I flew from London to San Diego 6 days before my start date, hoping this would give me enough time to buy and post resupply boxes, sort out a bounce box full of spare gear and get an American prepaid sim card. I actually only needed 3 days for this.
I stayed at a hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter for the first 3 nights (usually I would stay in a hostel but I needed my own room with plenty of floor space for all my shopping). The first 2 days I:
- Walked to the Grocery Outlet on Market St and bought the bulk of my food then took an Uber taxi back to the hotel
- Took an Uber to REI and bought freeze-dried dinners, one per resupply box as a special treat
- Took an Uber to Home Depot and bought a 5 gallon bucket to use as my bounce box and trash compactor bags to use as a liner inside my backpack
- From Home Depot I walked to Target (same complex) and bought the remaining food and resupply contents
- Walked to Verizon and AT&T on Broadway to look at prepaid Sim cards. Verizon said their Sim wouldn’t work in my iPhone and told me to go to AT&T so I did and got one there. I wrote a post about the different sim cards available here.
- In my hotel room, I repackaged a lot of the food into ziplock bags to save weight and space. I didn’t have any priority boxes with me so I put each resupply into separate plastic bags to take to the post office. (Would be easier to get the boxes (free) and box them at home/hotel then get a taxi to the post office depending on how many boxes you need to send). I’m terrible at making videos, but here’s one I took when I was in the process of sorting out all my food:
On the third day, I spent the majority of the day at the post office making up the boxes with my resupply bags, recording what was in each box and posting them. I went through a couple of rolls of tape. **It would’ve been much easier if I’d boxed everything up in the hotel room. Next time I would get a selection of medium/large boxes from the post office and a couple of rolls of tape and make them up before going to the post office.
The next 3 days I stayed at the Trail Angel’s Scout and Frodo’s house and had a very relaxing time. It was exactly what I needed and made me realize how stressed out I was and nervous/anxious about starting the PCT. Scout and Frodo are incredible people and I had a wonderful time staying with them. I wrote a blog post about Scout and Frodo here.
If I was to do the PCT again:
I would choose to mainly post food in advance purely so I wouldn’t have to walk around a supermarket on a zero day. Knowing what I know now about what food I like and don’t like, it would be very easy to buy in bulk and make up the boxes. The only time-consuming part is the posting. Even though sending boxes costs money, I still believe it’s cheaper to do this (when you’ve bought food at bulk/discount prices), than it is to buy in towns.
I wouldn’t separate jerky into ziplock bags… those little moisture sachets in the packet really work… I bought a few packets of jerky in San Diego, split them up into ziplock bags for California and every box I opened had a moldy packet of jerky inside!
I would probably hire a car for the day to go and do all the shopping, it might have worked out cheaper than using Uber.
Here’s a list of all the towns where I posted or bought food from along the PCT and my thoughts on whether I would do the same again, or something different:
I really hope these resupply posts help! If you have any questions, ask away.
Kat – Hummingbird
Great post! Very impressive organization skills. Not sure I could do a complete resupply in three days
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I only did it for California then in Ashland I bought and posted everything for Oregon & Washington… But where there’s a will, there’s a way!!
Holy cow. Thank you so much for your detailed notes and spreadsheets! I’m feeling so much more confident about food and supplies. I think now I’ll just worry about saving the money, haha
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Thanks so very much for your resupply notes. I am planning to hike this year and am trying to work out my resupply, so this is very helpful! I really enjoyed following your PCT blog last year. I have a couple of questions about food – Ursack says that their S29 bear bag is now more critter resistant in addition to being bear resistant. I’m torn between taking the Ursack and using something like a zippsack. Do you have any thoughts on this? I’m thinking I would use an Opsak inside either of these. Also, did you have any problems with rodents either in your tent or when cowboy camping, and did you keep your food in your tent or outside? Thanks again for your notes!
Thanks for your comment.
I started the trail with Opsak’s but found that they tore too easy so I wouldn’t personally use them again. I actually had one of my Opsak’s chewed through by a rodent in a bear box one night, there were at least 3 other people’s food in the bear box but mine was the only one chewed through (mine was see through and the others were opaque stuff sacks).
In South Lake Tahoe I bought a stuff sack and used this to carry my food for the rest of the trail but I was often nervous of it being chewed through. I like the idea of using an Ursack but I never came across one on the trail.
I know a lot of hikers who had their tent/pack/food bag chewed through by rodents in Washington and I could hear rodents scratching around outside my tent but I was incredibly lucky not to have experienced this other than when my Opsak was in the bear box that one night.
Through Yosemite my food was in a bear canister but other than this, I sometimes slept with it and sometimes left it in my pack outside my tent. It’s obviously not recommended to sleep with your food!
If I had an Ursack I probably wouldn’t hesitate to leave it out of my tent each night safe in the knowing that a rodent couldn’t chew through it.
I hope this helps 🙂
Thank you, that does help! I’m leaning even more toward the ursack now.
Cool post. Thanks for your very specific resupply notes! How long do they keep the resupply boxes in the post offices? Is it possible to post them all at once in San Diego for the whole trail?
Hi! I think Post Office’s are supposed to hold packages for 30 days but in my case some held them for about 3 months – but this is a risk I took, hoping the packages would still be there! I personally wouldn’t recommend sending packages for the whole trail from San Diego because you might end up hating a lot of the food you’ve sent yourself months in advance. When I reached Ashland I stayed a few nights and bought and posted all my food here for the rest of the trail (Oregon & Washington) – it was easy to do because I knew then what food I did and didn’t like.
Great info here, thanks for taking the time and effort to share your experiences!
Thanks Anna 🙂
U r amazing….what an epic journey for u…..congrats
Thanks Rick 🙂
Thank you SOOO much for this series of resupply posts. Very thorough and informative. Well done!
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I’m so glad you like them!
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I have followed your blog and replay it at least 3 times. I compliment your dedication to your excellent blog. Thanks for keeping us minions hanging on your every post while awaiting your next. I followed most of the other blogs of the hikers you traveled with from time-to-time.
I leave April 1 of this year. Quick question please and thank you. Did you carry box tape or were the UPS and USPS folks graciously providing boxing tape?
Thanks for following and for your lovely comments 🙂
When I posted a lot of boxes from San Diego I bought and used my own tape.
Along the trail when I needed to send a box (or my bounce box) in a post office, often there would be a roll of tape leftover from another hiker or the post office would kindly let me use theirs.
I kept a spare polka dot tape in my bounce box but I only used this in Ashland when I sent the rest of my boxes for Oregon and Washington.
I guess it depends how often you think you’ll be posting boxes as to whether you carry tape with you but I wouldn’t personally carry tape on the trail.
I hope this helps 🙂
Nice write up, thank you!
I’ve been using ursacks for a number of years. Can’t say I’ve ever had problemswith rodents, other than a black bear at muir ranch campground. She poked holes thru the kevlar,but the material held, and so did my knot to keep the bag on the tree.
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Thankyou so much for post all of this priceless information. I’m going to be in the same situation as you were, flying in from Europe, and your posts have answered all of my questions. I’m a little worried about sending food boxes out to post offices and them not being there when I arrive 3 months later. Do any of the San Diego offer a box management service?
Make sure to put your ETA clearly on the boxes and write “Please hold for PCT hiker.” Or you could not send as many boxes at the beginning and send some from South Lake Tahoe maybe? … All of mine arrived and were still there for me to pick them up but I don’t know if I was lucky in this respect or if this is normal?
Wow great blog! Thanks for all the great info!
I have a question. I am from Canada and I am struggling with where to send a bear canister to. Did you buy one in San Diego and send one from there? Did you send it to Kennedy Meadows? Also did you carry all of your shoes with you or did you send them to the post offices along the way?
Thank you in advance! 🙂
There was a bear canister loan program from Grumpy Bear in Kennedy Meadows and I was fortunate to be able to loan a canister through this program (free, just pay the postage to return the canister). I think this program is run yearly. I posted it back to them from Sonora Pass.
For my shoes, I bought them as I needed them from REI, Amazon etc and had them sent down the trail to post offices or accommodation as I didn’t know how long each pair would last.
I hope this helps 🙂
thank you so much for this blog its exactly what I’ve been looking for! I’m also from Britain and its hard to find advice for people who come from a different country! I’m planning my thru-hike in 2017 and this blog has been fantastic!!
I out of interest how much did your resupply boxes for California cost? I’m a student and don’t have that much money so i’m trying to cut corners a bit
also I was wondering how easy it was to book a flight from Canada home and if you booked in advance or if you just went to the airport when you arrived?
thanks so much (you did amazing!)
I’ve been meaning to work out the expenses since I came back… I have a shoebox full of receipts somewhere… I do know off the top of my head I spent $500 in Ashland buying all of my resupply for Oregon & Washington (900 miles) so I must’ve spent a bit more than this for California.
As for my flight, I booked a return from London to San Diego because I put my pack in a suitcase (to protect it and my hiking poles), left the suitcase with Scout & Frodo then picked it up to use again to fly back to London. I’d never been to San Diego before so when I finished the trail, I had a few days in Vancouver with friends then took a bus to Seattle for a few days of sightseeing, then flew to San Diego for some more sightseeing before flying back to the UK. Most people I met flew out of Vancouver or Seattle though depending on the cheapest ticket at the time.
I hope this helps!
It’s really helpful to know what you did as I’m also planning on doing this from the UK. I saw on another post that post offices will only keep a bounce box for a few weeks. Do you know if this is true? My current
plan is to mainly resupply on the way but have a bounce box for changes from cold-warm weather that I could access roughly every month. Is this feasible?
Hi Katie, I had heard that too but I just made sure to put my ETA and “International PCT hiker” all over the box as well as a contact number (hoping they would call before throwing the box out) and I never had a problem. Happy trails!