Resupplying and Food Drops

For some people, a seven-day hike in the wilderness just isn’t long enough. Many extreme hikers want to walk for months on end, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of kilometres in one go. There are many hikes that accommodate this such as the Appalachian Trail in the US or the world’s longest hike, the Trans Canada Trail, stretching 24,000 km across the country.

While hikes of these lengths are vastly outside the bounds of this guide, a beginner may still consider a trek longer than a week or two as their first hike. This was my case, choosing to walk the Larapinta Trail across Central Australia for my first hike – 234km over 17 days.

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While it’s possible to carry seventeen days worth of food, there are ways to avoid carrying such a heavy load. Here are some options:

A Tour
While a tour is the only means to do certain hikes, it’s not always considered true hiking when someone carries half of your gear, pitches your tent and prepares your meals. It does make it easier to carry a heavy load of food and depending on where you are, you might be able to hire a donkey to carry it for you.

Town Resupply Points
On many longer hikes, the trail passes through villages or townships specially for resupply. Hikes through the Himalayas or El Camino de Santiago – The Way of Saint James – in Europe are classic examples of this. In some locations, such as South America, many hikes have refugios where food is sold and accommodation provided.

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Food Drops
On treks where there are no villages or refugios, the remaining option is the food drop. A food drop is a box left at certain points along the trail with food for the next part of the trail.

There are several options for food drops depending on the trek:

Food Drop Shelters
Some hikes, such as the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia have lockable food drop shelters. The food is stored in large plastic tubs with lids (to protect against mice) and are either dropped off prior to the hike or delivered by a transport company before needing them. These boxes are usually rented and allow the disposal of garbage also.

Nearby Residents
Where food drop shelters are not available, contacting home owners near the trail and begging them to allow you to leave food supplies at their homes may be an option. Most are unfortunately not so receptive, or may charge for the privilege.

Wild Drops
With no other option there’s always the wild drop, where the food box ii left in a hidden location along the trail. This may mean constructing rocky pyres or burying the food so scavenging animals can’t get to it. The ultimate downside of this approach is arriving at your drop point to find the food missing or destroyed by some natural disaster such as a fire. Likely this will spell the end of the hike.

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Packing a Food Drop Box

Food drop boxes are easy to set up. After having planned the length of your hike, you should have an idea how much food is needed for each day. Then simply split the food into groups of days and add the required number of days to each box.

Food shouldn’t be the only things left in food drop boxes though, as other consumables may need to be refilled. This includes items such as toilet paper, spare batteries, cooking gas, medical supplies, water treatment tablets and the like.

Food Box Treats
Walking for a long period can mean eating lightweight and bland foods. So, leaving treats in your food drop box will add to the pleasure of arriving at a collection point. These are items that may be too heavy to carry with you, such as whole fruits (apples and oranges last best), tinned foods or special treats such as potato chips, chocolate bars and even beer. Remember, any packaging can be left in the drop box.

The Trail Wanderer

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Hiking Food – Fine Dining On The Trail

Food has the potential to be one of the heaviest collective items in your pack, especially on longer hikes, so it should be a priority to find the right food while minimising weight.

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The length of the hike is a large determinant as to what food is best to take:

Short Hikes (2-4 days)
Short hikes have three distinct advantages over longer hikes:

  • Weight. A shorter hike can allow the carrying of heavier food items or more food overall. This may allow for a more gourmet menu or the carrying of fruit.
  • Volume. Less food means more space for larger items, such as whole fruit or bread.
  • Time. Some non-dried foods can survive out of the refrigerator for a handful of days before they spoil. These include fresh bread, pre-packed sandwiches and pre-cooked dinners.

Long Hikes (more than 4 days)

  • Minimising weight is the most important philosophy when walking for an extended period. Unless using food drops, the goal is to keep food as light as possible while maintaining a level of nutrition. Dried or shelf stable foods become more important on a longer hike. Shelf stable foods are treated foods such as certain salamis and cheeses that are found on the shelf in the supermarket and not in the chiller section. Minimising waste materials should also be a high priority as carrying an empty can of tuna is almost as heavy as carrying a full can.

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Food Variety
When you’re on a ten-day hike, eating the same meals day after day is a recipe for boredom. While breakfast and snack foods aren’t such an issue, having at least two different types of lunches and at least three different dinner options can make the daily consumption of dried food more bearable.

Food Quantities
Try to avoid packing more than needed. Measure out spoonfuls of coffee/sugar/milk powder etc into zip-lock bags and take only as much as required plus a touch more.

Dehydrating Foods
Dehydrating food prior to hiking is not only cheaper but provides a greater variety of food options.  Properly dehydrating food takes a Food Dehydrator and forward planning.  For dehydrated foods, special care needs to be taken with packing, especially with meat, to ensure it is free of moisture, as this can cause mould.  More information on Dehydrating food should be available from your Food Dehydrator manufacturer or from resources on the internet such as: http://www.drystore.com/page/page/1346972.htm

Emergency Supplies
It’s recommended to carry at least one extra full day’s supply of food in case of emergencies. The amount is dependant on the distance from civilisation the hike is. If there’s a busy road or township not far from the trail, less emergency food is required. But if the hike is remote, then it’s suggested to take more.

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Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal when hiking as it provides the body with a supply of energy to get it up and going. As oats are slow release energy, Porridge or Oatmeal is a standard choice on the trail. Alternatively, a lightweight high energy cereal can do the same although it can take up more space in your pack.

For coffee drinkers, walking with a caffeine headache isn’t pleasant, so working that morning cup into breakfast is important, and it will give an early energy boost.

Lunch
A lunch break on the trek is more about breaking up the day than having a hearty midday meal. In fact, having a larger lunch is counterproductive to hiking as it uses extra energy for digestion, making the body feel more tired. While a cold lunch is quick and easy, in cooler areas having a hot lunch might be preferable.

Snacks
Snacks should be lightweight and have a good mix of slow release energy, fibre and sugar. They are often more useful towards the end of the day when energy reserves are low, but are useful to give added push to get over that tough ridge. Nuts, chocolate and dried fruit are best.

Dinner
Dinner is an important meal for hiking as it’s the primary means of refilling the body after a hard day on the trail. In many countries, there are specially made meal packs for hiking or camping known as the camping/trail meal. These are lightweight dried meals that contain a high nutritional value with a minimum of preparation – usually by adding only boiling water. They can even taste good too! The servings are small, so adding extra noodles may fill it out enough without adding too much weight to your pack. Alternatives are quick cook rice, flavoured noodles, pasta packets or flavoured couscous. Conservation of cooking gas is important, so foods with small cooking times are better.

Carrying Cup of Soup sachets, juice sachets or teabags can provide something other than plain water to drink with dinner. After all, you’ve been drinking water all day.

Next time, Hiking food lists.

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Better to have too much food and a heavy pack, than a light pack and an empty stomach.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Modified Packing Lists when Hiking in Different Environments

In my last post I provided a standard packing list usable in many different environments. But as not all hikes are the same it’s sometimes necessary to adapt your packing list to the environment where you’ll be hiking.

What follows are four packing lists relating to different environments: Jungle, Rocky Desert, Cold Mountain and Wet Weather. These lists should be considered minimum necessary for first time hiking in these environments.

While these four environments are considered a little more extreme than standard hikes, there are other environments that fall outside of the scope of this blog. These are hikes, such as Ice Climbing hikes or Snow hiking, where specialised equipment is required. Lists haven’t been provided for these types of hikes.

Jungle Trekking Packing List

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Jungle treks are hot and humid affairs, and will see you covered in sweat for much of the walk. You’ll also need to deal with the almost constant attacks from biting insects, some potentially carrying dangerous diseases.

Jungles tend to be wild and have few tracks, making it easy to get lost. Thus, most jungles hikes cannot be walked without first hiring a guide. Depending on the number of people in the party, the guide may have porters and/ or donkeys to carry equipment. The packing list that follows is built around your food and equipment being carried for you and accommodations being available in jungle villages or cabañas.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel
  • Sleeping Bag Liner

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Money/Cash Card
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Strong Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • lightweight Shirt
  • lightweight Pants
  • Flip-Flops
  • Hiking Towel
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Deodorant
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Many Small Lightweight Garbage Bags
  • Medication

Rocky Desert/ Beachside Trek Packing List

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Hiking in a rocky desert environment will generally mean being hot during the day and cold at night. Constant exposure to the sun will be one of the harsher aspects of this type of hike as well as the potential that some places may not have available water.

Depending on where the hike is, and how well set up it is, a guide will likely not be required. Simply having a good set of maps and suitable information will enough.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Bag Blanket/ Liner
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Strong and Plentiful Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Warm Long Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Small Lightweight Garbage Bags
  • Additional Water Bladder

Cold Climate / Mountain Treks

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The grand mountain chains of the world, such as the Himalayas and the Andes, are perfect hiking environments and many of them have been set up as such. The common difficulty you’ll face on these hikes is the cold.

While many mountain treks have villages with huts/refuges stay in, this isn’t always the case, it may still be prudent to still carry a tent.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Warm Sleeping Bag or additional bag blanket
  • Sleeping Bag Liner
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel
  • Waterproof Pants
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Small Lightweight Garbage Bags

Wet Weather Treks

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While hiking in wet weather is not usually to most enjoyable experience, sometimes it’s simply impossible to avoid. But it does not have to be a bad experience as rain can make the wilderness beautiful in its own special way, whether the woods or on a mountainous plains. You won’t forget the experience, and not just because it rained.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Ground Sheet
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Waterproof Hat
  • Waterproof Pants
  • Lightweight Waterproof Jacket/ Poncho

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen (always carry)
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Plentiful Lightweight Garbage Bags

Information is the key to good experiences.

The Lone Trail Wanderer