How resupply works
Here's how resupply and planning ended up working for me after I got the hang of it all.
All you have to do is take the distance you have to the next town and divide it by your daily pace. Carry that amount of food.
What is your daily pace? You'll get to know it after the first section or two. Plan the first two sections based on what you think you can do, then plan the rest of them after you know for sure what your pace is. That way you won't end up with too much food in your resupply boxes or become a slave of the post office, forced to time your schedule around the hours/days the post office is open.
To give you an idea of pacing on the PCT, before around Big Bear, my pace was around 15 miles a day.
After Big Bear, my pace was 20+ miles a day. Usually I did just a little more than 20.
Once I hit the High Sierra, my pace went back down to around 15. That took me by surprise and I ran out of food. Next time I will know and plan better.
After the High Sierra my pace started to rise to over 25 miles a day. Except for a few times in Oregon, my pace stayed around 25-30 miles a day.
Figure out how many days it'll take to the next store and buy that many days of food. It's that simple.
You will soon learn that most towns have grocery stores and even those that don't will have small markets. Many of these little markets are well aware they are on the PCT and try to carry stuff that hikers will eat. That's usually Pop-tarts, pasta sides and similar items.
With a little research, you can learn which towns have better stores. Then you can shop at those stores and from those towns, send ahead a package to a town that has limited supplies. By doing this, you don't need to rely upon a person at home to mail stuff to you. Also, if you do this a lot, that is to say, if you ship a lot of small boxes to little places in between the big ones, you don't have to carry as much heavy food.
Where do you find info about towns? The Yogi book is good. I also found good info on the Purebound PCT resupply page, As the Crow Flies resupply page, and Mara Factor's page. Sometimes towns change, stores go out of business, better stores open etc. But when people live somewhere they usually have to eat, so as long as there's a town there will be something to eat. And the bigger the town the less likely it is they'll lose their grocery store. Plan accordingly.
Towns with big grocery stores:
- South Lake Tahoe
- Big Bear Lake (different from Big Bear City)
- Agua Dulce
- Lone Pine
- Burney? (Not the falls but the town)
- Cascade Locks
How does the daily mileage planning really work?
If your pace is 15 miles a day, you have to do at least 15 miles a day. Every mile less than that is a mile you have to add to the last day. So try to add miles to each day to chip away at the last day.
Once you reach your maximum speed, you can risk putting the pressure on yourself. For me the pressure was 25 mile days. Despite a little anxiety that it might be too much pressure, I was able to achieve it. The sad thing is that a 30 mile day doesn't chip much off that last day, but it sure does add a lot to the day you're doing it!
A few more general rules and tips for resupply
- Never ship candy, cookies, junk food. You can get that everywhere.
- Don't ship Pop-tarts, Pasta Sides, instant rice or similar hiker fare except to some of the more remote locations in Oregon and Washington.
- If there's stuff you can't live without, it is worth it to make resupply boxes of it to ship.
- Sometimes you can just bounce a box of special stuff. For me that was powdered Nido milk, Just Fruits, Emergenc-C and a few other similar items.
- Learn to be creative. You can carry peanut butter and a loaf of bread or bagels, breakfast pastries or muffins, takeout pizza and sandwiches, even pancakes.