Saturday, February 18, 2012

Anatomy of a PCT Resupply Box

As I sit here inhaling the smoky scent of beef jerky drying in the dehydrator and with boxes of supplies lining the wall behind me, it occurs to me that it could be valuable to share exactly what is included in one of my re-supply boxes with all of you who are thinking of planning your own long-distance hike.  This aspect of planning has taken me the most time and effort, but seeing these packages finally come together is really satisfying and quite a relief!  This has been a major hurdle and now it is one less thing standing between me and the crunch of my first steps on the trail. 

Knowing that at least half of my food on the trail is already prepared (I am only shipping re-supply boxes to 12 towns along the way) will enable me to enjoy large stretches of trail and plenty of zero-days in town without worrying about food shopping or fuel re-supply.  So let's get to it!


Jerky, Chicken Burrito w/ Rice, Beef Stew, and Fruit leathers 
Dehydrated beef stew with mashed potatoes and chicken burritos with instant rice are staples that I have worked hard to prepare over the past several months.  I'll be including at least a couple of these dinners in every supply box.  These meals will be refrigerated until right before shipping to preserve freshness and shelf-life.  Mountain House freeze-dried dinners will be sprinkled among the boxes to fill in any gaps.  Check out my other blog entries on dehydrating soup and on-trail meal strategy to see how my planning for these meals evolved.

Just Add Hot Water!
My non-dehydrated dinners include linguine with dried tomatoes and mushrooms, moroccan mushroom couscous, and basil parmessan orzo.  I can't take credit for these recipes as I swiped many of them from and from hiker blog sites that I have referenced on my other blogs.  These are generally easy to prepare - once you have all the ingredients, just create an assembly line of sorts with your ziplock bags and start adding the dry ingredients.

Cinnamon Orange Granola
Breakfasts will include variations on oatmeal with dried fruit, cinnamon and brown sugar,  along with the occasional Mountain House breakfast skillet.  I have also prepared batches of granola made with molasses, honey, powdered sugar, slivered almonds and dried fruit that can be used for a quick breakfast when I don't want to boil water.  I have also included a couple packages of Bob's Red Mill 10-Grain Cereal in my packages as they cook up easily.  I'm looking for more variety for breakfasts but I have a feeling that coffee and oatmeal will be enough to get me started and I can come up with some more ideas along the way.


The homemade fruit leathers have - for the most part - come out great!  My favorite so far is the blueberry/banana leathers.  I have also made Apple/Cinnamon leathers and strawberry leathers.  One batch of the strawberry leathers came out so dry and brittle that it breaks apart into pieces, like butter toffee.  I'll add a little moisture and hope the hot sun can soften it up.

Strawberry/Blackberry fruit ready to be dried into a leather
Blueberry/Banana Leathers - Yum!

Other snacks that I will rely on:  a variety of food bars (2 per day), dried fruit, tuna and chicken packets, mixed nuts, dried potato flakes (Idahoan and Betty Crocker brands), dried soup mixes, Pure Butter Shortbread and peanut/almond butter, and just about anything else I come across before April that can add variety to my meals.  On trail I expect my craving for candy bars and other sugary "junk" foods to go through the roof, but I expect these will be easy to find at small groceries along the way so I am not going to pay to ship the extra weight.

A Variety of Food Bars and Other Snacks


I will be replenishing my body with two-a-day multi-vitamins. For about $12 I purchased a bottle of 360 high potency multiple vitamin and mineral tablets at Trader Joe's. This covers me for my entire hike!

Trader Joe's Multi-Vitamins - 16 Day Supply


In addition to the multi-vitamins, I will be carrying Emergen-C drink powder packets to revitalize and replenish on the trail.  Just mix into your water bottle and you're good to go! 

After much consideration and soul-searching, I have decided to NOT go without coffee on this trip - something I was considering.  Instead, I will be enjoying Trader Joe's single-serving packets of freeze-dried coffee.  These come pre-mixed with creamer and sugar so all you have to do it add hot water and then sit back to watch the sunrise!  At less than 25 cents per serving, it's a winner over the $1/serving Starbucks Via instant coffee.  In addition,  I will be carrying green and black tea and Hot Cocoa mix for those cold rainy nights in the tent.


I have finally pulled together my maps and guidebooks into separate bundles to be shipped out with the resupply boxes.  Each gallon size bag includes the relevant sections of the Wilderness Press Guidebooks and Half-mile's maps, printed in color.  Also, added to the first section out of Campo - and transfered to each new resupply - will be my PCT thru-hiker permit, canadian entry permit and campfire permit.
Half-Mile Maps

PCT Permit and Canadian Entry Permit!


Finally, to enjoy all of these incredible meals and drinks, I will be including one or two canisters of MSR-type 8-oz fuel in each resupply box .  After reviewing the USPS shipping regulations, I have found that it is ok to ship these containers via surface mail.  Check out this resource that lays out the specific regulations and provides a copy that you can print off and take to the post office in case questions arise.

I have an extra large box for shipment to Kennedy Meadows that will include my ice-axe, micro-spikes (if conditions justify), extra pair of sturdy boots/shoes, and any other cold-weather gear that will not be carried from the border.  


I will be adding batteries for my headlamp, a couple extra travel size toothpaste tubes, olive oil (haven't quite decided how to ship this), extra bug juice, extra sunscreen, blister prevention and repair supplies, other first aid kit refills, Dr. Brauhner's soap and other items to my boxes as I think of them.  For everything else - there are plenty of town stops along the way!

I will be modifying the contents of these packages up until I fly out to San Diego on April 25th, but I feel confident I have 90% of needed supplies ready to ship.  A big thanks for my mom who will be shipping these boxes to me as I go!  Let me know if you think I have forgotten something important.

Thanks for reading!

PCT Class of 2012


  1. Your well on your way Russ. Last year on the trail I encountered all kinds of people. Some who had meticulously planned out everything with backups plans to people who were just playing it by ear. Your planning is great.

    While our approaches are a little different I can certainly relate to your methods.

    Make sure to say hello when you pass me by! Kickoff right?

    1. Dan,

      I think I am only planning as much as I am as a way to bide my time until I start. I'm sure I would be ok if I just went out and bought Mountain House meals in bulk the week before starting, and throw them all in boxes and be done with it, but the planning keeps me occupied while I'm waiting, and I have a feeling it will be all that much more satisfying to cook up a home-made and dehydrated meal after a long day on the trail than if I was just opening a pre-packaged meal. Thanks for the comment and yes, I'll be at KO!


  2. Congrats on practically finishing up your resupply boxes! Thanks for sharing your plan online. It's helpful as we'll be doing our big grocery trip in about a week.


PCT Northern Terminus

PCT Northern Terminus
On September 30, 2012 I reached the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Thanks to everybody who supported and followed my journey. It was a life-changing experience!