Complete 3 Day Backpacking Menu

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3,000 and 4,000 calorie/day backcountry menu options

Hello again adventurers! Kayleen reporting just a few days prior to my departure for the Appalachian Trail. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check out my last blog on lessons learned preparing for the AT (cutting pack weight, training tips, and more). One of the final components of my trip preparation is meal planning. I was grateful to be a participant in June for Heather’s first Facebook Live Q&A on the topic of backcountry nutrition. Click the link to watch the entire video and/or read a transcript of the Q&A if you missed it.

In the video, Heather talks about some really important tips for planning your backcountry menu. First, start tracking your menu in the front country and monitor how many calories you consume on an average day and a training day. For extended backcountry trips, Heather recommends consuming as many as twice your daily intake of calories. She also recommends determining the macronutrient breakdown of your daily diet. All of the food we consume is composed of macronutrients that fall into three categories: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Our body needs a healthy balance of all three of these macronutrients to operate at peak efficiency. Customize your backcountry menu plans to reflect the ratio of macronutrients you typically consume on a daily basis to avoid blood sugar crashes on the trail.

Upon her recommendation I immediately started using an app to track the breakdown of my everyday diet into carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. The following are three single-day menu options that I have prepared for the Appalachian Trail with both 3,000 and 4,000 calorie options. These menus reflect a macronutrient breakdown that I believe is appropriate after tracking my response to different diets in the front country, but of course, I recommend tracking your intake to determine what balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats bests suits your body on a high activity training day and adjust these menus accordingly.

3,000-4,000 calorie/day backcountry menu

3,000-4,000 calorie/day backcountry menu

3,000-4,000 calorie/day backcountry menu

These meal plans come out to about 2 pounds/day. That’s 6 pounds added to your baseweight for 3 days worth of meals, but I think it’s definitely preferable to have the amount of food you need to satisfy your extreme hiker hunger at the end of a long day. If 4,000 calories turns out to be slightly excessive those extra snack items can always be used as bartering items on the trail. You never know who will be willing to trade a handful of dried fruit for that essential squirt of sunscreen!

Again, per Heather’s recommendation, I suggest tracking your caloric intake in the front country and aim to roughly double that in the backcountry. For leaner, smaller individuals a 3,000-4,000 calorie/day diet will likely be appropriate, but if you’re a larger more athletically inclined individual it’s possible you’ll require 5,000 or more calories a day to perform at your peak ability. Happy meal planning and happy adventuring!

Adventures Backpacking Meal Planning Nutrition

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  • This is so helpful, thank you Heather. This will help a lot with trip planning.

    You are always “spot on”, thank you, I appreciate it!

    Rick Valentine on

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