View Full Version : Cost of food for thru or halfway hikers?

05-22-2014, 22:12
I'm a newbie!! And I'm wanting to get an idea of what food and water will cost for AT long distance hiking and what methods I can use to save on the moolah! What are even my options? Packing food, wild edibles and restaurants?

Advice much appreciated!!! :)

Spirit Walker
05-22-2014, 22:32
To save on money, spend little time in town. Hostels and motels cost, and the longer you are in town, the more restaurant meals you will eat. If you do a faster hike (i.e. four or five months instead of six) you will spend less money. Don't get caught up in a group that is doing a lot of slackpacking - shuttles cost money, and they tend to eat out more often and do more hostels/motels. Don't start your hike too early. When the weather is really bad, you'll spend more time in town, and you're more likely to hike shelter to shelter, so you'll do shorter days than if you are camping more.

You'll probably do most of your shopping along the way, with possibly a few maildrops. There are some wild edibles, but they supplement your diet, they aren't the bulk of it. i.e. ramps spice up noodles; blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, mulberries etc. are wonderful treats, but limited in duration and calories. You will want to eat at restaurants, because hiking all day every day on a limited diet builds up a very large hunger. It's up to you how often you eat out and where. As I said before, by limiting time in town, you will save money in a lot of different ways. The AT passes near towns every few days, but you don't have to stay over. You can go in, buy some groceries, and get out in one day if you choose. The problem is if your friends want to stay over, it is hard to head out without them. If you smoke, quit before you go. Alcohol also can get expensive, so that's another way to save money.

If you look in the articles section of whiteblaze, there is a very good article by Weathercarrot, who was a very low budget hiker, on how to save money on a long hike.

05-23-2014, 08:54
Down south while traveling 'in the bubble' especially get many miles done crossing as many roads as possible to obtain as many trial magic opportunities, especially on weekends. I estimated that if traveling more then 20 m/d the amount of trail magic obtained would roughly equate to your daily food needs (before you get your hiker appetite). This can be handy for extending your hike past your intended resupply as you will have more food remaining in your pack.

If you wish to keep in touch with friends let them know you are starting a email list and see if they want to be added. You can tell of your adventures and you may get offers of them sending you care packages. People are usually willing to help and want to get involved in some way. I got quite a bit this way and it was they who offered, I did not ask. But two words of caution about care packages, send them to a place that you can retrieve it any day of the week (PO's are closed on Sundays), but also send them to a place where you can bounce the extras to another spot down the trail (some packages are overflowing and far too heavy to carry the whole thing out). But note that this is a exchange, sort of a 'work for stay (or food)' and you do have a obligation to them for this to work. I enjoyed it and wanted to tell them about what I was experiencing, but can see that it might be hard to do for some people and they would rather hike without having to keep in touch as their is enough to do just hiking. Their ability and willingness to help would be in proportion to they effort you put into your communications with them and there is no promise of care packages, just the possibility, but I can say that it feels like being a child on Christmas morning to receive one and find out all the goodies inside.

05-23-2014, 17:25
Thanks!! Keeping town time to a minimum makes sense!! Less temptation! :rolleyes: I'll definitely check out that article Spirit Walker!
I can see how that would be like Christmas morning Starchild!!!! Not sure if thats even likely for me, but I like the idea of an email list alone too!

05-23-2014, 17:29
What are even my options? Packing food, wild edibles and restaurants?
This makes it sound like you have no experience or knowledge of backpacking food whatsoever... Maybe you should ask a bit more specific question to get better answers? I don't want to talk down to you if you do understand trail food, but you really seem totally clueless...

05-23-2014, 18:21
Good advice above. In 2008, my trail food cost about $7 per day, buying along the way (no mail drops) for a total of about $800. Then there are many tempting opportunities to eat in restaurants. I took advantage of that and spent about the same amount on restaurants as I did on trail rations, about $700. If I didn't patronize eateries, I would have spent more on trail food, probably over $1000 total. Many spend way more than that (my hiking partner probably spent nearly twice what I did), some spend less.

05-23-2014, 18:31
Lol! I basically am totally clueless!! I did say I was a newbie.. :p I'm looking for people who want to share their experiences or give advice regarding food and keeping the cost low. Like, how much packing did you do, vs restaurants, vs edibles? Are the edibles even worth seeking out? Did you skip restaurant meals all together? How much did it all cost you in the end? What was your budgeting method? Etc. :) Is that clearer?

05-23-2014, 18:33
Thank garlic08! I'm glad to see the numbers, that helps me get a much better idea! :)

Spirit Walker
05-23-2014, 21:55
Breakfast: cereal and dried milk, oatmeal, grits, bagels, poptarts
lunch: tortillas, English muffins, bagels, or bread with peanut butter, cheese, meat
dinner: pasta, mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, rice, couscous etc. with some protein like tuna, salmon, spam, sausage, cheese, If you can find it, add fresh or dried veggies.
snacks (the most important part): gorp, chocolate, cookies, dried fruit, granola bars

05-24-2014, 17:43
Thanks!! :)

06-09-2014, 05:43
I see I'm a little late to this thread :) But I agree with Spirit Walker about wild edibles. You should not count on them for food supply, rather think of them as a special treat you may encounter. The AT has towns all over the place where you can resupply. As my boyfriend said when asked if he had to hunt for food on the trail, "Nope, it stayed nice and still for me at the grocery store!" Backpacking food is generally pretty cheap like pasta, pop tarts, tortillas, etc. But in town you will probably want a meal at a restaurant.

Not sure what your budget is, but I think it is important to have enough cash to spend in town. Also since you are over 21 you may spend even more because you will be thirsty for adult beverages. :) (if you partake in them) NC in particular has a really excellent beer selection that you won't want to miss out on! In any case you don't want to be the only one who can't afford to go out to a restaurant or bar in town.

06-09-2014, 08:13
Keeping cost down means avoiding nice things in town. Once you're in the woods, money is useless.

Consider what you spend on feed in "real-life"; the cost on the trail will be at least that, probably somewhat more, because you're buying from out of the way mom-and-pop stores, and you're buying strictly non-perishable items.

Mailing food to yourself (mail drops) have fallen out of favor for a number of reasons, but they may be one way to keep the food costs to a bare minimum. There are disadvantages: cost of postage, waiting for PO to open, but mostly, getting bored with the foods you've chosen to send to yourself.

Of course there are other reasons, besides food, for going into town occasionally. But most of these involve money.

06-09-2014, 08:19
... NC in particular has a really excellent beer selection that you won't want to miss out on!

Yes indeed. We found Abita Purple Haze in Hot Springs, NC. Who knew? :banana :D :cool: