Food Food Food…..iDSCN0191t seams so simple yet can be so involved.  Thru-hiking a trail, hiking 20-30 miles per day will use up a lot of energy, far more than one often thinks. On average the good looking guy to the right at 6′-5″ and 210 lbs, will burn through an outstanding 5000-6000 calories per day. And not just for one day….that’s almost every day for 5 and a half months. For an easy reference that’s just over 10 Big Macs and considering most resupply points are between 3-5 days apart that’s equal to carrying 30-50 Big Macs in your pack!

Now obviously you can’t carry, let alone survive off of Big Macs so how do you decide what food to carry with the proper nutritional values to keep you strong and energized day after day.

The internet is filled with some great information backed by research and people with far more experience than I have and with so much knowledge already out there I feel kind of ridiculous repeating it all here but I would like to share some of the sites I will be using to help me make the right food chooses.

Whether you are going to plan every meal out beforehand or buy as you go as I will be it is important to know what is actually in your food and what you need to keep yourself healthy and strong.

Some main points to remember are:

  • Calories are KING! Often thru-hikers, either by choice or poor decision making don’t carry enough food to provide themselves with enough calories. I read one blog where a fella lost 90 lbs in 5 months. That’s not such a bad thing if you have some extra pounds to loose like he did but if you are already thin with very little to lose not packing enough food will be a big problem!
  • Just like your gear the food you choose needs to be light weight and compact, a reason why most of the food people carry will be dehydrated….water can be quite heavy.
  • The best foods are the ones that will provide you with the most calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in the smallest package. We’re talking nutritional caloric density here.
  • Fat provides more calories per ounce than carbohydrates or proteins but you can’t live off of fat alone, it’s important to still have a balanced diet while chowing down all your calories.
  • How long will the food keep in your pack?
  • Whether you are going to make 3 meals a day or snack every few hours?
  • Cooking requirements, a lot of the dehydrated foods can be rehydrated simply by soaking them in cold water an hour or so before you are ready to eat. This saves on the amount/weight of fuel you need to carry.
  • Taste! It has to taste good or you are not going to want to eat it, although from reading past hiker’s journals I am expecting some times when I’ll be so tired or hungry that taste won’t matter much.
I already have a pretty good idea from past hiking adventures on what kinds of food to buy but I’d like to gain a better mental recipe book that I can quickly flip through when presented with limited choices that might be found in a small convenience store. Over the next 5 or so months my plan is to find interesting trail recipes and experiment with common foods found in most grocery stores with the goal of learning what foods can be easily packed up, preserved and cooked on the trail into a tasty meal that will provide me with all the calories and nutrition I need.

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