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1.25 lbs of food per day?
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(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 03:37:51 MST Print View

Recently, I was browsing Glen Van Peski's sub 3 lb. gear list, and noticed that he only carries (for this trip) 1.25 lbs of food per day.


I guess that his food was very calorie dense, but with no stove, pot, pot lid, utensil, windscreen,or fuel he can't be using freeze dried, or dehydrated foods. Currently I carry 2 lbs. of food per day, with some of that being freeze dried, or dehydrated food. Even with more caloric dense foods (to reduce weight) I can't help but feeling like I'm starving all the time. So what's his secret (other than low expectations)? Swallow a partially inflated balloon (how do you get that out)?

Has someone invented helium infused foods, and I just haven't heard of it yet? This type of food might have an entertainment factor to it by making your voice sound funny while eating, as well as making your backpack lighter. Or does he just take 1.25 lbs. of olive oil (might be a bad idea, too much lubrication for you digestive system)?

How do other readers here manage to carry less weighty foods without feeling like your starving all the time from the lack of bulk? Or should I just deal with the starving feeling in order to reduce my food weight?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 03:47:56 MST Print View

Ask him for his food list for that trip. I imagine calorie dense foods with a few snacks between meals to keep the hunger pangs down.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 04:33:59 MST Print View

I go with 1.5lb/day. Now, my trips are shorter than most of y'all here on the BPL Forums (typically 1-5d, with 1-3d being most common), hence i can probably get away with things hikers on longer treks cannot get away with.

For me, if i keep a nice slow and steady pace but enough to keep my HR up a bit and rarely stop, except briefly (e.g. water stops), my blood sugar levels seem to remain rather stable and i never feel hungry during the day (really, can't recall ever feeling hungry while on the move). If i'm real tired at the end of the day, and fall asleep quickly, i just don't seem to feel hunger pangs. Now, if i'm up for a 2+ hrs after making camp, that can be another story - "ravenous" might describe it.

Edited by pj on 01/02/2007 04:35:05 MST.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
couldn't do it on 01/02/2007 08:22:41 MST Print View

Bryan and I can go light with gear but food is not something I am ever likely to skimp on. Backpacking for me is vacation/fun. Eating nice meals that taste good really matters to us and I just have a hard time understanding the go-hungry mentality. I don't mean to offend anyone... but when you are in a situation where you are starting to have hunger pangs... to me that isn't good for your body or metabolism.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 08:37:38 MST Print View

You can do it, but you have to pay close attention to what you take. High calorie items such as nuts (high in fat and protein also.) boost you up for little weight.
Unless I am carrying fresh produce with me, my food is about 1 lb a day often. I also don't eat a lot on the trail which is why I don't carry as much weight.

It would be interesting to see what he was eating though, since it sounds like he was eating cold food?

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 11:09:08 MST Print View

It's all about fat. Fat = 9 calories/gram. Carbohydrates and protein = 4 calories/gram.

First of all, dehydrated food is usually low in fat, and not that efficient in calories per gram. Not cooking won't hurt him at all in getting a low food weight.

For 1.25 pounds of food, you can get about 2700 calories if the food averages about 4.8 cal/gram. Depending on your physique, and trip length, that could easily be enough. (I took that number from the food list from a recent trip of mine, which was a mix of things like cookies/granola bars, nuts, chocolate, beans and rice type meals, and olive oil.)

And it's quite possible to push that number up further. Most chocolate is between 5 and 6 cal/gram. Nuts (including peanut butter) are between 6 and 8. In contrast, dried instant beans and rice are between 3 and 4 cal/gram. If he pushed the fat content up with a lot of nuts and chocolate based snacks, he could get over 3000 calories with that 1.25 pounds. That's my hypothesis, anyway.

Of course, we're all stuck with our own individual metabolisms. If you need to carry 4000 or 5000 calories, you'll be stuck with more than 1.25 pounds.


Edited by mckittre on 01/02/2007 11:12:15 MST.

Ernie Elkins

Locale: North Carolina
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 11:45:05 MST Print View


There was an interesting discussion of daily food requirements over at the Lightweight Backpacker forum( last August. Search for the title "Total food weight per day?" and you should find it.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
1.25 lbs per day on 01/02/2007 12:11:54 MST Print View

Whole grains and Fiber makes a huge difference. Whole grains digest so much slower than processed foods.

Eating a Balance or Cliff bar is NOT the same as eating a Snickers ... the sugars will be thorough your system twice as fast as the whole grains.

I've been playing around with a variation of the Andrew Skurka caloric drip method lately. I don't hike 30 miles a day, however, like Andy (the man IS a machine!), so I change it up some:

My long weekend menu:

Breakfast: Oatmeal - two packs - 440 calories, 2.5 oz.
Mid Morning Snack - Whole Grain energy bar, 200 calories, 2 oz. (Power bar harvest, Balance bar gold, clif bars, luna bars, etc.).
Lunch whole grain energy bars, 200 calories, 2 oz.
mix up a packet of gatorade in a 24 oz bottle - keep adding water and re-mix as you drink. - 150 calories, 2 oz.
Afternoon Snack - Energy bar or almonds - 200 calories, 2 oz.
Dinner - Freezer bag meal with Jerky or Pro Pack - 4 oz, 500 calories.
Finish off gatorade and have a cup of tea or two for after dinner, , or other drink mixes -- total drink mixes less gatorade ~ 2.5 oz per day.
Peanut or Plain M&M's before bed - 1.75 oz - 250 calories.
1 Gu or Powershot during the day - 1.25 oz - 100 calories.

Total weight - 20 oz, 2000 - 2200 calories.

What's good is that I choose Whole Grain bars that contain at least 33% of the USDA vitamin intake, so my Vitamins are covered each and every day. It feels as though I'm constantly eating and the whole grains digest slowly, so I never get hungry.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/02/2007 12:33:13 MST Print View

Regarding Fat vs. CHO utilization: don't forget to reference Richard Nisley's excellent Posts on the effect of HR (relative to % of one's maxHR [and VO2 uptake]) on one's body's utilization of these two energy sources. HR needs to maintained at a proper level (in a "nutshell": hi-HR = more CHO utilized; lo-HR = more Fat utilized) to utilize one or the other as the primary energy source. These words are very simplistic in nature, so, again, see Richard's detailed Posts on the subject.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Balance on 01/02/2007 14:34:00 MST Print View

I have always thought of food as a balancing act.

Your body burns fat and carbohydrates to produce energy. Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen in your liver and muscles and glucose in your bloodstream. Carbohydrates can be consumed on their own to produce energy via anaerobic energy production. They are also used via aerobic energy production to to burn fat. It's sort of like the relationship between charcoal and lighter fluid. Charcoal (fat in the analogy) burns slowly and requires a higher energy fuel like lighter fluid (carbohydrates in the analogy) to initiate combustion. After the fire is going only a small amount of starter-fuel is required to maintain combustion. I know that personally it takes me about 15-20 minutes of steady-state exercise to shift from burning mostly carbohydrates to burning mostly fat.

Most people have what is basically a limitless supply of fat for energy, even the skinniest of us! Carbohydrates, on the other had, represent a very limited supply. When a marathon runner (or hiker for that matter) "hits the wall" or "bonks" they have run out of stored carbohydrates and their body is forced to do all sorts of nasty things to continue burning fat to produce energy.

I try to take in carbos as I hike so I can push my stores as far as possible during the day. When I stop for the day I likewise try to "load up" on carbos for the next day.

Here is the key: Your body is most receptive to replenish it's supplies during the first four (4) hours after you start resting, the so called "glycogen repletion window". Any carbos you eat within this window will be converted to glycogen at 3X (THREE TIMES) the rate your body would otherwise convert them. It's a window you don't want to miss.

Eating fat during the glycogen repletion window will not help you replenish your carbohydrate stores. It might taste good and help keep you warm but your body has plenty of fat in storage. What your body is craving are carbohydrates during this window. Miss out on this and your recovery to full capacity will be hindered.

At least that is how I view this topic. I come from a running background so I have translated most of what I learned about diet/nutrition and heart rate training into backpacking. I am sure there is a lot that is lost in the translation, but it all works for me.

Edited by jjpitts on 01/02/2007 15:04:07 MST.

(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/02/2007 15:08:17 MST Print View


Maybe I should start to look at taking along foods that might stay in my system longer as well as adjusting my hiking speed to reduce caloric depletion as Mark has done. And if I understand James correctly, eat within the first four hours of resting (most of the time, once I stop, I can't wait to eat)

I'm still not sure this will replace the bulk that my body wants, but I'm more than willing to try it on an overnighter. I don't think that two days of low bulk, higher calorie food at a slower hiking pace will kill me (although my stomach may disagree).

Thanks for the help, everybody.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/02/2007 16:12:32 MST Print View thing I do when hiking is I rarely stop. I am not a fast hiker, but I can put in miles since I don't stop. I tend to be goal oriented, and just keep plodding along.

When moving I am usually not hungry. It is sitting that does me in-if I stop it is usually to use the bathroom or grab water out of a stream. Once I sit, I lose my will and motovation to move.

I realize that if I hiked like some others, I would probably need more food. One of my partners eats constantly. But she is fast hiker, and is often waiting for us to catch up. She goes boom, then stops, over and over all day. I go about 2 mph and can do this from sunrise to sunset, day after day.

As a side note, when I do stop for camp, once I quit moving, I am starving, but due to my blood pressure meds, I cannot eat a lot in one sitting. I tend to eat dinner (probably half of what most eat), then later I have a snack before bed. The meds make it hard for me to digest food, so I feel full longer. The only good thing about this is I lose weight on every trip I go on.

On the other hand though, my son could eat 1.5 to 2 lbs of food a day. He eats like a garbage disposal, and is only 9. Skin and bones he is, so he doesn't have any reserves! This year he is getting his own Ursack, and will be carrying his share. It isn't easy carrying his food also! He could eat all day long and still be hungry.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/02/2007 16:27:35 MST Print View

>>"Here is the key: Your body is most receptive to replenish it's supplies during the first four (4) hours after you start resting, the so called "glycogen repletion window".

I also take most of my information from my past trail racing days. Like someone said above, it is crucial to eat once you stop to fully capitalize on replenishing your body. From what I have read, though, it is most important to eat in the 30-45 minutes upon stopping instead of the 4 hours. Food with a 1:4 protein to carbohydrate ratio seems to be the best (this is what Endurox R4 sports drink uses based on their extensive research) to help your body replenish energy. So basically, once you stop eat a Clif bar or something while you set up camp. Makes a huge difference and speeds muscle recovery.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/02/2007 16:28:37 MST Print View

Sarah, sounds like our experiences are somewhat similar. I try to avg. 1.75-2.0mph. When c-um. (Profanity Police nabbed me; the period to indicate an abbrev. wasn't sufficient, hence the hyphen) elev. gains are up to 2500' per linear mile traveled over rough technical trails with very poor footing (all rocks and roots), i might be down to 0.75mph, but will do 3mph on more level terrain. So, generally avg 1.75-2.0 mph on most trails in my neck of the woods. I too hesitate to stop unless absolutely necessary.

>>"He could eat all day long and still be hungry."

Wait until he's in his teens!!!

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/02/2007 17:20:53 MST Print View

I am reminded of what my father taught me, and made me live by sometimes. He was both a Green Beret and was a half indian, Native American. He grew up pretty rough and lived pretty rough, sometimes. When I was hungry I was taught it was a frame of mind. He taught that you could eat without carrying food, or very little.

Bugs were fair game, although I have never repeated those lessons since first taught. If you take an ant's head off and eat them, I was taught, they will sustain you with a few bee's for a main entre.

Given that that kind of diet is possible to live on, adding some jerky or indian 'pemmicken' (basically lard or any animal fat, berries, and dried meat) according to my father, would keep a man fit and able to travel for weeks on two tablespoon sized helpings of pemmicken a day.

Water was the issue he was more concerned with.

So 1.5 lbs. of food seems like a luxury, and I frequently travel with less than 1 lb. of food a day carried, because of the training and psychological past.

Going beyond that, as Sarah indicated, nuts and peanut butter, for example, will keep you alive and serve for food with high calories, a significant percantage of which is from fats, for a number or days or weeks when consumed in small amounts.

That all said -- give me my Mountain House or generic freeze dried foods at a few ounces and I am happy.


Edited by bdavis on 01/02/2007 17:22:22 MST.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
1.25 lbs food per day on 01/03/2007 08:03:20 MST Print View

I interviewed Glen about his sub-3-lb trip for a podcast we'll be publishing soon. I too was surprised with his food weight. After all, he's a big guy and was cranking out the miles. He basically said he doesn't get that hungry on a short trip.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: Balance on 01/03/2007 11:16:41 MST Print View

Exactly .... "Your body burns fat and carbohydrates to produce energy. Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen in your liver and muscles and glucose in your bloodstream."

James has hit a fundemental point that makes what should actually be called "the carbohydrate drip method" even more important.

In weightlifting circles it's widely discussed that once you use up the glycogen stores in your muscles you begin to burn muscle along with the glycogen in your liver. Once you've depleted your glycogen store in your liver, your burning mainly muscle until your body can process stored fat for energy.

So ... when you "hit the wall" and push beyond that, you've actually pushed your body to begin to feed on muscle tissue because it's a more easily burned fuel than fat, in the absence of glycogen. That glycogen storehouse is critical for utilizing fat instead of muscle as energy .... as such, taking in carbs to burn as energy, and sparing the glycogen stores, allows your body to metobolize fat for excess energy instead of protein stored as muscle tissue.

You should be taking eating the correct ratio of nutrients during the day as well .... take a multivitamin if necessary, but your body needs these substances to perform it's functions properly.

The ratio of sources of your food intake is critical per the timing of your exercise also, as James talked about in his post. Consuming fat during exercise doesn't have a great energy benefit. Consuming some type of easy to digest protein is important to support your muscle regeneration after exercise, but carbs are your best source of energy during exercise.

As such, I aim for a caloric intake of at least 50/30/20 for my diet .... or, 50% carbs, 30 % fats, and 20% protein.

My carbs are taken stretched out during the entire day, many to support my glycogen stores and some for increasing my metobolic rate at bedtime to generate heat. The bulk of my protein intake is taken at dinner, and the bulk of my fat intake is taken in the afternoon and before bed. That way, the fat is metabolizing slowly when it can be stored if necessary, the carbs are supporting glycogen and immediate energy needs, and the Protien is helping to rebuild muscle tissue from sustained hard exercise.
Water and salt are critical parts of the equation. without them, the body stops functioning properly if at all.

Lastly ... you can operate at a caloric deficit over time, or take in fewer calories than you are burning without feeling hungry, only if you pay attention to the timing of what you eat. That timing is the key to hiking with less food and utilizing your natural storehouse of fat as energy, which, by the way, you are forced to carry anyway.

If you'd like proof, then go out an buy 6 snickers bars and consume them over the course of a 8 hour day hike, along with water. Don't have breakfast and eat a regular dinner when you get off the trail.

The following week, buy 6 Balance Gold or Clif bars and consume them over the same day hike, along with water as well as a carbo drink such as Gatorade or Poweraid. Same deal, don't have breakfast and eat your regular dinner when you get off the trail.

Same gear, same shoes, same pack, same equipment, same weather conditions .... try to limit your varibles as best you can to just the food.

You'll be amazed.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/03/2007 11:22:37 MST Print View

As others have posted here, carrying between 1 and 1.5lbs of food a day is certainly doable. And as has been noted a lot depends on the proper mix of protein, carb and fat and when it is consumed. My own experience which is not expressed in scientific terms is that under most circumstances, I can do 5 nights with an average of 19oz to 23oz of food. The colder it is the more my food consumption moves closer to the 23oz level. Usually, I start each day with 2 bags of Trader Joe's instant oatmeal mix which has been fortified with 10grams of soy protein. To this I add Milkman instant milk, more brown sugar, dried fruit and pine nuts for fat. This breafast weighs in at about 5-6oz and contains 600 to 700 calories depending on how many pine nuts I add. I snack and lunch on the same thing -- a vegan food bar carried by TJ's that is cold processed and contains about 350 cals for a 2oz weight. A lot of carbs and fat in this bar and the choco one is spectacular. I consume 3 per day. So we have 6 oz. Then for dinner I augment the freeze dried dinners that average 400-500 cals with olive oil and pine nuts again to bring the cal count to about 700-800. I usually pack a Swiss Miss double hot choco drink and 1/2 of a snickers that I eat as soon as I get into camp and finish just before getting into the sack. My calorie count for the day is about 2200 to 2500 at 19oz and up to 2800 with 23oz weight. Now, it's important to note that I am 58, weigh 175 and am very fit. I have 21% body fat which means that I burn feul fairly efficiently. I keep a pace that averages 2.5mph most of the time and average about 12 miles a day with water/piddle stops and lunch/snack stops along the way. I don't find such stops inteferring with my stamina.

I have a friend who weighs 220 and is about my height and age. He is carrying at least 35-40% body fat. When we go hiking together he insists that he can not survive on what I eat and packs enough food to bring his cal count up to 3000-4000 a day. You can imagine the weight difference in his pack. So, I think that some of this issue of how much one needs to eat on the trail may come down to the body fat carried by the hiker and the relative efficiency of one's internal furnace.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/03/2007 11:58:45 MST Print View

I would modify your point slightly .... I was 275 and about 40% bodyfat, and out hiking with tons of extra energy when I tried the Skurka carbo drip method. I don't think it has to do with body fat percentage, but it has to do with one's perspective on food that makes their bodyfat percentage what it is, and thereby, that perspective makes them make poor food choices.

Right now I'm at 255 at a measured 23% Body fat, because I took up weightlifting as my other hobby besides backpacking. I use fuel fairly efficently as well now ... but if I eat crap on the trail, just like at home ... I feel like crap. If I eat a diet balanced in the proper proportions for my daily activity, I feel great all the time.

So .. when lifting, to grow more muscle, I need to eat a minimum of 3600 calories a day, of which 20% are "good" fats with a protein intake of around 220 gms per day. To lose weight (and some muscle along with it, I'm afraid) I eat at LEAST 2000 calories a day and a maximum of 2800 calories a day, with at least 180 gms of protein. LOTS of water too.

When Hiking ... I'm not interested in growing muscle, but I don't want to lose a lot of mass either. As such, I pay very close attention to my food nutrient ratio, maintaining a carbo drip to utilize fat as energy instead of burning muscle.

And yes ... there are times, cold weather being one of those times, that I carry 2 to 2.25 lbs of food per day, pushing my daily caloric intake up to around 3500 to 4000 calories per day.

But I digress from the point ..... which is as simple as what your mother taught you when you were a child ... you are what you eat.

Eat like crap on the trail and feel like crap on the trail. Eat good on the trail and feel good on the trail.

Lastly .. to someone else's point on here: Peanut butter has about the same nutritive value as Pemmican ... both in fat content, calories, and protein. So ... don't struggle trying to make a fat, berry, and jerky mixture to struggle down after a hard day on the trail ... just take a jar of PB and a spoon ... it's the ultimate survival food.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/03/2007 12:23:18 MST Print View

Good point, Mark. I, too, lift and it does make a world of difference what you put in the furnace. A variant on Mom's Advice: Garbage in -- Garbage out! How true that is and when I point this out to my friend, he whines that he needs the calories. Sometimes we are our worst enemy! I have also done the PB routine but found it a very messy way to go and in bear country that is not a good thing. So, I try to carry the least messy and smelly foods I can hence the pine nuts, olive oil and vegan food bars that match your protein/carb/fat ratios pretty closely. the fact that I eat the bars over the course of the day may account for my not feeling bonked or fatigued at the end of the day. I apparently follow the drip method without knowing it.(But thanks for the heads up on this philosophy.) It does makes a great deal of sense and also has the benefit of keeping one's sugar levels constant.