Friday, February 11, 2011

Trail Logistics: Food

One of the first questions I hear whenever I mention that I'll be hiking for 3 months straight this summer is "So what are you going to eat?" or "Where will you get your food?". Fortunately for me, there are a bunch of great options.

Food: I'll be hiking for approximately 10-12 hours each day, so the primary concern is the quantity of food that I'll need. Based on a couple rough approximations, I expect to consume about 6,000 calories a day. I'll adjust as I go, but it does mean I have to be very conscious about my food choices. Pretty much anything is fair game, and its amazing how your mindset changes when you go shopping. "Normal" people go into the store and look for low calorie foods, whereas I'll be looking for lightweight, high calorie foods. Bring on the Pringles, pop tarts  and snickers! My main staples will include instant potatoes, beef jerky, minute rice, Knorr sides, trail mix, and muesli (oats, nuts, raisins etc). I'll only be cooking dinners, so everything else is meant to be eaten with no preparation in order to get me back on the trail as fast as possible.

Resupply: 6,000 calories a day translates into something like 3 lbs of food. Obviously I won't be carrying food for the entire summer with me, as I'd need a team of pack horses to move it all. Instead, I've planned out a quick and easy resupply strategy to minimize the amount of food I carry, without causing too much disruption to my schedule. Every couple hundred miles (or less) the trail comes within a reasonable distance of a town, and I will use those opportunities to get new supplies for the upcoming section. My strategy revolves around the use of 'mail drops', essentially shipping packages to yourself for pickup at the post office. I'll pack up a dozen boxes of food before I leave, and have those shipped to various post offices along the way. There are several advantages to this method: I get exactly what I want in the box, I can buy in bulk, and I get everything quickly and easily in one place. Of course, I will supplement my diet with fresh foods at local grocery stores, along with the occasional luxury of a steak or burger in a restaurant while in town. The main disadvantage to this method is that I have to time my town arrivals around post office hours so I can actually pick up my package. As it stands now, I plan to do about 12 of these mail drops, along with a number of other small stops to pick up perishable foods along the way.

As it stands today, I have planned out my itinerary for the first 1,000 miles of my trip, and I'll be developing the last 1,600 miles over the next week. The nice part about all of this planning is that it gives me a pretty good familiarity with each section of the trail, so by the time I get out there I feel like I'll really know and understand what I'll be hiking through each day. 94 days to go!

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