Food weight

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Food weight

Postby A Jay » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 6:44 am

Hello everyone, I'm new to multi-day hiking and am in the planning stages for my first trip which will probably be the Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains.

I'd like to get some idea of what kind of weight people tend to carry in food for these journeys and how many days people can hike for without resupplying.

I hear hikers do trips of up to 15 days without resupplying, so I'm assuming one would need to start out with quite a few kilograms worth of food.
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Re: Food weight

Postby Moondog55 » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 10:08 am

Well back in the dim dark ages when I first started bushwalking we reckoned on a kilo of concentrated food a day but we had to work harder then because even LW gear was a good bit heavier than it is now.
I winter now when skiing I still would figure on a kilo a day after day 4 because in the first 4 days I don't eat much and this is normal for most people.
In summer I could probably get by with 5-600 grams and some weight loss as I consume body fat as fuel
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Re: Food weight

Postby Mark F » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 10:49 am

I find that with care in selecting high energy ingredients I work on 600-650 grams per day. At this level I am not doing high mileage/super physical trips and carry a very light pack (base weight 4-5kg). Like md I tend to eat less on the first couple of days usually wanting very little for dinner.
"Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove".
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Re: Food weight

Postby ChrisJHC » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 10:50 am

I find that my multi-day hikes average 600-700 g of food per day.
That includes some luxury items (e.g. a chocolate bar and coffee) and some emergency rations so could get it down further if I had to but don't see the need.

The good thing about your food weight is that it gets lighter the longer you are out and get more tired.
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Re: Food weight

Postby A Jay » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 11:33 am

So the warmer it is, the less calories are needed. That's good to know.

What is the most food weight you guys have ever begun a trip with?
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Re: Food weight

Postby Moondog55 » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 12:01 pm

A Jay wrote:So the warmer it is, the less calories are needed. That's good to know.

What is the most food weight you guys have ever begun a trip with?

Not sure but I remember starting one high country winter trip from Harrietville with a few more tins than normal and my sack weighing 55 kilos, we made about 8 klicks that day up Dungies track
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Re: Food weight

Postby A Jay » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 12:50 pm

Moondog55 wrote:
A Jay wrote:So the warmer it is, the less calories are needed. That's good to know.

What is the most food weight you guys have ever begun a trip with?

Not sure but I remember starting one high country winter trip from Harrietville with a few more tins than normal and my sack weighing 55 kilos, we made about 8 klicks that day up Dungies track



Whoah, was that a one-day venture?
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Re: Food weight

Postby Moondog55 » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 1:19 pm

No it was the start of 15 days above the snowline, most of that pack weight was food and shellite Too far in the past to try and remember what the base weight was but 1980 tech so not light
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Re: Food weight

Postby A Jay » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 9:23 pm

That's quite inspiring to think one can carry that much food weight, although not quite as fun as a lighter pack.
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Re: Food weight

Postby Orion » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 1:19 am

A Jay wrote:So the warmer it is, the less calories are needed. That's good to know.


While you do need to burn more energy to keep warm in the cold the main reason for more food in the winter is because the loads are usually larger. Pack weight is a big factor in how much food you need. This tends to result in a snowball effect for longer trips. You need more days of food, which makes your pack heavier, which means you need more food. Nowadays, at least in the warmer months, it's possible to reduce the non-food part of the pack down to a surprisingly small fraction of the weight most people were carrying even 15 years ago. So you can "roll the snowball" up the hill too. My pack, with 7-9 days of food, weighs less than my pack used to weigh without any food in it.

One thing to keep in mind is that even with the same pack weight and trip plan there can be a fair amount of variation in food energy requirements from one person to the next. One person might need twice as much as another. Lean body mass is a pretty good, although imperfect, indicator of this.
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Re: Food weight

Postby A Jay » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 4:52 am

Orion wrote:
One thing to keep in mind is that even with the same pack weight and trip plan there can be a fair amount of variation in food energy requirements from one person to the next. One person might need twice as much as another. Lean body mass is a pretty good, although imperfect, indicator of this.


Thank you, that all makes sense.

What does a leaner body mass indicate about energy requirements? I know about people have more or less reserves, however I've also been reading some say that after the did a big trip and got leaner, they found they needed less food.

I guess it's about what kind of weight you're trying to maintain. To maintain a greater weight, you need more. To maintain less weight you need less. And for a person with more reserves,they might find they need more food to feel comfortable on the hike, even if they're in a slight calorie deficit. If a fatter person was to try to eat the same amount as a much leaner person, they would be a great discomfort due to too-fast, too-extreme detox symptoms. Which for a hike is not advisable, you do need to keep fighting fit when physically active.

Well what I read with this one chap, he said that when he got leaner and fitter due to a long trip, he became more efficient and this is one reason he didn't need as much food.

If this is all true, it's a good reason to aim to get lean for hiking. Some people like to develop a lot of fat reserves beforehand, however that is self-defeating in that you will also need to carry more food to avoid a severe calorie deficit, and the extra food weight creates that snow-ball effect.
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Re: Food weight

Postby ribuck » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 5:00 am

Moondog55 wrote:Well back in the dim dark ages when I first started bushwalking we reckoned on a kilo of concentrated food a day

A kilo of concentrated food a day was my starting point too. After many trips I gradually worked out that I can get by with less, but I still take a kilo anyway. It's just that nowadays some of that kilo consists of less concentrated luxuries (e.g. fresh fruit, or rum).

I find that the pleasure of bushwalking drops rapidly if my starting pack weight is much over 20kg, which limits my multi-day trips to about 10 days.
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Re: Food weight

Postby A Jay » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 5:19 am

ribuck wrote:
I find that the pleasure of bushwalking drops rapidly if my starting pack weight is much over 20kg, which limits my multi-day trips to about 10 days.


So that makes your base weight at 10kg? Is that for cold weather, it sounds like a heavy base weight. If you had a base weight of 5 kg, I guess you'd then have a mutli-day trip of 15 days. Even in the cold, I'm seeing UL packers having base weights like that. I'm sure it's more than possible in warmer weather.
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Re: Food weight

Postby ribuck » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 7:19 am

A Jay wrote:So that makes your base weight at 10kg?

For an extended trip I do have a heavier base weight.

Long trips are generally further away, so I might want to take an actual camera instead of using my phone. I'll need some spare batteries that I wouldn't take on a weekend trip. If I'm taking paper maps, I'll need more of them. If I have a week's worth of food, I'll probably need a bigger (heavier) backpack than for a weekend trip. Longer trips need more supplies in my first aid kit, and longer trips are likely to be to more adventurous places so the PLB is coming along. And they're likely to be someplace where I can't depend on having campfires, so a stove is coming along too. I won't know the weather a week ahead, so I'll probably take a wider range of outer layers (and probably some changes of socks, undies and shirt too).

It doesn't take much for me to reach a base weight of 10kg for an extended trip.
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Re: Food weight

Postby Orion » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 7:19 am

A Jay wrote:What does a leaner body mass indicate about energy requirements? I know about people have more or less reserves, however I've also been reading some say that after the did a big trip and got leaner, they found they needed less food.

I guess it's about what kind of weight you're trying to maintain. To maintain a greater weight, you need more. To maintain less weight you need less. And for a person with more reserves,they might find they need more food to feel comfortable on the hike, even if they're in a slight calorie deficit. If a fatter person was to try to eat the same amount as a much leaner person, they would be a great discomfort due to too-fast, too-extreme detox symptoms. Which for a hike is not advisable, you do need to keep fighting fit when physically active.

Well what I read with this one chap, he said that when he got leaner and fitter due to a long trip, he became more efficient and this is one reason he didn't need as much food.

If this is all true, it's a good reason to aim to get lean for hiking. Some people like to develop a lot of fat reserves beforehand, however that is self-defeating in that you will also need to carry more food to avoid a severe calorie deficit, and the extra food weight creates that snow-ball effect.


By "lean body mass" I was referring to the fraction of your body weight that is not fat. It's a rough indicator of what your caloric needs will be.

But it is also true, up to a point, that having an "alpine belly" can allow you to go without as much food as someone who is super lean. I say up to a point because when you have a calorie deficit you're going to not only burn fat but also the lean part of your body. So it becomes counterproductive. After a certain number of days out many people hit the wall when going short on food. That said, it's hard, even when carrying plenty of food, to eat enough when on a strenuous bushwalk. Dehydrated food is never all that appealing and there are other factors that can affect appetite in the bush as well. I don't know how many times I've finished a trip with extra food in the pack but just couldn't wait to get to a restaurant to really eat.

Anyway, some amount of weight loss is hard to avoid. But intentionally planning to lose weight in order save food weight is a bit of dangerous game to play. It's far better to fuel your body as optimally as the conditions allow.

Ultimately, you'll figure out what works for you.
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Re: Food weight

Postby Moondog55 » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 9:27 am

My current winter base weight for comfort is 11kilos, it was probably about the same 30 years ago because I take more mattress these days even if my clothing weight is lower. I pack for safety in extremes, usually have done
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Re: Food weight

Postby wildwanderer » Sat 23 Sep, 2017 10:08 am

Orion wrote:
A Jay wrote:...SNIP.... Some people like to develop a lot of fat reserves beforehand, however that is self-defeating in that you will also need to carry more food to avoid a severe calorie deficit, and the extra food weight creates that snow-ball effect.


By "lean body mass" I was referring to the fraction of your body weight that is not fat. It's a rough indicator of what your caloric needs will be.

But it is also true, up to a point, that having an "alpine belly" can allow you to go without as much food as someone who is super lean. I say up to a point because when you have a calorie deficit you're going to not only burn fat but also the lean part of your body. .....SNIP....... But intentionally planning to lose weight in order save food weight is a bit of dangerous game to play. It's far better to fuel your body as optimally as the conditions allow.

Ultimately, you'll figure out what works for you.


As Orion said don't overthink it to much especially for the six foot track. The terrain and trail is straightforward without energy sucking obstacles.

Just plan for your regular daily calorie maintenance level before exercise (google if your not sure how to calculate) then add about 30-40%. Carry some energy boosters like jelly beans / chocolate bars in case you hit a wall at any point, they will get you over a hill etc. You will probably end up with food left over. After your first hike or two you will work out how much you need. Everybody is different.

As you say there is not much point in having fat around the middle as a bush-walking strategy. (its more the result of a beer/burger strategy :lol: ) Having a bit of weight around the middle (to be used as fuel store) is really only going to help if your doing extreme prolonged exercise over 4+ days with little food. I was watching a SAS selection doco and their trainers recommended they bulk/fat up before the course as they operate with little sleep/food while exercising virtually 24/7 for multiple days. Recreational bushwalking is not SAS selection.
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Re: Food weight

Postby Moondog55 » Sun 24 Sep, 2017 2:46 pm

Rum, port and chockolate biscuits are not part of that kilo a day, but 2 to 3 Mars bars are
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Re: Food weight

Postby walk2wineries » Mon 25 Sep, 2017 2:55 pm

Then again ..... these nice people will feed you! dinner, anyway http://sixfoottrackecolodge.com/ or https://www.dryridge.com.au/ for lunch....
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Re: Food weight

Postby bigwallclimber » Tue 26 Sep, 2017 11:13 am

Hi There A Jay,

Well what I base everything on is purely calories, energy to be expended, ease of consumption and what tastes goo. On a trip to Pakistan I based my food consumption on 1.5 2 person meal packs bought from Backpackers Pantry per main meal. Then I add high energy mixes (Fruit, Porridge, Muesli) for breakfast and lunch, I rarely base anything on weight although it does become a factor the longer you are away. When we did Pakistan we carried 2 Large North face duffels into base camp and that was literally food for the wall for three. Even though this sounds extreme and different to a walk the basis is the same. Above all that I add 20% on top of what we have calculated on daily consumption. This then allows us to have emergency rations (unlikely) or eat extra on hard days. Given the prolific amount of lightweight hiking gear (300gm sleeping mat) nowadays you can take some extra luxuries.

Although some peoples outlook might vary I feel it will be similar concepts.

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Re: Food weight

Postby Moondog55 » Tue 26 Sep, 2017 5:01 pm

It's not all about calories and C:P:F ratios tho. Otherwise I'd simply live on chockolate and Gu
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