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Food for Trails


Backpackers food inspiration
Cold soaking containers
Cold soaking meals

2. My go to cold soaking Meals on the PCT

Skippy peanut cold soaking jar

1. Cold Soaking and Cold Soaking Containers

When I planned for the Pacific Crest Trail, I aimed to carry the lightest backpack possible. I quickly knew I didn't want to take a stove, preferring the simplicity of cold soaking for my meals. I love the simplicity of cold soaking and wasn't too concerned about skipping hot meals.

After researching cold soaking, I looked for the best cold soaking containers. Since cold soaking is mainly a thing in the US, I found that most thru hikers use the Talenti Gelato Ice cream jar or the Skippy peanut butter jar. 


Talenti Gelato Cold soaking jar
Vargo Titanium Bot Cold soaking jar

It's great because you can eat the ice-cream or peanut butter and recycle the jar. They are plastic, lightweight and leak-proof. If you don’t mind spending some extra money and you want to switch cold soaking for a hot meal now and then, the lightweight Vargo Titanium Bot with screw lit can be used for both cold soaking and cooking.


I personally chose the Skippy peanut butter jar (also the more local option since it's available in Europe). The jar lasted 4000 km from Mexico to Canada. I ordered mine online, emptied the peanut butter and tested some cold soaking meals at home.

Breakfast Oatmeal with coffee 

(+/- 1000 calories) - instant ready

Fruit/nut granola with coconut milk (+/- 800 calories) - instant ready

Cold soaking meals PCT

- 2 packs of protein (Quaker) oatmeal

- 1 pack of breakfast essentials

- Starbucks Instant Columbia Coffee

- 50 gram/0.7 oz of granola

- 250ml/1 cup of water

cold soaking meal breakfast

- 1 packs of (Quaker) oatmeal

- 100 gr/1.4 oz of fruit/nut granola

- 2 scoops of coconut milk powder

- 250ml/1 cup of water

Knorr one pot pasta with veggie sauce (+/- 800 calories) - 2 hours

Cold soaking meal pasta

- 100 gram/1.4 oz of Knorr one-pot Pasta

- 1/2 package Knorr veggie bolognaise 

- 250 ml/1 cup of water

Ramen with chili mix and vegetables (+/- 800 calories) - 15 min

cold soaking meals inspiration

- 1 pack veggie Chicken-taste ramen

- 2 tbspns of chili peanut mix

- 1 pre-cut spring onion (buy fresh)

- 150 ml/0.5 cups of water

Couscous with peanuts and vegetables (+/- 800 calories) - 15 min

cold soaking meal noodles

- 1 cup of couscous

- 1 package of instant soup of choice

- 2 tbspns of salted peanuts

- 150 ml/0.5 cups of water

Resupply strategy PCT
Being vegetarian on the PCT
Healthy options on Trail

Be aware that you cannot cold soak every pasta or noodle (they must be precooked and dehydrated). I once tried rice noodles from a backpacker meal and that turned out to be a disaster. I found this blog very helpful in providing recipes and information on nutrition and cold soaking on trail.

3. Resupply strategy on the PCT


Yes, the resupply strategy before heading out on the PCT made me very nervous. It seemed like you had to plan so much in advance and I just had no idea where to start. If there is one thing I wish I knew before starting the PCT it's that you really shouldn't worry about sending yourself boxes and planning every resupply point ahead. In fact you want to be as flexible as possible on trail. I arrived with a huge suitcase full of food at trail angels' house Scout and Frodo. I send myself 3 boxes for the desert from their place and still regret not just chilling out and taking in the last moments before trail. 

There are definitely places where it is convenient to send yourself a box. Especially in Oregon and Washington the trail gets more remote and the shops are small and limited. However, if you don't have any dietary restrictions (gluten free, vegan, low sodium...) or you are not aiming for a speed record, I would recommend not sending any boxes until you are actually on trail. Once you are on trail, it's way easier to plan and you will know exactly which food you want. It is also likely that you'll meet people with whom you will decide where you want to go into town. From there you can figure out if you would like to send some boxes ahead. Just known, in contrast to what you might hear, it is 100% doable to hike the PCT without sending yourself a single box.

If you're still not convinced or you just like planning ahead, there are many sources where you can find information about resupply. The PCT class 2022 survey from Halfway Anywhere is a great place to start. It shows you most popular locations thru hikers send their packages to. The website of the PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association) is also great in giving you a step by step guide on how to mail your boxes. Don't forget you can also use the FarOut app, which you will most likely use to get your maps and navigation. It provides information on the post office hours, the addresses and the comment section is just the best thing ever.

4. Being Vegetarian on the PCT

Being vegetarian on trail should not be a difficult thing. Most grocery stores have some pretty good alternatives. I found that even the most remote restaurants in the US had some vegetarian options (except for the American Mc Donalds which for some reason has a completely different menu than the European one). Next to the Mc Donalds at Cajon pass, I found it hard to resist a hotdog offered by trail magic in the desert, knowing that would be the only hot meal I would get for the week ;-). However, it is perfectly doable to not eat meat on trail. Also, I saw quite a few thru hikers eating primarily plant-based on trail. I know there are some very good blogposts, videos and articles about a vegan diet on trail. It is certainly something I want to explore on thru hikes in the future.


5. Healthy options on Trail

In general I was surprised on how my body was capable to process all the junkfood I was eating on trail. Suddenly I could drink as much coffee as I wanted and I had no problem binge eating Doritos and other crap without feeling drained or anxious. The fact that we were moving our bodies everyday, we had nothing to worry about and everyday was exciting, made that we were energised and capable of recovering a lot faster than we would at home. Even after walking 50 km a day and having growth pains in our muscles, I never felt as strong, energised and healthy as I was on trail.


However, I did always try to pack some healthy and nutritious options. I personally chose protein packed oatmeal, protein bars and trail nut mix to make sure my body got enough protein to recover. I also tried to always pack some dried fruits, freeze dried vegetables (and occasionally some fresh ones) and electrolytes. I cannot stress enough how important electrolytes are on long distance trails. In simple terms, electrolytes are salts which are dissolved in and around the cells in our body. They balance fluid levels inside and outside the cells and are needed for muscle function. Fresh fruits are full of electrolytes but since they are very hard to take with you on a hike, electrolytes are a great alternative. I heard many stories of hikers who got sick or lost energy and resolved it by simply drinking enough electrolytes.

6. Water filters

Since we are talking about hydration, let's dive into the topic of water filters. Before the PCT I never properly had to use a water filter. In Europe, we don't really have many remote wilderness areas where you can walk for days without crossing any form of civilisation. In the Alps you can directly drink the water from snowmelt without any problem but in the desert of the PCT, water filters are crucial. I was 'lucky' to try 3 different water filters. I started the PCT with the Katadyn BeFree water filter which I absolutely love. It has a fast flow and is so easy to use. The biggest downside is that it only last for 500 miles (800 km) before getting clogged. I have to admit I could have done a better job in maintaining the filter by cleaning it more regularly (you have to shake the filter with clean water to get particles removed). Anyway, it is a good filter but it is not very durable.

After my second Katadyn filter I switched to a Platypus filter. This is a light microfilter cartridge which adapts to not all but most standard plastic water bottles. It has a reasonably fast flow and is fairly easy to use. To maintain it you simply have to shake your bottle with clean water. I have to say I was a bit disappointed using the Platypus first, it really needed some time before the flow started. It was also not as durable as I hoped it would be. By the end of the PCT a friend gave me his Sawyer squeeze filter, which has almost the same design and technology as the Platypus. His previous Sawyer filter lasted for almost the entire trail (4000 km)! However it is a little bit more challenging to maintain. You have to backflush the filter with an additional syringe, this means you have to adapt the syringe on the other side of the filter to flush out the dirt. I would say the overall winner for shorter hikes is the Katadyn BeFree water filter, while I would probably choose a Sawyer for long distance trails.

Water Filters Review

Katadyn BeFree filter

Sawyer squeeze filter

Katadyn BeFree container

Platypus filter

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