In preparation for our much anticipated thru-hike of the John Muir Trail, counting calories per ounce has become a part-time job.
Opting for only a single major resupply, we’re feeling the added pressure of fitting 5 days of meals for two into a bear canister rated for 7 days max. In addition to density, we’re also trying to agree on options that are:
- Not Disgusting or Repetitive (food boredom is the worst)
- Compact & Lightweight (calories per ounce is crucial but so is packability)
- Quick & Easy to Prepare (so as to not burn unnecessary time or fuel)
- Nutritional (as few processed / artificial ingredients as possible)
After days of measuring, packaging, poking and smooshing, the results pale in comparison to our typical pedestrian diet but, nonetheless, add up as follows:
Since many nights will be spent at or above 10,000 ft, we have opted to take a little extra time to prepare a quick, hot meal on most mornings. Egg crystals, anyone?
Luckily, we’ll have a few hot meals our first week on the trail as we pass through Tuolumne Meadows Grill, Red’s Meadow Mule House Cafe and Vermillion Valley Resort. The rest of the time, we will be eating our hot meals at lunch (vs dinner) to avoid attracting unwelcome critters into our campsite.
We’ve been trying to trick our brains and bellies into smaller evening meals in attempt to take in our calories earlier in the day when we need them most. After two weeks of this approach, it’s safe to say that we may never look at a protein bar in quite the same way...
- Flour Tortillas
- Mini Babybel Cheese
- Natural Peanut Butter
- Krave Jerky (Chili Lime Beef, Lemon Garlic Turkey, Sweet Chipotle Beef, Grilled Sweet Teriyaki Pork, Black Cherry Barbecue Pork)
- CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars (Mint Chocolate)
- Organic Honey Stinger Waffles (Lemon, Caramel, Chocolate, Gingersnap)
- Tang (honestly, we had some leftover from early training hikes so, waste not...)
SNACKS (3x / DAY)
To fill in the nutritional / motivational gaps in our diet, our snacks are as calorie dense and diverse as we could make them. While we tried hard not to sacrifice quality, we’ve learned firsthand that the best calories are the ones you can stand to get into your body — high five to the ever reliable Peanut M&M!
- Batch Peanut Cups (for the first week at least since we can keep them safe during the drive out and, yes, our cups have peanut butter nipples)
- Pro Bar Meals & Core Bars
- Peanut M&Ms
- CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars (Chocolate Peanut Butter)
- Cookies (Ginger Snaps, Newman-Os)
- GU Energy Gel (assorted to fill in the nooks and crannies of our canister)
- Honey Roasted Peanuts & Thyme Maple Toffee Sunflower Seeds
- Stinger Waffles
With 20+ miles and thousands of feet in elevation change per day, we are a bit unnerved that our total calories barely break the 2,000 to 3,000 mark. That said, we look to our lightweight packs to help offset the potential deficit.
Of course, should we wake to the sounds of our empty bellies echoing through the Sierras, we do our best to remember that John Muir "...arrived in the Chilkat Valley in 1879 in a tweed jacket with some biscuits stuffed in his pocket."