Forum Index » Food, Hydration, and Nutrition » 1.25 lbs of food per day?

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Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/06/2007 18:35:53 MST Print View

Hi James,
Your estimate of 1.75#/day leads to another consideration: If you're carrying .5#/day of additional food, how many days food could you pack before you run out of volume and end up using a bigger(heavier??) pack. Depends on lots of other things, obviously, but you can probably see where I'm going with this. In my case, I started out with a bigger pack and ended up with a smaller one that weighed about 1# 12 oz less, partly due to smaller food volume, but also due to lightening my gear. This is the one area where body fat(3500 cal/#) trumps dietary fat(~4000 cal/#). In the end, I think all grams are equal in the eyes of the SUL deities.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/07/2007 11:54:02 MST Print View

Hey Tom. I have have mulled over your post here for a while now. I agree that most SUL deities would agree that a gram is a gram. Actually, anyone that knows that a gram of feathers weighs the same as a gram of lead would know this. Most of the gear lists I see quote "skin out" weight which excludes the weight of the hiker. These lists also don't quote weight of significant consumables (water, food, fuel specifically). I think this is fair since it normalizes the gear lists to be independent of the hiker and the duration of the trip. So these lists become meaningful to the broader community. With a little work I can tell what this list means to me and you can tell what it means to you. We can all know what the list will mean for any given trip.

Stating that a food ration weighs 1.25 lbs per day and not stating that this is based on an assumption of 4 lbs of weight loss over 12 days is like weighing in your pack at the start of a hike and not including the contents of your pockets. In the end a "joule is a joule" (energy is conserved) and whether or not the weight is on your waist or in your food bag it has to be moved about for 12 days.

So I agree that a gram is a gram, but in order for people to really know what a figure of "1.25 lbs of food per day" really means they would have to know all the parameters involved.

Personally, I have a really hard time NOT running a calorie deficit on the trail and losing weight. So I indirectly wind up "saving weight" (pack weight specifically) using this approach. I quoted an equivalent, estimated, calorie burn of 3800 calories for this food plan and said it "made sense". It's darn hard for me to eat 3800 calories in a day. I am just not used to consuming that many calories. I always wind up losing weight... until the last day when I wind up hitting a pizza joint and downing a few too many beers. ;)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/07/2007 16:04:44 MST Print View

Ah yes, pizza and beer. The fantasy of a frosty bottle with a rivulet trickling down the side has gotten me back to the trailhead before closing time on many an occasion.
I know what you mean about having trouble getting 3800 calories down in 1 day. That's the beauty of carrying it around your middle. It just gets dribbled into the bloodstream on demand without involving the stomach(or tastebuds). The point I was trying to make about a weight volume correlation(probably not very clearly) is that by reducing your food requirement by 1/2# per day, you can reduce pack volume required, with the potential to be able to get by with a smaller, lighter pack-especially on longer trips.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/13/2007 03:43:37 MST Print View

PJ wrote: "When c-um. (Profanity Police nabbed me; the period to indicate an abbrev. wasn't sufficient, hence the hyphen)...."

Now i do understand using abbreviation since they safe you a bit of writing time. I do think though that writing the whole word 'cummulative' instead of the stuff between () would've saved you a bit more time.



Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/13/2007 04:50:45 MST Print View

This is a very interesting discussion and one on which i hav much to learn.

Duane, you said: "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?"

An 'avergage' male needs about 2500 Cal/day. If you have an inactive job (like reading BPL forums all day) you need sth like 250 ~ 500 Cal/day less, if you have a very active job (construction worker) you need sth like 250 ~ 500 Cal/day more.

A year ago i was working a busy job and did fitness every day, I ate about 3000+ Cal/day (though i didn't actually count) and ate a lot of proteine since this is required to gain muscle tisue. I drank one (sometimes two) proteine shakes per day. The best thing about these shakes (besides that i think they taste good) is that they make you feel full. One of these would count as one of my six to seven meals per day.

I than changed to an inactive job, and stopped with fitness and consequently dropped my caloric intake to a 2000+ Cal/day level (still not counting). I have remained at a healthy 72 kg of body weight (BMI = 22,9) and a fetpercentage of 12%, even dropping a little in fatpercentage.

My point is that your body gets used to how much you eat. If your problem is that on trail you don't get enough 'bulk' of food it might (i repeat might) be that in your everyday live you eat (way) too much. If in your everyday live you don't eat in unhealthy bulk proportions, but eat small portions devided over six meals, you'll likely feel full when eating on the trail.

Caloric proportions per meal in your everyday live should be about between 2000/6 = ~333 Cal/meal and 3000/6 = 500 Cal/meal. A quick google search to put that into perspective: A tuna deli sandwich (6 oz serving at Subway) will give you 325 Cal, 3 oz of Cashew nuts will give you ~490 Cal/serving.

The down side of the proteine shakes is that I relly do need to use my blender to mix it with milk. So i can't drink them on trail, otherwise i would. There are however also prteine bars available which als give you a full feeling.


paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 1.25 lbs per day on 01/13/2007 05:06:16 MST Print View

Eins, you're absolutely right. I need to put the thinking cap on more. There's usually an alternative way of doing things that's as good or nearly as good. Thanks for replying.

mark henley
(flash582) - F - M
but everyone is different on 01/13/2007 05:13:17 MST Print View

I can get by with 2000 cals per day for a long weekend. For a week, I push it up to 1.4 to 1.5 pounds per day, but might only carry 1.25 if I can fish where I'm going. For multiple weeks .... well, I'm sure I would need to carry up to 2 lbs per day just to get the caloric intake I would need.

Now ... I have a buddy who has to carry 1.5 lbs of food minimum or he's licking the bottom of his ziplocks to get more calories for even an overnighter.

I lift weights at least 3 days a week and have a serving of muscle milk at least once a day. The protein shake does fill you up and can really make a difference when you are trying to eat 6 or 7 times a day to gain muscle mass. I've never carried protein mix on the trail, but it is a VERY interesting concept. I'll give it a try on my next outing next month and report back on this thread.


Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: but everyone is different on 01/13/2007 05:53:06 MST Print View

Just speculating about your budy here, Mark, but is he also into bodybuilding?

In periods when i'm really pushing it hard with fitness (one day lifting weights, next day doing cardio excersics, total of six training days per week, rest on sunday, HIT method, training all muscle groups each lifting weights day) I simply can't eat enough on a cardio day. This day my body is building muscle tisue and I simpy can't eat enough to feel full.

If your budy is the same and if he's interested in saving weight on the food he carries on that weekend hike, I'd propose him to not train in the week prior the hike, so his body rest and doesn't require so much fuel. I think he could than get by with eating less food in a day.

But, returning to my first statement, i'm just speculating about your budy.


James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/13/2007 09:21:37 MST Print View

I'll add to the discussion something that I don't recall reading about. While in food a gram is a gram and a calorie is a calorie different foods do have different "satiety value" or "satiety response". It's a term I only heard about a few years ago while talking to a friend of mine who is a nurse. Satiety response is a measure of how satisfying foods are when we eat them... how well did the food satisfy your hunger. I think it's a neat concept because it takes all the complex issues of foods, such as the blend of nutrients they contain, and renders them down to a "hunger satisfaction" index. I am sure if one Googled around one could find an index of these values but my point is that different foods satisfy hunger to a different degree. There are diets out there that focus on including foods that have high satiety values. I think diet foods like the Slim-Fast shakes and snacks are designed to have a high satiety value so people won't be as hungry cutting calories. I guess what this says to me is that the food/hunger topic is a two-sided discussion with food on one side and the physiology/psychology of what triggers hunger on the other. I would think that if you were packing 1.25 lbs of food per day, didn't mind losing weight, and didn't want to feel hungry than a way to go would be to lean towards foods that have a high "satiety response". Frankly, I don't know what these foods are so I'll probably do some digging about.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Satiety on 01/13/2007 09:33:02 MST Print View

Well, I can say from my own experience that if I eat on the trail what I eat at home, I get full (I eat Donkey Fodder, ie: shredded wheat, with fruit every morning). It is a high fiber meal, so it fills me up. Now, if I were to eat regular cereal, I am hungry in an hour!
My trick is to eat the highest fiber meals I can find, and I eat less ;-)

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Satiety on 01/13/2007 19:09:29 MST Print View

By the way, I got my package and, Sarah, thank you so very much for everything! Also, thank you for the recommendations. I love your cookbook, by the way, and bought it as soon as it was published. Keep up the great work!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: Satiety on 01/13/2007 22:12:22 MST Print View

Thank you, James! I figured you wouldn't refuse the freebies I slipped in ;-)

(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/14/2007 00:38:35 MST Print View

The problem isn't that I need the calories, rather that my body quickly digests the small volumes of food (high in calories) and then leaves me feeling empty. I'm not actually starving, it's just a feeling of emptiness in my stomach. Part of the problem is that I drink lots of liquids and I'm guessing that it helps to wash the food too quickly through my system.

I have an active job and high metabolism, which means that I eat often. I do eat healthy and carbs are a regular part of my diet. The high daly carb intake of my diet may also be a contributing factor as to why I need bulk rather than calories in order to feel like I'm not starving.

As I stated in my previous posts, I'm going to change (at least for a weekend) my hiking pace. The slower pace might mean that my body won't metabolize the food so quickly. It also might reduce the amount of water I will need, which will help to keep the food in my stomach longer (just a theory). I'm also going to incorperate more whole grains in my menu in an effort to keep the "bulk" in my system longer.

In my case, this may not be a nutrition issue, but an issue of hiking technique. It also might just be a case of mind over matter (or lack of matter in my stomach). Trial and error, the trial is fun when it helps to reduce the weight of my pack.

James, if you find out what foods have a high "satiety response", I hope you will post them. This sounds very interesting to me.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/14/2007 05:46:57 MST Print View

Liquids do not wash the food through your system faster if you drink more. Feeling hungry soon after eating may be due to:

1. not enough calories
2. not enough protein or fiber in meal
3. pathological process

mark henley
(flash582) - F - M
Re: Re: but everyone is different on 01/14/2007 06:38:13 MST Print View


Nope, he's not into bodybuilding but he's certainly not a small fella, which brings up a great point buried in your post.

He's about 240 and about 6'2" ..... and a 10 mile day backpacking is a pretty good cardio session for him. Not completely out of shape but a good hiker. You've hit a good point here in that his body has to be starving for building material to regenerate. After all, our bodies are always trying to get back to homostasis. He's also been a more traditional backpacker carrying 40 to 50 lb loads. He's become a lightweight packpacker over the last year or so getting to a baseweight of around 12 to 13 lbs .... and that has certainly dropped his caloric needs as well as booosted his mileage.

mark henley
(flash582) - F - M
But everyone's different on 01/14/2007 07:26:09 MST Print View

I'm posting a link to a caloric calculator from bodybuilding .... it should translate very well to any intense level of exercise such as backpacking.

You can vary this number by 20% ... 20% more, with adequate protein intake, will build muscle. 20% less, with adequate protein and nutrition, will result in fat loss with a little muscle loss.

As a side note: one gram of protein intake per pound of lean body mass would be key to not burning muscle on a long hike.

So ... if you are of average fitness, burn an average of 450 calories per hour of intense exercise, and hike 10 hours a day, you'd need 4500 calories per day to maintain your current body mass. Drop that to below 3500 calories and your in starvation mode ... which means being tired and lathargic all the time. Of course, your BMR plays a role in all of this as well.

3500 calories, divided by 120 calories per ounce of food yields 29 ounces of food per day (about 2 lbs).

In the short term you can fool your body into not kicking into starvation mode by using methods like the caloric drip method and maintaining an almost constant stream of nutrition during the day.

Whatever method you chose, however, you must realize that 20 ounces of food per day, times an average of 120 calories per ounce, yields 2400 calories. 2400 calories when your burning 4500 calories per day gives you a 2100 calorie per day deficit. One pound is 3500 calories, so this is more than half a pound of body mass loss per day.

On a long hike, not many people can stand 3.5 lbs per week of body mass loss ... that's 15 to 20 lbs per month ... and that's assuming that you have enough protein intake to keep your body from burning muscle ... which burns easier than fat.

Of course ... if your 160 lbs and 20 years old with 15% body fat, your body is much more forgiving of what you put into it. That changes with age.

Nutrition is huge, at least for us old dogs.

mark henley
(flash582) - F - M
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/14/2007 07:43:43 MST Print View


I've heard that Glen Van Peske hikes at an average of about 2 mph ... he just hikes from 4am to 10 pm every day he's on the trail. Andy Skurka, however, hikes at 3.5 to 4 mph ... covering 35 miles per day in the same time frame.

People are different ... for example, I hike at an average of about 2.2 miles per hour on flat land, always have, and always will I imagine. Everyone has that one certain pace that when they hit the sweet spot ... they feel as if they could walk "forever".

It is what it is ... you can vary it with your level of fitness ... but your limited by the biomechanics of your body somewhat .... stride length, etc.

There are a lot of guys that I hike with that have 36 or 37 inch inseams ... and hike at an average of 3.5 miles per hour ... so, we meet up at rest stops and in camp. For them to hike at my pace would drive them crazy ... for me to hike at their pace would quickly wear me out.

Lastly .... I may be corrected by someone more knowlegable on the subject, which I would welcome, but I believe that caloric burn per hour is not nearly as dependent on hiking pace as it is on terrain. has some great caloric calculators for given exercises ... their backpacking exercise model varies a lot with hours hiked, but not much with miles covered during that period. This would suggest that pace is a smaller variable in caloric burn than time spent in exercise.

Of course ... runnning would burn more calories than walking for a given distance .... but running is a different exercise than walking even if they are similar.

James Pitts
(jjpitts) - F

Locale: Midwest US
Re: Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/14/2007 11:46:19 MST Print View

For a given distance I don't think pace is as big of a contributing factor as the total mass of the hiker and changes in elevation (the route of the hike).

Consider the case of two hikers of the same weight hiking the same trail but one hiker moves twice as fast as the other. The faster hiker will certainly burn more calories per hour but they will also hike the trail in half the amount of time.

I am not saying pace is irrelevant, only that it's not one of the primary factors. Walking/hiking/running is a complex motion designed to return energy from the stride back to the body. A 60% return is the figure I have read. There are most certainly pace-dependant aspects at play here that are tied with that 40% that is not returned.

In running I have always used an estimate of .65 x body mass to get calories burned per mile. I have never had a way to gauge the accuracy of this.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Re: 1.25 lbs of food per day? on 01/14/2007 17:38:13 MST Print View

Makes sense...

With distance, terrain (elevation, brush, etc..), and pace being variable between people and between trips, I think that time really is the most sensible variable to look at.

It seems like most people walking pace themselves to have a relatively contstant energy output, more than a constant speed. Not completely, of course, but people go slower up hills and through brush, faster in open country, etc...

So hiker weight and time per day hiking should be the most important factors in calorie use. I think this is how most activity calorie calculators work.

So if the activities are significantly different than walking, it won't apply (climbing probably uses more calories per time, as does running, paddling uses less).