Quantity and quality of food are critical to a high quality backcountry meal experience. However, foods with empty calories or those without sufficient calories can leave you low on energy levels. These foods are also often bulky or heavy so they come with additional consequences. The best way to be successful for high impact or long endurance trips (outside of fitness levels) is to ensure you have enough calories and nutrition in your balanced diet and by keeping hydrated.

Calorie Planning Template

We use the following chart as a base for trip menu development.

Time of Year

Type of Activity

Approx. Weight of Food Packout per Day

Planned Calories per Day

Spring, Summer, Fall

Anaerobic

1.5lbs

2,500 - 3000

Spring, Summer, Fall

Aerobic

1.75 – 2.0lbs

3,000 – 3,500

Spring, Summer, Fall

Heavy Aerobic

2.0 – 2.25lbs

3,500 – 4,000

Winter

Aerobic

2.5 – 2.75lbs

4,000 – 5,000

The time of year (temperature) and the type of activity will largely determine how many calories you will need to consume and how much that food should weigh when you pack it out and ultimately carry it on your back. Colder temperatures means you need more calories. Higher impact activities obviously require more calories for fueling. Our full trip menus are carefully planned based on this general philosophy but each situation can be unique. Big eaters will obviously want to be on the high end of the recommendations and those with smaller appetites should plan for the lower end.

The Two Hour Concept

The philosophy behind our Food System is a two hour interval between food intake. Just like drinking 2 litres of water at once won't keep you hydrated for the day, neither will eating only big meals. Keeping your body fuelled with regular food intake is the most efficient way for you to process what you eat. The concept of breakfast, mid morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks, soups, appetizers, main course and dessert means that at a minimum, every two hours this food system will keep you eating. In our experience, this system is the most effective for full day activities.

Most of our single dehydrated meals contain about 600 calories per serving. Look at the nutritional content label of any dehydrated or freeze dried food product before you buy it. Just because its light and is advertised as a meal portion, doesn't mean it will provide you with sufficient calories or nutrition. 

We don't believe energy shots or sugar should be relied on to give you the strength and endurance you need for your trip. For our full trip catering on challenging high impact trips we may use a limited number of high quality energy bars as a supplement to your balanced diet but we do not build a menu around these types of supplements. They are supplements and should only be used as such. 

Hydration and Electrolytes

Consideration is given for salt and electrolyte levels especially when we are doing the full trip catering. Proper hydration is essential for active backcountry adventures so please be aware that when you eat dehydrated or freeze dried meals, your body may require even more liquids to stay hydrated. Dehydration can create problems from muscle cramping, stomach issues, loss of energy, and loss of focus to more serious cardiac issues.

We have several tips for staying hydrated:

  • Before your trip, start hydrating. Even days before!
  • Avoid diruretics (small quantities of coffee and caffeine drinks are ok)
  • Keep your body covered from direct sunlight on warm days
  • Don't overdress on cold days as you will sweat more
  • Take small frequent sips of liquids throughout your trip. Don't think that drinking a liter of water when you wake up is going to keep you hydrated all day. Your body can only absorb so much liquid at a time.
  • Drink with meals and snacks
  • Avoid alcohol (although a small sip of scotch is often required kit for any trip!)
  • Remember: At higher elevations your body needs more liquids
  • Electrolytes are an important part of keeping hydrated. You need salt!
  • Drink before you are thirsty
  • Pace yourself if possible to avoid overheating. Long steady distance is what wins it for the Hare.
  • Don't overhydrate. Too much water can potentially lower your appetite plus you will be up all night heading to the biffy.
  • Drink fluids at the end of your activity. This is essential to keep your hydration for the next day.
  • Consider using a water filter or some other purification process if you are relying on rivers, streams or lakes to refill your water bottle. Even glacial fed streams can contain disrupting bacteria. Diarrhea is the ultimate dehydrator.

The bottom line is, food planning is an important part of any trip. If properly planned, packed and managed, your food system should enhance your overall experience and success