Hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Northbound in 2013- sharing my preparation for the hike and my day to day experience while I'm on the trail. Inspiring people to follow their dreams.

Food Planning Tips for Backpacking

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What will you take with you?

No matter the length of your hike, there is one common factor that everyone must contend with and that is Food.  Without food you will go nowhere.  The body is going to need its calories and if I know my body, I know that it’s going to be screaming at me!

While walking the equivalent of a marathon per day, more or less, I will need a ton of food to keep my body moving and in the proper spirits.

I want to approach my food planning with enjoyment, while considering the caloric density per ounce that will nourish me, yet not weigh me down. In other words, the amount of food I carry must not be insufficient for its burden.  How do I make sure that I’m taking the right stuff that my body needs and how much of it and when?

Food planning is going to be huge for this trip.  Some hikers, like Andrew Skurka, use spreadsheets to keep track of every meal, every bar that he carries.  He typically will do what he calls a ‘caloric drip’ to where he is eating 400-500 cal snacks throughout the day, so that his body is always running on some new calories and continues to burn energy all day.  Eating 9 meals a day, with only a hot dinner keeps the body going for long periods of time without bonking or causing a injury.

Excel spreadsheets help you keep track of what your bringing

Another veteran of backpacking, Glen Van Peski of Gossamer Gear, has written an article about the way he does his food planning for his vegan diet on the trail.  Mike Clelland, a long time NOLS instructor who has taken groups all over the world and into every kind of weather, wrote a great article on called * Food Planning using Pounds Per Person Per Day (PPPPD).  After working for NOLS for so many years he has developed a way to estimate a hiker’s food needs and he estimates that the average hiker’s needs are about 1.4 PPPPD.  Now this can change depending on other variables such as length. You need to add more PPPPD because you will get hungrier as you go for a longer hike and also depending on the weather.  He has also written an article called Groovy-Biotic Cooking:  Quick, Healthy Meals with an Ultralight cook kit.  This is one of the best articles out there about how your cook kit can be healthy and light, but also give you a ton of great options with spices, sauces and tons of calories.  I’m going to try making Super Spackle sometime soon!


Many of the above articles will give you great information on what are some high calorie foods that are in the standard range of 125-150 cals per OZ but, these are some great sites to find out about the caloric content of most foods.

Small list of common foods caloric content per OZ

I’ll have a chance to put the above articles into action by starting to plan for an eight-day trip on the Hayduke trail.  I used to take a Thanksgiving day backpacking trip every year, but that hasn’t happened in awhile.  Unless a miracle happens by the PTO fairy, this will probably be my longest trip before I start the CDT.  I’m going to make the most out of it.

* The Mike Clelland articles might be only for members but, these article are worth the membership fee!


One thought on “Food Planning Tips for Backpacking

  1. This article provide many tips. Very useful to me. Thanks a lot ?

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