Calorie Planning for Backcountry Adventures

When planning a menu for a backcountry adventure, time of year and type of activity largely determines the number of calories required. These factors combined with personal appetite levels and gender differences, means there is a wide range for calorie requirements when active. Knowing this information is also important because number of calories determines the weight of the food that ultimately, you will be carrying on your back.

Our bodies need more calories in colder temperatures. Higher impact activities requires more calories than lower impact activities. Big eaters will be on the higher end of calorie ranges with those with smaller appetites will be on the lower end.

We quickly see from the chart below why it is so important that the food that we pack with us has the high quality calories and nutrition that we need, and that we don’t back too little or too much of it. Every gram counts when packing, make your food weight count!

We use the following chart as a starting point for trip menu development. Remember, many factors influence how many calories individual need while in the backcountry and this chart provides a point to start from and then adjust for the factors discussed.


Calorie Planning Template

  Time of Year   Type of Activity   Approx Weight of Food Pack Out   Planned Calories per Day
 Spring, Summer, Fall Anaerobic  1.5 lbs.2500-3000
  Spring, Summer, Fall Aerobic  1.75 – 2.0 lbs.3000-3500
  Spring, Summer, Fall Heavy Aerobic  2:0 – 2.5 lbs3500-4000
  Winter Aerobic2.5 – 2.75 lbs.4000-5000


Anaerobic Activity examples:

  • Rock Climbing
  • Ice Climbing
  • Canoeing
  • Fly Fishing
  • Rafting
  • Walking

Aerobic Activity examples:

  • Moderate Hiking
  • General Mountaineering
  • Kayaking

Heavy Aerobic Activity examples:

  • Ski Touring
  • Ultra Marathons
  • Big Alpine Route Climbing
  • Steep Terrain Hiking
  • Mountain Biking
  • Activities with a heavy pack

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