Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Thru Hiker Diet

Let's just say you average a good 20 miles per day on a Thru-Hike.  That means you are carrying a full pack, up and down mountains, running from bears (hopefully not :)  Anyways, your body is burning about 6,000 calories per day!  It is almost impossible (I think) for you to be able to match that with your consumption.  My strategy is to keep your body fueled by eating more often, rather than just having a couple large meals.  I carry a lot of bars and eat every couple hours and then have a hearty warm meal before crawling into my sleeping bag.  My first thru hike on the PCT I made the mistake of carrying a lot of Ramen.  This didn't give my body much to go on (as it's just salt and fat) and I lost quite a bit of weight.  I discovered burritos made with beans, rice and cheese and it was a much more filling a tasty choice.  When hiking your body processes food so fast so don't deprive yourself!  There are tons of options (and no, you don't have to carry the expensive backpacker meals).  And yes, it is okay to eat Snickers every day!

Would love to hear some favorite hiker meals and strategies!


  1. As the day gets long, a half-brick of Bakers Semi-Sweet Chocolate is a pleasant balance of pick-me-up-sweet and good high calorie fat. It is something to look forward to.

    I have relied too heavily on couscous -- it so easy to fix -- but I've learned to carry a small Nalgene bottle of peanut oil to add calories, and spices to vary the stuff.

    I carry chocolate mint "C* energy bars. A "chaw" in my cheek lasts a long while and helps to keep my mouth moist.

  2. My strategy is to eat cold meals for breakfast. I simply put pre-measured powdered, whole-milk and granola/cereal with dried fruit in a ziplock bag. Simply add water, mix, and eat out of the bag. Use empty bag as trashbag for remainder of the day. Lunch is where I get my protein. It usually consists of tuna, chicken, or beef in a paper pouch (never a can), Triscuits or some kind of crunchy whole wheat, sometimes dense, cracker or bagel. Dinner is where I have a very large helping of pasta, rice dish, potato dish, couscous, etc. It's easy to add dehydrated veggies that I purchase at Whole Foods or Just Tomatoes (

    Also, check out One Pan Wonders, a thru-hiker's answer to great backcountry meals.

    Great recipes! Great variations for all types of calorie-rich breakfasts, lunches, and dinners! Can be made in one pan/pot, which is extremely important for thru-hiking! Enjoy!

  3. I love Bakers semi-sweetened chocolate! During the day I reward myself when deserved with a half-square in my cheek. Sometimes nice for a middle-of-the-night snack.