Being Vegan on the PCT in 2019

Food is a huge topic among PCT hikers, because we were hungry most of the time. Our metabolisms became so high, that we were constantly eating and instantly burning through the calories. It was fun being reminded of school days, when we’d compare foods and sometimes trade snacks. Many people who learned that I remained vegan on the Pacific Crest Trail, were curious about what I ate and if it was difficult for me to find options. For me, it felt quite easy most of the time, with the exception of gas station resupplies, or small resort stores. I also tried to regularly take my vegan multivitamins to make up for any nutrition gaps I might experience.

I cold-soaked the whole time I was on trail, meaning that I did not cook any of my food. I would soak my food in a container when I got to camp, and waited a maximum of 20 minutes for a meal to be fully soaked and softened. My staples for dinner were: couscous, instant mashed potatoes often mixed with dehydrated refried beans (I’d buy Idahoan Original, with no butter, or a generic brand, with no added flavors), and ramen (the vegan ones, of course). These three meals were what I rotated through pretty much my whole time on trail. One might find this boring, but for me, I would have most of my variety in my snacks. I also didn’t mind not having to use mental energy just to switch up my meals. Sometimes, I would buy tortillas so that I could put my dinner in a burrito form. I always tried to make sure that I had an adequate amount of salt and flavoring within my three dinner choices. I stuck with cold soaking because it worked for me, and I didn’t crave hot foods, because I got my share of that in resupply towns. I held on to my tiny FOHOZ stove (BRS Ultralight Stove knockoff) for about 4 months, just in case I were to change my mind about cooking. Once I realized that I was only about 2-3 weeks away from the end, I figured that I probably wouldn’t feel compelled to change up my food preparation technique in that time.

For snacks, I found that I liked bars a lot, because they were fast and usually packed with calories and quick sugar. My favorite bar was the Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars, because they tasted somewhat healthy, and they were cheap. I also would sometimes buy Clif bars if they were reasonably priced, same went for ProBar meal bars and Bobo bars. I often liked to have something crunch and salty too, so I liked to get either original Wheat Thins, or the Tomato & Basil Wheat Thins. Other delicious salty treats were peanut butter filled pretzels.

In the beginning, I sent 8 packages to myself in the desert. I didn’t want to send a ton of packages, just in case I ended up getting tired of the food in them. I’m glad I did that, because since my journey became non-linear with several flips, the shipping process became more of an inconvenience than anything else. So, I started buying stuff at the store. I still got a few packages shipped to resupply spots that were limited with their options, especially to the towns in Washington. My packages started out with a very nutrition-packed oatmeal (lots of chia, flax, spirulina, other seeds, and protein powder), sweet snacks (dried fruit, date balls, and chocolate & seeds energy nuggets), salty snacks (flax corn chips and peanuts), and my two dinner choices (couscous and mashed potatoes). I got tired of my oatmeal pretty quickly. It was such a large quantity and was simply a terrible texture with all of those seeds, especially as a cold soaked item. I kept having date balls, but was glad when I got a break from them whenever I didn’t have a package.

When I bought from the store, I’d often get a jar of peanut butter (nice to snack on spoonfuls for a quick snack, and to spread on other things), english muffins (much easier to compress than bagels, and slightly lighter), bars, crackers, couscous, ramen, and mashed potatoes. Sometimes, I’d get instant oats to supplement my english muffin breakfast, or tortillas to supplement my dinners. If I wasn’t packing for more than 4 days, I’d sometimes pack out some fresh produce, like a banana or avocado. If I was feeling generous with weight, and if the store had some, I’d buy some TastyBites Indian food pouches (had to make sure it was the kind without dairy) or some baby food fruit/veggie pouches (basically like having a smoothie or apple sauce). My absolute favorite resupply spot was Mount Shasta, because they had a Natural Foods store, which was like a vortex for us who were health nuts. They had so many sales on hiker snacks like bars, vegan jerky (there were, like, 5 kinds), and fancy vegan ramen! They had the things that we were craving, like healthy smoothies and veggie filled breakfast burritos.

Since I became vegan 4 years ago, the PCT was fairly easy for me to navigate diet-wise. It’s a lifestyle that I’m used to. It’s my normal. So, for some who are new to veganism, it might have been a bit more challenging. It was helpful to have the Vegan PCT Hikers and Supporters Facebook page, the founder of whom I got to meet at Trail Days! That page was often updating us on the options we may find in different towns, whether at restaurants or at stores. I got a lot of my package inspiration from Paul the Backpacker on Youtube. I also found Cotezi’s (also on Youtube) PCT vegan story helpful. More and more people each year are becoming vegan, and that includes PCT hikers. We live in a great time, where it’s getting easier and easier to find vegan options. I am so glad that I didn’t have to let go of my values for this trail. I am also very grateful for the trail angels that had options for me. For the Class of 2020, I can attest that being vegan on trail is very much possible and enjoyable!

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