Ration Planning Project

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Home Forums General Forums Food, Hydration, and Nutrition Ration Planning Project

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    Casey Cardwell
    BPL Member


    Locale: On the Dirt in Oregon

    I'm taking an outdoor living skills class right now and we have an assignment coming up that I could really use some help on, and our instructor encouraged us to use the experience of others, so here I am. Our task is to come up with a food plan for a 15 day hike based on NOLS' bulk rationing system (where you carry, more-or-less, ingredients rather than menu items).

    Here's the system: (1) determine how many pounds of food per person per day (pppd) you'll need; (2)break the total poundage into food groups; (3) calculate the total number of pounds needed in each category; (4) pick out your foods.

    For me, (1) I'd like to only carry 1.5 pounds of food per day. I could justify this either if the weather was going to be warm day and night, or the food is energy and nutrient rich. Otherwise I'll have to bump it up to 1.75 pppd.

    (2) (You can skip this step if you're bored) The food category percentages break down as follows (the first number is for 1.5 pppd, the second 1.75): Breakfast (24%, 28%); Dinner (27%, 32%); Cheese (19%, 22%); Trail Foods (32%, 35%); Flour and Baking (11%, 13%); Sugar and Fruit Drinks (10%, 12%); Soups, bases, desserts (6%, 9%); Milks, eggs, margerine, cocoa (21%, 24%)

    (3) Below are the total pounds for the food categories (first for 1.5 pppd, the second 1.75):
    Breakfast: 3.5, 4
    Dinner: 4, 5
    Cheese: 3, 3
    Trail Foods: 5, 5.5
    Flour and Baking: 1.5, 2
    Sugar and Fruit Drinks: 1.5, 2
    Soups, bases, desserts: 1, 1.5
    Milks, eggs, margerine, cocoa: 3, 3.5

    (4) The hard part. I am no cook. I know how to bake Betty Crocker's just add water mixes, and I can make a freezer bag menu without trouble. But this ingredient business is over my head–at least as far as getting the most calories per gram. My class has not emphasized light weight ethics by any means, so I'm having trouble getting info out of my instructor, especially regarding food.

    If anyone could help me out with food suggestions in the categories mentioned above and their intended meal, I would be very greatful. The poundage and list does not include spices, oils, etc, so they can be added wherever they're needed.

    As a side question: would any of you pack like this for a long unsupported trip? Or would you be looking more for calories totals rather than pound totals? Could this plan be adapted to fit a calorie total instead of a pound total?

    Thanks for any help!

    Sarah Kirkconnell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW

    As I am sure you have noticed…
    Is that with the NOLS system it really works best when you have 2 or more in a group doing the ration system – and that you have high powered stoves or a fire.

    Baking to me is pretty anti-UL except for an occasional muffin or biscuit done steamed. Otherwise baking sucks up fuel like crazy. It is also pretty heavy if carrying flour to make base items.

    Can your survive without baking? Easily. I'd ask rather can you instead concentrate on just food?

    Btw, on the bulk rations are you allowed to take instant versions? Such as rice, pasta. etc? Might be a good chance to talk saving weight on fuel and time saved by not having to cook for 20 minutes or more :-)

    Or…have you seen the newest NOLS cookbook? I know they are starting to embrace instant versions more than they used to.

    Casey Cardwell
    BPL Member


    Locale: On the Dirt in Oregon

    Yes instant versions are fine. And I completely agree with you about the anti-UL elements of this method.

    If I can make an argument for it, I can use a slightly different method for the food plan for this project. How would you do it if you couldn't use menu planning?

    Thanks for your comment!

    Sarah Kirkconnell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW

    Boy, am I trying to think back years and years ago when I didn't plan out every meal in advance. It has been the early 90's since I had someone hand me a bag of "my share" to!

    Come up with a couple bases that are instant – rice, couscous, grits, etc.
    Come up with a couple bulk veggies to carry.
    A couple sauce powders or spice mixes that can be used back and forth.

    Maybe take 10-15 base items and see how many meals you could make?

    As for calories that is an issue with bulk rations – things like cheese weigh a lot. 3 lbs is a massive brick. You can do fine with less and carrying dried cheese instead. I wouldn't cut back on fat though – but I'd suggest oil over butter or margarine, less chance of going rancid and easier to use.
    Eggs? I know people carry them for short trips but honestly? Too much weight and mess. Dried ones never taste the same. And if not baking? You don't need them.

    My food is usually my heaviest thing I carry. I feel it is good weight – it gets lighter as I go ;-)

    Maybe the question is: why the need for bulk rations? Is it so you can feed a couple people at the same time? Is it to build group unity? Or is it so you can make smaller meals? It would be interesting why the course has rations (I'd love to know!) :-)

    Craig Lewis


    Locale: SoCal

    The need to plan-out and track sugar and salt consumption of all the hiking partners would be a prime lesson to learn. The physical excersion is going to deplete your system of these necessary compounds. If one friend is eating all the beek jerky and gorp for the whole group then the leader must realize this threat to the objective and stop unbalanced consumption as early as possible.
    People who are inexperienced in cooking or nutrition are likely going to do things detrimental to the group objective so the leader has to watch others behavior and be stern with members who deserve it.
    Like people who get booted from Survivor on the 1st day!

    Sarah Kirkconnell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW

    In all honesty, one would want to balance the veggies and fruit over the jerky. It isn't salt persay but rather things like potassium, fiber and other things that go hand in hand with salt.

    In a true group ration setting one would have all meals together and snacks would be distributed ahead of each day for each person to have on hand to eat. This would prevent one person from eating all the apricots or jerky.

    The other problem with ration planning can be boredom if you can't make enough different meals and as well if you have finicky eaters:

    For instance: In my hiking group we have a vegan, many vegetarians, omnivores and a couple meatarians. With ration planning you'd have to split them up into groups within the groups and hope to god they will eat their meals.

    Ration planning works best when you have non finicky eaters who can stomach simple fare (Middle America style) and don't mind repeating meals often. If you can do that, then rations will be a success :-)

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