John Muir Trail resupply planning

Before you began your resupply planning, it’s useful to understand how long you will spend on the trail, what you will eat each day and what non-food supplies you will need, including fuel. This will allow you to decide how many days you need to account for and what supplies you will need, between the different resupply locations.

From here, you can start to think about the logistics of where you will stop, and how you’ll actually get the supplies to yourself!

Resupplying from within the U.S.A.

If you are coming from within the U.S.A you will probably buy, package and mail your resupplies to your chosen resupply locations yourself. You can buy all of your supplies in one go (or as deals arise) and then separate them by day and by resupply section. You will find that your living room is filled with Ziploc bags of snacks and plasters for a few hours (or days) during this process! Getting rid of shop bought packaging saves a lot of weight and bulk.

Five-gallon buckets work well for mailing your resupplies – this is what everyone tends to use and what is required at Muir Trail Ranch. You can fit supplies for two people for up to around 6 days into each bucket.

Resupplying from outside of the U.S.A

From outside of the U.S.A. it can be a little trickier and at first I was a bit stumped! I clearly couldn’t post my supplies from London, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone I knew in the U.S.A. for such a big favour. I couldn’t post them once in America either, as you need to allow at least three weeks and I’d only be arriving a few days before.

I was lucky to stumble across an amazing company called Zero Day Resupply, who mail out your food and supplies in a five gallon bucket to key resupply points on the trail. It worked really well for me and I’d highly recommend them. What’s especially great is that you can buy individual units, so you save on waste e.g. single serving packets of honey, rather than a big jar.

To save some costs I also decided to buy and package two of my supplies once in America, in Mammoth.

Where should I resupply?

There are a few different options and probably not one plan that is ‘right’ for everyone. There are some super speedy people, who will only need or want one resupply. However, most people are going to need between two and four resupplies, depending on your pace and how much weight you want to carry. To help you decide, I’ve shared my SoBo plan, along with alternative options. Note that fuel cans are available at all of the locations detailed below.

Starting the trail at Yosemite

Destination: Red’s Meadow

Distance: 60 miles

Days of supplies: 6 plus 1 day for side trip to Half Dome

I bought my first lot of supplies in Mammoth Lakes and took it with me to the start. This worked out pretty great as there is an excellent supermarket there (Vons, 481 Old Mammoth Road). I redistributed everything in my hotel room into Ziploc bags, using measuring spoons from the kitchen (thanks guys). I was also able to buy my fuel at an outdoors shop there.

Alternative options

If you are travelling from within America, it would make sense to buy and prepare the food and supplies at home.

There is a shop in Yosemite Village, if you forget anything, but I wouldn’t rely on it. I expect it’d be a more expensive way of doing it, too.

Tuolumne Meadows

You may want to plan an additional resupply at Tuolumne (around day 3), to reduce your pack weight. You can send a resupply bucket to the Post Office:

c/o General Delivery
Tuolumne Meadows
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
Arriving by: ETA

The Tuolumne Meadows Post Office is located in the same building as the store and grill and is about ten minutes’ walk from the backpackers campsite.

You could choose to rely on the shop there for a full resupply or some extras. It was well stocked when I was there, but I don’t think that’s always the case. They do have fuel there but I bought an extra can from Mammoth, just in case.

Resupply one: Red’s Meadow

Destination: Muir Trail Ranch

Distance to destination: 50 miles

Days of supplies: 4 plus a little extra

I got the shuttle into Mammoth to buy food at Vons (again – slightly odd feeling!) This worked really well for me as I had a zero day and so plenty of time to make the trip. I also needed to get a couple of items of gear and wanted to use the internet..!

USA 510
Buying the essentials

Alternative options

Had I not had time to go into Mammoth, or not wanted to, I would have used the resupply company.

Had I been coming from within the U.S.A. I would have mailed my resupply to the post office at Red’s or potentially even dropped it off on my way to the trail. There is a small holding fee. More information is available here.

Resupply two: Muir Trail Ranch

Destination: Mount Whitney

Distance to destination: 120 miles

Days of supplies: 9 + a little extra for the long walk down to Whitney Portal!

It wasn’t my plan to go the whole way through to the end from Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). I’d originally intended to have another resupply (see below). I changed my mind for a couple of reasons, but primarily I had a really strong sense of not wanting to leave the trail, or having to be anywhere, or do anything, other than hike.

I sent myself a bucket via zero day resupply who took care of the logistics. If you send your own bucket the instructions are available here. I had sent a little too much food anyway, so combined with some freebies from the hiker buckets, I had plenty for the nine days.

I was a little bit nervous about this decision, as it meant slightly higher mileage and less room for error. But I do like a bit of a challenge and after considering it for a while and trying out the weight of my pack with that amount of food, I decided to go for it.

I would urge caution, as it does make for a fairly tough nine days. I think it worked particularly well for me as I did feel quite fit by this point, and I had a good rest and a zero day at MTR.

Alternative options

Vermilion Valley Resort

  • Some people choose to resupply here in addition to MTR and/or Red/s, and in rare cases (very high mileage generally) instead of them.
  • I chose not to do this, as it requires quite a detour (five mile hike each way and a ferry). It also didn’t make sense for me to resupply there as I’d only been at Red’s about two days before, and would be at MTR two days after.
  • A big plus of VVR over MTR, is that they have a restaurant, showers and a shop that are available to backpackers. MTR facilities are only available to people staying there. So it could be worth a detour for that alone!
  • More information here.

An additional resupply at Onion Valley

  • A lot of people that I met decided to have an extra resupply (post MTR) at Onion Valley. This has the clear benefit of meaning that you’ll need to carry less food and can take longer over the slightly tougher second half.
  • I decided against this, as it would have involved hiking out around 7 miles over Kearsage Pass to the Onion Valley trailhead, and making my way from the trail-head into the town (and back again).
  • Some people were lucky to have friends or family who hiked in to meet them with their resupply, saving this detour.
  • As someone without friends or family able to do this, I had originally planned to use the Mount Williamson Motel hiker resupply package, sending my bucket with Zero Day Resupply. The package includes a ride from the Onion Valley trailhead to the motel, bucket holding fee and a night’s accommodation with food. They are hugely helpful and experienced in supporting hikers, so if you are really not keen on carrying the nine/ ten days of food, or don’t have someone who can help you, I think it’s a great option. Just make sure that you allow enough time and food for the extra mileage.
  • I met some people who were using a pack resupply – someone who was meeting them at Kearsage Pass with their resupply on a mule! This starts at around $500 which was just too much for me, although it can be split by multiple people/groups.

Other considerations

You will need to make sure that your food will fit into your bear canister. The park rental ones are supposed to accommodate up to six days for one person, but I manged to get in 7- 8 days’ worth at one point. You can buy or rent canisters that take as little as four and as much as 10 days. For me, as I hadn’t seen one until I collected my rental, this was a bit of an act of faith! Remember that you don’t need to be able to fit the first days’ worth, as you’ll have eaten it all by night.

Really think about how much weight you are happy to carry. A good rule of thumb is  about 1.5 – 2 pounds a day per person, so factor that in when considering how many stops you’ll need. Also bear in mind the weight of your canister – they are heavy!

Confused by some of the terminology in this post? Check out my trail glossary.

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