3. Backpacking Food

Once you set off down the Appalachian Trail, your first need is regular access to water and shortly after to food. Plan on carrying one and one-half to two pounds of food per day. For five days of hiking, you'll easily add ten pounds to your load just for minimal food and water. Toss in a water filter, a stove, fuel, and a pot and you're quickly at fifteen pounds, which is likely about half of your pack's total weight.

3_1. Water
Water is essential for the body to function. You'll need to drink water and drink it regularly.  A good rule of thumb is to take three good gulps of water every twenty minutes.  Water weighs about two pounds per quart/liter. While hiking long, dry stretches for hours you may need to carry two or three liters of water, often uphill.

3_2. Trail Nutrition
Just as a car doesn't get very far on an empty tank, so too a starved hiker. From the time you arise to when you retire at days end, you need to eat and eat high calorie. Pay attention to how many calories per ounce are in the foods you choose. Try to pack foods with 100 calories per ounce or higher. You'll also need to replace salts and minerals.

  • 3-2d. Exercise: On your next store visit, calculate and compare the calories per ounce in sports nutrition bars, candy bars, peanut butter, and a few of your favorite foods. Also note the amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, sodium and potassium in each. What did the high calorie per ounce products have in common? Which would you choose? Which would you avoid or minimize?

3_3. Meal Planning
Variety is the spice of life. You're more likely to eat and eat nutritiously if you pack foods you like to eat. Learn from other hikers how to fix quick, tasty high calorie meals and snacks from common inexpensive grocery and convenience store items.
  • 3-3d. Exercise: Visit a dollar store and a convenience store and review their selection of food and snacks. If this were your only re-supply option, what items would you purchase and in what quantity? Make a list and plan a menu. (Note: Dollar General stores are common re-supply sources along the southern Appalachian Trail.)

3_4. Food Safety
Sooner or later, you may suffer a gastrointestinal bug. While tales of Giardia abound, the most common cause is from poor food safety, usually in the form of a communal bag of good ol' raisins and peanuts (GORP). Wash you hands and keep them out of other peoples food bags.

Congratulations! You've completed another section of the
Appalachian Trail Online Course.

Well done! You know how to get to the trail, how to ensure safe water, and plan a trail menu. I don't know about you, but after a full day of hiking, we're bushed and sure appreciate a safe place to lay our head and sleep. In the next section, you'll learn about lodging on the Appalachian Trail.

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