Backpacking Meals & Food:
3-Day Menu with Calories

The backpacking meals and foods selected for this 3-day backpacking menu were chosen to demonstrate how many calories you would get from a combination of delicious homemade meals and energy rich snacks.

Regular or Large Portions

For each menu item I include the calories for a regular serving and a large serving which is approximately 50% larger. The total food calories provided per day for this menu are approximately 3000 for the regular size column and 4000 for the large size column. The longer you are on the trail and the more difficult the hiking conditions, the more likely you will opt for larger portions for some or all of the menu items.

It is almost a certainty that you will burn more calories than you consume when backpacking, but the size of the calorie deficit varies between individuals based on physical characteristics such as age, sex, body size, fitness level; the difficulty of terrain and the temperature/weather; and how hard you push yourself - load carried, miles hiked, rest stops taken, quality of sleep, hydration, etc.

When I first developed the backpacking recipes featured here at BackpackingChef, I did not calculate the calories because I intuitively knew that packing well-balanced backpacking meals and high energy snacks would provide the nutrition and energy I needed. I kept detailed notes about the yields of all the foods I dried and calculated the calories after the fact.


In, Recipes for Adventure, I list the calories and ingredient quantities for all the backpacking meals for both a regular and large serving size.

The Backpacking Chef Menu Planning & Food Drying Workbook includes the dehydrating yields for all the ingredients in the recipes so you can estimate how much of each food to purchase and dry for your menu.


Getting Fat on the Trail

One of the paradoxes of dehydrating food for the trail is that you get a huge weight savings by removing the water, but you have to give back some of the weight savings by supplementing your daily rations with a few high-fat, calorically dense foods. We avoid or minimize drying fatty or oily food so the food won't spoil, but fat is an essential food component for metabolism and energy production.

Peanut butter, olive oil, coconut oil, preserved meats & cheeses, sardines and some energy bars are all excellent calorie boosters because of their fat content. A small plastic bottle of olive oil or single serving packets can be carried and added to backpacking meals such as Seafood Raminara or Ratatouille. Justin's Nut Butters are available in single serving packets if you like spreadable fats with no partially hydrogenated oils as most peanut butter brands contain.

Here are a few items included in this menu that contribute fat (and protein):

  • NIDO Whole Powdered Milk (served with oatmeal and an ingredient in several of the recipes)
  • Cheddar Cheese (freeze dried, fresh for short trips, or powdered as an ingredient in some recipes)
  • Tortillas (roll up one-pot backpacking meals) The La Tortilla Factory brand does not contain partially hydrogenated oil as many other brands do. Tortillas might not store well in mail drops - buy them fresh for use within a few days.
  • Nuts (all kinds for variety)

This menu represents a small sampling of the many backpacking meals available. The Scrambled Eggs & Polenta and Chicken Enchilada Bean Bark Stew recipes are in the book and the rest have links to the recipes and dehydrating instructions.


Day 1

Calories listed at right for regular size serving and 50% larger serving.

Reg

+50%


Breakfast: Cinnamon Oatmeal with Apples & Raisins

Powdered Milk 2 or 3 Tbsp = ½ or ¾ cup

382

76

537

114


Lunch: Bean Bark Stew

Rolled up in 2 Tortillas, 100 calories ea.

¼ or cup Cheddar Cheese

432

200

170

602

200

226


Dinner: Ham & Cheese Macaroni

Side: Dried Sliced Beets, cup before rehydration

Dessert: Fruit Cocktail, Dried ½ cup pears, ¼ cup bananas, cup peaches, cup pineapple.

466

140

233

667

140

233


Snack 1: Sweet Potato Bark ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 2: Salted Peanuts ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 3: Dried Bananas ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 4: Raisins ½ or ¾ cup

248

424

93

217

372

636

140

325

Total Calories Day 1

3081

4192



Day 2

Calories listed at right for regular size serving and 50% larger serving.

Reg

+50%


Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs/Polenta w/ Beef & Salsa

Served Burrito Style w/ 2 Tortillas, 100 calories each.

¼ or cup Cheddar Cheese

465

200

170

619

200

226


413

506


422

58

452

601

58

678


Snack 1: Pumpkin Pie Bark ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 2: Almonds, ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 3: Granola with M&Ms, ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 4: Dried Pears ½ or ¾ cup

107

414

220

137

160

621

330

205

Total Calories Day 2

3000

4204



Day 3

Calories listed at right for regular size serving and 50% larger serving.

Reg

+50%


500

719


Lunch: Chicken Endhilada Bean Bark Stew

Rolled up in 2 Tortillas, 100 calories ea.

¼ or cup Cheddar Cheese

359

200

170

505

200

226


397

176

364

576

176

504


Snack 1: Pumpkin Pie Bark ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 2: Cashews, ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 3: 50/50 Mix Craisins w M&Ms, ½ or ¾ cup

Snack 4: Dried Fruits-assorted, ½ or ¾ cup

107

394

395

116

160

591

592

175

Total Calories Day 3

3178

4424



I packed the regular size portions for the first two 30-day backpacking trips where I tested the recipes and menus on the Appalachian Trail. The quantities satisfied my hunger and energy requirements. I supplemented my diet with restaurant and hostel food in the trail towns where I stopped for the night.

Two other benefits I discovered of going with the regular portions is that they pack well and are easy to cook using less than 1/2 ounce of alcohol per meal. Individual snacks and sides in 1/2 cup portions fit perfectly in 3 x 5 bags and most of the meals fit in 4 x 6 bags. Larger portions require larger bags and a little more fuel which are minor adjustments to make if you need the extra calories.

Continue Reading...

Packing and cooking backpacking meals, see:

Packing Backpacking Meals and Food

Backpacking Stoves

Backpacking Cookware


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