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 calories burned based on pack weight, distance, and elevation gain. Calculator available here.
  3. Add these numbers together to get your total caloric expenditure per day.

This is the total number of calories you need to eat each day in order to not loose weight. Depending on your metabolism you still might feel a little hungry at this amount and I would recommend being prepared with additional calories.


A 5’3″, 115lb, 30yr old female has a base metabolic rate of 1,306.
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 calories used.

Calculate the Weight of Your Food

In general, we can estimate that 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 your total number of caloric expenditure per day previously calculated and divide it by 125.
  2. 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, 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.

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