Nov 7, 2008 at 7:52 am #1231935
This Thread is to create some discussion about how much food to bring on a backpacking trip.
The acronym PPPPD means Pounds Per Person Per Day. I work at NOLS and this is the heart of our rationing process.
I know some folks work off calories, but honestly, I just can't figure that out. Especially when I make so much of my own food.
I've gone out on a 13-day NOLS trip in the Wind River Range with 1.4 Pounds Per Person Per Day (PPPPD).
That's about 22.2 ounces of food PPPPD.
We were a team of 10, and at the end of 13 days we had a tiny bit (not much) left over. It worked out perfectly! For lightweight summer camping,
For the exact same course in 2006 we took 1.6 PPPPD, and in 2007 we took 1.5 PPPPD. This summer we went down to 1.4 PPPPD and we found that to be just about perfect. Any lower and we would have run out of food.
The way to gage success is how much food is leftover at the end, and with 1.4 PPPPD there was almost zero. We run four LW courses per summer at NOLS and this proved this to be a very good number. The higher numbers (from the LW courses in previous years) came back with a just enough extra food to make us redo the math.
My goal is ALWAYS to walk out of the mountains with absolutely ZERO food. If I do that, I'm doin' something right!
I have absolutely no idea how many calories this works out to. All I know is we ate well, and ate it all! (Yummy)
There was a discussion with other forum users (on another thread) and a few folks were skeptical of the 1.4 PPPD formula. But, I gotta say – after 3 years of testing, it worked out great!Nov 7, 2008 at 8:23 am #1458004Derek GoffinMember
@derekoakLocale: North of England
taking your food by weight is only less effective than counting calories if you include some none dehydrated food (like bread) or use more or less fatty food some times than others.
Mikes 1.4 figure is 627 grams and on the assumption that average dehydrated food is 4 calories per gram that comes out at 2509 calories. If you are exercising strenuously most people will loose a little weight at that, but I bet I would eat all my share, and any that anyone else did not want.
I tend to take 2800 calories per day for mountainous walking that is about 700 grams 25 ounces 1.6 PPPPD.
I still have none left but my partner usually has a bit left.
I bet bigger men than me might eat more.
I would add to Mikes goal of walking out with Zero food, the goal of having enough food to maximize your energy for your pursuit.
You also need to take food appetizing enough to eat it all. Not that that is usually my problem.Nov 7, 2008 at 8:29 am #1458005
I bet my wife wouldn't eat 1.4 PPD and I'd eat her leftovers at 1.4PPD myself. I usually tell people to start at 2 PPPPD if they're nervous about running out and quite often that's more than they'll eat. Good rule of thumb but like any rule of thumb, you need to incorporate some thought into it as you gain experience.Nov 7, 2008 at 8:50 am #1458010
I would say 2 PPPPD is way too high for summer, especially a short trip.
I take 2 PPPPD in the winter where calorie gorging is essential for metabolic heat production.
= = =
And for Derek,
Your needs 1.6 PPPPD is pretty good. By the standards of "traditional" campers, that would be considered too low. But, if that works for you – right on!Nov 7, 2008 at 8:53 am #1458011
Here's some data from two different NOLS Light-Weight 13-day courses. Both using 1.4 PPPPD for food. These were high milage courses doing bold routes in a big mountain Wilderness environment.
Here's a link to a trip report from this summer:
… and another one too:
– – – AND – – –
Here's a recipe and ration article, this matches (sorta) what the LW NOLS courses take:
This article link (above) has the math from the summer of 2006, when we went out with 1.6 PPPPD. We had a "medium" pile of leftovers at the end of that trip, enough to make a slight change the following summer in '07 (and again in '08).
This kind of data is important, and it's good to keep records of what you take so you can use this info when planing (and refining) your next trip. If I was doing the PCT I would bump up these numbers, but not much.Nov 7, 2008 at 8:56 am #1458013
I arrive at my food requirements using a different method, but I end up at around 22 ounces of food PPPPD for a warm weather 5 day trek.
Ever since I took up weight lifting in college, I've learned to gauge my bodies caloric requirements in order to maintain, lose, or gain weight given a certain activity level. Based on my general dietary knowledge, I try to hit 3000 Kcals per day while backpacking, which should result in a minimal amount of weight loss for me. I'm 5'11" and 180 pounds.
Up until a few years ago, I was not a lightweight backpacker. I carried foods that seemed to work ok for being in the woods for 5 days, but paid no attention to how much weight I was carrying in food. Since moving toward a lighter pack weight, I realized I needed to look at the weight of food I was carrying. And since my total Kcals were pretty much already dialed in, I needed to look at how calorie-dense my food was. This process has caused me to move away from foods such as tuna pouches, apple sauce, and beef jerkey which provide less than 100 Kcals per ounce. I now pack more calorie-dense foods such as nuts, potato chips, ramen noodles, cheese, and certain high fat dehydrated meals. I aim for an average of 140 Kcals/ounce of food.
I will admit, it seems that my backcountry foods have become less healthy, but for 2-5 days at a time, I'm more concerned about calories than the food pyramid. I usually take 2 multi-vitamin tablets per day while backpacking.
So in summary, yes I take approximately 1.4 PPPPD of food the same as you. But I think you need at least a basic knowledge of calorie-density to make this work. I'm sure without even factoring it into your calculations, your backpacking experiences have lead you to an understanding of what foods provide the greatest energy for the least weight. So the 1.4 PPPPD works.Nov 7, 2008 at 8:56 am #1458015
It all depends. 2PPPPD in summer is higher than I'd take for a casual trip but new backpackers are going to pack their fears so to speak. Might as well give them a good but slightly high round number like 2 rather than 1.4 where they might feel you're cutting down to the bare minimum. As they gain experience, they'll realize they're bringing home plenty of uneaten items long before they're ever doing 2 weeks unsupported.
Again, formulas are a starting point. You need to use your brain on top of them to adjust for many other factors. Coming home empty works great for experienced hikers, not so great for inexperienced people who may spend an extra unplanned day out.Nov 7, 2008 at 9:38 am #1458024
Two Christophers in a row? Hmmmm…)
For Christopher Shive:
You have a good foundation for figuring out calories, but I don't.
I am totally mystified by the calorie thing, and I know a lot of folks that praise this.
If all I was eating was CLIF bars, I could just read the package and total the calories, that's easy.
– BUT –
I'm a good cook and I really LOVE to make my own food and I constantly tinker with my rations. I mean, if I make home-made Thai Peanutbutter sauce, ho do I figure the calories?
Or, if I make my own GORP, and add extra cranberries at the last minute?
What if I pre spice polenta by sprinkling in pumpkin seeds and sundried tomatoes, how do I figure that? It would disrupt my feeling of JOY as a chef if I had to weigh out my pumpkin seeds, look it up on a web-site and then re calculate my calories.
It baffles me.
Any thoughts?Nov 7, 2008 at 9:51 am #1458027A. B.Member
Mike, my thoughts are to not think about it too much and continue to enjoy cooking. Like you said, it has worked for you for some time now.
I like the weight idea and I think it is a really simple approach.Nov 7, 2008 at 9:54 am #1458028
Reply to Christopher Plesko (the OTHER Christopher):
I think that for a beginner backpacker 2 PPPPD is a little too high in the summer. Rounding down to something like 1.75 PPPPD would be a better number.
Looking at your food, and planning what to eat on an expedition is a skill.
And – If they run out of food, so what.
Really, it's a valuable lesson. I've run out of food so many times that I can't keep count any more. The lesson I've learned is that I do just fine. It's a bummer, true enough – but big deal, let's keep hiking!
Maybe I complain or grumble a little more, but it's JUST FINE.
Really, I've done 4 days with a big NOLS group without food in a glacieted mountain environment in Alaska with huge mountaineering packs. The plane with the re-supply couldn't get in because the gravel bar airstrip was washed away when the river jumped it's braid. The lesson? We all did fine!
Having these experiences has made me a lot more aware of my own (and a team's) ability to preform well with a little bit of added challenge. This is a valuable lesson that very few in our extremely privileged society will ever get for themselves.Nov 7, 2008 at 10:48 am #1458040
Yes you run out of food, big deal. Yada yada. When you are in a group or have experienced people with you that's one thing. New hikers solo or in a group of other inexperienced people, it's another, especially if they have never gone hungry. Your experiences differ from mine with inexperienced people outdoors and I've led a wide variety of hard single day and multiday unsupported groups. If they continue to enjoy the outdoors, they'll eventually learn how to do without all kinds of stuff. I'll gladly recommend they carry that extra 0.6lbs of Snickers bars if it keeps them moving.
I'm not going to argue about it further since it will just come down to personal choice anyway. Your points are good ones but they don't cover all situations in my experience.Nov 7, 2008 at 11:12 am #1458042Blue _BPL Member
@lrmblueLocale: Northeast (New England)
Christopher P wrote: "It all depends. 2PPPPD in summer is higher than I'd take for a casual trip but new backpackers are going to pack their fears so to speak."
As someone new to lightweight backpacking I felt some serious anxiety about cutting down the amount of food I carried (even though I always seemed to have way too much left over at journey's end). So, at last, I accepted the anxiety as being at least a healthy desire to survive some vaguely feared WORST CASE SCENARIO. My solution was to cut my food down to an honestly perceived minimum and then throw a couple of packets of dried dog food in my pack to quell my irrational fears of STARVATION. The dog food weighed very little but made me "feel" safer–and I always brought it back unopened. I know it sounds silly–but I learned that my fears were also a bit silly. I wouldn't dream of carrying dried dog food now, but if I were to go out with someone new to the experience who was a bit apprehensive I might suggest it; ultralight high-energy “emergency food,” y’know. I have a lot of sympathy for someone stepping away from their usual network of securities.
LIBERTAS+PAX PACISNov 7, 2008 at 12:02 pm #1458046A. B.Member
Dog food? Was that so you wouldn't be tempted to eat it unless absolutely necessary?Nov 7, 2008 at 12:37 pm #1458053victoria makiBPL Member
@clt1953Locale: northern minnesota
is it really all that necessary to know how many calories are being consumded per day? i take what i enjoy eating and if i'm hungry, then the next trip i take a tad more and vice versa. maybe i doing something wrong??Nov 7, 2008 at 12:50 pm #1458056Blue _BPL Member
@lrmblueLocale: Northeast (New England)
>"Dog food? Was that so you wouldn't be tempted to eat it unless absolutely necessary?"
Yeah, and it worked. I never had to eat it. But if I had had to, it would have kept body and soul together. If it had been something a little more appealing I probably would have been tempted to eat it. The point was to provide a bit of psychological security while exploring how much food I REALLY needed. Hershey bars probably wouldn't have worked.
New ways of doing things often seem to come freighted with irrational fears. At least for me.
LIBERTAS+PAX PACISNov 7, 2008 at 2:06 pm #1458066
Calorie counting becomes a laborious task when creating home-made foods with numerous ingredients. And in your case, you don't need to worry about it! You've obviously arrived at a sensible conclusion through trial and error. Consider my method of calorie counting a "proof" of your 1.4 PPPPD hypothesis. With a focus on increasing fat content over my normal diet and removing certain low calorie-dense foods, I am able to meet my caloric needs with about 1.4 PPPPD. However, if I incorporated many fresh fruits and other non-dehydrated food, I don't think 1.4 PPPPD would be enough food.Nov 7, 2008 at 2:44 pm #1458073
Good point about the benefits of calorie dense food! We could start a whole new thread just on that!
And – as far as the DOG food, I'm a vegitarian, so it would be hard for me to choke down the beef by-product. BUT – I sometimes carry a little bag of SOY NUTS and they serve the same purpose, my very last snack food! I don't really like 'em.
I'll also add that this is a forum on BackpackingLIGHT, and I think the food is an over looked place to save weight.
– – – ALSO – – –
I have a ration plan spreadsheet of the BPL WT-1 trip, if I can figure out how to post it – I will. We went out at 1.4 PPPPD and it worked out great!Nov 7, 2008 at 3:16 pm #1458080Derek GoffinMember
@derekoakLocale: North of England
I know I loose weight on 1.6 PPPPD for a fortnight even with big meals at resturants at 2 resupply places. If I did what Chris Shive does and eat food at 5 calories per gram rather than 4 I could carry about 1.3 PPPPD. If I have a very long way between resupplies I move to that sort of fatty diet for the last half of the journey.
That is the slight advantage of calorie counting rather than weight counting.
I havnt really tried a purposefully inadequate calorie diet when walking, so I suppose I dont have your experience but I have taken a day longer than expected and had to stretch the last of the food. Its Ok if I am not cold. I would not carry a spare day of "just incase food", but I think on my limited experience that I would rather not be hungry while I walk.Nov 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm #1458085Steven EvansBPL Member
This is an interesting thread. I have just recently started looking into getting my food weight lower as I quite happy with my gear list (especially the 3 season). I always figured about 2 PPD, but I have a 7 day solo winter trip coming up and I want to make sure I am as light as possible without starving.
I typically just grab a breakfast (dried cereal with powdered milk), lunch (FD potatoes and chives w/cheddar), dinner (FD something or other), and snacks (2-3 energy bars and gummy candies) for each day. Never really looked at calorie dense food or anything.
At 1.4 PPD, what is your meal plan for a day?Nov 7, 2008 at 4:30 pm #1458092John WhynotMember
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
Is this a variation of the Groovy-Biotic diet presented in your BPL article?Nov 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm #1458097Sarah KirkconnellBPL Member
@sarbarLocale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW
I eat maybe 1 lb a day at most – but my son at 11 can consume 2 or more. He is hungry, always hungry. I don't eat much when hiking, particularly on long days.
I don't care if I run out, I do care if he does. I can hike half falling over – he is so skinny he has no reserves. So I end up carrying 1 1/2 to 2 lbs a day for me knowing he will eat that weight – after he eats his food. I cannot have him carry that much weight per day so I end up humping some of it.
Another thing playing into weight is what people like to eat. Example: I don't eat nuts. I can't due to my braces/dental work. And frankly, I have never liked eating nuts anyways as a snack. Too heavy tasting – sit in my gut. Don't eat seeds either. Stomach and teeth can't take them.
On the other hand I am well known for carrying avocados with me and not blinking about the weight. I also carry fresh fruit (again, I cannot eat dried fruit). I cannot eat any energy bar on the market due to my dental work. I cannot eat hard chocolate anymore either. So my weight comes in the form of "wet" or fresh foods.
The kid is happy to carry a huge breakfast, 2cnd breakfast, first snack, 2nd snack, lunch, 3rd snack, 4th snack, predinner snack, dinner, half my dinner, dessert and bedtime food. He will NOT eat nuts, dried fruit or energy bars. I make him a hot lunch most trips to keep him fueled.
In all honesty…I'd rather cut weight everywhere else than food.Nov 7, 2008 at 4:44 pm #1458098
"I'll also add that this is a forum on BackpackingLIGHT, and I think the food is an over looked place to save weight."
WAY over-looked! We (myself included) spend tons of money on the latest and greatest cuben tarps and 950+ fill power down insulation to get our base weights down to five or six pounds. At that weight, your food will be heavier than your gear on a four day trip. We focus more heavily on gear because, frankly, gear is more fun and exciting than food.
It definitely makes a lot of sense to look at the weight we carry around in food. The goal being to reduce the weight of food while hopefully not reducing the flavor, enjoyment, and nutrition of the food we carry.
Now if I can only find a way to make water lighter……Nov 7, 2008 at 5:00 pm #1458101Sarah KirkconnellBPL Member
@sarbarLocale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW
I was thinking about that one. I have run out of food and yes, it sucked and blew. But I dealt with it by having a fantasy session in my head where I thought about how if I kept moving eventually I could have whatever I wanted. Lol….worked. I lost 10 lbs and ate an entire pizza when I got done.
But then there was a different trip:
I did not pack enough food for a trip with the boy. After letting him eat everything and going without food for me all the while trying to get a child with a jack rabbit metabolism to understand that he had to pace the remaining food…..OMG THE WHINING!!!!!!! It never stopped. For miles and miles I had to suffer the consequences of being a bad mother. He was cold from being hungry, he was tired from a lack of fuel, he had no energy. You can reason with adults, with a child? He weighs 95 lbs and is close to 5'5". On snow trips I would hedge he consumes 5,000 or more calories a day. You know what I bring for him? A 2 lb brick of fudge I make that is full of fat. I cut off slices and shovel it into him. I add fat to everything I prepare him.
So the lesson? For the love of whatever, never ever under pack for kids unless you really, truly know they eat like birds!
When we finally got out I was so tired I had to sit in the car and take a nap before I could drive – lack of food will do that…..he ate all the emergency food in the cars trunk that was 2 years stale and then ate a plate of food the size of a hubcap on the way home.
One of my friends had his daughter along this summer on a trip and she ate most of her food without him knowing in the first 2 hours. Guess who's massive bag of food kept his daughter hiking on the way out? Yep.
So YMMV with food weight ;-)Nov 7, 2008 at 5:18 pm #1458102
To John Whynot (a good name!)
Yes, this is basically the GROOVY-BIOTIC ration set up.
The article (above) is written at 1.6 PPPPD. This was a fun article to write!
And – There is a really good meal plan noted in the article.
For winter, 2 PPPPD is perfect, don't go lower, and ONLY go higher if you have a long trip planed (more than 10 days).Nov 7, 2008 at 5:51 pm #1458108John S.BPL Member
Seems to me that PPPPD would work well enough as long as you watch the water content of your foods.
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