Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bushcraft and Backpacking Food – 12/15/12 Trip

I just finished posting about a trip I did this month. I’ve been getting some questions about food that I typically carry on my trips, and I figured this would be a good opportunity to go over what I brought with me. If you are interested in the topic, you can check out a similar post I did on the subject here.


The approach I take to food might seem overly scientific, and it’s true that for many trips it’s unnecessary. For your average weekend outing, especially if you will not be traveling far, the typical fare of bacon, hotdogs, and bread (bannock for those doing bushcraft) will serve just fine. However, I like to be more systematic and maximize the utility of my food. This becomes critical on longer trips, or trips that require you to cover longer distances.

Improper or inadequate nutrition is a sure way to undermine a trip into the wilderness. Like Frederick Cook said, “A person’s mental development is the result of many years of study, but his physical state is the result of his nourishment during the preceding week.”

As I have mentioned before, the amount of calories you will need per day will be different depending on what you are doing. When pulling heavy loads all day long in arctic conditions, it is not uncommon for a person to need 8,000 calories or more per day. For my trips however, I aim for about 2,000 calories per day. The reason is simply that I find it difficult to force myself to eat more than that. On a trip that lasts a few weeks the body will get used to the higher caloric intake, but at least for me, on shorter trips, there is a limit on how much I can eat. Adjust your caloric intake based on what you need for your specific trip.

So, back to specifics, for this past trip I had five days of food, which totaled a little over five pounds. It was all contained in the bag you see me holding in the above picture. I had fairly low caloric intake per day for the trip, falling a bit below 2,000 calories per day.

Each day’s food was contained in a separate bag. I find that to be a good way of keeping track of exactly what you are consuming, and prevents one from eating too much of a particular food before the end of the trip.


Each day’s food is in turn divided into the different meal. I tend to cook my food for breakfast and dinner. My lunch tends to be food I can eat on the go without cooking.


I prioritize calorically dense foods. That way I can minimize the weight of the food I have to bring with me. The longer the trip, the more that matters. As you can see from the picture at the top of the post, even just five days of food can fill up a sizable bag, and weigh over five pounds. That bulk and weight makes a big difference during an outing. So, here is how the caloric density of the food I brought brakes down:


Calories (cal)

Weights (oz)


Mashed Potatoes 1/2 cup(breakfast) 




Salami (breakfast)




Crackers (Keebler Club) 16 (lunch)




Pepperoni 32 slices (lunch)




Dried Tomatoes 16 slices (lunch)




Oatmeal Bar (lunch)




Stove Top 2 cups (dinner)








As you can see, the total calories per day are a bit under 2,000, and the caloric density of the food is 115.5 cal/oz (counting the packaging). That is not bad, although it could be better. Ideally you would have caloric density of about 150 cal/oz. There are easy ways to reach that goal. The food you see above is what I call my “real” food. By that I mean it is substantial food that can comprise a meal. This can then be supplemented by other, higher caloric density foods, to allow you to reach your goal. Those foods are not what you would necessarily consider meals. For example, adding oil or butter, which has about 240 cal/oz to the Stove Top or mashed potatoes will significantly increase the caloric density. Adding other snacks like nuts, which are high in fats will also increase the caloric density.

So, this is what I had with me. Keep in mind that for sustained activity over longer periods of time you will need more food each day, probably close to 3,000 calories per day. With calorie dense foods, you would be carrying about 1.5 lb of food per day. The weight adds up fast, so try to be judicious about your choices.


  1. Hey Ross, you might want to check your nutritional data again. There is no way crackers have more calories per oz than pepperoni unless they are dipped in oil ;)

    In the end it comes down to fat (9 cal/g) content. Water content being equal nothing beats fatty meal for cal/weight.

  2. Hmm it appears I underestimated these crackers. 4 calories per gram of cracker according to the label on their website. Pepperoni is, from what I can find online , 5 cal per gram. So I guess your numbers could be right.

    Oh well never would have thought crackers are so calorie dense.

  3. Yeah, these are the numbers I got from the box. Carbs are pretty good in terms of calories. Fat of course is better, but there is only so much you can cram in a price of meat.