The Top Three Guidelines for Ultralight Backpacking Food

Ultralight Backpacking Guideline #1: Pack only dry food

You are going to pick up water and purify it along the way for drinking. Do the same for your food. Carry dry or dehydrated food, and add water to the food when you prepare it. This makes the food you carry the lightest weight possible. This will also help you accurately budget the right amount of food to pack.

Dry food saves weight. Instead carrying a can of soup, carry dry soup in a zip-loc bag. Carry raisins instead of grapes. Carry beef jerky instead of beef steak on ice.

Ultralight Backpacking Guideline #2: Plan your food by weight

By only carrying dry food, you can accurately measure the food you need by weight. We have seen large active men and hungry teenagers be happy with 1.25 lbs (20 ounces) of dry food per day. Eleven year old youngsters have been happy with 15 ounces per day. The most we can imagine any normal human eating would be 1.5 lbs (24 ounces) per day of dry food. Pick a weight per day of dry food to carry for yourself, and pack exactly that much.

You may choose to carry some fresh food for the first few days. That’s OK. It will be a little extra weight, but just for the first few days. When you pack fresh food, for the food budget count its weight of it as if it were dry. For example, suppose your weight budget is 18oz/day and you pack a 6 oz apple for the first day. The apple would weigh something like 2 oz dry, so after counting the apple you would still have 18 – 2 = 16oz of dry food to pack for your first day.

Ultralight Backpacking Guideline #3: Don’t carry dead weight food

Unused food is one of the big culprits when people carry too much weight backpacking. It is natural to be afraid of going hungry, and when we are uncertain we tend to throw a little something extra into the backpack “just in case”.

It doesn’t make sense to work hard to shave 3 ounces off the weight of your tent, and then carry an extra 3 lbs of food that you didn’t eat. Food you don’t eat is dead weight that you carry every step of the whole backpacking trip.

Be safe. Don’t go hungry. Just weigh the dry food you take, and only take what you will actually want to eat. At first you can set your food budget higher to give yourself some extra margin, but weigh it out exactly. At the end of the trip, you can weigh the food you didn’t eat, and calculate the amount of food you actually used.

With experience you will learn the magic number of how many ounces per day of food you eat while backpacking. When you have that figured out, you can have the satisfaction of judging your food perfectly, and eating your last bite as you walk out on the last day.

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