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
- 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.
- Calculate your base metabolic rate (how many calories you need per day to maintain current weight without being active). Calculator available here.
- Calculate expected calories burned per day during the trip based on pack weight, distance, and elevation gain. Calculator available here. The Adjusted Uphill rate is probably the most accurate.
- Add these numbers together to get the total number of calories needed per day.
If you prefer to calculate your BMR yourself, the formula for that is:
Women BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age)
Men BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age)
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 to maintain her current weight.
When hiking 10 miles, with a 1,500ft elevation gain, and a 30lb pack, a total of roughly 600 calories will be burned.
For this hike, she would need 1,800 calories to replenish the total calories used for the day.
How Much Will Your Food Weigh?
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.
- Take the total number of calories needed per day (previously calculated above) and divide it by 125 (the average calories per oz of food).
- Then divide by 16 (there are 16oz in a pound)
- 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, 1,800 calories comes to 0.9lbs per day of food that she could expect to need to carry.
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.
My favorite dehydrated backpacking meals
Good To Go Meals
- Mushroom Risotto
- Mexican Quinoa Bowl
- Marinara with Penne
- Smoked Three Bean Chili
- Indian Vegetable Korma
These tend to be a bit more traditional/ comfort food meals which are awesome for when you’ve been hiking for several days straight.
- Mac & Cheese
- Veggie Parmesan
- Pad Thai
- Cuban Coconut Rice & Beans
- Bac’n Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
- Chana Masala (Vegan)
- Three Amigas Stew (Vegan)
- Kathmandu Curry (Vegan)
Mountain House Meals
These meals are generally high in carbs and low in protein when compared to other backpacking meals, but there are some tasty options such as:
Wide variety of different types of foods- everything from smoothies to dinners to snacks & dips!
- Quinoa Pilaf with Hemp Seeds
- Enchilada Ranchero
- Santa Fe Black Beans and Rice (Vegan)
- Himalayan Lentils