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Food for seirras? help
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michelle Annett
(andrewz) - F
Food for seirras? help on 05/08/2007 12:23:48 MDT Print View

Well i am going up back packing in the sierras with my friend this summer. It is going to be fairly hot and i was wondering what would be a good intake of food. I weigh about 200 pounds and i am 6'3". He weighs 50 pounds less so a little bit lighter. We plan on hiking about 8-10 miles a day but i have NO idea of what would be considered a good amount of food. I am a fairly new hiker but i have the stamina just not the knowledge. The back packing trip is going to be 3 days long also. What would be the proper intake a day?

i am looking into protien bars, dried fruit, beef jerky, snickers bar.

So how much would u say i would need to eat a day to stay energized and be able to keep hiking.

( i was thinking 2 cliff bars a day, a little jerky, and dried fuit.. does that sound enough? i really dont have a stand point seeing how this will be my first time using energy bars as a main source of food. Thanks for you help.)

Edited by andrewz on 05/08/2007 12:25:08 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Sierra food (cookless?) on 05/08/2007 13:18:38 MDT Print View

There are so many variables( metabolism, taste, surplus pounds to burn off or not) that it would be hard to give you a straight answer.

I have gone cookless and dependent on energy bars for up to 5-6 day trips. Make sure you have experimented with various bars and find one best to your liking----many will tend to get tired of them and possibly have trouble taking in enough calories as a result. I also suggest you pack a couple of interesting food items, perhaps something spicy that will be a nice change of pace---I pack wasabi cashews or almonds and also chocolate covered coffee beans to feed my caffiene addiction.

Jerky( best jerky is homemade) and dried fruit (dried mangos are a winner in the dried fruit dept) are good.

I suggest you try a short backpack as a dry run to help see if this diet is palatable to you and to fine tune quantities.

You should subscribe to BPL, they have a number of member's only articles on food and nutrition.

Edited by kdesign on 05/08/2007 13:19:51 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Food for seirras? help on 05/08/2007 14:20:20 MDT Print View

Many things can come into play. A big one is how hydrated you stay. Getting dehydrated is never good, but it can also cause you to not eat enough.
Another is if you go to a gym, are you hungry (starving) afterwards? It will be that way as well in the backcountry.

Energy bars: you need to drink lots of water with these, don't forget that! Take a variety though, you can burn out easily on them taste wise.

Snacks: Anything chocolate can and will melt in summer. Fair warning. Items such as jerky, energy bars, chocolate can be stuff you don't crave when it is hot and you are thirsty. You will start fantasizing about veggies and fruit ;-)

I'd make a chart where you note what you eat at home on busy days. Eat what you eat at home on the trail. There is nothing worse than when you cannot eat the food you brought. There are times when literally it makes you queasy to eat the food!

So if you eat cereal at home, take cereal! You like pasta for dinner? Eat pasta! Take tortillas and fillings for lunch. Take fresh veggies to munch on. Even an apple is good to go. With planning you can come in at 1 1/2 lbs a day with no issues-and that includes heavier fresh items.

Last weekend I had a whole bag of sugar peas, a rack of fig newtons, and other stuff and ate like a piggy :-)

My website is if you would like ideas on food.

Kim Grant
(Kimberlymae) - F
little person who eats a lot on 05/08/2007 15:18:12 MDT Print View

I made the mistake of entering the grand canyon (which is only 7 miles down hill) nice and hydrated and filled with a big protein breakfast -- and I found that I wasn't very hungry at the 3/4 point, although I had finished off about 3 liters of water. With only a mile to go and without warning I completely bonked. My knees gave way and the only thing that kept me upright and moving along was my trekking poles and will power. Otherwise I would have fallen down. My travelling companions stopped and forced me to eat a cinnamon roll, a snickers, a lara bar, and another liter of water. It took about 40 minutes for this to hit my system, but as quickly as my legs left me, I had them back and could finish the hike.

Moral of the story: eat eat eat, and then have dessert!

When I'm at home I eat about 1200 calories a day, but when I'm on the trail and carrying 20 lbs, I eat at least 2500 to 3000 calories. I read that a person climbing and carrying 30 lbs will burn 400 calories an hour, so consider that math when calculating how much food you'll need to keep up your pace.

Try getting through a regular couple of days with exactly the food you're thinking of eating on the trail. You may find that you need to mix it up a bit more.

My trail food includes:

Lara bars (cherry pie, bananna bread, and cashew cookie are my favs)
Home-blended trail mix of chocolate chips, dried cherries, dried dates, cashews, pecans, and walnuts
Propel brand powder mix for my H20
Dehydrated eggs & bacon for breakfast
Dehydrated pasta or cous-cous with veggies for lunch
Dehydrated chicken and veggies for dinner

If I have the luxury of setting up a base camp and I'm doing a day hike from base, I carry hummus, pita, salami, a can of dolmas, an apple, a semi-hard cheese, and sometimes peanut butter. And something chocolate, like chocolate orange cookies.

To the point made above, variety is really really important. Don't underestimate the human impulse for variety in our food. And consider this -- sweets are wonderful in small doses, but by and large people choose savory and salty foods most often. Cliff bars and dried fruit are neither savory or salty and you're likely to crave else once your jerkey is gone.


Edited by Kimberlymae on 05/08/2007 15:28:49 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: little person who eats a lot on 05/08/2007 15:49:29 MDT Print View

> by and large people choose savory and salty foods most often.
People may *choose* salty foods in the absence of other constraints, but in general you do NOT need salty foods. Even on our long trips I carry virtually no salt at all: there is usually too much salt already in things like packet soups.

On long trips what both Sue and I eat, in quantity, is carbohydrates! Energy, more energy! But I have to admit, a little jam and cheese is nice.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Say Cheese on 05/08/2007 16:12:14 MDT Print View

A big yes to cheese (and a few crackers). These I never grow tired of, even at home.

Kim---what a metabolism!

Kim Grant
(Kimberlymae) - F
Yeah, but only when I'm backpacking... on 05/08/2007 16:16:41 MDT Print View

Yeah, but only when I'm backpacking...otherwise I'm extremely efficient. 1200 calories isn't much food. That's why I love backpacking -- I love to eat!

michelle Annett
(andrewz) - F
thanks on 05/08/2007 17:21:28 MDT Print View

Thanks for all of your guys help. I really need to start going out and trying more energy bars because a lot of them don't really appeal to me. I read something about you bringing cheese? wont that turn really bad on the hot summer days? Sadly i do go to the gym a lot and i am 18 years old so i tend to always be hungry no matter what i do. Thanks for all the different food ideas you gave me now i just need to start trying everything out and see what i like and don't like. thanks =D

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: thanks on 05/08/2007 17:38:16 MDT Print View

Andrew, cheese lasts pretty good, even in summer. If you can get portion sized pieces, sealed, so much the better. Cheese can get soft and oily, but it is fine. Baby bells are very tasty.
As for eating a lot, don't feel bad: my son at 9 eats nearly twice as much as me. I seriously know that by the time he is your age, he will be eating 3 lbs a day of food! And yet, he is skin and bones.

On the salt issue: I rarely carry anything high in sodium but that is because I live on a low sodium diet at home. If you do crave salt, one thing to carry is potato chips. Why? They are very high in potassium and light as well. When people get cramps they assume they need salt, no usually it is potassium that they have sweated/used up. Grab a can or two or Pringles!

michelle Annett
(andrewz) - F
intake on 05/08/2007 20:36:02 MDT Print View

Oh yeah one other question i had was

1.) how many miles on average do u hike a day when u back pack?
2.) how many calories do u eat a day, and what?

I am mainly wondering how many calories i should intake a day of back packing :-/

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: intake on 05/08/2007 21:17:23 MDT Print View

Hmmmmmmm........I am not one to tell you on that one! I many times only eat 1500-2000 calories when backpacking. But that is my meds, they make it hard to eat big amounts. Blech!

My son? Maybe 3-4000 or more. And he is small! Most people I hike with eat 3-5,000 calories a day. I can't and always lose weight. In 5 days I can lose 10 lbs easily. As I have said before, I live for the day of being a thru hiker. There was one Trail Journal where a hike was eating King size Snickers, dipped in a can of frosting. Yum! They couldn't get enough calories.

Base it on how hard your hike is:
If you are hiking 3 miles on flat land, you don't need anything more than you eat at home.
But if you are hiking 10-20 miles up and down elevation (say 2-5,00 ft gain) a day, you are going to need a lot of food. That is when 4-5,000 calories become important.

When it comes to packing and choosing food, think dense calories (ie...put fat in everything! Put butter and or olive oil in all meals)

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Food for seirras? help on 05/08/2007 21:51:04 MDT Print View

> i was thinking 2 cliff bars a day, a little jerky, and dried fuit.. does that sound enough?

Enough to get you through lunch, maybe. I think you're going to need more than that. If you're only going to eat bars (and some other stuff) then I suggest you bring 10 bars per day. That's probably too many, but the only penalty is that you have to pack some extra bars out. If you don't bring enough'll regret it. (See Kim's comment above about bonking.) After you've done the trip you'll know how many to bring for next time, although you should bring one extra bar per day for the next few trips as a precaution. Be sure to drink lots of water.

A typical day's food for me is two packets of instant oatmeal for breakfast, five bars during the day, cocoa or hot Jello, a "double serving" freeze-dried meal pack, and a bar before bed. (My favorite bars are LaraBars.) There are several people on BPL (including Sarah who posted above) who can suggest much better 'real meals' than the instant/manufactured junk I eat if you want something tastier than bars for dinner.

Edited by Otter on 05/08/2007 22:00:55 MDT.

michelle Annett
(andrewz) - F
probably right on 05/09/2007 08:08:26 MDT Print View

Yeah doug 2 a day is probably a little short. when i add up the calories it doesn't match anyways :-P i told you i really didn't have any knowledge on what to bring. Thats why after my first trip i should have a basic level set so i will know. Thanks for all of your guys help though :-) very much appreciated.

Kim Grant
(Kimberlymae) - F
Miles per hike : elevation gain : weight carried on 05/09/2007 10:38:01 MDT Print View


In answer your question about miles per hike....

I think about trips in elevation gain and the amount of weight I'll be carrying. For example, a five mile hike carrying 20 pounds is not a long hike if you're not climbing. On the other hand, if you're packing and getting 2500 feet or more in elvation gain, 5 - 6 miles is ambitious. I have a solid sense of how much food meets my energy needs for different kinds of hikes, which is 3 meals of varrying caloric density and 2 snacks.

I'm leaving for Escalante tonight (yay!!). My trip is very easy and looks like this.

Thursday: day hike from a base camp, 14 miles round trip. Carrying map, compass, water, food, sunscreen, hat, headlamp, knife, wind shell for the 40F drop in temp once the sun sets, and TP.
Menu is an apple, 3 oz cheese, 3 oz salami, 3.5 oz smoked salmon, 1 pita, 4 oz hummus, 1/2 bag chicken jerky, 2 bars, 3 chocolate squares, trail mix. I'll have dinner at base camp.

Friday: 7 miles with no clmbing, packing 25 lbs (no water source, walking in the desert, high temp at 90F, so I'm carrying 7 liters).
Menu is coffee, 1 dehydrated egg & bacon breakfast, 1 dehydrated pasta lunch and 1 dehydrated soup for lunch, 1 dehydrated chicken meal and 1 deydrated green bean for dinner, and 2 bars, 3 chocolate squares, trail mix for snacks.

Saturday: camping near water source, repeat of Friday's distance, effort, and weight.
Menu is a repeat of Friday.

Sunday: 3 miles.
Menu: dehydrated breakfast, 2 bars.

I may not eat all the food, but it's absolutely critical in my opinion to have extra food and water in case I get stuck out there for a day or two. Dehydration is the number one killer in the desert.


Edited by Kimberlymae on 05/09/2007 10:46:21 MDT.

Janet Brewster
(jgranite25) - F

Locale: Lake Tahoe
food for Sierra's on 05/10/2007 11:55:26 MDT Print View


I weigh 135 lbs and I shoot for 3000 calories per day, but as other folks have written, the need varies greatly by person. For a 3-day trip, it's not such a crucial thing -- actually it's a good time to experiment with what you actually need (and like) since you won't be out very long. Like others have said above, staying hydrated is most important (if your pee is clear by the end of the day, you've done a good job).

I prefer to take foods that are easy to prepare, that taste good (so I'll actually eat it!), and that aren't too far off from my regular diet. Since you're just starting out at this, you want your experience to be enjoyable and memorable in a good way so you'll want to do it again and again -- recalling how disgusted you got with bars and would rather have starved is neither good incentive nor a good memory!

For breakfasts, I eat oatmeal -- instant oatmeal that just needs boiling water, and I put it in a ziploc with sugar, cinnamon, dried milk, and gorp so that all I have to do is empty it into my bowl (I put this together at home beforehand). I always have a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, which keeps me from bonking on long days, and generally it's a bar or pop-tarts. Lunches are carbs (tortillas or crackers), cheese and salami (which I've had on 7+ day trips and never had a problem with either going bad), and occasionally pnut butter in a tube. Dinners vary between couscous (the cup-a-soup things, that I beef up with veggies -- dehydrated on long trips or fresh on short trips), mac & cheese (total comfort food), ramen (beefed up with veggies, garlic, miso, etc), torellini with pesto and pine nuts (knorr makes great dehydrated sauces), rice & beans w/ tortilla chips, etc. There are tons of dehydrated foods you can find in a regular grocery store that make for good backpacking food.

I've found that my hunger often dies while at altitude, esp. the first few days. But you have to eat anyway, so that's where making palatable food is very helpful -- if you're not hungry AND you can't handle another piece of jerky, you might not get enough calories to fuel the next day. The part about sticking to a semi-normal diet is important because it can be difficult to push yourself physically when your intestines are in knots and you're spending all your time behind a tree.... E.g. if you don't eat a lot of dried fruit in your normal diet, you don't want to overdo it in the backcountry.

Again, I'd encourage you to experiment. If the rest of your gear isn't overly heavy, take a little more food, take different kinds of food, and see what works with your body. If you can take long day hikes in prep for your trip, those are good places to experiment with your intake as well. Good luck!