Nutrition on the Trail: “Redux”

About 8 months ago, I wrote about how I would attempt stay nourished on my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. In the subsequent months, as I have researched, tested and learned, I saw some changes in the original formula. Some things are the same, some

Me with the HUGE stack of AlpineAire trail food!

things have changed. Below is a more detailed (although not 100% comprehensive) look at what I’ll be eating during the 2,700 miles I’ll be on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I will be trying to plan for a daily caloric intake of between 4,500 and 6,500 calories, depending on which section I am hiking. The rougher, more difficult sections, such as the Sierra, will take more calories. Since this is a near record snow year, I will need even more calories than expected. Snow travel will be arduous, long, and exhausting.

One thing that is tantamount in importance is weight. If it’s on the trail with me, that means I’m carrying it. I can’t afford a Sherpa, and I really doubt there is anyone alive


right now that would be able to bear walking 2,700 miles with me. (They’d undoubtedly get tired of hearing the story of how I lucked into a front row ticket for a Rush concert for face value, or how I got locked out of my bunkhouse in Alaska while working in a fish cannery…wrapped only in a shower curtain…see, you’re already getting sleepy!)

Since weight is so important, and keeping my calorie count up is also very important, what I ran into was packing as many calories into each ounce as possible. If there’s 110 calories to an

Hot Sauce!

ounce, that’s good. 130, that’s really, really good. 140 or more? Excellent!

Diggin' some LOADED mashed potatoes!

The bulk of my food will be freeze-dried or dehydrated meals, thanks to AlpineAire Foods. AlpineAire graciously agreed to take me on as one of their sponsored athletes this year by providing me with enough food to get through the majority of the thru-hike. This was really an awesome thing, and a total blessing! If you have ever backpacked you will know how expensive freeze-dried prepared meals are. They really came through and I’m very grateful for their support. If you get a chance, drop them a line and thank them for sponsoring me (direct your thanks to: Tim the Incredible,  AlpineAire Foods, 4031 Alvis

Hello, honey!

Court, Rocklin, CA 95677).

Breakfasts: I’ll be mixing breakfasts up a little. I’m generally not a huge breakfast guy, but I will be on the trail. Breakfast will consist of one or more of the following: 5-grain hot cereal (sometimes hot, sometimes cold); granola with powdered milk; Pop-Tarts; I’ll add honey or olive oil to oatmeal, honey to granola, Butterbuds to hot cereal… I do

Flour tortillas, amigo

have a few other things I could eat for breakfast, such a s a few egg-based meals that I’ll just add hot water to, but I don’t have many of those.

Snacks: Snacks will vary tremendously, and purposefully so. I’ve read too many accounts of people getting sick of one thing or another…and the things I’m going to eat I pretty much like, so I wanted to mix it up enough to avoid getting

Pop Tarts

sick of any one item. Some main snacks I’ll be eating along the way: Snickers, Pop-Tarts, energy bars like Clif bars, Honey Stingers, etc.,  home-made trail mix, peanut butter, honey (straight, no chaser), home-made beef/turkey jerky, Jack Links “Sasquatch” beef sticks & summer sausage, squeeze cheese, cookies and potatoe chips (*hint: Pringles would make a great care package!) home-made fruit leather, and anything else that

Trail mix, aka "gorp"

comes up.

Lunches: Lunches won’t be glamorous or time consuming. Well…I guess come to think of it, NONE of my food will be! But lunches especially. Most of my lunches will be cold. Water with some kind of flavoring added (I have a zillion types of flavor packets, from flavored teas to gatorade to Emergen-C to juice, so I’ll use these to mask the flavor of

Snickers. Candy bar of the Gods.

bad tasting water as well as add variety). I have a few treats along the way, like a handful of cold salads from AlpineAire that are really tasty, but those will be special treats. I’ll have a steady lunch diet of peanut butter spread on tortillas with honey, and if I am able to find some jelly or jam packets along the way that would be great; summer sausage, cheese and if I’m lucky some crackers to go along with that. I doubt I’ll be able to have a glass of zinfandel with that though… 🙂  I have individual sized packages of fish and meats, such as

Peanut Butter...

smoked salmon, tuna, Spam, and chicken that I can add to a burrito to make a wrap. Occasionally I’ll be able to sneak a treat in for the first day or two, like a burrito or a deli sandwich if I’ve visited a town to resupply…something that will keep for a short while but would spruce up the trail fare a little. For the most part, lunches will be the “necessity” meal of the day, just eat something, rest a little, then keep going.

Dinners: Dinners will have the most variety, and is what


I’ve stocked for most. Staples for the dinner portion will include a hefty amount of instant mashed potatoes. The Betty Crocker “Loaded” mashed potatoes are the best! Instant rice, pasta, Lipton instant packaged pasta/rice meals (.99 cents…bargain!).  Couscous, Asian noodles, and pre-prepared meals from AlpineAire will be thrown in as well. I will be able to spruce up any meals with freeze dried vegetables, texturized vegetable protien, freeze dried beef, turkey & chicken, individual packets of albacore tuna, Spam,

Summer sausage, jerky, meat sticks, etc.

salmon, chicken, soft bacon bits (the individually packaged meats can be a little pricey, but such a huge treat on the trail!), a fresh onion on occasion, fresh cheese if I have it. I’ll add olive oil to every dinner to supplement calories and much needed fats, as well as some spices I’ll take along. Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce is one of my sponsors, along with Butterbuds, so those two will add some liveliness to meals.

So there, in a nutshell, is the strategy for staying nourished on the trail. With the occasional hot meal at a town stop

Energy bars

resupply, I won’t be eating glamorously, but am looking to stay nourished with healthy options instead of just sugary snacks and candy. (With the exception of Snickers bars, I won’t be mowing candy. Pop Tarts get a pass as well, since they are available everywhere along the trail & are easy & filled with calories).  🙂

“What are you going to eat?” is by far one of the most asked questions I receive, so I thought it would be fun to go over the final nutritional plan for my thru-hike. If you have any

Soft & chewy bacon bits!

questions, comments, or suggestions I’d love to hear them!



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12 Responses to Nutrition on the Trail: “Redux”

  1. Randy and Michelle Ford says:

    Do you have addresses for care packages along the way? And if so, what are they???

    • thf2 says:

      Hey guys! You make my little heart melt. I guess it would be a good idea to post that in case anyone wants to send anything along the way. I’ll put that up shortly! And Randy…flashback…but I miss you and I dominating our triple jump competitions in high school. You getting me into triple jumping saved my track career…I should be sending YOU care packages! 🙂

  2. Rue says:

    There are some amazing freeze dried meals out there at the moment. I was investigating food for a week long hike I’m doing at the end of April. I’m going to be eating better in the NZ bush than I do when I’m at home. Moroccan lamb that actually looks and tastes like Moroccan lamb. It blew my mind.

  3. John Hewitt says:

    Dug, wondering if ya moved back your start date because of the snow? Have you acclimated your stomach to the new diet? Keep my email, I am close to lassen park and shasta and trinity here in Redding Ca. and will be camping alot this summer in those areas. If ya need contact/transpo for anything let me know. Real excited for you and cant wait to hear about your feet..hehe…

  4. wanderingdot says:

    Nice list! I totally want to swap for a “Meow Berry” Hello Kitty pop-tart! I just discovered “Ova Easy” (I’m not making that up) brand powdered eggs, they’re supposed to be the best. I’m thinking mucho huevos rancheros.

  5. Rue says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog, mate! You comment made me blush-face. Looked a little like this –> :3 I dedicated a short paragraph to this miraculous food in my entry:

    Back Country Cuisine. I will swear on it and if I was in trouble and the choice was pocket knife of BCC, I’d go for the food. It’s magic. Or maybe it was just the way the bloke in the Macpac store cooked it. Maybe he used special boiling water to inflate it instead of bog standard boiling water. Who can say?

  6. Wow! It’s amazing how much planning has to go into every aspect of this!

    • thf2 says:

      Hey! Yeah, a LOT of planning went into it, and 7 days and 109 miles later I’m glad I planned! But even then, I have to be able to be flexible & adapt & change when needed. 🙂

  7. That’s great that you got sponsored for the thru hike. Congratulations! It seems like one of the best things I enjoy when I’m out on long adventure races or bike rides are gels like Clif Shots. For me, they’re like a boost of instant energy and help to get me through when the going gets tough.

  8. seo services in delhi says:

    I miss you and I dominating our triple jump competitions in high school.

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