Calorie Intake

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.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. [...] you with energy. The more strenuous the activity, the more calories your body needs. More here: Calorie Intake Read [...]

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  2. Posted by outdoorota on October 5, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Great post with good guidelines. Personally, I’ve found that I’ve needed 500 – 1000 more calories than what is in the guidelines, so make sure that you don’t just limit yourself to the amounts listed above until you know how many calories you really need. Bring extra food until you know for sure.

    Reply

  3. Posted by yelper43 on November 6, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    But you need more than just calories. There are some great backpacking foods for quick, short-term energy, like carbohydrates, starches, and sugars: such as breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and the like. You also need long term energy, provided by proteins and fats, such as canned meat, cheeses, dried eggs, dried milk, chocolate and nuts!

    Reply

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