Monday, February 27, 2012

Bushcraft and Backpacking Food

I am not qualified to speak in any way about food or nutrition, but as promised I wanted to share what food I brought on my last trip (2/18/12-2/20/12) and my thinking behind it.


From what I understand, the average estimates for the calorie consumption of a person who is backpacking (assuming actual travel for most of the day under normal conditions) is about 3000 calories. I find it very hard to consume such high amount of calories, and I am usually not out for enough days to get my metabolism to ramp up to consume that much food.

I aim for about 2000 calories per day. I imagine this would be insufficient for an extended trip (weeks to months), but I am never out long enough to worry about that. Secondary considerations for me are the weight of the food and the ability of the food to last without spoiling, as it is not something I want to worry about on the trial. So, here is what my food looked like for a three day trip:


Each large ziploc bag contains the complete food for one day. I had another small ziploc bag with some salt, sugar, olive oil and Goya seasoning. Together everything went into a Sea to Summit stuff sack.

I like the idea of the food for each day being in a separate bag because it lets me keep track of what I have left of each item. Obviously here because my trip was only three days, I would have food left over on the first and last days (breakfast on the first day and dinner on the third day). This would in theory give me one extra day if I had to spend it in the woods.


Here is what was contained in each bag:


In the first column are just two packets of oatmeal. This is my breakfast. The top item in the middle column is a packet of rice, beans and dehydrated ground beef, while the top item in the third column is a packet of instant mashed potatoes combined with instant gravy. Those two bags are my dinner. The remaining items in the second column are six pieces of candy, a ziploc bag with beef jerky, and a ziploc bag with Gatorade mix and tea. The third column contains two granola bars and a bag of nuts. All these items are used for lunch and snacks during the day. Here is a more detailed caloric view of the items:


Calories (cal)

Weight (oz)


Rice and Beans (dinner)




Instant Potatoes (dinner)




Granola Bars x 2 (lunch)




Candy:bite size Snickers, Twix and Milky Way (lunch)




Candy: bite size chocolate x 3 (lunch)




Jerky-five pieces (lunch)




Nuts (lunch)




Oatmeal x 2 (breakfast)




Tea and Gatorade








The total weight of each bag, including packaging was 1 lb 4 oz (20 oz). This gives me a calorie per weight value of 107 cal/oz. Ideally, I should have about 150 cal/oz, but there are several reasons why I was not able to reach that.

The first is that the above calculations do not include oil or fat (other than the nuts). Oil will give you the highest calorie per weight value. Since all my food is dry in order to get it to preserve better, very few items have oil in them. If it is added from a bottle, the calories per ounce will increase.

The second reason is that I have prioritizes some degree of diversity in the food over calories. For example, the instant potatoes have higher calorie per weight value than the rice. However, I find the rice to taste better, so I carry it. Similarly, the jerky has less calories per weight than the candy, but I need something salty to mix up with all the sweet stuff.

Anyway, I found the food to be more than enough with respect to how much I could consume. The only exception was the breakfast. While I was full from the oatmeal, I was hungry by 10AM. It’s a good thing that my “lunch” was designed to be eaten in smaller doses as I went along, which made it easy to spread out.

Do not underestimate how important it is to get energy during the day. Many years ago I used to try to eat as little as possible during the day. When I started eating consistently during the day, I noticed a significant increase in my energy level. It is hard to believe that there is such an instant effect, but from my experience, there is.

For more information on the foods I like, check out Cheap Lightweight Backpacking Foods Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

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