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, there’re 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.

Map of PCT Resupply Points

What are the most popular PCT resupply points?

On the map above you’ll find about 100 possible locations to mail resupply shipments. Trying to figure out which ones are best for you can be a daunting task. In reality, most of these resupply points are not equally used by PCT hikers. Based on factors such as distance from the trail, availability of items to purchase and distance from past/future resupply locations many resupply points get used much more heavily than others.

To help you figure out which resupply points will work best or you, we dedicated a page of our website that gives you all the information you need to know about the 30 Most Popular PCT Resupply Points. We made the list using a lot of input from experienced PCT hikers and using the data from our resupply service that packs and ships resupply boxes to hikers.

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! 

Plan your resupply shipments using our application

We know that planning and successfully executing a resupply strategy for a PCT hike is incredibly difficult for thru-hikers and section-hikers alike. We created a web application that has a goal of making it a little bit easier for you. Anyone preparing for a hike along the PCT can use our application for free as a way to plan and visualize their resupply strategy. Trail Supply Co. exists primarily as a resource for long-distance hikers and we are continually making improvements to the application with the goal of making the ultimate way to plan your resupply strategy.

We also have a paid resupply service that will pack and ship your boxes for you. From your account, you have the ability to customize each of your boxes and we will pack them to your exact specifications. Tell us exactly what you want in each box, when and where you want them delivered and we handle the rest.

How it Works

Using our resupply service is extremely easy. We put together a video that gives you a brief overview of how the service works.

If you still have any questions, simply use the instant chat or send us an email on the contact us page. 

Different Types of Resupply 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 than 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

Bounce Box

A bounce box is a popular component of many thru-hikers resupply strategies. A bounce box is a box of items that you keep re-shipping to yourself to locations further down the trail. Bounce boxes often contain things that you will need at some parts of the trail but not all parts. Common things to have in these boxes are things that might not be readily available in each resupply town such as maps, clothes, chargers, seasonal gear, first aid or toiletries.

Sometimes if hikers are in a town where there are lots of food/gear options they like they’ll buy enough for their next stretch and then buy more to put in a bounce box to their next resupply point. Not all trail towns are created equally and some have much better and affordable options that others. Of course, you will have to pay USPS priority mail postage to get the boxes there.

There is some confusion about how much bounce boxes cost. Technically, the post office will allow you to forward (“bounce”) an unopened priority mail package 2 times without paying for additional postage. If you open your package to retrieve/deposit items into your resupply boxes then you have to pick the package up from the post office and cannot bounce it for free. Every time you pickup a package you have to repay postage. Also, if you don’t ship your package using priority mail, then you cannot bounce an unopened package for free.

All of Trail Supply Co.’s resupply shipments, unless we’re required to use a different carrier, ship using USPS Priority Mail. It’s common for our customers to change their itineraries for a variety of reasons and contact us to bounce their boxes for them. If the box is eligible, we contact the post office and do this for free on behalf of the customer. Have questions about that? Contact Us for more information.

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. In general, we don’t really recommend you planning on living 100% off of what you ship yourself in resupply boxes. There are many places along the there trail where you can buy items. However, some hikers with serious dietary restrictions do rely on mailed resupply exclusively. 

It’s also pretty 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 buy as you go more heavily generally end up shipping themselves a few packages along the way. It’s extremely common for hikers more heavily rely on resupply as you reach Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. 

Additionally, if this is your first long-distance hike then start getting comfortable with the fact that your plan is going to be wrong and that things won’t go according to plan. You’re going to read a lot about what other people recommend and what works for them. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself during this first experience which will inform what you do the next time. Don’t over analyze it. Do some research, take a guess, screw up and you’ll know better next time.

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 are 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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