is a combination of things I have eaten on previous backpacking trips and new ideas that I’ve had. So far, it’s going something like this:

  • Dried split pea soup (I LOVE THIS) / dried curried lentil soup / dried black bean soup / dried hummus (do I like this? I don’t remember)
  • Dehydrated instant rice / gluten-free pasta and rice noodles / dried sweet potatoes
  • Freeze-dried beef (I have no idea what this tastes like but I ordered a GIANT CAN of it from the internet)
  • Freeze dried peas, carrots, and other veggies- as much as I can afford
  • An entire case of kale from the co-op that I dehydrate myself (kale dehydrates really well and really fast)
  • Oatmeal with chia seeds
  • Dried fruit up the wazoo
  • NUTZ
  • DARK CHOCOLATE X COCONUT FLAKES X COCONUT OIL X HONEY X PEPPERMINT OIL X SALT – melted and poured into a plastic peanut butter jar, to eat w/spoon (when I was thinking about hiking paleo this, along with the pemmican, was to be my staple food)
  • Luxurious and ethereal dried seaweed snacks, if $$$ allows
  • Japanese rice crackers / snap pea crisps / sweet potato chips / HUGE FUCKING BAG OF FRITOS
  • Jar o’ tahini
  • Precious, precious beef jerky

Things I probably won’t eat on my trip-

  • Almond butter and peanut butter. I ruined, ruined RUINED nut butters for myself in my twenties, because when I traveled that was pretty much the only thing I ate. UGH.
  • Bars. My twenties also ruined bars for me.
  • Instant mashed potatoes- thru-hikers love these. I cannot imagine loving these. Maybe once I am hiking I will understand.
  • Gluten and dairy- gluten makes me go to sleep/dairy makes my digestion stop.


For the first ten days of the trip I’m planning 3000 calories a day. After that 4000 calories a day. Apparently that’s when the “hiker hunger” sets in, and 4000 calories/day is the recommended minimum.

I need to find a vacuum sealer. If I don’t vacuum-seal all of my food before I ship it, it will be horribly, intolerably stale by the time it gets to me. Like that scene in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild when she’s sitting outside the co-op in Ashland and trying to eat her little bag of stale nuts and she can’t do it even though she’s really, really hungry.

It’s fun to talk about food. But don’t you want to hear about my KICKSTARTER? Did you know that I’m going to publish a book about my trip, and it’s going to be AMAZING, and I am going to hire a REAL EDITOR and everything, and you can pre-order the book right now, through my kickstarter, for ONE DOLLAR?

I’ve got twenty days left to reach my very reasonable goal, and if I fail I can’t hike the PCT. So tell your grandmother and your babysitter and your dentist, and they can pre-order a book too! Seriously, readers! COPY AND PASTE THIS LINK ONTO YOUR FACEBOOK!


2 thoughts on “Preparing for the PCT: Food

  1. Heads up on the mashed potatoes only buy ‘Idahoan’ just add water. Remarkably better than any other brand. I’m an avid kayaker, pack rafter and hiker and those are the only ones worth eating!

  2. Hey Laurie-
    You know I think I read that in Yogi’s guides too. Only buy Idahoan instant potatoes! Lol. I haven’t had instant potatoes since I was a kid; I look forward to rediscovering this exciting food product on the trail.

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