View Full Version : Food weight in pack?

06-06-2004, 14:48
What is the typical weight of the food carried (on average) for a thru-hike at any given time? Obviously higher when first starting out or after a resupply, then dropping as the food is consumed. Also, how many days can one expect before resupply opportunities on average? I hear a lot of talk about pack weight, gear weight, but what about food?

I plan to go with the dehydrated stuff mostly.

This will be my basic menu: soups, noodles, pasta dishes, oatmeal, grits (for those in the North get a dictionary and look up what grits are :) ), rice, beans, gatorade, crystal light, teas, hot chocolate, powerbars, clif bars, possibly meal replacement powders, tuna in the foil packs, crackers, mayo, jerky, peanuts/sunflower seeds, jelly, peanut butter in packs and flour tortillas for PBJs. Oh and hot sauce! With some tabasco or Texas Pete's I could eat pine needles and enjoy it.

Are there any other good lightweight choices? What natural foods are available on the trail (blackberries, blueberries, edible plants?) Any good books on what is available on the trail, and how to identify the good plants from the bad?

The old saying is an army travels on its stomach, and I would suspect a thru hiker does too!

06-06-2004, 15:14
Usually I started out at about 8-10 pounds of food after a resupply and it would dwindle to maybe a pound. The most I ever carried was maybe 18 pounds of food and the least was perhaps a packet of Ramen flavoring.

06-27-2004, 23:37
Do take high quality cooking oil. Add it to just about everything.

http://www.justtomatoes.com (http://www.justtomatoes.com/) has my favorites: blackberries, rasberries, (red) bellpeppers, hot veggies, veggies, roasted garlic. There are more choices: mouseclick all the links on their website.

Forgot, a small package of mincemeat, add hot water and stir in a handful of walnuts for a concentrated food.

I have heard a "rule of thumb" is 2 lbs. food per day and lightweight backpacking is 1 1/2 lbs. of food per day. I don't have a weight scale.

I have been known to take 6 MacDonald's sausage and biscuits, in their individual wrappings, inside a "bear bag" to hold down their delicious aroma. I had one each day, for morale.

06-27-2004, 23:54
I wuz fallin in LUV with ya... till ya mentioned them McD's food :D

07-06-2004, 10:45
I usually dry everything I take. Cuts down on weight, pack space, garbage and is easier to sling in a tree. For two people you can count on 7 lbs. dehydrated meals to last for one week. Keep in mind that nuts and flour products weigh a lot, so the types of meals you select can make a difference. Clam Florentine for two that makes a hardy plate of food and weighs 8 oz. or Chicken and Dumplings that is very filling but weighs 16 oz.

For more recipes/hints: www.northernoutpost.com (http://www.northernoutpost.com)

SGT Rock
07-06-2004, 11:44
Read labels. If a package has a net weight of 16 ounces and there are 4 servings in it at 400 calories per serving, then it is about right for backpacking food. Higer is desirable, lower is not. If you carry 32 ounces of food a day at this weight, you will get 3200 calories from that.

Spirit Walker
07-06-2004, 11:48
On the AT most people resupply every 3-5 days. There are a lot of road crossings, a lot of towns, delis, etc. Starting out I ate about 1 lb a day, after the Smokies it was about 1 1/2 lbs and by New England it was more.

In your food selection, besides calories and nutrition, consider cooking times. I saw a lot of beans and rice in hiker boxes because people didn't want to wait an hour to eat dinner. This is especially true if you have an alcohol stove.

07-06-2004, 12:28
The general rule of thumb is 1lb a day is very light and 2 lbs a day is toward heavy. But what ever you choose to carry make sure that it is high in fat. You will see high fat foods get more hikers up the trail than any thing else. It is slow burn endurance fuel. You may even see someone drinking sqeeze parkay !

07-06-2004, 13:20
like wuz said in above posts....count on approx. 1lb of food per day....

whether its noodles (or any type pasta)...or de-hydrated entrees...PLUS your energy bars, gorp, snacks, etc.,............................................. ...............
count on carrying a week to 10 days worth of food til your food drop
destination (post office, outfitter, hostel, etc.,etc.....)

good luck w/ your hike! :D

07-06-2004, 13:55
What food to carry and how much is something that took me a while to learn on the Trail. Start out with a pound per day and you'll be fine. Then when you get on the Trail, just eat the heaviest foods first. Here's what I generally eat:
Breakfasts: Pop Tarts with peanut butter, candy bars, or cereal and powdered milk (add Carnation to the cereal, too). Some people ate oatmeal, although many hikers said it wouldn't give them much energy for the morning.
Lunch I would put in a bag in my pocket after breakfast which I would snack on as I hiked. Candy/granola bars, tortilla shells with peanut butter and Nutella (great high-calorie stuff) or hard salami. Raisins. Cheese is a nice treat, and pepperoni is also good. Individual-sized Pringles are good. It is nice not to have to get out my stove to make breakfast and lunch.
Dinner: Lipton noodle or rice meals are the most common. Instant potatoes are good. Tuna, chicken. Ramen is good if you have other things to mix in with it. Dehydrate chopped vegetables if you can, they're great.
You should also carry an extra days worth of food, and Ramen or meal powderes work great for that. Crystal Light is great, but Gatorade or any drink mix with sugar is too heavy. Crackers will most assurredly get smashed in your bag.

08-22-2004, 14:05
All these prepackaged food items that say they have 2 servings... Do they? Just wondering.


SGT Rock
08-22-2004, 14:07
Hiker Beer Math:

2 servings in a package = one serving as the main meal for a hungry hiker.

Just a general rule, it doesn't always apply.

08-22-2004, 20:53
Over many years I've found that my appetite decreases with strenuous hiking for the first 10-14 days, so I can get by with less than 1.5 pounds per day. Once the appetite kicks in I need to eat more food each day, and can easily get to 2+ pounds per day. At that point, the 2-person meals work great for dinner or an early lunch.

08-22-2004, 23:58
Well my first section hike is coming up the first week in October. We plan to do a SOBO hike from Hot Springs, NC to Fontana Dam - possibly a bit further if we have time. We plan to do that distance in 11 days.

After much reading, head scratching, obsessing over gear (what to take, what to leave behind) I think I am ready. I'm probably taking more food than I need to (5 days, just in case) and I haven't quite worked out the resupply point(s). Obviously there are some opportunities to hitch into town and get stuff, but I would rather dump off some food some place and pick it up along the way than have to buy it.

I made up two gallon freezer bags literally stuffed to capacity with the following:
Ramen noodles
Lipton Noodle Dinners
Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup
Potato Soup Mix
Instant Oatmeal
Instant Grits
Granola in smaller bags mixed with dried milk and dried fruit
Tuna in 5oz pouches
fruit roll ups
Minestrone Soup mix
Tea bags
Wylers Drink Mix
Hot Chocolate

In two quart freezer bags I put in snacks:
Beef Jerky
Slim Jim snacks
more fruit roll ups
more tea bags
Bit O' Honey candy
Kudos granola bars
Fig Newton bars

and in two more quart bags I put trail mix.

I was thinking about putting one of the gallon bags along with one each of the quart bags of snacks and trail mix and dumping the other half off somewhere to pick up along the way.

One thing I found is that tuna is HEAVY. The bulk of the food weight is easily tuna and trail mix. With weight being a factor, I'm not sure whether to take it or not. The first day or so will be tough, but as the food is consumed the pack will be lighter. I'm probably taking way too much stuff, but I planned to leave part of my second drop behind if I'm doing pretty good halfway through. If I can come up with two good places to drop food, then I can get my supply down to 2-3 days instead of 5, and lighten the load that much more.

08-23-2004, 07:57
I wouldn't load up on the tuna, but mixing a 5 oz. pack with a few mayo packets placed within a mini pita pocket is a nice change of pace!

I use one of the plastic Pringles or Crystal Lite tubes to store by Fig Newtons; otherwise they will get squashed. I tend to get sick of Fig Newtons after a few days, though. Trail Mix gets old after awhile also.

Think about bringing a few Quaker Oatmeal Bars for a cold, no clean-up breakfast. Sometimes you just want to get up and get going.

There's a big psychological difference between carrying 3 days of food versus 5. Those extra days of food will cost you another 4 pounds and a lot of pack space. Plus, if you only carry 2-3 days of food then you can more carefully fine-tune how much food you really need.

I bet that you'll only need 9 days to cover the 109 miles from Hot Springs to Fontana Dam, unless you decide to take a zero day in there.

08-23-2004, 08:53
Just as a point of interest, serving sizes are established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for over 100 different categories of food. They still may have no relevancy to what we're actually going to eat, but it makes it a lot easier to compare apples to oranges when looking at the labels of different foods.

08-23-2004, 09:08
Just as a point of interest, serving sizes are established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for over 100 different categories of food. They still may have no relevancy to what we're actually going to eat, but it makes it a lot easier to compare apples to oranges when looking at the labels of different foods.You sure about this? I believe serving sizes are as defined by the manufacturer of the product. Serving sizes vary widely among similar products like cereal and breads, for instance.

08-23-2004, 09:58
All these prepackaged food items that say they have 2 servings... Do they? Just wondering.


Short answer: no

08-23-2004, 17:06
You sure about this? I believe serving sizes are as defined by the manufacturer of the product. Serving sizes vary widely among similar products like cereal and breads, for instance.
I'm sure.

"The serving sizes that appear on food labels are based on FDA-established lists of "Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed Per Eating Occasion."
These reference amounts, which are part of the regulations, are broken down into 139 FDA-regulated food product categories, including 11 groups of foods specially formulated or processed for infants or children under 4. They list the amounts of food customarily consumed per eating occasion for each category, based primarily on national food consumption surveys. FDA's list also gives the suggested label statement for serving size declaration. For example, the category "breads (excluding sweet quick type), rolls" has a reference amount of 50 g, and the appropriate label statement for sliced bread or roll is "__ piece(s) ( _g)" or, for unsliced bread, "2 oz (56 g/_ inch slice)."


08-23-2004, 18:20
I'm sure.
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qa-lab18.htmlI didn't read the whole thing, but I skimmed and it still seems to me that the manufacturer may define serving size. For bread, the article states (as I mentioned) that serving size is "number of slices." The manufacturer determines how many slices.

Manufacturers can use different amounts for other foods, too. For instance, the last line in your referenced article caught my eye:

An example is a 15-ounce (420 g) can of soup. The serving size reference amount for soup is 245 g. Therefore, the manufacturer has the option to declare the can of soup as one or two servings.

The FDA does constrain manufacturers to within a reasonable range of their "reference amount." Can't put ten servings to a can of soup to make calories look lower, but they have do have leeway.

The original question was whether or not you could compare serving sizes, and at least for soup and bread, the answer is no. Cereals, too, have different serving sizes IIRC.

10-13-2004, 10:37
don't forgett the other dried wonderfulls!!! Stovetop, Mashed potatoes, rice, and cus cus (or however you spell it). I'm sure there's more ideas available if you check out the grocery store isle with all of this stuff. the best thing is HOT SAUCE is even more scrumptious with this stuff than pine needles!