Resupplying yourself on the trail can be approached a few different ways, depending on your diet, prep time, and budget. Most hikers will find themselves combining a couple of approaches when they are hiking the Long Trail in one trip.
I (and I believe most hikers) will break up their journey into manageable food carry sections, that can then incorporate another amenity if desired (lodging, restaurants). If possible, I like to carry 3-5 days of food. Sometimes sections will be more or less depending on how fast I hike a particular section, or distractions that I come across.
Here is an example on my thinking going into preparation for a section (whether on trail or off):
Let’s say we are looking at the 50 mile section from Manchester Center to Rt 4 (Inn at The Long Trail) – Northbound.
If I am hiking 15 miles a day, I can hike this section in 3 1/3 days (3 full days, and the last day having 5 miles) – that’s 50 total miles/15 miles per day.
Day 1: If I am staying at the Green Mtn Hostel in Manchester Center, I will plan to eat breakfast before leaving for the trail. So, for the first day, I will just include lunch, dinner and snacks.
Day 2 and 3: These will be full days on the trail, and I will take breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for both days.
Day 4: Roughly five miles to Rt 4, so I will take breakfast and possibly a snack. When I get to the Inn, I’ll have lunch, dinner, shower and stay at the Inn for the night.
Is it worth it to carry extra food for the unpredicted? Yes, if you don’t want to go hungry. I will often carry an extra snack and ramen, in case a section takes longer than planned. That being said, I know of more than one hiker who had to alter plans and had less food than they would have liked. They were fine, they just got to town very very hungry.
Each section below represents a unique way of handling your resupply.
Resupply En Route
You basically just need to know where you are going to get food, and be somewhat confident that your planned stop will have something that will work. Grocery stores, resorts, convenient stores, dollar stores….wherever. The Long Trail is close to towns and supplying en route works well.
- less planning
- changing palatte
- no shipping cost
- able to purchase correct amounts based on recent needs
- sometimes paying more at smaller grocery stores
- limited selection (nutritionally and general variety) on occasion
- may have to travel far off trail
Buy Ahead and Ship
Buying beforehand and shipping out requires a little bit of prep before hand…basically a trip to the grocery store and some sorting. I did this for just one of my supplies. I purchased nearly everything at a dollar store for the first leg (which I brought with me to the trail) and then shipped a resupply box to the Inn At The Long Trail (Rt4 crossing). The Inn will allow you to ship a box there, and I had planned on staying there one night, so it made sense for my schedule…rather than taking a bus into Rutland for a grocercy store resupply.
If this is your first long distance hiking trip, I do not recommend doing this strategy for the entire trail (unless you have some special dietary needs, or strong dietary preferences). It is amazing how we start to love foods that we may not have paid much attention to in the past, but then crave while on the trail….and vice versa – some foods that you may love at home or on day hikes can become very monotonous and unappealing on the trail.
- bulk buying can save money
- can shop around for best prices
- can get everything you think you will want (variety and nutrition)
- shipping cost
- changing palette
- potential to under or over purchase
One can also take this approach mid trail. If you know that a future location will not have what you want to buy, you can purchase at a location where you can get what you want and ship ahead. Times when this may be appropriate: 1-you are on trail, and hear that a store that you counted on being open has since closed or has limited hours on the day that you expect to arrive. 2-you didn’t have time before your hike to ship out a resupply box (to a location with limited food access) and can do it from the trail.
Prepare Your Own Food and Ship
Making your food at home and shipping it out allows you to really dial in your diet. If you like cooking, you really know your pallette and how long you can continally eat certain foods this can work well. My wife and I did this approach for the Appalachian Trail in 2011. It worked well for us. We tested several meals ahead of time in hopes of creating a meal plan that we wouldn not tire of. I took this approach on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012, and by that time my pallette had tired of many of the foods.
- dehydrating, which can save weight
- control of ingredients for nutrition or dietary needs
- shipping cost
- changing palette
- potential to miscalculate what you actually will need
Carry It All
I hesitate to put this one up, because I do not consider it a reasonable option (with the exception of an unsupported record attempt).
However, while hiking the lower 100 miles in 2011, I met a hiker that was carrying three weeks worth of food. His food bag alone was more than double the size of my entire backpack and probably 4 times as heavy. Resupply is not difficult on the Long Trail. Beyond that, it is carrying excess weight for most backpacks on the market as well as excess weight/strain/punishment on your body. I list this option only to point out that it is not a great option for the typical hiker.
- town stops are not necessary
- very heavy pack and all that goes along with a very heavy pack
If you live in New England, or have family or friends that do, meeting up with them is a great way to resupply as well as relax, catch up and tell them about your time on the LT (quite often, they will feel some pity for you and take you out for a nice meal as well 🙂 )
You can leave a package of food with your family or friends prior to beginning your hike and have them bring it when they meet you, or you can give them a list of food to pick up for you.
- you get to see your family or friends
- possible pick up right where the Long Trail crosses a road
- may inconvenience yor family or friends if you are having them search out the food