Hiker hunger is a blessing and a curse. Sure, I can beat most eating challenges I come across, but gluttony has its downsides. While at home resting my foot I still had 'the hunger,' but was no longer burning those calories. I ate like I didn't know where my next meal was coming from and in six weeks I had gained nearly 40 pounds. I had no idea I gained so much weight until the night before climbing Katahdin. I jumped on a scale in the bathroom and was shocked when I saw 210. I had never been above 190 in my life! The hunger is real.
As long as you stay on the trail, the hunger is a necessity. On average, a thru hiker needs 3000-5000 calories per day to maintain weight. That's a lot of pack weight / space dedicated to strictly food. I eat fairly healthy off the trail and wish I could say the same while on the trail, but it's not always easy. There are people who eat better than me out here and there are people who eat far worse than me. My meals change depending on what kind of resupply is possible. Sometimes I can go to an actual grocery store. Other times I have to figure things out at a gas station. The following is a break down of my average daily diet. I'll break it down to four categories (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks).
Disclaimer: I am by no means a dietician and don't pretend to be.
Breakfast usually includes a breakfast shake made of two Carnation Instant Breakfast packets, 1/2 cup of Nido (evaporated milk), and a tablespoon of protein powder. Add 2 cups of water and you are good to go with over 850 calories! On less healthy days I eat a honey bun and / or a pop-tart. Always gotta keep the body guessing!
Lunch has been the same since day 1. Peanut butter and a bread product; either a tortilla or a bagel. It's easily the heaviest (in terms of weight) meal of the day but well worth it.
Dinner is what gets me through the second half of the day. Just the thought of something warm in my belly is enough to get over that last mountain. Knorr Rice Sides / Pasta Sides have a variety of flavors including White Cheddar Queso and Alfredo Pasta. Their weight is minimal and calories are near 700 per packet. My favorite dinner is Bear Creek pasta dinners, but these are tough to find. The Cheddar Mac option is over 1200 calories. These cost $2.50-3.50 compared to $8-10 for the popular Mountain House, which contains less than 800 calories. As tasty as they are, I may steer clear of Mountain House!
Snacks can change pretty regularly, but a main stay for me includes Cliff Bars, trail mix and cheese crackers. One tip I got on the trail, which is great for empty calories, is a zip bag of chips. Get a few different brands of your favorite chips, crush them up, and pour them into the same bag. Eat it like dry cereal!
When you get into town, all bets are off! Eat as much as possible and down a pint of ice cream. Heavy IPAs are always good for the calorie count as well as the soul! I hope this was helpful and until next time, HAPPY HIKING!
I'm thru hiking the AT north bound to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you're interested in finding out more, and contributing to my cause, please visit my HikeFor account. Remember to follow my journey here at HighlandFrog.com and to "like" the HighlandFrog Facebook page to be notified about future articles and updates! Thanks for your support!
One step at a time,
Geoffrey, aka Messiah
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