Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
why so little discussion of food
Display Avatars Sort By:
Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
why so little discussion of food on 05/15/2010 22:54:32 MDT Print View

food is heavy.. and affords great opportunities to save weight for very little money (and gain health + nutrition). on a 4 day trip, the difference between an expert planner and an average planner could easily be 2 - 3 lbs.. you'd have to spend $300 or more to save that on pack + tent + sleeping systems.

an extra couple of unwanted energy bars can wipe out the weight differences between many gear options discussed here (for eg: stoves, pads, even certain packs..)

and yet there is so little discussion of food compared to gear here..

William Johnson
Search no more. on 05/15/2010 23:28:13 MDT Print View

There is a food section on this forum.

"Food, Hydration, and Nutrition."

At current count it looks like over 600 threads dedicated to that subject.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
why so little discussion of food on 05/16/2010 06:58:09 MDT Print View

I suspect that the limited discussion of food versus, say, alcohol stoves, is the personal nature of ones diet. In my experience, a well balanced diet of backpacking food weighs about 100 to 110 calories per ounce. This provides a reasonable balance between fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The only way to increase the calorie density of ones meals is to add fat and reduce the protein and carbohydrate content. To me this makes meals unpalatable and less nourishing. So, since I know how many calories I burn per day and I know what the food weighs per calorie, the only decisions I need to make are 1) do I want to loose weight on this trip? what appeals to me while I am planning and 3) do I want to cook what I carry? After making these decisions, my menu planning is pretty much personal preference tempered by prior experience. For example, I don't like freeze-dried liver, onion and cabbage casserole with garlic sauce: I do like dehydrated chili.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
125cal/oz on 05/16/2010 08:39:55 MDT Print View


Yes, there's actually a lot of discussion on this subject. The rule of thumb seems to be shooting for 125 calories per ounce or better. Of course, there is a lot more to nutrition than calories, but over short hikes it is what really matters.

If the discussion lacks scope, it is only because advances in food technology are slow. Once we got to freeze-drying we haven't really advanced much.

Edited by acrosome on 05/16/2010 08:40:53 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: why so little discussion of food on 05/16/2010 09:26:01 MDT Print View

Unlike some of you, I personally take food I like rather than what I think I should take.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: why so little discussion of food on 05/16/2010 11:27:23 MDT Print View

Many of us have figured out what works for our hiking, but newcomers are often baffled on how to start. Hence the often repeated question of "What's for Lunch?".

The difficulties arise due to wildly broad range of requirements for our hikes. Hikes can be short or long, slow or fast, sea level or mountains, etc.

The Goal: How to identify a constant caloric intake, over say 12 hours, with an appealing mix of taste, texture, sweet, salty, etc. and recognize what drives those choices.

Breakfast and Dinners are a little more obvious and 'relaxed' than Lunches/Snacks, but are critical to the day's foundation as well as maintaining a nutritional balance. Since Lunches seem to be the big challenge, and also influence what 'compensation' needs to happen with Breakfast and Dinner, let's start with Lunch.

One approach is to begin with a "Top Down" view, starting with basic factors, and then working down to specific food suggestions.

This doesn't preclude jumping in with your favorite Lunch, but it would be helpful if you frame in within the developed context. Others will understand where you a coming from, and they can evaluate your suggestions against their needs.

As a Starting Example –

Some Considerations are
1) Elevation
2) Level of Effort
3) Day and Duration of the Trip

Defining the Considerations -
1) Elevation – Effects are highly subjective, so understanding Your response is critical

2) Level of effort affect the mix of carbohydrates and fats -
Casual: "Walking, Talking, Stopping and Looking" (Only occasionally breathing hard) 50/50
Quick: "Threshold Minus 20 Beats" (enough reserve to kick it up for 30 minutes) 70/30
Race: "Threshold Minus 10 Beats" (always on the edge) 95/5

3a) Day and Duration of he Trip, in Casual or Quick Mode, affect calories required.
Under 3 days – the calorie cushion supplements your intake
From 3 to 7 days – the body starts to demand more
From 7 days on – intake must match effort, to avoid weight loss and constant hunger
3b) In Race mode, calories must start high and stay high. (You're running a deficit to start with, so keeping up is paramount.)

How to get it done impacts decisions on "packaging and prep"
Banquet – you'll take the time to have an interesting lunch
Stuffer – you eat on the trail, or stop only briefly
Drinker – you don't have the time or jaw strength to chew the required number of calories

So, "What's for Lunch?"

Food Favorites and Suggestions – Depending on the above:
Casual – Bagels PB&J, Hummus,
Quick – Bars, Gorp, Chips, Chex, Super Spackle….
Race – Olive Oil, Hammer Gel, and Perpetuum, (and attention to protein)

Specifically, Lunch for me: 10 Day Trip, Mountains, Quick Pace, Quick Eating. On a 2 hour interval, PowerBar (PB) Oatmeal, PB Apple/Cinnamon, PB Peanutbutter, Chex Bold Party Mix, PB Chocolate, Lays Potato chips gives me 1600 calories. Breakfast and Dinner add ~1500 calories. I am running a calorie deficit throughout the trip, but not feeling hungry. On the first 3 days I usually have a bar or snack left over, on the next 3 days I eat them all, and on the last 3 days, I have a bar at 2 am. I mix in other PowerBars, alternate Chex Party mix with "Gardettos", and alternate Lays plain chips with flavors, so each day is a little different.

Breakfast and Dinner sections will be added as time and energy, or other contributors, allow.

All of this is open to suggestions on structure, definitions, etc.

I would like to place the result in the Wiki (about which I know nothing, so help would be appreciated).

Worthwhile, or to grandois?

Comments, Contributions, Criticisms…

Edited by greg23 on 05/16/2010 11:29:21 MDT.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Re: why so little discussion of food on 05/16/2010 21:43:21 MDT Print View

People have very different approaches to BPing food. Many look at food almost purely as fuel and are perfectly satisfied with powerbars, misc. energy gels, clif bars, etc. Others just aren't into the food planning/prep.

For me the meals are an important part of the enjoyment of the trip and I try to plan well balanced meals of "real" food, with plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables, decent coffee, dessert, and maybe even a little wine or mixed drink, if I'm feeling really decadent.

Fortunately, there are lots of sources for good recipes, and BPIng cookbooks with great ideas, for those who want to to work at it a little.

Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
are we really that different? on 05/16/2010 22:03:29 MDT Print View

I partially agree that food might be subject to more personal whims than the rest of BP gear but I bet we do mostly eat similar ingredients.. and I bet there are clever things people have discovered independently that would be useful to share with others who may not have.

Nuts were always big in my diet while BPing but I found out about Ultralight Joe's MooseGoo (essentially peanut butter + honey + some thickening flour / starch) only recently. Similarly, we independently discovered 90 second cooking quinoa + cream of rice + bouillon cubes as breakfast before finding out all 3 are backpacking staples..

Besides, there are lots of numbers one can assemble regarding food! Calories / oz, Fat / oz, Protein / oz, weights of freeze-dried vs dehydrated vs dried vs canned vs fresh etc.. it might match the numbers compiled here on thermal insulation and CO emissions!

Greg, that does sound like a very useful project.. even a mere list of various options others are using is so useful to look at. Your classification by hiking category goes further! People could easily enter a few of their favorites in whatever category they think it belongs.

I'm sure even experienced backpackers who have totally settled on a food regimen could find new ideas in such a wiki for some variety...

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: are we really that different? on 05/17/2010 13:57:49 MDT Print View

"are we really that different?"

Yes. There is not a food calculator or plan on earth (nor I believe will there ever be) that could encompass the diversity of food choices us backpackers indulge in. It's kinda like going from the USDA food pyramid and coming up with a 10-day menu plan that will suit everybody! I have coffee, noodles and eggs for breakfast, jerky and dried fruit for snacks, salami, cheese and crackers for lunch (we treat every lunch as if it were a picnic), and usually a home made dehydrated meal for dinner (endless possibilities for THAT meal). Total calories: enough to keep me going and happy. Total weight averages 500g per day, including fuel. Could I go lighter. Definitely. But food, more than anything, is what brings me a sense of enjoyment and comfort on a trip. I can handle a tarptent, sleep without a mat in a top-bag, and cook over a wood fire to lighten my load, but I do not wish to carry bland food just for the sake of fueling myself. I spent too many years doing just that on bodybuilding diets :(

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: are we really that different? on 05/17/2010 14:17:38 MDT Print View

Agree with Lynn.

Asking how big a bear container you need for x days' of hiking is just as useful as newbies asking how big a backpack they need for x days' of hiking. Not very.

Why? Because the "right" answer can only be another queston, "well, how much are you packing for your x days' of hiking"? So back to square one for the inquirer.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: why so little discussion of food on 05/18/2010 23:11:10 MDT Print View

"I don't like freeze-dried liver, onion and cabbage casserole with garlic sauce."

Yum! Where do you find that?