Calories Per Ounce Rules of Thumb

Folks familiar with the backcountry travel lexicon will be familiar people focusing on calories per ounce to lighten up their backpacking load on trips. It helps to understand that some granola bars, trail mixes, and other snacks for the backcountry really don’t cut the mustard from the perspective of their energy delivery to weight ratio. At the same time, bodies cannot operate on straight coconut oil packets every day for a 7-day trip.

Here are a few rules of thumb to take into consideration when you are packing your food for that next backcountry trip. 

Measuring the energy you will recieve per weight unit is the baseline for determining what someone should pack into the backcountry. If someone were to bring a big carrot in the backcountry, you’re looking at a total of 10 calories per ounce. Those carrots are going to take up an enormous amount of weight for how much energy someone gets out of them. 

As a generality, one should aim for 125 calories per ounce of backpacking food. If your goal is 4000 calories of food intake per day, 125 calories per ounce allow someone to pack under 2lbs of food per day. While caloric needs are going to vary depending on each person and the activity, 125 calories per ounce of backpacking food is a great attainable goal while also maintaining decent variety and having the right types of food.

Some great staples to help hit 125 calories per ounce are: 

  • Nut Butter Packets – 170-210 Calories Per Ounce
  • Granola Bars – 100-140 Calories Per Ounce
  • Nuts and Seeds – 150-190 Calories Per Ounce
  • Olive or Coconut Oil Packets – 250 Calories Per Ounce
  • Dark Chocolate – 170 Calories Per Ounce
  • Dried Fruits – 100-150 Calories Per Ounce

When packing for your week-long trip, it’s important to make sure you don’t hit 125 calories per day while subsisting purely on olive oil and almond butter packets. Your body will need the usual variety of food every day (sometimes a few more carbs) to stay fueled and performing optimally in the backcountry. Be sure to take a good variety of foods with you in the backcountry to achieve a good nutritional balance. 

Also, be sure when you’re calculating calories per ounce you also take into consideration the size of the foods you are bringing. Pork rinds, for instance, might be a tantalizing 154 calories per ounce, but one bag might take up half of the remaining space in your backpack after you’ve included all your gear. 

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for additional information on what you should be bringing into the backcountry, it’s important to contact a nutritionist like our resident Kyle Kamp of Valley to Peak Nutrition to make sure you’re fueling your body properly.

Have fun and be safe in the backcountry! 

Jaden Headshot PhotoThe first full-time hire to the team, the author, Jaden Bales, was drawn to working for Backcountry Fuel Box as an avid outdoorsman and backpacker. Jaden spends 100+ days per year outside, whether it's shed hunting, backpacking, backcountry skiing, or chasing critters in hunting season. If you have any questions about this article or want to get a hold of Jaden specifically about the Backcountry Fuel Box, shoot him an email

  • Oct 07, 2019
  • Category: Learn
  • Comments: 0
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