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  1. #1
    Registered User lyagooshka's Avatar
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    Question How much food...

    Greetings all,

    On a previous thread I asked about pack weight.
    Basically one of the most common comments was that I planned to take too LITTLE food.

    I was talking about a 5-day hike and taking about 5# of food.

    Now, my question is, when someone says that's too little, do they mean actual food, or the dehydrated stuff?

    When I said 5#, I meant of mostly dehydrated meals.
    They weigh about 6 oz each, so (16X5)/6=13.333...
    For 5 days, that's over 2 meals per day.
    I only plan to have one or 2 a day, so that drops me to about 8 of them.
    So, 8X6=48/16=4.
    On top of that, I figured a pound of jerky and some granola.
    Should be right around the 5# goal.

    Is this not enough?

    Also, mind you that I could go out for 5 days with only water and my "stored energy", and I would not only survive, but probably be better off when I was done.

    Thanks again,

    Alex

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    I take about 1 to 1.25 lbs of food per day for a 5 day trip with an average of 6ish miles per day. Granted, 6 miles a day is about what we are supposed to walk every day... but there is a big difference between walking with a backpack 6 miles, on a trail with 2000 ft of elevation gain and loss and walking 5-6 miles around my house.

    On a 5 day trip, I'm just not that hungry. I'm less hungry on a 5 day trip than I am even at home. Sometimes I have to actually force myself to eat, a little.

    I also take about 2200 calories per day. Commercial dehydrated meals often have a VERY low calorie count. You might want to add up the calories, in addition to the ounces. You might feel kind of crappy on day 3 if you are only eating 900 calories a day.

    It also makes a difference if you are doing 6 mile days or 20 mile days. I can't do 20 mile days, any more. But even when I was doing 15-20 mile days... I still wasn't that hungry on a short trip.

    I (sadly) lose almost zero weight after 6 days/5 nights, if I have 4 slices of pizza when I get home. A word of warning: Don't eat like a thru hiker in town for 2 weeks when you get home. It is really easy to tell yourself that you burned a TON of calories backpacking for 5 day and to eat anything that isn't nailed down and gain weight.

    I'm 58 years old, 5'2" tall, and weigh 138, and female. Your mileage may vary. But it is very common for people to be less hungry on a shorter trip. It is also VERY common for people to overestimate how hungry they will be and to take too much food. But it looks like you might be erring on the side of too little food/calories... maybe... maybe not.

    My goal is to end a trip with one mustard packet.
    Last edited by DLP; 07-16-2016 at 12:03.

  3. #3
    Registered User Engine's Avatar
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    It is related to calories in verses calories out. If you are hiking 5-6 miles a day over easy terrain, the need for extra calories isn't anywhere near what it would be if you were trying to cover 20+ mpd over difficult terrain or bad trail conditions. The basic rule of thumb is to pick foods which provide the highest level of calories per ounce when choosing your menu. If all you ate was something with high caloric density, such as peanut butter at around 160 calories/ounce, then 1 pound of food a day would give you 2,560 calories. For a grown adult carrying a backpack through the mountains, even most light women would run a noticeable caloric deficit on those few calories. I can tell you from experience, I would be "HANGRY" in a few days.

    Most foods we look at for backpacking are closer to 100-130 calories per ounce, with some higher and many lower. On shorter trips you might be able to deal with the deficit. But, as you can see, in order to enjoy a longer trip and have acceptable energy levels, you'll likely need between 1.5 and 2.0 pounds of food per day.

    I tried UL menu planning once and the family almost mutinied at the end of a 10 day trip...learned never to do that again.
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates

  4. #4

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    Everyone's different when it comes to backpacking food. And a 5 day trip is very short which means you could almost fast the whole time and not even worry about food. I did a 5 day backpacking trip with Sgt Rock a couple years ago and took no food since I was pulling a 9 day fast at the time, so my trip started on the 4th day of my fast and ended on my 9th day etc.

    Point is, a backpacker can carry whatever food he wants (or no food) and go from there. Taking only dehydrated meals will certainly lower your overall food weight, i.e. 1 lb per day, so that's one solution.

    The general consensus (Jardine/Skurka) is to take between 2lbs to 2.5 lbs of food per day of backpacking. I agree. So a 5 day trip would be in the 9 to 10 lb range, just for food.

    Then again, on such short trips I may even take a couple cans of food or an avocado or a bag of grapes or whatever else I want. I mean, a 5 day food load is very light no matter what you take---so go ahead and take some canned soups or whatever else.

    Me and my backpacking buddies even have a Watermelon Club whereby some lucky soul gets to hump out a watermelon for the trip. I did my Melon Hump for a Pisgah NF trip back in the day, and my buddy Patman has done his share of Melon Hauls---


    Backpacking buddy Patman with a Melon Haul into the Bald River wilderness of TN.


    Another melon haul into the Big Frog wilderness of TN.

    So yeah, go ahead and haul a watermelon, no problem.

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    You will survive a 5 day hike on 5# food.
    But you will likely lose a little weight.

    1.5# is much better target
    Bring high calorie things you like

  6. #6

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    Lots of people don't have much of an appetite the first few days of a hike anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    The general consensus (Jardine/Skurka) is to take between 2lbs to 2.5 lbs of food per day of backpacking. I agree. So a 5 day trip would be in the 9 to 10 lb range, just for food.
    I think that this is recommended for thru hiking and 30 mile days. Not a 5 day trip by the average weekender.

    But I do agree with Tipi that every person is different. Otherwise, we'd all pack up the exact same food.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    You will survive a 5 day hike on 5# food.
    But you will likely lose a little weight.

    1.5# is much better target
    Bring high calorie things you like
    +1
    I usually bring 1.5 lbs/day and lose 0.5 pounds a day, but am never hungry, hiking 12-14 mile days most typically. If I brought just 1 pound/day, I'd be hungry. YMMV.
    On a thru hike, I'd start out with 1.5 lbs/day and go to 2 lbs/day or more once I'd shed the excess body fat that is also fueling my hike. If you lose your fat weight and don't eat enough, your body burns muscle - you do not want this to happen.
    Last edited by QiWiz; 07-15-2016 at 13:26.
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  9. #9
    Registered User lyagooshka's Avatar
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    So I'm assuming it's 1.5-2# of pre-cooked food?
    I am guessing I could also bring an MRE per day.
    Each one is about 2000-3000 Kcal, so one a day (snacks included)?

    I hope to get out in Sept. for a one-night "trial".
    I plan to do 13 miles of part of the PA trail.
    Stop half way.
    It'll be the shake-down for the 4 days in October I hope to do.

    Thanks for the info.

  10. #10
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Better "food" than MRE's to take up space in your pack. Even on short trips, I figure 1.5 pounds per day and I usually do 10+ mile days. Im also 6'3" and 195 ish pounds, so I burn a lot more calories than my 5'3" 135ish GF. She eats a lot less than I do, and weighs about the same when we get home, where I will lose roughly half a pound a day.

    Its because men arent needed for the survival of the species and in lean times, we are suppose to die off so the women and children have enough to eat.

  11. #11

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    The usual 2 pounds/day recommendation is for typical backpacking food, mostly dehydrated or Calorie rich (like cheese). Like others, I do not eat that much on short trips. I prefer having extra to running short. Neither will do you much harm.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by DLP View Post
    I take about 1 to 1.25 lbs of food per day for a 5 day trip with an average of 6ish miles per day. Granted, 6 miles a day is about what we are supposed to walk every day... but there is a big difference between walking with a backpack 6 miles, on a trail with 2000 ft of elevation gain and loss and walking 5-6 miles around my house.

    On a 5 day trip, I'm just not that hungry. I'm less hungry on a 5 day trip than I am even at home. Sometimes I have to actually force myself to eat, a little.

    I also take about 2200 calories per day. Dehydrated meals often have a VERY low calorie count. You might want to add up the calories, in addition to the ounces. You might feel kind of crappy on day 3 if you are only eating 900 calories a day.

    It also makes a difference if you are doing 6 mile days or 20 mile days. I can't do 20 mile days, any more. But even when I was doing 15-20 mile days... I still wasn't that hungry on a short trip.

    I (sadly) lose almost zero weight after 6 days/5 nights, if I have 4 slices of pizza when I get home. A word of warning: Don't eat like a thru hiker in town for 2 weeks when you get home. It is really easy to tell yourself that you burned a TON of calories backpacking for 5 day and to eat anything that isn't nailed down and gain weight.

    I'm 58 years old, 5'2" tall, and weigh 138, and female. Your mileage may vary. But it is very common for people to be less hungry on a shorter trip. It is also VERY common for people to overestimate how hungry they will be and to take too much food. But it looks like you might be erring on the side of too little food/calories... maybe... maybe not.

    My goal is to end a trip with one mustard packet.
    This is just like me...rarely feel hungry and have to force myself to eat stuff. And because I'm not hungry I don't really want to carry a stove...I want to carry easy food, so learning how to make rehydratable pasta and rice salads!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DuneElliot View Post
    . . . I don't really want to carry a stove...I want to carry easy food, so learning how to make rehydratable pasta and rice salads!
    Especially in the summer on shorter trips, I like playing with no-cook food options. Then also, in the summer, you can pack so light that you can also give up a little space and weight for fresh food, including vegetables to really make those couscous salads rock.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

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    As mentioned, in the heat, wow I have so much less desire to eat. I try harder in the warmer weather to pack high calorie foods so that I dont have to eat a ton to get them.

  15. #15
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    Five lbs of food for five days given your choices of food you'll be running a daily calorie deficit. For five days you'll survive but will likely be eating into your body wt for energy.

  16. #16
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    I start off with 1-2lbs/day depending on the activity level. I've been known to hike out of a resupply with a six-pack and a big juicy ribeye steak.

  17. #17

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    I'm 6'0", 165 pounds, cover 15 miles per day on my AT section hikes, and have learned by trial and error that I need to consume around 4200 calories a day to stay at a steady weight. I can eat as little as 3500 calories per day over a two week hike without getting hungry, but I will lose weight. Calories per day is more to the point than pounds of food per day. And the label on any packaged food is going to tell you how many calories per serving the food contains.
    Life Member: ATC, ALDHA, Superior Hiking Trail Association

  18. #18
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    Planning to take too little food is a great experiment and should be a good experience. My goal is to run out either the night before or the morning of my resupply. It's a good feeling, not having carried any extra. I hardly ever take lunch any more on day hikes. I enjoy eating, but carrying food actually gets less important to me the more I hike.

    When I pack, I don't think "pounds per day," rather I think "miles per pound." A 100 mile resupply, late in a thru-hike when the hiker hunger has really kicked in, will be about eight pounds and it doesn't matter how long it'll take.

    As mentioned above, plenty of healthy people fast for that long, somewhat routinely.

    Take any serious survival course and food isn't even mentioned.

    I was on a trail construction crew in Northern AZ with a Navajo guy. He didn't carry any food with him. When we offered ours, he said, "No thanks, I'm fine, I ate yesterday."
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  19. #19

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    I usually hike 4-5 days at a time.

    I carry extra days food, because I hike in a national forest or a wilderness area, usually remote locations far from town resupply.

    For me, it is good common sense to have extra provisions.

    I think your answer should include where you hike, chances of getting on the wrong trail or dirt track, and factor in if you may need to help youself in the event of a mishap.

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