I would like to note this is just the way I organized how I would go about fueling myself on the Appalachian trail. Looking back, I could have done it even more efficiently.
Food Supply Packed for One Day:
- Granola Mix + Oatmeal/Hot Coco – Will likely eat Oatmeal cold to avoid cook time.
- Daily Multivitamin
- Two Packets of Tuna + Mayo on a Tortilla
- Mashed Potatoes/Ramen – Will likely eat mashed potatoes cold if I consume in the middle of the day to avoid the cook time.
- Freeze Dried Meal
- Mashed Potatoes/Ramen Noodles (If not consumed earlier)
- Two Cliff Bars
- Three other bars (excluding Cliff Bars)
Variety is very important when eating practically the same thing every day. A large variety makes the journey in a sense, more interesting especially when you are not expecting what is next. I purposefully did not keep track of all the different kinds of food I purchased, but I did keep track of the number of variations:
- Freeze Dried Dinners – 11 variations
- Tuna Packets – 7 variations
- Energy Bars – 34 variations (Mostly of the Larabar brand)
- Granola – 3 variations
- Mashed Potatoes – 3 variations
- Oatmeal Packets – 3 variations
In an attempt to spice up my meals, I have an ‘A’ day and ‘B’ day bag, which I plan to alternate by day. An ‘A’ day bag would have Ramen Noodles and Hot Coco, while a ‘B’ day would have Mashed Potatoes and Oatmeal. See below for visual.
As you can see in the images above and below, in the left corner of the bags, I have my dinner labeled along with my lunch on the right corner. This is to be sure I keep my meals as unpredictable as possible and to be sure I know at a glance not to pair this bag with the same dinner and or lunch. As for the other markings, the circled ‘D’ means that this bag is a daily bag and the marking above is the type of daily bag, separating the different variations.
Why Mark the Daily bag with a circled D?
I wanted to accomplish a 4000 Calorie diet but as you probably have noticed, I am barely reaching 3000 Calories per day, so I thought of making a bigger bag, one that would not only spice up the variety of my food more, but also add more Calories to my diet. So, I created a ‘W’ bag for “weekly” bag.
The weekly bags will have everything a B-bag has plus items to be consumed essentially over a period over a week or in my case, every other mail drop such as:
- Bacon bits – for the purpose of mixing in with my mashed potatoes or tuna.
- Dehydrated Vegetables – Depends on the week, but there are 12 different variations, also for the purpose of mixing in with my mashed potatoes.
- Peanut M&Ms
- Freeze Dried Dessert (S’mores or Neapolitan Ice-cream)
The ‘C’ Bags
One may be thinking what could possibly be the purpose of another group of bags. Well, I only have a total of 97 bags prepacked. The Appalachian Trail will certainly take me much longer than 97 days, but there are of a number of concerning factors that prevented me from prepackaging more food. 1) It is possible I may not finish the Appalachian Trail. Luckily, if I do not finish, I purchased some of the longest lasting shelf life food out there to just consume whenever. 2) I calculated the number of days based on the minimum number of miles I would need to execute on the daily if I were to complete the Appalachian Trail in six months (180 days). Meaning if I hike more than 13 miles per day, I will be much further on the trail than anticipated and it is also a possibility I could have left over food.
The purpose of the ‘C’ group is a way to alert myself that my food stock is running low so I can make the necessary actions to make sure I have food in the future based on my location. The first ‘C’ bag will be marked with ‘C-18’ and day by day will decrease by one until I have bag ‘C-1.’
The contents of the ‘C’ bags are sort of a combination of bags ‘A’ and ‘B.’ The ‘C’ bags will basically have both Mashed Potatoes and Ramen.
Why Mail Drops?
While mail drops can be complicated and require a lot of time to plan, the pros for me outweigh the cons.
- Control over my expenses (Buy in bulk).
- Researching and obtaining foods that have a high Calorie/Ounce.
- Save time shopping and planning for meals.
- Travel Less off trail. I realize I will still need to travel in town for post offices, but some of the time hostels close to the trail will allow mail drops to be sent to their location.
- Choice. Even though I have my prepacked meal, I have the choice to go ahead and satisfy my cravings.
- Changing my diet to my cravings.
- Lack of variety.
- Lose option to buy as I progress.
Note: If you choose to mail your food to yourself through the mail drop system it is very helpful to make sure you have a reliable person to ship your food to you. It is possible to pre-schedule your mail drops to be sent at certain times, though I am unsure of the flexibility you would encounter. With that said, I would like to thank my Mom for being able to send, package, and mail my food. I very much appreciate her support.
Post Trail Comments:
- To push for higher mileage days, I stuck to quick meals such as my energy bars. I even picked up extra in towns. There were two in particular I would continuously pick up: Cliff Bar – Blueberry Crisp & Special K Protein Meal Bars – Strawberry!
- I have had pretty much every Lara-bar, 18 variations total according to my previous Amazon orders. I realized after buying them, that while healthier, they are not the best tasting. I still ate every single one I purchased, for those quick calories, but they were far from appetizing. There was one though, I fortunately looked forward to and that is their Banana Bread bar. It straight up tastes like real banana bread minus the heat of an oven!
- I requested my reliable person (Mom) to take out the granola, bacon bits, and the dehydrated vegetables. I did not only have trouble eating them on the go, but I also lost the desire to eat them. Quite a bit of my granola and ended up in Hiker boxes. The dehydrated vegetables in my experience required more soaking time than I was comfortable allocating for.
- Before my next mail drop, the majority of the food I would have left over would be granola, mashed potatoes, Ramen, and tuna packets. I liked the non-flavored mashed potatoes, Ramen, and tuna. The reason they tended to be the last items was because the only meal, I would take an actual break for over time was dinner.
- Before fully acclimating to trail life and experiencing hiker hunger, I found myself giving away (mostly in hiker boxes at hostels) a lot of my food. If you find yourself doing this in the beginning, do not worry.
- If you find that you are sending yourself too little, be sure to check hiker boxes for food before purchasing more food in town.