I’ve never been one to count calories. I believe our bodies treat calories differently depending on where they come from. It’s more than just the calories that count. The 680 calories from a Costco muffin is much different for your body than the 680 calories from an 8oz steak. So, I’m one to look at the carb count long before I even glance at the largest print number on the nutritional panel (the calories).
But in its simplest terms, calories are what your body burns for energy. So lately, as I’m starting to wrap my head around three weeks of meal planning for the Tahoe Rim Trail, I’ve been paying more attention to the calories in the foods I may (or may not) be consuming on the trail. Specifically, their weight to calorie ratio.
According to www.backcountryfoodie.com a good goal is around 130-150 calories per ounce for ultralight food (calculated at approximately 2lbs of food at roughly 4000 calories per day for a thru hiker). Basically, the higher the calories per ounce, the lower the weight can be, or the more calories you can have for the same amount of weight.
My personal goal is about 3000 calories per day. No real scientific reason, just that I put together what I thought was a good menu for my upcoming trip to Havasu Falls, then started adding up the calories. A high mileage thru hiker may need upwards of 5000 calories to fuel them in a day. But I won’t be hiking that far or that fast. I usually eat 1500-2000 calories per day in my normal life, so I figured 3000 calories per day would be a good starting point. I added up the calories in the foods I had laid out and realized I needed to add more calories someway, somewhere. So I added cream powder to the oatmeal, and cheese powder to the fajita bowl, and an oil packet to the scrambled eggs, etc. I also added in a few more snacks, and voila, my calorie count is up around 3000 each day. And then I weighed each day. My heaviest day’s worth of food is 1.75 lbs. The rest are under 1.5lbs. Winning!
Another consideration is how much protein is in the food. Protein is needed to build and repair muscles. My personal goal is about 100g of protein per day. I’m happy to say I met that goal, too!
Since I’m trying to keep my pack as light as possible, I want to get as big of a bang for my buck (pound?) as I can. It’s a lot of calculations, but in the end, I think it will be worth it to get the nutrition and energy I need for as little weight as possible.
How about you? How do you determine what kind of food you’ll need on the trail?
Oh, and that bear canister? No, there are no bears in the Grand Canyon, but there are raccoons, squirels, mice, etc. There are other options to use at Havasu Falls to keep your food away from the critters, but the official recommendation is a bear canister, and I will need one for the Tahoe Rim Trail anyway, so figured I’d give it a trial run.
I fit 4 days worth of food in it, with room to spare – enough for another day of food I think.
I will need to package the food differently for my Tahoe Rim Trail thru hike this summer in order to be able to fit more days of food. I wouldn’t use the bags to separate the individual days (seen in the first pic) since they create pockets of unused space. But Havasu Falls is only 4 days, so no problem. And for the TRT, I think I’ll be able to fit all my food in there for the stretches between resupplies (6ish days – I think – more research needed.)