How Much Food Should I Take Backpacking?

This will depend on your metabolism and how active you’re being during your trip, but just for a rough general ball park estimate, around 1.5 lbs (or 3,000 calories) per day is a good starting point for most people.

Factors To Consider When Packing Food

  • Your weight
  • Your metabolism
  • Miles traveled per day
  • Elevation gain
  • Altitude
  • Temperature
  • Weight of your backpack

Calculating How Much Food You’ll Need

This is more important on long backpacking trips where you won’t have access to resources for days or weeks on end. The casual backpacker going for trips up to a week can bring whatever they feel is a good amount of food for them and be pretty ok without doing these calculations.

  1. Calculate your base metabolic rate (how many calories you need per day to maintain current weight without being active). Calculator available here.
  2. Calculate expected calories burned per day during the trip based on pack weight, distance, and elevation gain. Calculator available here.
  3. Add these numbers together to get the total number of calories needed per day.

This is the total number of calories you need to eat each day in order to just maintain – and you’re only calculating your movement for hiking for the day. This isn’t taking into account setting up camp, walking around camp to go to the bathroom, packing up etc. So use this number as the MINIMUM number of calories needed per day for the trip. Or if you’re trying to shed a few pounds while still being safe, then aim for this number as closely as possible.


A 5’3″, 115lb, 30yr old female has a base metabolic rate of 1,306. This means her body needs 1,306 calories per day just to keep her body functioning.
When hiking 10 miles, with a 1,500ft elevation gain, and a 30lb pack, a total of 1,000 calories will be burned round trip.
For this hike, she would need 2,306 calories to replenish the total calories used for the day.

Calculate the Weight of Your Food

In general, there is roughly 125-130 calories per oz of food. Yes there is absolutely variations to this, but in general, even foods that are high in fat and often eaten when backpacking will be roughly around here.

  1. Take the total number of calories needed per day (previously calculated above) and divide it by 125 (the average calories per oz of food).
  2. Then divide by 16 (there are 16oz in a pound)
  3. This will be the total number of pounds of food you need to bring to achieve your necessary caloric intake.

With the numbers used in the previous example, 2,306 calories comes to 1.15lbs.

Some foods such as freeze dried food packs are lighter in weight and are good alternatives if looking to shed some extra pounds from your pack by maintain the calories.

Check Out Our Backpacking Meal Plan Here



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