Fueling for the outdoor adventures/fast pack

Planning for a backcountry trip can be intimidating… here is a guide on how to manage calories and weight while building your pack (with nutrition in mind).

Carbohydrates break down to glucose: essential for your brain, nervous system, and much of your physical motion (4 calories per gram).

Eating too few is just as bad as too little protein or fat. In a study of Everest, the carbohydrate intake was about 5g/kg -10g/kg depending on intensity.

Simple vs. Starchy (quick energy vs. sustained energy)

Protein: a major part of all cells, especially muscle cells. It breaks down to amino acids which are the building blocks of new cells and important for repairing tissue (muscles) and maintaining immune system.

  • 1.2-1.4g/kg for endurance training (4 calories per gram)

Fat: often undervalued, is a dense form of energy while hiking and due to the low intensity that predominates, ends up being a major fuel source (9 calories per gram).

For backpacking the goal is high calorie and low weight especially if you are going out for a few days to weeks.

Normally you consume around 2000 calories, but hiking all day you will need upwards of 4000 calories per day, how does this help? You can plan backwards now.

If you hike for 5 days that is 20,000 calories – to mitigate the weight and space you want to choose energy dense foods:

  • 20.5 pounds at 60 calories/ounce (hummus, tuna, dried apples)
  • 15.5 pounds at 80 calories /ounce (raisins, jerky, bagels)
  • 12.5 pounds at 100 calories/ounce (instant rice, Clif Bars, candied ginger)
  • 10.5 pounds at 120 calories/ounce (Pita chips, Jolly Ranchers, doughnuts)
  • 9 pounds at 140 calories/ounce (chocolate, peanut butter pretzels, Cheez-Its)
Picture Credit: REI.com

You want to optimize calorie per ounce!

If you don’t want to do all the math aim for a high fat to water ratio

  • Fat clocks in at 225 calories per ounce
  • Water is about 1 pound per 16oz  (if you know you can find a water source on the trail you can take less water too)

One easy way to maximize fat is to carry a small bottle of oil like olive oil to mix with your food. The other option is to look at Honeyville for freeze-dried cheese or butter to boost the calories but not the weight.

If you have the time and really want to experiment with making your own backpacking food Aaron is a RD that has developed lots of at-home dehydrated meals:


Some easy calorie boosting tips:

  • Replace non-fat milk with whole milk (NIDO) and coconut milk powders
  • Replace rice with protein-rich chickpea pasta and quinoa
  • Add whole nuts, nut butter, and nut powders to increase caloric density
  • Choose lower weight dehydrated fruits such as strawberries versus apricots
  • Include olive, coconut and sesame oils in recipes as much as possible (oil to be added on the trail)
  • Use a variety of beans as an additional protein source
  • Add in drink powders for calories and electrolytes (especially if it will be hot)

Purchased ultralight energy bar, snack and treat options:

  • Variety of Honey Stinger products – waffles, chews, and nut butter bars
  • Clif nut butter bars or Bobo’s Oat Bars
  • Pita chips, goldfish crackers, and cheese crisps
  • Variety of nuts
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Chocolate covered freeze-dried strawberries, limoncello almonds, homemade cookies
  • Chocolate covered coffee beans (for some added caffeine)
  • Justin’s Peanut Butter packets

So what would a day look like?

Sample 4000kcal day:

  • Breakfast: 2 packages instant oatmeal, 1 tablespoon full-fat powdered milk, 2 tablespoon chopped almonds, 2 tablespoon raisins, 2 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon roasted flax seeds, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, with 1 oz New Primal bacon stick
  • Morning snacks:  1.4 ounce (37) gourmet jelly beans, 1 Clif Builder Bar, 1 ounce (28) Peanut M&M’s, 24 grams hydration powder mix (Drip Drop packet)
  • Lunch: 1 bagel (260) with individual cream cheese, 3 oz smoked salmon (200), 1 oz dried bananas and 1oz almonds
  • Afternoon snacks: 1.4 ounce (37) gourmet jelly beans, Pro Meal Bar, 1 ounce (18) cashews
  • Recovery drink such as Tailwind Recovery Drink
  • Dinner: 2 serving GOOD TO-GO Thai Curry 6.6oz (760 kcal), 1 package hot chocolate mix, 1 tablespoon full-fat powdered milk, 2 ounces dark chocolate

Kcals: 4000  |  Carbohydrates: 518g    |    Protein: 133g    |    Fat: 156g

Packaging in individual bags helps to portion out what you need so you stay on track!

Always pack a favorite treat of yours! Enjoy and stay safe (i.e. use bear bins and appropriate equipment).

Picture Credit: REI.com

‘Instapot’ Chicken Taco Soup

I finally caved and got a pressure cooker, which is now made trendy being called an “Instapot”, so I thought I would share my first recipe.

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6


  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups less sodium chicken broth
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tsp chipotle chili in adobo sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 oz can diced green chilies
  • 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 skinless chicken breasts, 16 oz total
  • Optional: 2 cups cooked brown rice


  • 3/4 cup shredded part skim cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 oz 1 small haas avocado, diced


  • Press saute on the Instant Pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft, 3-4 minutes. Slowly add the chicken broth, tomato sauce and chipotle adobo sauce and cilantro.
  • Add the drained beans, diced tomatoes, corn, cumin, oregano and stir. Add the chicken breasts; cover and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Quick or natural release.
  • Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Add chicken back into the soup, adjust salt and cumin to taste.
  • For higher a carb, make brown rice to serve with
  • Serve in bowls and top with cheese, avocado, scallions and cilantro. Also great with sour cream or crushed tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Vitamin D – For Performance and Health

More Resources:

Chiang CM, Ismaeel A, Griffis RB, Weems S. Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Muscle Strength in Athletes: A Systematic Review. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Feb;31(2):566-574. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001518. PMID: 27379960.

Owens DJ, Allison R, Close GL. Vitamin D and the Athlete: Current Perspectives and New Challenges. Sports Med. 2018 Mar;48(Suppl 1):3-16. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0841-9. PMID: 29368183; PMCID: PMC5790847.

Scott, JM, Kazman, JB, Palmer, J, McClung, JP, Gaffney‐Stomberg, E, Gasier, HG. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on salivary immune responses during Marine Corps basic training. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2019; 29: 1322– 1330. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13467

Ground Chicken Tzatziki Bowls

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2-3



  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup beef broth


  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash pepper

Greek Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup full fat yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped


For the rice: In a pressure cooker or in a pot cook rice in broth according to bag.

For the chicken: In a medium frying pan heat the avocado oil. Add the chicken and cook, when cooked through season with salt and pepper.

For the sauce: mix all the ingredients together and set aside.

Layer rice, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, and sauce – serve

Kodiak Protein Crepes

Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2


  • 1 cup Kodiak Cake Mix (Whole Wheat Oat and Honey)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Eggs


Whisk all ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Brush a non-stick frying pan with oil and place over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 batter into that center of the pan and swirl the pan around to coat. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Fill with your favorite combination of fruit, nuts, chocolate, yogurt, or syrup.

Per Serving:

Calories: 384 | Protein: 14g | Carbohydrates: 41g | Fat: 18

Sweet Potato Breakfast Scramble

Post long run I have a hard time stomaching food sometimes, so I usually try to have an egg dish because it tends to be lighter on my stomach and still gives me an option to get in vegetables and protein with my carbohydrates.

Serves: 1-2 (usually 1 if post training)

Time: 15 minutes


  • 1/2 large sweet potato or yam (washed with skin on), diced
  • 1 shallot or 1/4 onion, diced
  • 3 mushrooms, diced
  • Handful spinach, chopped
  • Handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • A dash of “Everything but the Bagel” Spice
  • 3 eggs
  • Optional: 2 Tbsp mozzarella cheese


In a non-stick pan (I use a scan pan) over medium heat with avocado oil, saute the sweet potato for 5-10 minutes with a lid on, toss in the onions and cook for another 3 minutes, add the mushroom, spinach, and cilantro and saute for another minute. Crack in 3 eggs and scramble around with the spatula and toss in seasoning (this makes less dishes dirty as opposed to whisking the eggs in a bowl first, but you can do that as well). Top with salsa, cheese, avocado, or hot sauce whatever you prefer!

Calories: 405 | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 18g