View Full Version : How many days of food at a time?

01-28-2004, 14:02
It was real rare for us to hike for more than 3-4 days w/o a resupply. Because the AT runs pretty close to civilization you are never more than a day to a grocery store no matter where you are. It might take some effort to get there, but it is possible.

You may want to reconsider your mail drop schedule as most towns have a full service grocery store. We're talking Supermarkets in most cases. There are indeed a few towns where a mail drop might be helpful. Since this is the case, it is easy to hit a road corssing, hitch into town, hit up the grocery store and pizza joint, and get back on the trail. You can even do this and still get your full day of hiking in.

When choosing food, it hinkt he rule of thumb is 100 calories per ounce. This may or may not cut down your food weight. I used to carry Luna Bars, packets of Tuna, gorp, granola bars, candy candy candy, hot dinners, the works. I just like to eat.

Hope this helps

01-28-2004, 14:03
first off, i'd say 2 lbs of food a day is more accurate. I seemed to do more than fine on this amount.
I was a lightweighter, tho not ultralight. I tried to resupply every 2-4 days. Down south it was more like every 5 days, but after Damascus it seemed doable pretty easily about every 3 days.
People will tell you that resupplying often will take away a lot of time, and if you find close resupply points, and don't waste much time in town, this is certainly not true. It was very satisfying to hitch or walk to a town or grocery, resupply, eat a nice meal and get back on the trail. Being back in the woods, after a good day of hiking, being satisfied by town food is a good feeling.
Having a lighter pack may translate into more miles which also means less days to resupply. If you can hike a 60 mile section in 3 days while it takes some 5 days, than obviously you can pack lighter (supposing you have the confidence and ability to make it).
I knew a couple guys who were doing 25+ miles a day and resupplying every other day. Carrying less food allowed them to go faster, or was it the other way around.
I'm sure you'll figure out what works for you once you're on the trail. Once you've established a pace and know your daily mile capabilities (i.e. what is comfortable) then it will be easier to know how to space food.
I'd recommend for someone trying to go lightweight to rely more on shopping than maildrops. It would be annoying to deal with post offices every couple of days.

01-28-2004, 15:23
You might try emailing Teatree, who hiked the PCT last summer and the AT sometime in the past. She did mail drops to alot of places because of exactly the same reasons. She has something on trailjournals.

If you carry a light pack, you'll find yourself hiking longer miles. Mostly, this is because you'll have a lot more energy left over toward the end of the day. Don't be surprised if you start hitting the 15 mile mark early in the afternoon. Unless you really like a spot, this will mean that you'll be sitting around, or hiking a few more hours. That being said, if you want to average, say, 20 miles per hiking day, then you'll want to shoot for around 3000-3500 calories per hiking day. Depending on how large you are, once your miles per hiking day go up much past 20, caloric requirements really go up.

South of Damascus, the longest stretch is from Walasi-Yi to NOC., which is something like 100 miles. So, 5 days. Or 7 if you want a little room for comfort. Think about trying to buy from NOC. Otherwise you'll end up mailing yourself a day and a half of food to NOC. You won't want to haul supplies for the Smokys from NOC over Cheoah.

In the end, how far you go between resupply points is up to you. But, a word of caution is in order. I knew a woman on the PCT this summer who had several 220+ mile resupply stretches because she didn't want to hitchhike or take a side trail. She was using maildrops and underestimated how much food she would need. Once you try to put 10 or 14 days of food on your back, it is easy to do this. After 450 miles, she had gone from athletic to emaciated. I think she eventually finished, but perhaps had to skip a little and change her strategy a bit.

01-28-2004, 15:31
Tracy yam , I'm a vegetarian also and not eating the kind of stuff you can find near the trail(I do very limited dairy) here is my mail drop plans for my walk to damascus , I'm doing it Again this year.

Neels gap (miles 31)from last supply
blueberry patch (miles35)
rainbow springs (miles37)
noc (miles 31)
fontana (miles 30)
gatlinburg (happy hiker) miles 45
standing bear farm (miles 36)
Hot springs (miles33)
hitch into erwin from sams gap
(a very easy hitch),supply then shuttle back (miles 42)
erwin (pick up remainder of drop)(miles 24)
greasy creek friendly (miles 23)
roanmtn/elk park (delivery to trail head by relative) miles 22
kincora (hampton) miles 20

01-28-2004, 16:19
I will have anywhere from 3 to 7 days food on board. I get by very well on 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs of food per day. I make my own gorp.

I don't see how anyone can't eat Mac & Cheese !! It's the best all-round trail food ever invented. Especially the triple cheese type. I only have it about once a month at the house though.

Springer - 4
Neels Gap - 7
Rainbow Springs - 4
N.O.C. - 3
Hike Inn - 7
Davenport Gap - 4
Hot Springs- 6
Erwin,TN - 7
Damascus - 5

etc., etc. I always try to have one days more food on board than I plan on needing.

01-28-2004, 16:27
I don't see how anyone can't eat Mac & Cheese !!

I don't see how anyone CAN it eat it ...yuck! :datz

01-28-2004, 16:46
Well, Tracey, just to give you my 2 cents.

First, you need to carry enough food to get you to your next resupply point. So, in order to figure that out, you need to read posts such as this one, and Baltimore Jack's resupply list. Then, read Wingfoot's handbook or the ALDHA Companion.

Now, make some decisions about your hike. Specifically, how often do you want to go off the trail to resupply, and how far off the trail do you want to go. For example, do you want to try to walk in and out of as many towns and possible? How do you feel about hitch hiking? Obviously, the less often you resupply, the more food you carry. If you don't mind hitch hiking, it's totally possible to resupply almost every other day, and frequently every day. Some people do this.

How much food do you need? First, it's good that you are thinking about this. In my opinion, several people quit the trail because they get run down from not eating enough and trying to eat right. Snickers bars and Ramen only go so far. These are the people who try to get by with less than 2 pounds per day, and pig out in town. So, if you eat well on the trail, it should improve your chances of getting to Maine. That being said, right now, I suspect that you need less than 3000 calories per day. But, that's all going to change when you start hiking. After a week or two, you should be eating 4000 calories.

So, Tracey, if you already have a list of resupply points, where are the distances long between resupply points? I'm sure that people here can help fill in some of the gaps for you.

01-28-2004, 16:53
first off, it is very easy to be a vegetarian on the Trail. There is very little meat that can stay on Trail, so most backpackers are vegis until they get to town unless they dehydrate meat.
As I said before, I would shy away from doing all/lots of maildrops. If you want to do biger miles and resupply more that could be on the up of 40 or more maildrops which would be a tremendous amount of work and money. And you'll need a good support person or team :) to help.
There are not a tremendous amount of gourmet/organic food stores near the Trail but there are some (Hot Springs Outfitter, Hanover Co-op) but there are plenty of places to buy fruit and veggies. Gorge on them in town. I ate a lot of dried fruits.
I would certainly check out the BlueBerry patch at Dicks Creek Gap, about 3 days from Neels Gap. They have an organic farm I believe. I have to disagree with chris. Going from Neels Gap to NOC is a bit far and its fairly unlikely one can make it there in 5 days, even 7. You'd have to be in tremendous shape to start out doing 20 miles a day or even 15.
Definately stay at Elmers hostel in Hot Springs. He makes a delicious vegetarian AYCE dinner and has an organic farm out back.

Moon Monster
01-28-2004, 17:04
Excellent info above.

I had a vegetarian companion who had a handful of drops for all 2172 miles to get things like Gatorade and TVP, but little else. He ate mac-n-cheese for dinners mostly (but it was gourmet stuff full of TVP, sea salt, various spices, hot sauce, real cheese, and a higher price box of noodles found at larger markets, and sometimes other things like olive oil and nuts). He ate tortillas and block cheese and snickers and such the rest of the day. Monotonous, yes, but I had some of the mac and I beleived it was good enough to eat every day.

I only ever ate meat in towns at restaurants. But, I was OK with convenience store type entrees of Liptons and Ramens. I ate lots of bagels, peanut butter, Little Debbie type stuff and donuts also.

Looking back (and loking forward before I started), I can't imagnie the monotony of processed foods, but while out there, my tastes were very simple and my standards were lower.

I averaged resuppluing on the fourth day in the South and on the third day Virginia north. I met one ultra-lighter who resupplied every other day on average (30-40 mile pace with an 8 lb pack).

01-28-2004, 17:19
For those people who think they want to go vegitarian, I suggest that you check out typical hiker foods and what's in supermarkets before trying to go all mail drops.

There is a variety of Mac & Cheese on the market, Liptons, Grop, dried fruits, breakfast stuff, etc, that is all in most supermarkets and towns along the trail. No need to do a mail drop. So, check it out before buying a six month supply.

01-28-2004, 19:48
Peaks some people don't eat that stuff..tracyam said she usually buys her food at " places like Wild Oats and other "natural food" stores"
me too... I shop at Sevenada's/farmers markets.... there is very Little of this kind of supply near the trail on the part that I hike regularly springer-damascus. (access to a health food store in Helen ga and then some in hot springs,maybe g-burg but what a mess) I have never understood why folks think that mail drops are so hard.

neels gap on the trail (7 day access)
blueberry patch is 3.5 miles easy hitch and ride back (7 day access)
rainbow springs is 1.1 miles easy hitch and ride back (7 day access)
noc on the trail (7 day access)
fontana is 1 dollar shuttle (PO 5 1/2 day access)
gatlinburg is easy hitch in..harder to hitch back (Happy Hiker 7 day access)
standing bear farm onthe trail (7 day access)
hot springs on the trail.. (Elmers or bluff mtn Outfitters 7 day access)
sams gap easy hitch, shuttle back (janet's 7 day access)
erwin well erwin is erwin...everybody goes to erwin, how can you miss the burrito (back in erwin :sun )
greasy creek is near trail (7 day access)
roanmtn\elk park can be a problem thank goodness for aunt sharon (very easy for me) :jump
kincora on trail (7 day access)

01-28-2004, 20:21
How much food? I don't plan on thru hiking the AT anytime soon but will be thru hiking the Long Trail this year. My goal is to carry food for 7-8 days. My partner will meet me along the way with food. I will also be packaging my own food. I'm vegan. The only non vegan part of my diet is honey (I'm a beekeeper). This is a fascinating hobby! I'm aiming for 6-8oz per meal. Being vegan really limits what one can eat far from home. I've done ultra cycling, ultra trail running, and bicycle touring all with this diet. I've been vegan for over 10 years and vegetarian for 15 years before that. So I know what works for me. My pack weight will still be around 25-28lbs.

Sakkit :dance

01-29-2004, 09:23
Why do people think mail drops are hard?

Probably several factors. First, the post office is not open Saturday afternoon and Sunday. It seems like you always arrive at town when the post office isn't open.

Second, I supsect that people's tastes have changed. All that food that was carefully dehydrated and packaged is no longer appealing. Likewise, they can't face another day of instant oatmeal. So, it goes into the hiker box, and you go to the store anyway.

Third, hikers have come to the realization that they need to go to the supermarket or store anyway, so the mail drop doesn't eliminate the need.

Fourth, mail drops require planning. People haven't done a good job of planning their hike.

Fifth, inherent problems. Sometimes the mail drop doesn't get sent where it should be sent, or the receiving party can't find it (this happened to me).

Finally, there must be a good reason why most thru-hikers agree that if they were to do the trail again, they would do it with fewer mail drops.

01-29-2004, 14:59
I've heard some folks say they'd do fewer mail drops if they did it again, but I always wonder what their situation was. If they could they eat the stuff found in stores along the trail and didn't need things like prescriptions sent to them, why did they use mail drops?

We used mail drops out of ignorance. It just seemed like everyone used them, so we should too. As for prescription stuff, use a bounce box. That works for most stuff. We are still going to use "some" mail drops, but for expensive things like candy bars/energy bars and special gorps and what not. We'll store some of it in our bounce box, and then call up the support team (Mom) and ask her to send a refill when we need it. Assuming mom doesn't eat all the goodies (last time there was a serious lack of Candy bars in our mail drops, except for the baby ruths. They were terrible!)

Oh, and as for frequency of meals, we found that there were certain meals that we ALWAYS wanted (mac and cheese). That really surprised us, 'cause we figured we would get sick of certain meals, so we tried to be more diverse. In the end, we actually wished we had been less diverse, but focused on foods that we knew we liked. The problem with that is, you won't know what you like until you are out there! Hence, just do your shopping on trail. It's most adaptable.

Gravity man

01-29-2004, 15:38
When I did my section hike on the AT, I used three maildrops (Walasi-Yi, Fontana, Erwin) and bought in town twice (NOC, Hot Spings). I maildropped out of ignorance and fear. Now, I don't have any particular diet that I stick to nor am I a picky eater. There seem to me to be two good reasons for sending maildrops:

1) You have a diet that is hard to fulfill on trail. Examples might be macrobiotic, no preservatives, wheat allergy, no hydrogenated oils, GMO free, organic, etc. While still possible to resupply on trail, it might mean eating a lot of the same thing time and time again.

2) You are a wizard in the kitchen and have taken the time to dehydrate vast amounts of good, homecooked food. I dried about half of my main meals and about half of my snacks for the AT. For the PCT, I dried about 20 monster sized meals for the start of the trail (wanted to be well fed at first) and the Sierras (big calories needed). I also dried a bag's worth of dried vegetables, which made excellent additions to Mac & Cheese, Lipton's, Ramen, etc. Homecooked food is a lot better than what you can find in a gas station.

Unless you go out for a long hike, it is hard to be convinced that buying as you go is the right thing to do if you don't fit reasons 1 and 2 above. I wasn't convinced by the AT-L when I set out from Springer, but when I left Campo I was.

01-29-2004, 17:42
Well, Tracey, just to give you my 2 cents.

How much food do you need? First, it's good that you are thinking about this. In my opinion, several people quit the trail because they get run down from not eating enough and trying to eat right. Snickers bars and Ramen only go so far. These are the people who try to get by with less than 2 pounds per day, and pig out in town.

I would hope that your not saying or implyng that after over 50 years of hiking and 10 years being a type 2 diabetic I don't know what or how to eat. Maybe you should watch the "one rule fits everyone" thinking ?

I have invested time, money and considerable research into whats good for me to eat while hiking and whats not. I get all the energy I need from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs food per day while hiking the A.T.

In the future I suggest you limit your comments to what you know works for you and let me trust my Masters Degree dietician along with my Doctor about my food needs. Metabolisms are like fingerprints in many ways, no two or exactly the same.

If you want to pack more weight than you might really need you go for it my man, but please don't presume to tell me whats best for me. Be it directly or indirectly(which you seem to prefer). thanks

01-29-2004, 18:58

I appologize if my post was misconstrued. It's gotta be a rare person who has a dietician help with their planning.

01-29-2004, 19:33

I appologize if my post was misconstrued. It's gotta be a rare person who has a dietician help with their planning.

Not really Peaks...I have studied and consulted with dieticians many times.

No one really cares what you eat Zzzzzzyd does care what they eat..I care what I eat...

I know that I like good food, I am just not interested in eating Lipton meals and typical hiker fare,

one note about mail drops always make sure to send yourself plenty of food...
if you send to much to neels gap they do UPS shipping and you can send it ahead and and catch up to it...but when you start making good tasting and smelling food people start asking you "man , what is that and where did you get it" if you have a little overage it is not hard to get rid of it...

so it cost you a few bucks...maybe...so what...but if you buy in bulk ..which I do....then maybe just maybe you save a couple bucks or a least break even after considering sometimes elevated prices at trailstops for Ramen noddles,,,also buying bulk foods and having it packaged bulk in your food bag saves you from carry so many food packages...done correctly you have virtually no gabage..ain't that a hoot.

I like to have whole wheat pancake for breakfast..maybe organic corn fritter, Peaks I agree with you if I was gonna eat instant oatmeal..I would buy it as I went,,,but where near the trail can you get organic veggie spiral noddles and organic black bean flakes , or organic sundried tomatoes..no where much...

post office drops are limited to open hours, but if youcan't figuere out to maybe slow down a day or speed up a little so you hit town a a good time ..then maybe mail drops aren't for you..

most hostels and outfitters are open 7 days...and yes I guess your package could get lost..it happens..people also get hit by lightening on mtn tops...UPS covers your package up to $100 included in your standard shipping...be careful of the bears too.

some pre planning is good...good food is good...HYOH

02-01-2004, 14:47
This thread on ''How much food to bring"" got me thinking. :-? It seems most people bring about 4-7 days worth of food. I plan on thru hiking the Long Trail in VT this year and thought about bringing ALL my food. :jump This would be about 21 days on the trail. Since I do all of my food peperation at home I would be able to control everything. I'm vegan so getting food of the trail is not a possibilty. My wife does'nt like this idea of me hiking 21 days with no contact with her. But I'm still in the planning stage.


02-01-2004, 18:12
If you're going ultralight, how many days of food do you carry at a time?

### My solo base weight is ~10 - 12 lbs.
My "with kids" weight is ~15 lbs.

This includes my "hauler" 4.5lb, 5400CI pack. With that I can carry about 40 lbs of food/water -- good for about 10 days between mail drops with them at age 8, probably good for <9 days now. I figure that's be good for about three weeks for me solo. That puts me leaving town with 55 pounds at times, but I still consider base weight the relevant measure. "Ultralight" is about your pack, not your planning...

Yes, I like to stay *out* of town, though I'd never avoid an easy food drop local. Last month, going 160 miles Fontana-> Springer, I left with 2.5 days' worth to Wesser/NOC (33 miles?) then picked up 7 days' worth from my car (to Neel's Gap), then 2 days' worth for the last 30 miles. My winter/solo base weight (with a 2 lb MoonBow Gear Skin) is around 18lbs, so with 7 days of food, I think I left Wesser with about 32 lbs in a frameless pack -- perfectly comfy.

(Hmmm. I think I missed the question. I'm late; it's tired....)

02-01-2004, 19:15
My base pack weight is 14lbs. This includes all that I need except food. So for 10 days of hiking my pack weight should be around 24lbs.


02-02-2004, 09:02
This thread on ''How much food to bring"" got me thinking. :-? It seems most people bring about 4-7 days worth of food. I plan on thru hiking the Long Trail in VT this year and thought about bringing ALL my food. :jump This would be about 21 days on the trail. Since I do all of my food peperation at home I would be able to control everything. I'm vegan so getting food of the trail is not a possibilty. My wife does'nt like this idea of me hiking 21 days with no contact with her. But I'm still in the planning stage.


Assuming that your food is about 2 pound per day, that's starting with 42 pounds of food.

The GMC publishes a booklet for end to enders. I suggest that you plan on resupply at a couple of places such as Jonesville.

02-08-2004, 20:11
Assuming that your food is about 2 pound per day, that's starting with 42 pounds of food.

The GMC publishes a booklet for end to enders. I suggest that you plan on resupply at a couple of places such as Jonesville.

I will most likely have my wife meet me on the way to Canada once or twice. My goal is to get my food down to about 7-8 oz per meal. This is before cooking. The food I will be bringing is rice, orzo, paste and dried veggies and some other things that I am still working on.


06-29-2004, 20:22
Zzzzdyd, it would be interesting to know what you carry, and what you buy.. Type II diabetics eat pretty darn healthy.. and I wouldn't mind carrying only 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs. of food for a day !

07-28-2004, 15:55
How many of the grocery stores along the way, (I'm planning to go from Florida to Canada) have freeze dried food? Is it mostly just the prepacked stuff you can get at any wally world? ei ramen, lipton, etc.


Jack Tarlin
07-28-2004, 16:30
Lighter-weight "freeze-dried" food, such as entrees by Mountain House, Alpine Aire, etc. are generaly only found in Outfitters, of which there are quite a few on or fairly close to the Trail.

Most markets and food stores don't carry this stuff, and instead stock mass-produced stuff such as Liptons, other instant dinners, etc.

While many hikers prefer the freeze-dried dinners (they always weigh less and usually taste better than your typical mac 'n cheese or whatever), most folks don't eat them regularly because of the expense involved; the better freezedried entrees typically cost 6 or 7 dollars per meal, which puts them out of reach for a lot of folks.

If you decide to go with freeze-dried meals, there are all sorts of places on the Internet where you can purchase them in quantity at a great savings; you might also want to look into getting a food dehydrator and package your own meals.

07-28-2004, 22:07
is not only the cost but also the lack of fat content...I realize that fat is hard to preserve-especially in a freeze/dry process but hikers need it in far greater amounts then in the typical Mtn. House entree. I use them though and Jack makes a good point in buying in quantity to save dinero, but dont forget the olive oil to get them up to speed calorie wise, even more so on your winter hikes.

Kozmic Zian
07-29-2004, 18:05
Yea.......How Many Days? You could ask this question to 100 hikers and get 100 different answers. If hiking the AT, just use the 'guidebook of choice', the maps, and information from other hikers to determin how far, or how many days you have until the next resupply. Buy or carry food accordingly. You, being a veggie, might want to know where full service food stores are located, because alot of easy to reach 'stores' along the Trail are 'short term resupply' only (having only junk food, basically) or minimal choices, at most. When I Through Hiked, I found what worked for me, after several hundred miles, and kind-of stuck to it. Unlike another poster, stay away from the 'high-sugar', high starch only, diets. They'll make most folks sick over time. You need a varied diet of mixed veggies, starches (caloric input) and whatever you determin works for you. I sprouted my own seed sprouts when I went, in an extra water bottle. Had fresh sprout and cheese sandwiches with the 'available bread' at whatever store I could find. Lots o' nutrition, there. Carried a block of cheese. Your bread needs to be of a non-crushable variety, like bagles. I liked the ramin noodles, with a few fresh 'plantains' from the side of the Trail, steamed over the noodles, or rice or a 'Lipton' or 'Kraft' quick-cook. That, with the sproutwich, sustained me to Maine. I did use power bars as a 'pickmeup', but only a few per week. I'd drink tea or coffee and of course, spring water.

I hope that your planning and food design work for you, and they ad to your pleasure while hiking The Trail. As, I mentioned, you'll be able to figure it out up there, after a few resupplys. Just remember to carry only what you use everyday. One of the finest lessons learned on The Trail, is conservation, in all ways, including the food process. KZ@

Pencil Pusher
07-29-2004, 18:28
Eastern Active Technologies, where your last mile is your lightest mile!

07-30-2004, 01:25
On my LT hikes I especially carried more freeze dried for the stretch between Rte 4 to Jonesville to save weight (7 to 9 days depending on weather and how lazy I was). Over the years Mountain House variety and taste has improved considerably. The cost can be high, but you can stock at certain Walmarts at a good price especially in locations where hunting and fishing seasons are popular. For example, most Walmart bought Mountain House entrees (two serving type) can run $3.48 while at REI they are as high $6.00 for the same item. Even in sections where I could rely on store bought resupply I still liked to have two or three freeze dried in my pack as supplemental meals or for insurance if I added a day or two to my next resupply.

squirrel bait
07-30-2004, 02:51
If your resupplying at 4 Seasons Hostel (they will run you into town) try not to carry to much over Dragons Tooth. I found it quite hard.