Three weeks of hiking every day, over mountain passes with elevations as high as 13,000 feet… that requires a lot of energy!
Food is one of the most important things to consider when planning a thru-hike such as the John Muir Trail. Hikers must carefully balance weight with substance and packability, in order to provide enough calories to make these strenuous days possible, while still fitting into backcountry-required bear canisters. Most end up aiming for roughly 1.5lb of food per day, with a daily caloric intake of 3,000 calories or more.
In order to cut down on pack weight, thru-hikers plan resupplies instead of carrying the entire trip’s worth of food. Resupply locations can vary from off-trail post offices or businesses, to on-trail outposts dedicated to supporting backcountry hikers. Coordinating resupply locations – as well as the food sent ahead to each – is quite the process, but a necessary part of an enjoyable thru-hike!
In order to plan our resupplies, we first mapped out our entire JMT itinerary to know roughly when we would arrive at resupply points. The JMT passes through several resupply locations, including:
Tuolumne Meadows Post Office – Located along the first section of the JMT in Yosemite National Park. Offers a small nearby store and restaurant.
Red’s Meadow Resort – A backcountry resort located just off the JMT. Offers a store, restaurant, showers, lodging options, and a shuttle into the nearby town of Mammoth.
Vermilion Valley Resort – A backcountry resort on Lake Edison, a few miles and a boat shuttle away from the JMT. Offers a store, restaurant, showers, and lodging options.
Muir Trail Ranch – An on-trail backcountry outpost located at the halfway point of the JMT. Offers a store, restaurant, showers, natural hot springs, and lodging options.
Mount Williamson Motel – Located 7 miles off-trail via Kearsarge Pass, this hiker-focused motel provides a resupply package including a shuttle to/from the trailhead, a meal, laundry, and a hotel room for the night. The town of Independence is nearby if stores are needed. This is the only location for resupply between the halfway point at Muir Trail Ranch and the end of the trail.
Pack Mule Service – An alternative to the Mt. Williamson Motel detour; this service will meet hikers on-trail and deliver resupplies for a fee.
We decided to take advantage of most of these resupply options, in order to keep our food weight lower while hiking. We also coordinated our resupplies with nearo/zero days, where we plan to hike fewer or no miles at all (more on itinerary planning here). Knowing our itinerary ahead of time would help us know how many days of food to pack for each resupply. Once we had our itinerary set, it was time to plan our food….
You don’t realize how much food you eat until you are looking at a month’s worth of it in one place! To plan our daily intake, Jamie first set a goal of ~3000 calories each. We decided our meals would be of the dehydrated variety, due to their low weight and packability.
These meals can be easily reconstituted with boiling water (via a JetBoil or other backcountry stove), and are actually quite tasty and filling!
Once we knew how many calories these would provide, we supplemented the rest with snacks – two per day, one between each meal. We tried to keep our snacks as calorie dense and packable as possible, while maintaining some variety so we aren’t gagging on it all by the end of the trip 😉
Finally, an excuse to eat candy! When backpacking, the more calories the better. These snacks are all high-calorie, high protein, and very packable. The big bags of candy will be a nice treat for us when we pick up each resupply, before heading back out on the trail.
It took several months and many trips to both internet and physical stores, but finally, we accrued all 23 days worth of food!
Now, for fitting it into those resupply buckets…
…And they’re off!
We shipped off our first two resupplies (to the Tuolumne Meadows post office and Red’s Meadow) in mid-July, giving them plenty of time to get to their destinations before we arrive to pick them up! I don’t think we’ve ever been so excited to go to the Post Office 😉
We will ship out the second batch to Muir Trail Ranch and the Mt. Williamson Motel just before we leave.
And just like that, we are ready to set out on our adventure!