Loc: Portland, OR
If you are walking similar distances in similar terrain to what you've done in the past, and you're taking similar types of food that have worked well for you in the past, then I can't see any reason to change what works for you. As any of these factors change, you might want to consider whether the change is significant enough to warrant additional calories. If so, then getting a rough idea of how many calories you normally need would be a good starting point for figuring out the rest.
Yes and no - I keep sorta track of the calories - but more importantly - I don't wanna be hungry! I want to enjoy myself.
The flip side of that is I'm not a picky eater, so I'm normally happy with good prepackaged freeze dried dinners, or a homemade freezer bag cooking (just add boiling water) type thing..
The last time I was down your way I spent 8 days on South Coast Trek, Cockle Creek to Melaleuca.
I took 8 days worth of food that I actually brought most of from canada. I brought 8 freeze dried dinners, 5 commercially purchased "natural high", and three self-made "FBC style" (a couple of sarbar favorites from trailcooking.com). I brought 8 breakfasts of half mountain house freeze dried cooked egg and bacon or ham and peppers combined with half an idahoan dehydrated potatoes (I brought all the same thing for a reason) I brought some snacks and bought some there.
I traded good egg and tater breakfasts for oatmeal to break up the monotoy, the europeans and one tazzie I was mostly hiking with had supplied in melbourne and hobart grocery stores and had nothing but oatmeal, (and nasty instant coffee) so they got a little desperate. By the end I was close to getting offers of souls and sexual favors for two via coffees and a egg and taters breakfast
Your food weight shuold be between 1 and 2 pounds per day and calories between 2,000-3,000 per day.(provided that you are a normal sized person). As far as calories, it depends on if you are the "lean and hungry" type of carry some extra fat when you start out or do not have a high appatite when hiking. Between these "bookends" you also have to decide if reducing food weight or having luxerious meals is more important. The less weight you want to carry, the more you have to use freeze dried and you have to take very calorie-dense food (no fresh food). I mix freeze-dried and "real" food for variety. Fat percent definitely goes up if you want very calorie-dense food because each pound of fat provides about twice as many calories and protein or carbs.
Be sure you really like the food you take, aim for variety, take a few special treats and pay attention to the nutritional labels- look for calorie dense food.
Personally I aim for 2,500 calories per day, 1.25 pounds per day and 20% protein, 30% fat, 50% carbs. I am small (115 pounds) but "lean and hungry" so always eat ALL my food! I like simple food and am OK with just about anything. Where I backpack we are required to use bear cannisters, so I have to really watch out for food bulk, for example smashable bags of nuts and dried fruit versus trail bars. Forget crackers, they just turn into tiny crumbs when I get everything in the bear cannister!
Loc: Washington State, King County
+1 to pretty much everything wandering_daisy said. Well, except for the part about the crackers; agreed even there in the context of a bear can, but without a bear can I've been surprised at how well crackers can hold up.
To that I would add that with some experience at this now, I find that it's very common for people to pack too much food for the first week or so; this isn't always true, but more often than not. Very much depending on the type of food packed, I can get by with a bit over a pound of food per day in the first week or two of a trip, losing weight as I go but not painfully (I tend to be in the 170# - 180# range starting out).
After a few weeks of hiking I need over 2 pounds of food per day, cleanly double (and could eat more) what I started out eating, after body fat is reduced and metabolism cranked up. Depending on how lean you are to start, this might or might not start happening to you towards the end of a 2-week trip, but I wouldn't worry about it.
I've not been out more than 7 days yet, but I average 1.2 pounds per day (550 g). Most men seem about 1.4-1.5 until you get out to a couple weeks or more and then it goes up. If 24 oz has worked for you in the past, stick with it. My only addition is to make sure you enjoy what you're taking.
With dehydrated food having condensed calories, 1.5 pounds is about 3,000 calories a day. After the third or fourth day, I get hungrier and I'd either plan to be hungry or carry about 2 pounds a day. You'd need more if going long distances each day.
It's not just calories, though. You will need more fat and protein which usually means a lot of nuts.
I don't find that the dehydrated food is that calorie dense - it's good, but really about half or *more* of my calories I take when I go are in my snacks I consume during the day. So thinking about a typical snack load. For example, a 3 inch square bay bread biscuit I make, with peanut butter on it, has as many calories as my usual dehydrated backpacking dinner. And on a good long day, I may have that, with a chocolate bar, some almonds, dried fruit, 50 g or sausage. and a piece of cheese. But not so much on shorter days - I'm basing that on my usual solo bit of getting up and starting walking by 7 AM, and I probably won't stop till 8 or 9 at night - so breakfast is early, and supper is late - that big load of "snacks" is what let's a big guy like me enjoy hiking longer days - I don't go that fast, I just have long days.
Now my snacks are also the majority of the *weight* in my food bag too.. that calorie dense stuff is heavy
I like my fruits and vegetables! Fresh is out of the question, except for first day snack. Dried fruit is cheaper but heavier. When I try to really reduce weight, I go to freeze dried fruit and vegetables. The only freeze dried food I take are the "Just Fruit" or "Just Vegetable" packs.
I rarely use freeze dried packaged meals, because honestly you pay a lot for the little benefit gained. A lot of the packaged meals are loaded with TVP, which I can buy bulk at the grocery store for a lot less and simply add a handfull to each regular meal. Another "rip-off" are trail bars. I still prefer old fashioned "gorp". Or I simply make my own cookies and load them up with protein powder.
Yes- nuts and more nuts! I love nuts. I also take chunks of real cheese and a bottle of olive oil. If cool enough I take real butter. Sausage tends to disagree with my digestion, as much as I like the flavor. These foods are all really "calorie-dense".
Loc: San Diego CA
I think a reasonable weight (for someone who has to ask the question) is about 1.5 to 2 pounds per day. With some more experience, you will be able to taylor it more to your style of backpacking. However, the point made that the longer the day, the more snacks you need is important. You would be surprised what a 280 cal bar will do as a pick me up. That and a 20 min. nap around 2 in the afternoon .
Myself: For 1 week, I need about 1 pound of food per day for the first 4 days or so. This is as long as the mileage is around 10 mi. or under. After that I need to up the snacks. The rest of the week I can get by with the 1 pound, but I will probably be hoping to supplement with fish...
I rarely use freeze dried packaged meals, because honestly you pay a lot for the little benefit gained. A lot of the packaged meals are loaded with TVP, which I can buy bulk at the grocery store for a lot less and simply add a handfull to each regular meal.
Yeah, I know I can actually make better boil and dump meals than I can buy - but I unfortunately tend to side of I have the money but not the time - so I often end up buying them. At lease I've managed to find ones I like without too much artificial crud in them. I suppose if I practiced more I might get better at making a stock of them in wintertime for hiking season..
Another "rip-off" are trail bars. I still prefer old fashioned "gorp". Or I simply make my own cookies and load them up with protein powder.
This is where I spend my time, I just simply can't stand trail bars, I am much happier making my own, which I liked the taste and are loaded with fibre, carbs, and fat. I guess with limited time I'd rather avoid commercial trail bars than commercial meals
Yes- nuts and more nuts! I love nuts. I also take chunks of real cheese and a bottle of olive oil. If cool enough I take real butter.
I'm partial to almonds ( high fibre too ) and I always love dragging along real cheese - a nice hunk of gruyere or emmentaller on shorter trips and if it's gotta last longer, romano or pamigiano. My cheese it the hardest thing for me to "ration" out.. I always want to eat more of it than I carry with me...
Loc: Washington State, King County
"I rarely use freeze dried packaged meals, because honestly you pay a lot for the little benefit gained. A lot of the packaged meals are loaded with TVP, which I can buy bulk at the grocery store for a lot less and simply add a handfull to each regular meal. Another "rip-off" are trail bars."
Amen. Walking in a store like REI or MEC, and indeed in grocery stores too one sees the expensive trail bars; I prefer to select among quite a variety of bars sold by the box typically in the cereal aisle of a grocery store. I can't imagine paying up for the spendy ones, except to give me more variety on longer trips with resupply --- I'll sometimes get some "more trendy" bars in bulk at Costco at not too bad of a price. Or best yet, get more typical "cereal aisle" bars in bulk at Costco. In any event, I'm too lazy to try to make them! :-)
In terms of freeze dried meals --- I think those are just another triumph of marketing, like bottled water. It's just as easy and as far as I can tell I do just as well with a Knorr side dish meal as I do with a Mountain house meal, indeed perhaps tossing in some TVP. Just less expense, and minus the rigid and heavy aluminized packaging.
To be clear, I feel the same way about various sports "foods", like energy gel gu or the like. Clearly not everyone agrees, but I seem to do fine over extended periods with just normal stuff from a grocery store. At times I've tried things like protein shakes, but when I inevitably slide down to a simpler alternative out of convenience/laziness, I never seem to experience any negative consequences.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
It takes some experimenting. For me, no matter how much I cut back, it seems that I end up with leftover dinner that I can't eat. Unfortunately, for a long timne the reconstituted food that I couldn't eat was just as heavy as the home-dried dinner that I started with, so that unless I was where I can build a fire (rarely), I packed out almost as much garbage as I carried food in. It's just that the dinners look so tiny in their dried state! Finally I'm getting to where I can avoid dinner garbage. I'm actually best off not to take more than a pound of food per day. I snack on nuts, cereal bars and dried fruit all day, which is undoubtedly why I don't have much appetite for dinner.
And no, I can't give the leftovers to my dog because he has all sorts of allergies, including to every grain except rice.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Petersuan: For example, I am a 215 lb, 5'10" female. My Basal Metabolic Rate (or how many calories I would burn in one day if all I did was lie in bed and stare at the ceiling) is about 1900. That's more than half of your 3000 calories-burned goal. It doesn't take a whole lot of hiking, particularly with weight, in order to meet and/or exceed that number, unless you're very small and skinny. So if you want to up your calories burned, carry more, hike longer, and do it with lots of elevation gain/loss.
I will get back to you on weight per day. My trip last year I had 11 pounds of food for 5 days. This was MT House freeze dried and diy breakfast etc. I had more than I personally needed. I am taking only self dehydrated meals and such this year for the most part. I do not have everything packaged as of yet as Iam finishing up my dehydrating. I am curious to see how it stacks up to store bought weight?
Great information Lori. Thanks. I find it very easy to get enough fat in my backpack diet. I have always used a minimum of 1 oz. of cheese per day for snacks and again half that amount for cooking. Plus, I am nuts about nuts! I also take 5-6 oz olive oil (sometimes margarine) for a week's trip.
The part about men and women backpackers having different needs was interesting. I guess I will quit giving men advise about backpack food. What works for me may not for them.
Loc: Washington State, King County
"I love olive oil to, maybe I should take more?"
A general rule of thumb when I do bring olive oil is to add about an ounce to what would normally be a two-person dinner.
Another rule of thumb is to bias it based on how it tastes. If you've lost all your body fat and your metabolism is cranked up, oils and fats taste REALLY good, an ounce in a big dinner is fine. If it tastes too oily to you, then ... it is!
In practice I seem to get by with alot less than that, but perhaps this is because my hikes are usually only 3-4 days and so with meals on each end and glycogen stores I get away with it. I typically eat more like 1 pound/day summer, 1.5 pounds spring/fall, and 2.0 pounds in winter. If I was leaner I would eat more, hopefully.
Loc: San Diego CA
One thing about a week walk that is generally different than longer walks is that most people probably start out with a good supply of stored energy. I know I carry a nice 5 lb energy packet with me at all times. If I am doing 10 miles or less per day, under 1.5 lbs per day works well for me for 3 or 4 days. By the 4th day I have somewhat depleted those stores and am a little hungry if I am only eating about 1 lb per day. If I am doing a regular 13 miles or over per day, I am into the "needing more energy every day from the start" zone. In other words, if I don't eat enough food each day, I will pay the next day with a lack of energy.
You also have to be realistic about how much "energy" you really need. We all love to think we are these world class athletes, but my backpacking seldom seems difficult. The more you are in shape, the less effort you use, so less calories needed. PCT hikers are different- they do 20+ miles a day, day after day. I do not fool myself into thinking that I am doing anything near that. I have been out for up to 100 days straight and do eat more after 2 weeks. We used to say that we finally got our "mountain appatite". The best method is to keep track of the food you do not use on a trip. Careful evaluation of this will help you do better meal planning on future trips. For example: No matter how much cheese I take, I always eat it! I burn out on trail bars (too sweet). As much as I love almonds, last trip I burned out on them and had half a bag left when I got home. No matter how much dried/fd fruit I bring, I eat it all. I usually bring too many hot drinks. As much as I like hot drinks, I usually do not have enough fuel to heat enough water. You really need to match your food that requires hot water with the amount of fuel you bring. So now I take dark chocolate squares to get my chocolate fix after dinner instead of hot cocoa.
Very true wandering daisy. You also have to scale things to size, and lean body mass is probably a better indication of that than total body weight. I am 6' 210 pounds, and I have a fairly good aerobic capacity for my age, but its comparable to that of an average 165 pound runner, or an elite 150 pound runner, not a 210 pound athlete. I think I would like to try some controlled tests with a heart rate monitor to see how many calories I can burn in one day. I doubt it is as high as I think it is. I'll check it out again.