Expedition Food: What I Take On A Long Expedition (Walking or Mountaineering)

Emily Woodhouse Big Adventures, Gear, Practical Advice

Expedition food is difficult. At least, that’s what I’m finding. Packing for a day or a weekend’s walk is no problem. But extend that to anything beyond 3 days and you run into all sorts of complications.

I’m looking at this from the context of All the Tors¬†where I’ll need to be self sufficient for 2 weeks. Yes, I’ve already been told by enough people that that’s crazy, can’t be done etc… And yes, it’s true – it might be overly optimistic to think I can fit that into a 60 +10 L rucksack. But until I can quantify it, I can’t know for sure. Plus I don’t have a lot of options without a support team. I can’t just pop to the shops from the middle of Dartmoor. For a piece of rural England, it’s very remote.

Food I Take for an Overnight Expedition

Let’s start with what I know. This depends massively on the distance walked each day, but roughly fits into the following:

  • Breakfast: mini sandwich bag with oats and raisins
  • Lunch: 1.5 peanut butter rolls per day
  • Dinner: Wayfarer’s boil in a bag
  • Snacks: unscientifically fill my waist band pockets with Chewee bars, fruit snacks and occasionally Square bars or Penguins. Often take sesame and poppy seed crackers for a longer walk. Always pack emergency Jelly Babies.

But is this enough? Can I just take this formula and multiply it by as many days as I need? Certainly there would have to be some changes. The rolls would probably go mouldy after a few days. The boil in a bag meals would be very heavy when I’m carrying 12…

There is an awkward balance between nutritional value and volume and weight. Something has to give somewhere and a lot of the advice I’ve read from other adventurers seems to involve “getting hungry”.

Expedition Breakfast

I have never liked breakfast on the hill. Never. This probably comes from spending the vast majority of my camping experiences getting up at 4:30am and being expected to dance around, do a warm up and then crack on with a day’s walking. At home I eat cereal and toast. It’s pretty hard to make toast on a trangea… But most importantly, that energy is gone within an hour. You need something more substantial for a day’s walking.

So, I’ve been forcing myself to eat home made porridge in a zip lock bag, since age 14. Except I never bother to put any milk powder in, so it’s just hot water and oats with raisins for variety. This also means I have to boil up a tiny amount of water in the morning and eat it very quickly before the oats turn solid. Yum…


Then, I had the pleasure of discovering Upfull (Edit: sadly now out of business). These guys have developed a new type of packaged granola that was made with busy commuters in mind. You can fill it up with hot milk or hot liquid the night before and it’ll be ready for you to grab in the morning as you rush out the door.

This is the perfect solution for the lazy camper (like me). You boil water for your dinner the night before and put what’s left into your breakfast pouch. Seal it up, leave it overnight and you wake up to pre-prepared breakfast. It’s not sticky, or gooey and one of the varieties genuinely tastes like apple pie. Brilliant.

Expedition Dinners

Another fairly straightforward one. I’ve been eating boil in a bag meals pretty religiously since teenage years. That is mostly because everyone else was too. There is no way you want to wait for your dinner when you’ve just walked 30 miles. There’s no way you want to do any washing up either.

Now I’ve got my own mini stove and will be camping on my own, I don’t have to worry about my ration pack fitting in the pan with everyone else’s. Instead, I’m going to be reducing weight by trying out dehydrated meals. The chaps at Firepot have very kindly agreed to provide 12 overnight meals for me. They come in two sizes: hungry and extremely hungry.

I’m going to have to experiment with which is the best, but I have a feeling I’ll need the big ones.

Expedition Lunches and Snacks

This has proved a bit of an issue. Lunches are probably okay… I can take bread for the first few days and then wraps for the rest. Probably. I know they’re the best energy to space ratio (when paired with peanut butter) from cycle touring experience.

Snacks I’m not so sure about. As easy as it is for me to spend a weekend fuelled on cereal bars and sugar, I have a feeling that’s probably no good for the long haul. If it doesn’t make me ill, I’m pretty sure it’ll make my teeth fall out.

What’s your favourite snacks to take on expeditions?

Recommendations I’ve received include trail mix, Tilda rice-type pouches, dried fruit and protein bars. But I have no idea how to get a balanced combination of these to help me survive the 2 weeks.

Calorie Counting On Expedition

I have never been on a diet and I’ve never quite understood the calorie counting mentality. But, it seems a fairly black and white way to decide if I’m planning to take enough food or not. So far, Google seems to tell me that I’ll need roughly 3000 kcal per day (P.S. thank you to all the DofE leaders who’ve written guides on the subject).

Let’s have a look at the calorie count of the stuff I know I’m taking:

  • Upfull breakfast ~450 cal
  • Firepot 500-600 cal small 800-900 large
  • Peanut Butter Sandwich 300 cal (Equivalent 2 peanut butter wraps)

How do I know this? Check out this calculator meant for dieters but great for this exercise.

So… that leaves me with a total required snackage of: 3000-(450+850+300)=1400 kcal per day. Heck, that sounds like a lot…

  • Fruitina Fruit Snacks – 45 kcal
  • Penguin – 130 kcal

Hmm, I’m going to need to carry a hell of a lot of the food I normally take on a weekend trip. Watch this space for me investigating the best calorie rich foods, that have no weight and take up no space in a rucksack…

Helpful Links

Of course, good old Google will answer all your needs, but here are some of the links I’ve found useful.

Food for the MDS and other multistage races Рabout calories verses weight

DofE Group food ideas

Another DofE Groups’s thoughts on food

Al Humphrey’s trip across Iceland where they basically didn’t eat much food.

What people eat on a Polar Expedition – slightly mixed up with what they dream about eating out there in the snow.

If you have any other useful or interesting articles relating to expedition food, please share below. Thank you!