Compared to other vacations or adventures, backpacking is fairly inexpensive, especially if you already own the
requisite gear. Typically, the pack, tent and sleeping bag
are the costliest part. The goal is to carry as little weight
as possible without compromising comfort or safety, the
trade-off being that the lightest gear is usually the priciest.
Books and websites give detailed advice on necessary and
Food and Resupply
It’s nearly impossible to comfortably carry a 20- to 25-day
food supply for 200-plus miles. Most backpackers mail themselves caches of provisions and supplies to pick up along the
way. Four common pickup spots in the northernmost 110
miles include (north to south) Tuolumne Meadows post
office, Red’s Meadow Resort (near Devils Postpile National
Monument), Vermilion Valley Resort and Muir Trail Ranch.
South of Muir Trail Ranch, you can choose to carry a large
load (I lugged an 11-day supply after picking up my five-gallon
resupply bucket at M TR), get resupplied by a pack train from
the eastern Sierras (pricey for small groups or solo hikers; a
better option for large groups), or come off the trail in either
Bishop or Independence and return with enough food to
finish the trail. Although dates vary, resupply spots are only
open from about mid-May through late September.
The JM T, like the entire Sierra Nevada range, is active
black and brown bear country, so hikers are required to
carry food in an approved bear canister, checked by rang-
ers along the trail. It’s for your own protection and to keep
bears from becoming accustomed to human food.
Calorie-dense products are best for keeping the body
fueled; dehydrated foods, either homemade or sold as prepackaged meals at places like REI, are a popular choice.
Other trail-friendly edibles include instant oatmeal,
instant coffee, energy bars, various jerkies, nuts and tortillas. Whatever food you bring, two facts are certain: it’s
nearly impossible to gain weight during a JMT hike (most
lose from 4 to 8 percent of their body weight), and the
closer you get to the end of the trail, the more keenly and
vividly you’ll obsess about real food — be it steaks, doughnuts or fresh fruit.
Hiking the JMT is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s well
worth the planning, but the planning should start early on. M
This page: Garnet Lake with Mount Ritter and Banner Peak in the Ansel Adams Wilderness as seen on a 2014 trip. Opposite from left: The south fork of the San Joaquin River in the John
Muir Wilderness; a portrait of John Muir.