Meal Planner Guide

Preset Meal Plans

Not sure where to start?  Try one of our preset meal plans!  Purchase the meal plan as-is or modify them to create a custom plan just for you!

3 Day Meal Plan

3 Day Meal Plan - High Calorie

5 Day Meal Plan

5 Day Meal Plan - High Calorie

7 Day Meal Plan

7 Day Meal Plan - High Calorie

Quick Start Video

Meal Planning FAQ

How many calories do I need per day while on a backcountry trip?
Most backcountry travelers strive to consume 3,000-5,000 calories per day.  That being said, the amount of calories you need depends specifically upon your diet, body size, type of trip, and trip terrain.  See our calorie calculator to get a better idea of your individual calorie needs.

How much should one day of food weigh?
Most people carry between 1.5 and 2.0 pounds of food per person per day.  If you are carrying calorie dense foods (or are an ultralight fanatic), you may be able to get by with less.  If you are on an intense trip with lots of pack weight, miles, and elevation - you might need 2.0+ pounds per day to keep your performance at a high level.  For example: a person who is targeting 4,000 calories of food per day and is carrying food that is moderately calorically dense (135 calories/oz on average) would need 1.85 pounds (29.6oz) of food per day.  For a seven day trip, this equates to nearly 13 pounds of food!  Since food will be a major portion of your pack weight, it pays to pack food that is calorically dense.

What is caloric density and how do I measure it?
Caloric density (measured as calories per oz of food) is an easy way to measure how much energy (calories) food will provide per unit of weight.  Simply take the total calories of a product divided by it's weight in ounces to get the product's caloric density.  For example, a Heather's Choice Packaroon has 180 calories and weighs 1oz, giving it a high caloric density of 180 calories/oz.  Foods with high caloric density are more efficient for backcountry travel and will enable you to cut down substantially on your pack weight.  A good rule of thumb is to try and carry foods that are higher than 120 calories/ounce.  Increase your calorie content by choosing foods high in fat!  Olive oil is pure fat and is extremely energy dense at 251 calories/oz.  On the other end of the spectrum, vegetables like broccoli are very low in calories (8.5 calories/oz).  Somewhere in the middle is the backpacking staple Top Ramen (126.7 calories/oz).  If you don't think caloric density matters, think again!  If you are consuming 4,000 calories per day on a 7 day trip and packing low calorie food (100 calories/oz), you would be taking 17.5 pounds of food!  If you are a little smarter with your meal planning (150 calories/oz), you could be cutting out nearly six pounds of food!

What is no cook meal planning?
No cook meal planning simply means you are leaving your stove at home and are relying on meals that don't need cooked or reconstituted with water.  This means eating things like meal bars and energy bars, tortillas and peanut butter, or freeze dried meals with cold water added (cold soaking).  No cook meal planning allows you to carry less gear (stove, fuel, and cookware) and eliminates food preparation time and hassle.  Before you convert over to a 100% no cook meal plan, consider these thoughts:

Cooking Considerations

  • Bringing a stove enables you to enjoy hot coffee and hot meals.  Sometimes at hot meal goes a long ways towards lifting your morale, not to mention warming you up on a cold trip.
  • Cooked meals provide lots of variety on a long trip.
  • Extra gear.  Some cooking equipment can range from 1 to 2.5 pounds depending on the stove type, weight of the fuel, and the cookpot.
  • Cooking takes time away from other activities like hiking, fishing, or just relaxing.
  • Cooking prep and cleanup can be a hassle.

No-cook Considerations:

  • Simple!
  • Can be used everywhere in all conditions.  This may not be the case with stoves as not all areas allow stoves or fires.
  • Don't have to set up and tear down cooking equipment.  This is especially important if the weather is bad and you are confined to a tent.
  • No-cook food can be eaten anytime, including while you are hiking!
  • Eating no-cook for long periods of time may leave you burned out on the limited food choices available.
  • No-cook food requires that you drink a lot more water to help with digestion.

What does Alpen Fuel recommend?  We use a mixture of cook and no-cook products when in the backcountry.  Having a stove along makes it nice when you have time to cook and want a nice hot meal or hot beverage.  On the flip side, carrying along some no-cook options is convenient for mornings when you want to get a quick start, or for times when the weather is so bad you don't want to hassle with cooking equipment.  Bringing both types of products allows you to be flexible.  Also, remember that even if you have dehydrated meals along doesn't mean you always have to use your stove!  Experiment with cold soaking (adding cold water to your meals) in the event of bad weather or to help stretch your fuel supplies.  Just allow 2x the time for rehydration of your meal.  Try experimenting with your meal planning on short trips to develop and refine your strategy.

How do I avoid 'bonking' in the backcountry?
Bonking is a running term describing a condition that happens when you haven't taken in enough carbohydrates.  As a result, you exhaust your body's glycogen stores, leaving you with abnormally low blood glucose levels.  The symptoms of a bonk can vary, but physically you will generally feel extremely weak and tired and you may shake, sweat a lot and feel dizzy or light-headed. Bonking can also affect the brain as that too burns glucose, and you may feel anxious, irritable, confused and emotional.  Avoid bonking by ingesting about 100-250 calories (carbohydrate rich foods) every 30-60 minutes, even in the first hour of your activity.  There is a saying that if you are hungry, it's too late!  If you get behind on your snacks and feel a bonk coming on, quickly eat some simple carbs (products like energy gels) that your body can quickly absorb in order to raise your blood glucose levels to normal. More complex carbs, such as energy bars, take much longer for the body to process into glucose and are best avoided during a bonk.


Calorie Calculator