Summer is upon us and most of us know what tag or tags will be in our pocket this fall. If your plans include a remote backcountry hunt, it’s not too early to start putting a good meal menu together.
Effectively fueling your motor over a 5-day backcountry hunt is not always an easy task. Whether you’re on horseback or foot, these types of hunts are typically very physically demanding. A diet that will replenish your energy levels quickly is a must. For those of you lucky enough to have access to horses, the menu options just got a lot better. There are plenty of companies making backcountry food items these days, but much of this food is overpriced and doesn’t usually taste very good. It is important to do your own pre-hunt experimentation to find foods that will work for you.
From my own experience, the best backcountry food is lightweight, tasty, calorie-packed and is easy to cook (just add water). Each meal type is different. For me, breakfasts usually consist of an oatmeal packet and a cup of fruit. Lunch is usually heavier, more bulky, high energy, and doesn’t require cooking. Cooked dinners are typically dehydrated so they are lighter.
The right kind of food, and enough of it, will keep you physically energized and in the right mental state to complete the task at hand. What goes into your pack can be a little tricky because you want to keep the weight down as much as possible, but you also need food that is nutritious and has a high calorie-to-weight ratio. Oreo Cookies and Little Debbie snacks aren’t going to cut it.
The average backcountry hunter that is in “hunting shape” will burn around 1,500-2,000 calories just sitting on the couch. Add a 50 lb pack, 5-10 miles of hiking and 2,000-3,000 feet of vertical elevation and you realize pretty quickly that you need to start taking in some serious fuel (i.e. calories). A backcountry hunter can easily burn 1000 calories just hiking to base camp with the scenario mentioned above.
Food prepared for backcountry hunting needs to be packaged and organized (rationed) to balance the weight of the pack versus not having enough. Food and menus can easily become the most complicated and time-consuming part of hunt planning!
A flexible meal organization system that I’ve settled on is to put a full day’s supply of food into one bag. This way, I can ration the food and take the guesswork out of what and how much I need to eat each day.
Backcountry hunting takes an amazing amount of energy. A general rule is that you will need to replenish roughly 2,500-3,000 calories per day on a typical backcountry hunt. You can obviously adjust your intake depending on your hunting tactics, but that should get you close.
Here’s a list of foods I’ve used on past backcountry hunts:
· Oatmeal Packets
· Cup of Fruit (plastic containers)
· Granola (Mountain House) · Pop Tarts (Easy to grab and go)
· Bagels (peanut butter, bacon & honey)· Jerky
· Granola bars (Cliff Bars)
· Candy bars
· Dried fruit
· Trail Mix (almonds, walnuts, chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit, etc)
· PB Crackers
· Tuna (sold in pouches now)· Cup O Soup· Apples
· Mountain House· Cup Noodles/Ramen
· Snack Pack Pudding
· Hot cocoa
· Emergency Powder Mix / MTN OPS
· Powdered lemonade or Crystal Lite Here is a
sample 5-day food menu that includes calorie and weight calculation based on the food items mentioned above.
For all my quick-cook meals, I use a compact canister stove (Optimus Crux Lite or MSR Pocket Rocket) and a lightweight cook set (GSI Halulite Minimalist) to boil water. A Jetboil system also works really well if your only boiling water. If I’m hunting at high altitude or in really cold weather, I will pack a liquid fuel stove (MSR Whisper Light International). The liquid fuel stove is heavier than the canister stove but is much more reliable at high altitude.
Finally, you will need a constant supply of water to not only drink, but to rehydrate your dehydrated meals and add to any other or your quick-cook meals. Water tends to be one of the heaviest items in your pack, so ideally you will want to replenish as your hunt progresses by filtering water from natural springs and streams rather, than packing the extra weight on your back. A good rule of thumb is to always top off your water supply when you have the opportunity. This can save you from expending precious energy and time searching for water sources.