PCT Resupply

Resupply Overview

You can only carry so much. If you’re doing a thru-hike of the PCT you’re likely going to rely on resupply packages for everything from food to toothpaste. Planning your resupply on the PCT is one of the most difficult parts about a PCT thru-hike.

Everyone does it differently: On one end of the spectrum, there are hikers that literally spend close to a year planning out every mile of their hike: they have the life of their gear planned out the last mile and their food intake planned out to the last calorie. On the opposite end of the spectrum theres hikers that will head to REI, buy a pack, load it full of dehydrated meals and hike into the closest town every few days to buy more food and supplies when they run out. Both of these methods have serious flaws, this page will tell you why. 

Most PCT hikers will use a variety of methods to resupply on the trail during their hike. Before reading too much about it, know this: there is no universal strategy that works for every thru-hiker. No matter how much planning and reading you do (or how little), you will finish your thru-hike wishing you had done part of it differently.  

On this page we’ve put together a lot of information about resupplying in general as well as a lot of specific information about resupplying on the PCT. We’ll also include some links to some other helpful sites.

Mailing Resupply Packages Additional Information

Like we said earlier, almost every PCT hiker will have resupply packages mailed to them along the trail. We’ve spent a lot of time, with the help of planyourhike.com putting together a visual representation of all the different resupply points along the trail. 

By clicking on each envelope icon you can see the specific information about each point such as distance from the trail, trail miles from Mexico, mailing address, and even contact information.

Having Trouble Viewing the resupply map? Click Here! 

Different Types of Strategies

There seems to be this great divide in the community about the BEST way to resupply along the PCT. In general theres two main things to be aware of. Here’s a quick overview of what you should know about the different strategies. 

Mailing Supplies

One of the most common ways that long-distance hikers supply themselves on the trail is through what is called a resupply package. Resupply packages are packages of food and gear that hikers have packed up before their hike and planned where they would get shipped out to. You have to have a friend store these packages for you and mail them as your going to specific points along the trail.

This strategy requires more planning that the buy as you go strategy, but we have a lot of resources for you on this site to successfully execute this. 

Buy as You Go

Buying as you go means that you are purchasing food and supplies from convenience stores and supermarkets along the trail as you go. Hikers hike (or hitchhike) off the trail at specific locations, generally into a small town that has the supplies they need. 

This type of strategy still requires some planning, although not as much as planning resupply packages. You still should plan out beforehand which towns have the supplies you need and what the most efficient way to get there is.

The Good

  • You always know what’s coming
  • If you have any dietary restrictions or preferences you know you won’t starve if theres no gluten free options at the small convenience store
  • You can actually relax on your zero days. Simply pick up your box and chill instead of wandering through town looking for the best place with trail food

  • When buying food as you go you are supporting the local trail communities
  • Less financial risk: most hikers don’t finish a thru-hiking attempt of the PCT. If you packed resupply packages and can’t finish your hike you have a stockpile of food and supplies that is likely a sunk cost
  • Ability to not follow a schedule: If you mail all your supplies you’ll need to follow a pretty set schedule so you arrive at your resupply locations when your boxes are scheduled to be there.

The Bad

  • It can be incredibly time consuming to plan, purchase, and package resupply pacakges
  • Financial Risk: If you don’t finish your hike you wasted a lot of money on food and supplies that are sitting in boxes
  • You need to have someone very trustworthy store all of your boxes for you. They’ll have to go through those boxes frequently and make sure they get the right box to the post office on the right date
  • Shipping Fees
  • You’re at the mercy of the selection and prices of the stores in the cities along the trail
  • You’ll be wandering through cities on your off days looking for stores that have the food and supplies you’re looking for instead of relaxing and drinking the whiskey you could have had shipped to yourself in your resupply package

So What Do I Do?

The long-distance hiking community is fairly divided on what the best way to resupply on a hike is. Just know that the decision doesn’t have to be as binary as choosing resupply packages or choosing to buy food. Doing a combination of these strategies is what seems to work best for the majority of hikers. 

One of the reasons that there isn’t a universal resupply strategy that works for everyone is that hikers all have different considerations that play into what works best for them.

It’s actually fairly uncommon to resupply solely off of buying as you go. There’s a lot of people out there that are very vocal about this being the best option, but even hikers that rely on that more heavily generally end up shipping themselves a few packages along the way.

Trail Supply Co. also has a resupply service for hikers that we started out of a recognition for how difficult planning and executing a resupply strategy can be. You tell us exactly what you want in each resupply package and we handle all of the purchasing, assembly, storage, and shipping of each of your resupply packages exactly how you want. While your hiking you can login to our app and change what is arriving in future resupply shipments and even change when and where the boxes get shipped to. Also, if you’re unable to finish your hike for any reason you can cancel resupply shipments for any reason and only pay for what you use. 

Frequently Asked Resupply Questions

Which shipping method do I use?

In general for long-distance hiking resupply boxes, USPS is the preferred shipping method. In our experience this is for two main reasons:

  • It’s typically cheaper than UPS/FedEx
  • Some of the most common resupply points are USPS Post Offices (Generally USPS will not hold FedEx or UPS packages for general delivery at Post Offices)

Along the PCT, many of the popular resupply locations are Post Offices.

Click Here to read about USPS Flat rate shipping boxes

Some resupply locations have a preference as to which shipping method you use. Some even have different addresses depending on the Shipping Method you use. When researching which resupply locations you use make sure you check their preferred or required shipping method. On our resupply map, we have all of this information available to you.

UPS and FedEx are considerably more expensive. Most thru-hikers don’t use these shipping companies unless USPS will not deliver to a specific location or if the location will not accept USPS packages.

At Trail Supply Co. we generally only use FedEx and UPS for one of the reasons listed above or if we need to get a package sent overnight to a customer. In emergency cases it’s helpful to have that option.

Click Here for pricing information about UPS

Click Here for pricing information about FedEx

How do I address a resupply box?

This can vary depending on the location you are shipping to.

In general, if you’re shipping to a Post Office, we suggest addressing your box like this:

Your Name
c/o General Delivery
City, State Zip Code

On the PCT there’s lots of non-post office resupply locations available to hikers. Many of these resupply locations will request you to address your box in a specific way. Check out our resupply map for information about how each specific resupply location wants you to address your box. 

Do locations charge to hold resupply packages?

None of the Post Office locations will charge to hold your package for general delivery.

Several of the other resupply locations do charge to hold a box though. On our PCT resupply map we have some of this information available to you. We always recommend contacting each resupply point you’re shipping to beforehand to ensure you are aware of their most recent fees, as they are continually changing.

Boxes or Buckets?

Some people use 5-gallon buckets to ship their supplies in. In general, USPS flat rate boxes are most common for thru-hikers. Buckets are popular if you’re concerned about bugs getting into your food. There are a few resupply points that require you to use a bucket over a box, which is rare. Most will just make sure you tape up your box completely to protect it from critters.

Can you ship fuel?

Many people think that you cannot ship the type of fuel that works for most backpacking stoves. However, there are ways to do this.

The most popular backpacking stove fuel (used with jetfoils, MSR, Whistperlite International, etc.) is isobutane. Isobutance can be shipped but not by air shipping. So standard USPS ground shipping will work for isobutane. DO NOT use USPS Priority mail as many of these packages get shipped via air shipping. Many people do this and get away with it but it is technically not allowed.

Isobutane and many other fuels must be shipped using the ORM-D designation. This is a special consumer commodity and a label must me affixed to the exterior of the package.

This is just been our experience, But you need to do the research to figure out if your type of fuel is shippable. Check out this page by USPS and see if your fuel is allowed.

Links to Our Other PCT Pages

We’ve put together a lot of information about the PCT. On this page you’ll find a general overview of the trail. Here’s some links to our other pages that have other specific information you’ll need to know about the PCT.

Are you planning a PCT hike?

Trail Supply Co. has a complete resupply service that will pack and ship your resupply shipments for you. Use our custom built resupply planning application to build each box and we'll handle the rest. Want to learn more? Enter your email address below and we'll send you all the information you need. We're excited to work with you! 

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