Breakdown — A week of food

Food for an ambitious 7-day trip in the Wind River Range

I start a 7-day trip on Tuesday in the Wind River Range. My partners — Buzz Burrell and Peter Bakwin — are both studs and we’ll be getting after it on a traverse of the entire range that is bookended by the southernmost and northermost 13ers and that goes through the heart of the range’s most rugged terrain in the northeast corner. The 100-mile route features 30,000+ vertical feet of gain (and ditto for loss) and about 60 miles of off-trail travel.

Needless to say, on a trip like this, excess weight (gear, food, body) is undesirable and food has the utilitarian role as fuel. I’ll post details about my gear elsewhere, but here are the details of my food:

  • 2 x half-days (Day 1, Day 7)
  • 5 x full days
  • = 6 full days of food


In the essence of time, my morning coffee must be consumed on-the-go. So I made chocolate-coffee bean patties by melting chocolate morsels and mixing in whole coffee beans. Each patty has 2.8 oz of chocolate and .7 oz of coffee (my standard morning fix). To help avoid a crash-and-burn effect from the combination of all that sugar and caffeine, I added 1.5 oz of nuts (walnuts or almonds) to each breakfast; I might also space out the eating of those patties.

Daytime snacks

Every 2-2.5 hours I will consume a 3-oz snack. Its typical trail food, with a mix of sweet, sweet-and-salty, salty, and protein:

  • Protein bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Pringles
  • Chocolate-covered raisins
  • Chocolate-covered pecans
  • Oreo cookies
  • Yogurt-covered pretzels
  • Cashew/almond squares
  • Greenbelly Meal Bars


I prepared six dinners using four recipes:

  • Beans & rice with cheese and taco seasoning
  • Polenta with olive oil, peppers, Parmesan, tomato powder, and garlic
  • Potatoes with olive oil, Parmesan, basil, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes (2x)
  • Noodles with peanut sauce (2x)

Each meal weighs about 6.75 oz total and packs 750-800 calories. The recipes are based on those I use for my guided trips. When I prepare those meals in bulk next month for my September trips, I will post details and photos.

Food storage

For quick access, I  keep all the food I’m going to eat today in a bag near the top of my pack; if kept outside the pack, my chocolate would melt in the sun. Typically I use a quart-sized Ziploc Easy Zipper Freezer Bag, which has a baffled bottom (for extra volume) and which is wider than it is long for easy picking.

To store the food I will eat tonight and on future days, I use a 12.5×20 Aloksak OPSak. When new, these bags are odorproof, which would help to reduce bear and rodent problems. My bag is definitely not new and it definitely smells like food, but I use it anyway because it’s see-through. Also, we’re not expecting bear or rodent problems where we’ll be camping.

Food weight & calories

  • Breakfasts: 6 days x 5-oz per meal = 30 oz
  • Dinners: 6 days x 6.75 oz per meal = 40.5 oz
  • Daytime snacks: 6 days x 5 3-oz meals = 90 oz
  • A few Via packets and decaf tea bags = .5 oz
  • Trip total weight = 161 oz
  • Trip total calories = 20,125 calories assuming 125 cal/oz
  • Per day weight = 1 lb 10.8 oz
  • Per day calories = 3,354 calories assuming 125 cal/oz

Since my caloric intake will be less than my caloric burn, I’ll be losing weight on this trip. But it’s only 7 days and I can manage without sacrificing performance. Anyone have a good recommendation for burgers in Lander?

All packed. The small bag is for today; the big bag is for all future food. I'm keeping the jerky in its original packaging until just before I start since it has a relatively short shelf life.

All packed. The small bag is for today; the big bag is for all future food. I’m keeping the jerky in its original packaging until just before I start since it has a relatively short shelf life. The Nalgene bottle contains olive oil for three meals for two people (9 oz total); there is another bottle of peanut sauce that Buzz will carry.

Posted in on July 27, 2014


  1. Shannon W. on July 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Curious – have you investigated a keto-adapted way of eating? Especially in relation to endurance feats like this trip?

    I’m reading “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” and it’s companion “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.” The scientists who have written these books are particularly interested endurance and elite athlete performance, and the information is intriguing. Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. Mike Clelland! on July 27, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Burgers in Lander is at The Lander Bar on the south end of Main Street.

  3. Mike Clelland! on July 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm


    What is your calculations for Pounds Per Person Per Day?

    What is your overall weight for your own food?

    I am curious…
    Mike C!

  4. Tim Hogeboom on July 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Gannet Grill for dinner (burgers, pizza, microbrews), Cooking Crow for breakfast. Enjoy!

    • Gabe on July 30, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Cooking Crow doesn’t exist anymore… head to the Middle Fork for breakfast and lunch.

  5. Marla on July 27, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Looking forward to a recipe for those coffee bean patties. Great idea!

    • Bill on July 28, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Me too.

  6. Katherine on July 27, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Are your traveling companions doing their own thing for dinner?

    Would sharing cooked dinners gain much in terms of efficiency (fuel weight, stove/pot weight, time)?

  7. Sarah Jillings on July 28, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Gander Grill for burgers and the Scream Shack for milk shakes. Sounds like a great trip!

  8. Bryn on July 28, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I like your melted coffee bean/ chocolate pattie idea! buying the pre-coated beans is expensive. However, I am surprised that your snacks consist of industrial food chain junk food given the high level of planning you are clearly good at. Organic ingredients contain more nutrition for the weight. Also certain hydrogenated oils and and processed sugars are not as easily or quickly assimilated by the body nor are they are beneficial as natural alternatives. On the other hand, if the oven is hot enough, it will burn anything. Thanks for all of the free information on your site!

    • Andrew Skurka on July 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      I am well aware of the lack of “nutrition” in my meals. But I have found that so long as I get enough calories and protein, my body rolls well regardless of what I put into it.

  9. Trinity on July 29, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Two words: cookie dough. Vegan cookie dough. I’ve been meaning to bring some over for you and Amanda to try – I’ll try to this month when I’m back from some traveling. Based on what’s on your palate above, I think it will be a hit. It lasts for a week in non-sweltering environments.

    • Jarrah on October 13, 2014 at 12:32 am

      link? 😉 (Australia)

  10. Logan on August 1, 2014 at 11:19 am

    This is sort of off topic but I see you are taking peanut sauce for some of your meals. Have you tried Fire on the Mountains Spicy Peanut sauce? It’s delicious and as long as it wouldn’t go bad during the trip I think you would find it tastes fantastic. FOTM is a Wing place that started in Portland OR but they just opened a joint in Denver. Check it out.

    It’s honestly maybe my favorite sauce ever and makes almost anything taste Ridiculously good.

  11. ShawnB on August 2, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Good info, Andrew. Hope the three of you meet your objectives. When you post your gear list, would you post Buzz’s and Peter’s as well (with their permission, of course)? It could be really useful to see what’s similar and where different approaches are taken by the three of you for the identical trip.

  12. Julie on August 3, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Why the Nalgene? It seems like a heavy item compared to other options to carry oil, like a Nalgene soft bottle, or a lighter plastic container. Is it the BPA factor? Worried about oil leaking? Super curious since I feel like Nalgenes have a bad rep among ultralight hikers.

  13. Philip Werner on August 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I tried those Greenbelly bars and decided they really didn’t have enough calories per ounce to justify inclusion in a food bag where I try to squeeze out as many calories per ounce as possible. How’d you like the taste compared to other bars you eat?

    • Andrew Skurka on August 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      I think they are really tasty, but I oddly I didn’t even look at the caloric density. It would make sense that they are “light” in this respect — I never ate just one, always both, which I thought was due to the good taste but which perhaps was partly also due to not having a lot of calories.

  14. Uncle Tom on September 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    What an great post! Highly interesting to me, as I have started to analyze what exact foods I take on backpacking trips and with just a little oversight last week I lost three pounds in 7 days of hiking in Baxter State Park. I am headed out for 50 miles on the Hundred Mile Wilderness next week and came up with a plan that has me eating tasty food, and I estimate that I might end up 2 pounds lighter. Thanks again for excellent advice and direction! I even get to eat a whole bag of Fritos!

  15. Emily on November 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Andrew, thanks for all the great info. Could you explain how you make your own dinners? My guess is that you’re using instant potatoes and noodles – but the beans and rice? That’s something I’d like to know how to do on my own! And polenta never occurred to me either, since it’s not super quick-cooking. Do you buy a special kind?

    I would even appreciate tips on seasoning and packaging…but I don’t want to scare you off with too many questions. Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on November 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      On my list of things to write are my recipes. Stay tuned, sometime this winter.

      • Dave on February 27, 2015 at 4:55 am

        Hi Andrew, Will you be posting the ingredients/quantities to prepare the bagged dinners seen in the picture?

        Are these bagged dinners designed to just throw in the 0.9 L pot after boiling some volume of water (0.3 L?) and sprinkling seasoning to keep preparation as simple as possible?

        In the breakfast chocolate/coffee patties, are there actually ground coffee beans or instant coffee?

  16. Joe Robinet on May 10, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you. I will be using some of this in my upcoming hike.
    Really appreciate it, Andrew.

  17. […] the Great Western Loop), he is almost always self sufficient on his trips. By his own admission, his menus on trips rely heavily on processed and junk food which he can easily […]

  18. CF on March 5, 2018 at 8:06 am

    Hey Andrew – any more info on how to prepare those chocolate-coffee patties? Is it as simple as making your own chocolate bars with whole coffee beans in them?


    • Andrew Skurka on March 5, 2018 at 8:55 am

      Mostly, it’s that simple. Melt chocolate, dump in coffee beans, stir, and cool in some type of form. You’ll just have to do some ratio math and to make sure your weights are correct, or you risk over- or under-caffeinating yourself.

      • CF on March 5, 2018 at 9:14 am

        Wonderful, thank you. I’m looking forward to trying this out on my next trip.

  19. Victor on February 1, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Andrew, I have to ask this question…what is the deal with jerky going bad? You are the third blogger I have read recently that stated that their jerky had ‘limited shelf life’.

    I thought the idea of drying buffalo meat in the South Dakota wind and sun was the Oglala’s way of preserving it long-term? Didn’t they shred it, mix it with drawn suet and berries, and pack it into hide ‘parfleches’? Was not this pemmican considered Long Trail food? Are modern purveyors not using the right techniques? There are records of the stuff lasting for decades.

    I have made my own jerky in the past and except for the fact that it was so damn good that I ate it all, I’m pretty sure it would have lasted years if I had vacuum sealed it.

    I’d love to know what brand(s) you’re using.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Andrew Skurka on February 1, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      I don’t know why it goes bad, and I’ve yet to have it happen to me. But one of my guides had it happen to him. He had opened the packages at home, flew out to the location, and by Week 3 the stuff was inedible.

  20. Alex Rodenberg on May 5, 2021 at 3:06 am

    I’ve never packed chips before 🙂 Do they just turn into a bag of crushed chips by day 3 ? 🙂

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