Calories are the nutritional units that provides you with energy. The more strenuous the activity, the more calories your body needs.
In general, a backpacker should create a diet that will provide them with about 3,000 – 4,000 (see table below) calories per day, two-thirds of which should be in the form of carbohydrates.
|Backpacking Conditions||Calorie intake/day||Food weight/day|
|Three-Season or Normal Exercising||2,500 – 3,000||1.75 – 2 pounds|
|Cool Weather or Moderate Exercising||3,500 – 4,000||2 – 2.25 pounds|
|Winter or Strenuous Exercising||4,500 – 6,000||2.5 + pounds|
These amounts are general guidelines, each person may need different amounts of calories. Also, if backpacking at altitudes about 8,000 feet, increase the caloric requirements per day.
Your goal should be to get foods that have the highest number of calories for the least amount of weight. A chunk of beef has plenty of calories, but because it weighs so much, its calorie-per-ounce value is low. The same goes for the cans of tuna that many traditional backpackers favor. But don’t just look for foods with a high calorie content, because the calories have to be in the form of carbohydrates to be of much use. Margarine has an extremely high calorie-to-weight ratio, but it’s practically all in the form of fat. Foods like rice, pasta, and dried fruit offer the perfect compromise between caloric content and weight, this is why many backpacking recipes are based on those three foods.