VEGAN on the AT: How do you get food on an Appalachian Trail Thru-hike?!

A guest post by Colton of VEGAN on the AT

How do you get food on the trail?! I get asked this question a ton, especially since I’m vegan. Well, one method (the preferred method albeit less popular) is to send yourself “drop boxes” to various destinations along the trail. Most of these places will be hostels or outfitters, sometimes they’ll be post offices. If that sounds like something you’re interested in knowing more about, I recommend you check out Backpacking Vegan’s post on the subject!

The inside of an average 3 day drop box laid out. Chips, snacks, meals, etc.

The inside of an average 3 day drop box laid out. Chips, snacks, meals, etc.

Inside of a 3 day drop box part 2.

Inside of a 3 day drop box part 2.

Inside of a 3 day drop box part 3.

Inside of a 3 day drop box part 3.

Anyhow, as a vegan and as a thruhiker I have two resupply goals: stay healthy and stay sane.

So on one hand I have multivitamins, powdered greens, electrolytes, magnesium supplements, etc. to satisfy my body’s need to restore muscle tissue and maintain a healthy immune system… and on the other hand I have potato chips, candy bars, and chocolate to satisfy my mind’s desire to eat things that taste yummy.

Opening my drop box on the trail.

Opening my drop box on the trail.

Let it be known that accomplishing both of these goals is not any more difficult for a vegan than it would be for an omnivore.

A lot of supplements frequently used by thruhikers are vegan “by default”. Natural Calm by Natural Vitality is an incredibly popular powdered magnesium supplement used by both hikers and runners, and guess what, it’s vegan! Says so right on the package (I love it when they do that). I take this mostly to prevent muscle cramps. Most all electrolyte supplements will be vegan as well, but watch out for Emergen-C, a lot of flavors aren’t vegan! I take Ultimate Replenisher cause it doesn’t have a nasty stevia aftertaste.

Staying healthy supplies.

Staying healthy supplies.

Healthforce Nutritionals supplements are super high quality, a standard they call “truganic”, even better than organic! I took a tip from former PCT record holder and supreme hiking badass Scott Williamson and sent myself powdered greens along the trail. The absence of fresh produce will probably negatively affect my health, and I hope that my Vitamineral Greens will work to counteract that by providing me with a concentrated dose of micronutrients such as chlorophyll.

Next up we have snacks which consist of trail mix, granola, energy bars, and… JUNK FOOD!

Believe it or not, there’s a whole world of vegan junk food out there, with Go Max Go candy bars being my absolute favorite. Earth Balance is a close contender in the yummy eats department as well, especially their sour cream and onion chips, which I added one bag of to most boxes. Stevie and Cheyanne will be eating their Mac n’ Cheese for meals as well. For a meatless gluten free jerky alternative, I’ll be eating Butler Foods Harvest Jerky. I’m also bringing tons of dark chocolate, cookies, and sour jelly beans from YumEarth.

The main bulk of my calories will come from meals, which I tried to have a variety of.

One meal that I’ll be eating often is chia seed pudding. This meal is awesome because it’s no-cook, provides tons of calories, and is packed to the brim with nutrients, including anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Plus I made it myself!

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What I used to make chia seed pudding.

Eating chia pudding on the trail.

Eating chia pudding on the trail.

Other meals will mostly be dehydrated beans and instant rice or mashed potatoes. However, some of the time I’ll be eating meals from Outdoor Herbivore which I’m hella excited about. They have an amazing selection of vegan and gluten free dehydrated meals, as well as staples like dehydrated quinoa and plantains. My personal favorite is the Chickpea Sesame Penne. Vegan, gluten free, lots of calories, and easy to make! Not to mention delicious.

Outdoor Herbivore inside of Mountain Outfitters Hostel.

Outdoor Herbivore inside of Mountain Outfitters Hostel.

As for nonfood related items, I’ll be sending myself synthetic socks and shoes every five hundred miles or so.

My boxes and also shoes to mail myself.

My boxes and also shoes to mail myself.

I prefer Injinji toe socks. They aid significantly in reducing blisters between toes and allow me to splay my toes. I’ll be wearing Altra Lone Peaks and Altra Olympus trail running shoes. Altra is awesome. One, they’re zero drop, meaning there’s no differential between the stack height of your toes and your heel. Two, they have a wide toe box, which duh, helps me not to get blisters and to splay my toes (as well as not smash my feet and lead to more serious problems). And three, they have outright said that all of
the materials used in their manufacturing process are vegan. How do I know that? Well, Jessica (the person who maintains the website you’re on right now) has graciously done some research for peeps like us, so do yourself a favor and check out her vegan gear pages.

Being vegan on the trail? Easy peasy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Vegan amigos on top of the southern terminus of the AT.

Vegan amigos on top of the southern terminus of the AT.

Cheyanne, Colton, and Stevie are three friends who are currently hiking the AT. They hope to prove that going on adventures doesn’t have to mean compromising your values, especially when it comes to veganism.

Follow their adventure at VEGAN on the AT and Instagram.


Thanks for sharing these helpful tips with us! I’m looking forward to continuing to follow your hike!

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