View Full Version : Help me define "2lbs."

06-30-2013, 08:59
I continually read in books, magazines, and online that a long distant hiker needs to plan on consuming (and carrying) 1.5-2lbs of food per day. But I'm unclear on the definition of "2lbs." I mean, 2lbs of dehydrated food (veggies, beans, pasta, rice, etc.) is dramatically different from 2lbs of peanut butter, power bars, and GORP.

Can anyone help educate me on this topic?

06-30-2013, 09:19
2 lbs is 2lbs of whatever food you choose to carry. Depending on what it is and your own caloric needs you may 1.5 lb, 2 lbs or higher to meet your needs especially for long term hiking. For perspective, I ate over 3 lbs per day on the second half of my thruhike and my average calorie density was about 125 calories per ounce.

06-30-2013, 09:22
4 sets of 4oz.

Old Hiker
06-30-2013, 09:24
I tried to look at calorie density as well. I didn't really try to shoot for "2 pounds per day". I looked at overall meals. My tastes changed over 500 miles as well. I found mini-bagels with cream cheese was a GREAT supper, as I didn't have to cook. 2 Pop-tarts with coffee in the morning was good for a start. I started to add an Oatmeal to Go bar with 2 pop-tarts for the calories.

Full disclosure: I was carrying WAY too much weight, but I don't think it was food.

Pedaling Fool
06-30-2013, 09:32
I continually read in books, magazines, and online that a long distant hiker needs to plan on consuming (and carrying) 1.5-2lbs of food per day. But I'm unclear on the definition of "2lbs." I mean, 2lbs of dehydrated food (veggies, beans, pasta, rice, etc.) is dramatically different from 2lbs of peanut butter, power bars, and GORP.

Can anyone help educate me on this topic?It's true that 2lbs is 2lbs. With that said, 2lbs of peanut butter does feel heavier than 2lbs of dehydrated foods, becasue the weight is more concentrated in a smaller area, so I see your point. However, I don't see it as a definition issue, rather as a packing issue.

And that's something you just have to work at.

06-30-2013, 09:45
On further thought I suspect you are really asking about backpacking nutrition. Take a look at this, likely the best overall 101 on long distance backpacking nutrition. http://thru-hiker.com/articles/pack_light_eat_right.php

Odd Man Out
06-30-2013, 11:28
The 1.5 to 2 lb guideline is based on having food that doesn't have a lot of water in it, but this doesn't have to be dehydrated veggies, beans, pasta, rice etc... In real-life, a backpacker's food bag will probably contain a variety of things, such as non-dehydrated foods and packaging materials. I think in terms of calorie density (calories per pound). Dry starch and protein have about 1600 calories per pound, so if you were carrying just uncooked rice/pasta/non fat dry milk/etc, your two pounds would have 3200 calories. The highest possible calorie density is vegetable oil at about 4000 cal/lb. So any calorie density higher than 1600 cal/lb is due to fat/oil in the food. Most foods will be a combination of all three macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) and fall somewhere in between. The weight of water and packaging will bring the calorie density lower.

The examples of backpacking foods suggested are actually more calorie dense than dehydrated beans, pasta, and rice:

A Chocolate Chip Clif Bar comes in at 1602 cal/lb (essentially the same as uncooked rice), but has a nice balance of fat, carbs and protein (7/65/15 ratio).

Regular Trail Mix has 2100 cal/lb with a fat/carb/protein ratio of 29/45/14 (the higher calorie density is due to more fat).

Peanut Butter has a very high calorie density of 2670 cal/lb with a fat/carb/protein ratio of 50/20/25. (even more fat)

As for water content, the nutrient ratios above are grams per 100 gram serving. So if you add the three numbers together and subtract from 100, you get an estimate of how much of the food is not contributing to the calories which would include micronutrients (such as salt, fiber, vitamins, minerals) but probably mostly water. This weight is 13 grams for the Clif Bar, 12 grams for the trail mix and just 5 grams for PB.

There have been long debates on this site about other aspects of nutrition (balance of nutrients, salt contents, role of vitamins, simple sugars vs complex carbs, are all calories equal, natural vs processed, vegan, vegetarian, does cheese spoil, etc...). I don't want to open any of those debates (especially the cheese). Ignoring all of those complexities, you can calculate pretty easily the calorie density and nutrient content of your food bag from the data on the nutrition labels. I use this web site to look up this info http://nutritiondata.self.com/ although I got the Clif bar data from the Clif web site). Also note that the nutritional data is based on the weight of the food. You have to add in the packaging so try to keep that to a minimum.

Del Q
06-30-2013, 12:11
Obviously, 2 pounds is 2 pounds.

Where I have messed up in the past is not taking into account meals in town, ie breakfast on day one, dinner on the last day, etc.

As a section hiker, I attempt to skimp on the food I carry, have started liking ramen without cooking it or simply soaking it in water for a few hours. Do not cook anymore so that helps with weight and simplicity. After reading the two books by the barefoot sisters, I now carry raw sunflower seeds, ton of food value and energy. Love dried fruit as well. I also pay attention to how much water is in each food item, ie dry beef jerky vs the heavier varieties.

Finally got my pack with water and food to 30 lbs. Less food was a big part of this.

06-30-2013, 12:45
Finally got my pack with water and food to 30 lbs. Less food was a big part of this.

How many day's food are you carrying at this point. I have arthritis. So I'm seeking to be as close to ultralight as possible, without sacrificing my hammock.

Del Q
06-30-2013, 14:54
I carry 4-5 days of food plus some "hooch" (Scotch / Bourbon)..........my Doctor who is now retired used to tell me that 1200-1500 calories a day is a lot of food. Depends what you eat.

Again, I am a section hiker, cannot accurately comment on caloric requirements of being a thru hiker, most are like me, going out a piece at a time.

Eat like a pig in town, carry little, skimp on food, make it about the calories and weight not trying to mirror home in the woods from a food perspective.

The less I carry and the simpler my food plan the happier I am on the trail BY FAR, plus.............it makes food town that much better!!!


Kaptain Kangaroo
06-30-2013, 19:09
The 2lb figure is simply an estimate of how much you would be carrying if you are a typical hiker, carrying typical hiker style dehydrated food.

If you decide to live on fresh fruit on the trail, then you will be carrying much, much more weight than 2lb's per day to meet your nutritional requirements. But if you live on the typical hiker fare of noodles, GORP, peanut butter etc. etc. then most people can get sufficient calories for a day in 2lbs of food.

It's just a rule of thumb that makes a bunch of assumptions about you & the food you are carrying, but the main assumption is that your food is lightweight, low water content, high energy density items...

06-30-2013, 19:35
Two pounds is most definitely not two pounds. As said above, fat has twice the calorie density of carbs.

A good and relatively healthy target is about 130 calories per ounce, with two pounds giving over 4000 calories per day. Depending on the weight you're carrying and the terrain you're hiking and your metabolism, that's usually enough for a hiker's trail rations. Many hikers find it difficult to eat more than that on trail. You'll probably need to supplement that diet with town meals on a long hike to maintain body weight.

To add healthy fat to your diet, consider tree nuts, olive oil, and cheese. Sugar is pure carbs and has relatively low caloric density.

On my AT hike, 4000 cal per day worked fine to maintain my body weight overall. I lost weight in the Southern Appalachians and in the Whites, and gained it in the mid-Atlantic. I ended only a few pounds lower than my starting weight.

07-01-2013, 16:03
Umm...yes, I just checked my scale, and 2 pounds of food actually does weigh 2lbs! That doesn't mean the caloric content is equal. 1.5-2.5lbs per day is just a rough estimate of food weight while on the trail. This is JUST an estimate, based on folks that have hiked the trail. It doesn't mean this is what you "should" be carrying, just that an average day of food on the trail will weigh roughly that. Hikers, especially thru-hikers, are primarily interested in high calorie, low weight foods...why? Cause you need the calories without carrying 5lbs of food a day! How much food you carry depends on a lot of factors (how many calories you need per day x's number of days between resupply). I would eat breakfast times two, lunch times two, and then dinner. Sometimes I would also have a snack before bed. If you're just section hiking, your needs may be reduced 'cause you have some fat/muscle stores to run off of...Amount of food is gonna be based on your basal metabolic rate, current physiologic makeup, difficulty of terrain, and ambient temperature.

max patch
07-01-2013, 16:33
Its the weight in your pack.

The fact that 2 pounds of dehydrated tomatoes originally weighed 10 pounds is meaningless.

07-22-2013, 00:39
Most will be in the 100-150 cal/oz range. Thats a 50% difference in cal/day based on the foods you choose.

What do you think you should do? You focus on the highest calorie foods you can. Olive oil, peanut butter, trail mix, cookies and pastries, salami, pepperoni, etc.

Sugar and fat. Plain and simple.

Plainer things like tortillas, jerky, tuna, dried noodles, brings the average down fast, even though you need them too.

07-22-2013, 01:32
The 1/5 - 2 lbs a day in trail food is just a general suggestion of about what a typical hiker might need to eat based JUST on wt alone of the food. How that 2 lbs is broken down is another story and can become as complex as you want it to become. I'm atypical, never have been in many ways, so I take this suggestion in context with that knowledge. I'm special. :D I often get away with carrying an average of about 1 lb 4-6 oz per day when I want to gram weenie my trail diet.

07-22-2013, 01:33
The 1 1/2 - 2 lbs a day ....

07-22-2013, 08:24
What the two pounds per day means is "Try as you may, when you have your food as light as it can be (through all the tricks available to us) the combined total of you food bag will be 1 1/2 to 2 pounds per day.
Obviously, if you carry bread, eggs, fresh meat, fruit etc. The figure will rise.
There is no rule of nature that it couldn't work out to 5 pounds per day.

The Solemates
07-22-2013, 09:01
for what its worth, the abbreviation for pounds is lb......without an 's' and without a period.

Just Bill
07-22-2013, 09:36
As mentioned- 1.5-2.5 lb per day is a guide, a further guide is the oft misunderstood 125 calories per ounce (caloric density). I use the 125 calorie per ounce as a target and guide, but not gospel. After that... my food comes out to about 2.25 pounds per day on average. Not surprisingly, few foil pouch freeze dried meals actually hit the 125 calories per ounce, especially if you factor the packaging. One truth- on trips less than two weeks- you can carry anything you want- you body will survive it. You can also get by on less food than a thru-hiker (or anyone used to high levels of activity). The best way, I found, to use the 125 calorie guideline is to build meals. Steel cut oatmeal is about 100 calories an ounce, but adding walnuts, raisins, sunflower seeds and other high calorie items brings my meal up to target. By adding good fats, sugars, and proteins to my carbs I can round out my meals both nutritionally and for caloric density. Even a simply PB&J wrap fits this profile PB, about 200/ounce, jelly, 70/ounce, whole wheat tortilla, 95/ounce- works out to 129.5 calories per ounce as a meal. That said- Nutrition, meal planning, and packing- in my opinion is easily the most difficult part of long distance backpacking hands down. Here's one more, very rough guide, that somewhat works; Find out what you eat in town- for basic or short trips multiply by 1.25, for week long trips or cold weather short trips multiply by 1.5, for longer duration trips up to one month multiply by 1.75, once past a month (a thru-hike) you metabolism will be at full speed. At this point town food times 2 is a good guide, although some folks go as high as times 3. At some point though, you can't carry enough food to hit 6000 calories or more a day, which is why Hikers are famous for demolishing AYCE facilities and racking up $20 tabs at Micky D's. The AT is an easy place to grab calorie bombs as you go- such as my personal favorite- the Vermont bomb- one pint B&J, one block Cabot Cheese, one tall boy of beer. (About 2k calories) The most important thing- Bring food you like to eat that makes you feel good. That rule trumps all the others.

07-22-2013, 17:24
The most important thing- Bring food you like to eat that makes you feel good. That rule trumps all the others.

I need you to carry those veggie supreme pizzas and beer for me then.:)

Just Bill
07-22-2013, 21:51
Did you ever try that dehydrated beer? Next time we go on a canoe trip, I will make pizza- otherwise- you can sneak in a frozen pizza and cook it over an open fire- bit tricky- but a nice trick when passing a gas station at the end of the day.

Another Kevin
07-26-2013, 22:33
I don't do long distances - a four-day section is about my current limit - so probably shouldn't comment. But there seems to be one point that others have missed. Carrying heavier food (fewer calories per ounce) mostly means that you're carrying more water content. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing if you plan. In cool or cold weather, I often plan to have my main meal in the middle of the day, particularly on the first day of a trip, and then have a lighter (perhaps cold) supper. That means that I'll be carrying more water weight in my food - but I'd be carrying the water to reconstitute it, anyway. So I go ahead and carry fresh vegetables, they'll keep for half a day, frozen meat or fish (it'll stay adequately cold for half a day in my freezer bag cozy), fresh fruit, and not worry about the weight, because I'll just carry that much less water. By the time I'm going to sleep on the first night, I'll have eaten all that excess water weight. The second day, I'll need more water because I'll be using dried food, but the weight of the fresh food will be gone. So my personal rule is "the weight of the first day's food doesn't really count. If it's heavy, subtract water."

I also like to eat real food. So maybe my food bag runs a little on the heavy side. I've been accused of being more a camper than a hiker, and that's fine with me. And I'm not sure that the weight difference winds up being all that much. If I make my own muffins in the morning from premeasured scratch ingredients, even counting the weight of the fuel to steam them I think it's less weight than the equivalent calories in Pop-Tarts or Little Debbies, tastes a heck of a lot better, and I'm sure has better nutrition too. And - well, did you ever have a cup of nice hot coffee and a still-warm blackberry muffin (from wild berries harvested the evening before), perhaps with a bit of sharp cheese, while watching the sun rise from a high ridge? Let's just say that if I were ever to make it to a nice end in the Next World, and I were served breakfast by Martha of Bethany or Miriam the Prophetess, I could hardly imagine it would be much better.

And ... I see the guideline of '135 kcal / ounce'. I think that's a little fattier than I usually go. I don't think I can digest that much fat (proportionately) and still feel well. Which is Dogwood's point up above: Eat well, feel well, and if you don't go crazy carrying food with a ton of excess packaging or excess water weight, the weight will work itself out. And - guess what? - It'll turn out to be 1.5-2 pounds a day, most likely.

And - jumping into a forbidden topic - cheese doesn't spoil. It turns into a different variety of cheese. (But not all varieties of cheese are edible...)

07-26-2013, 23:20
Well, it gets a little complicated.

If you choose food that averages 100 cal/oz, and bring 1.5 lb =24oz per day of food, you will have 2400 cal /day
If you choose food that averages 150 cal/oz and bring 1.5 lb =24 oz per day of food, you will have 3600 caly/day
If you choose food that averages 150 cal/oz and bring 2 lb per day, you will have 4800 cal/day

Thats a possible 2x difference in calories per day. That is huge.

If you are burning 5000 cal/day, which do you think you should bring?

Bring the HIGHEST CALORIE food you can, target an overall 150 cal/oz. Peanut butter is 190, olive oil is 240, pepperoni is 140, jerky is 100, tuna is 80 , cookies are ~150, dried noodles are 100, GORP is 150-180, etc. You have to concentrate on the highest calorie foods for 80%, because the other 20% will pull your average down. It might not matter for 2 days, but for 4 wks, it definitely will.

Sugar and fat are your friend when you burn 5000 -6000 cal/day. You may lose a lb per day of bodyweight. I say bodyweight, because it wont all be fat, 30% can be muscle if you are severely restricting your calories that way.

Foods that contain large amounts of water, will be calorie-poor on a weight basis, water has no calories. So basically, you are looking at dried foods. Concentrated foods.

However, at first you mayl find out that you probably wont WANT to eat more than 1.5 lbs per day of food, I dont. As time goes on you want more.
After several weeks of calorie depravation, you body kicks into a state where you devour food. Literally inhale it, you cannot get enough. And once you take the first bite, you cannot stop yourself .

This is predicated on not wanting to carry water in your food, because water is available on trail. When you backpack in areas where you have to carry all your water, it doesnt matter. Water is water, and you have to carry it, and your body needs it. Whether its in your food, or a water bottle, it doesnt matter. It is easier to track, in a water bottle however. But if you were hiking in Big Bend, go ahead and bring sausage, cans of stew, whatever. It doesnt matter

Just Bill
07-27-2013, 09:34
Food is life- like all things take the basic guidelines and find balance. I've carried over 5pounds per day, I've carried less than 1. All trips and styles are different. The calories per ounce gets severely abused- if that's all it takes- bring a jug of olive oil- 16 ounces per day will do the job. Bring a lot of TP, but toilet paper is lighter than food so you're still safe.:D

08-06-2013, 20:20
2lbs of food that you are going to eat. If you are carrying dehydrated or freeze dried food the weight would be its rehydrated weight.

08-06-2013, 23:06
2lbs of food that you are going to eat. If you are carrying dehydrated or freeze dried food the weight would be its rehydrated weight. That is just soooo wrong. The whole 2 lb thing is just what you hope to keep your food down to before you rehydrate it. Towards the end of my thru my food bag got way heavier than 2 lb per day. And I lost 50lb in body weight.