View Full Version : Packing the Pack

02-18-2005, 11:15
Greetings All,
I would like some input and tips on actually packing the pack.I mean we do call it "backpacking" do we not?
Specifically-how do your seasoned vets pack your food?Suppose you were going to forego teabags or coffee bags etc and take instant hot chocolate instead.Would you carry it in the single serving size it comes in or bulk package it in a ziplock and figure out the measuring later? Same question for other food items?Got any other handy camping tips?
If you wanted to pack 5 days worth of food to live off of-ie not get gourmet- what exactly would you take and how would you package it?What would that list weigh? About how many calories per day do you figure that daily meal plan to be?I have played with some calorie numbers and it looks like its going to be hard to put enough calories in the bag for the amount of weight(2 lb/day) that most people plan on.Good news is that i will be hitting the trail with a few extra calories in long term storage anyway but dont want to get overly fatigued before i can resupply in town.
If we are rehashing an old thread here,someone please direct me to where i might find the info i'm looking for.Now that i thought i had most of what i planned to take pared down to a minimum i may just chuck the pack and go with a waterproof gear bag wrapped in a GearSkin.No zippers or leaks and only one way in there but looks like i could easily eliminate about 4 pounds just from making the switch from my current setup.
The food weight calorie ratio looks like a critical factor to me and i have a gut feeling im missing the boat somewhere.Any advice is appreciated-thanks.
Cheers to all,

02-18-2005, 11:23
Me thinks you're gonna get a lot of answers on this one but I'll share my method with you.

For starters, I use 3 silnylon stuff sacks (about 7" x 17"). One for my sleeping bag, one for my clothes and one for my food. I load them horizontally in the pack. My sleeping bag goes in first, followed by my clothes and lastly my food bag. After that I just try and load the rest (cookpot, stove, sleeping pad, jacket and miscellaneous) in a logical and somewhat symetrical way. After closing the pack I lay my 1.8 Liter Platypus horizontally across the top of the pack and strap it down.

Everything else goes in the small pouches on my hip belt or in the outer side pouches on the pack.

Been using this packing approach for years with minor variations, regardless of the pack I was carrying. It works well for me ...but as I said at the beginning of this post, you're going to get about as many different replies to this as there are hikers.

All the best ...

AT 2003

02-18-2005, 11:55
Sleeping bag, in stuff sack, with a trashbag liner, down at the bottom. Clothes in silnylon sack, down at the bottom (both are set up vertical). In the spaces in between, I jam smaller things, like journal, etc. Anything that can fit, does fit. I pack pretty tight. Normally, this leaves me with my food bag and cook pot and rain jacket (things like tarp, maps, alcohol, olive oil, etc, go in outside pocket). These I put on top of the sleeping bag-clothes bag pile. Now, I'm not carrying much, so you'll have to work out your own system. The reason why I have the three things at the top is to get at them quickly. I tend to cook during the day, rather than in camp, so want to be able to get to some thing. I have hipbelt pockets also and put my camera, compass, and snacks in them. The pockets are big enough that I can get enough snacks for the entire day (mostly) in one of them.

In terms of food, more is better than less. So, assuming you are buying as you go, for the first few resupply stops leave with more food than you think you need. For example, take an extra 8 oz. block of cheese and 4 extra Snickers, or something like that. If you are sending yourself maildrops from home, you won't be able to accurately estimate how much food you need until you've been on the trail for a couple of months. In that case, plan around calories: 2500 a day for the first week, then up to 3500. After, say, a month, jack it up to 4500.

I'd really encourage you to buy as you go.

02-18-2005, 12:56
You can look this up, but people burn 0.6 calories/(mile lb). So multiply this by the number of miles you hiked and your weight plus your backpack weight, and you get how many calories you need on flat land.

To come up with calories needed for climbing vertical feet, I had to calculate it...

E = mgh, g = 9.81 m/s^2, h is the vertical feet you climb, and m is your weight (mass). You now have to do a unit change to get it in to food calories (which are in fact kilocalories).

E = mh 9.81/4.184E3 kcal/ (meter * kg) = m*h*9.81*2.2/(4.184E3*3.28) kcal/(ft*lb)

So it takes 1.57 calories per lb per 1000 vertical feet.

So, for me, my average day is about 12 miles, with an average vertical foot climb of 2600 ft over the whole trail. I weigh 200 lbs, my pack is about 25 lbs on average, so I need :

calories = 1.57*225 lbs*2.6 + 0.6*225*12 = 2500 calories.

That's for hiking... Typically you will need an additional 1600 calories for the rest of living, walking around camp, etc.

So, my typical need is about 4100 calories per day out there...

1 lb of fat is about 3500 calories, so I would need 1.2 lbs per day if I was going to eat lard all day. Of course most of our food is carbs (and there is good reason for this! Our body can burn carbs much faster than it can burn fat), and if it was all carbs, I would need to carry 2.6 lbs of food.

So, now you know how many calories to carry... Good luck trying to carry that many!

Of course, from this you should know how much weight you will lose every day if you are underfeeding yourself. If you didn't eat anything at all, you would lose 1.2 lbs per day. If you ate a more typical 3000 calories a day, and averaged 12 miles a day over the whole hike, you would lose a whopping 57 lbs!

Ah, fun with numbers! This is what happens when I only have 3 days of work left before i start my thru!

Eat well!


02-18-2005, 14:04
This is great, Gravity. I've been looking for how to calculate caloric burn with vertical climb. Of course, this assumes that a rough trail or a steep downhill uses as many calories as walking on flat, level trail. Perhaps you can address these variables while you're whiling away the Georgia miles? Best of luck.

02-18-2005, 14:38
Hmmm ...food for 5 days. That was actually about my re-supply interval during my thru.

I repackage just about everything in freezer strength ziplocs, when possible. Too much air and paper in a lot of the off-the-shelf packaging.

For breakfasts I go cold. I like the Quaker Breakfast Squares (about 220 calories each). I generally down 2 fo those and a cup or so of Tang. I carry the Tang powder in a plastic container. The Breakfast Squares are packages one each in foil so I just take them as is.

For lunches I typically alternate between the 6-pack of cheeze/pnut butter crackers and a tuna packet and tortilla. I try and grab the little packets of mayo, tartar sauce or sweet relish and stir that into the tuna.

Dinners are a combination of things. On a 5 day interval I generally carry 2 - 3 packets of ramen and a packet of Stovetop Stuffing mix. The stuffing mix will make 2 dinners. To beef up the dinners I carry a packet of 4 cheeze potato flakes, one or two foil packets of chicken and a small package of peperoni slices. I typically throw in at least one Lipton meal, which I either make by itself or add to one of the other meals as filler. If I can find it I sometimes replace the ramen with angel hair pasta wheels and powdered tomato sauce and then add some of the peperoni slices.

I carry powdered Gatorade to make the water with meals a bit less boring and sometimes mix it together with the Tang powder. For snacks I carry tubes of peanuts (mainly honey roasted), Snickers, Gummi Bears, licorice and usually some hard candy.

Whenever possible I suppliment my foodbag with a store bought deli sandwich (lunch time) or a high protein dinner. If it's morning time when I cross a road with access to a little diner or cafe I've been known to sit down to a big plate of pancakes and eggs with a side of bacon.

AT 2003

02-18-2005, 19:13
Lighter stuff at the bottom like clothes and sleeping bag. Then miscelaneous then food at the top, as a person generally only digs in their pack in daytime for food. The weight at the top helps to balance the weight of an internal frame pack by keeping the weight centered. Heavy weight at the bottom tends to make your hip belt slide down as you hike. The camera is great in your pocket or some way that you don't have to take off your pack to get at it. I used to carry mine in the top of my pack, but the result was very few pictures because I rarely wanted to go to the trouble of taking off the pack just to take a picture.

Breakfast cold and quick: as said, the oatmeal bars are great, muffin bars, pop tarts with peanut butter on them, a ziplock with a heavy cereal and powdered milk (like Cracklin Oat Bran or Grape Nuts, not corn flakes). Washed down with a litre of water. There are some sugar-free drink mixes that are great and don't have the weight of that powdered Gatorade. Then off I go with a ziplock full of candy bars and other snacks until lunch. Nuts are great to eat and quite filling. Saw a kid who used a lanyard and carried a ziplock of food around his neck.

Cold lunch is good with a variety, a little of everything. Pepperoni sticks are particularly good, though greasy. Sometimes I'll carry out bread (tied to the back of the pack) and some hard salami for the first couple of days. Those individual-size Pringles cans are good.

Learning exactly how many days to the next town and how much food to carry comes pretty quickly, however I always carry a couple packages of Ramen with me in case I fall behind what I estimated. They are the lightest food you can get, they don't spoil, they can be crushed, and it's always good to carry some emergency food.