My partner and I are thinking about doing a 12 day, 106 mile backpacking trip next summer through SEKI. It will be a giant loop and we won't have access to easy resupply with adding on 2 days to leave the trail and get back.
We're both experienced backpackers, though the longest trip we've done so far is 7 days - any suggestions on what and how to store that much food?
We'll each have a bear canister, but I'm not sure what kind of menu items to bring to fit it all into the canister. We can leave day one food out of it, but would still need to pack in for 11 days.
Thanks in advance to any tips you have or if you can point me to any good resources on this.
My max is 7 days also so I don't have any surefire recommendations.
As a slightly amusing illustration of what not to do, a guy my kids met on the JMT this summer had heard that re-supply on the JMT was a PITA so his solution was to carry two bear cans both filled with Tofurkey dogs. His pack weight was apparently around 80# 🙂 No idea how that worked out for him since he was just starting out.
Doing a rough calculation, say you need 3000 cal/day and you can find food that averages out at 200 cal/oz (nuts, fats etc), you need to carry 3000/200 = 15oz a day which for 11 days is 165oz or about 10.2 # plus the bear can which seems feasible assuming your base weight is ~30# and your pack is up to the task of carrying ~45# or more comfortably
Taking a real food, a serving of Costco walnuts are about 200 cal per 30g and there are about 45 servings in a 3lb bag with is 3 days of calories. You need just under 4 bags for 11 days and I haven't tried it but I think a BV500 will fit 4*3lb bags of Costco walnuts which 12 # plus the bear can. For weight and calories that also seems feasible.
The trick then is to find a variety of food that is as compact and as dense in calories as walnuts that you can stand to eat for 11 days.
Note that Bearikade have an expedition bear can that is 900 fl oz which you can rent or buy. That may allow for some less dense food.
Another resource is that some wilderness campgrounds in SEKI have bear vaults so if you plan the first part of you trip around those you can carry the remainder of you food outside the bear can and place it in a bear vault at night.
Some people use Ursacks but I don't think they are are approved for the National Parks...certainly not Yosemite...but you could use one in addition to a bear can for the remainder food intending to place it in a bear vault but then having a backup in case the bear vault was not available or you get delayed.
From this it seems the bag hanging method is allowed in SEKI https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bear_bc.htm so a simple food bag might do.
Another way I have heard of is to arrange a rendezvous with a packer around the halfway point of your trip. That will be expensive unless you can share the cost with others and you will need to be there on time since I believe caching is not allowed. However if money is not a problem for you this is probably the most pleasant option.
Hello - thanks so much for all of this super helpful information!
I just discovered that the first 8 places I plan to camp will all have bear lockers. I think I can fit 8-9 days worth of food in my pack, and then carry the rest in a bear bag for the first few days. I'm not sure if the rangers will find this acceptable, though... but otherwise I think this solution is the easiest.
It's not ideal to carry this much food, but this is a trip I really want to take. I'm going to look into that larger canister as well as a possible stock food drop-off, though from I see this looks VERY expensive.
Also, I backpack pretty light, so the weight of the food isn't a huge deal. My base pack weight is around 20lbs, without food and water, so I'm looking to start off carrying around 35lbs total, and each day shed 1.5ish as I eat. There's plenty of water, too, so I won't need to carry too much extra.
Oldguyot, THANK YOU so much for taking the time to write up all of this super helpful information. Happy hiking!
35 Lbs is too light for a long trip with no resupply - get a comfy pack and carry what you need - and your safety margin. Keep the weight on your hips and not on your shoulders for max comfort.
@kiwi_outdoors I tend to agree but it really depends on the calorie density of the food you carry.
The general rule of thumb is 2# a day which assuming an average of 100 cal/oz gives around 3200 cal per day...which is about the active requirement of a 15-35 year old active male. Also it is commonly reported that people don't need that much the first week which probably builds in the safety margin for a 2 week trip. You mileage may vary of course.
By that rule 14 days means carrying 28#
100cal/oz is a pretty good guesstimate average for the stuff people generally take backpacking. If you can design a diet the ingredients of which give 200 cal/oz then you can carry half as much food. I probably should have made that point explicit.
It may be difficult to design a palatable and effective diet with 200 cal/oz ingredients but it is certainly possible to do better that 100 cal/oz if you plan it out.
Thanks for the advice last year! I ended up buying one of the bearikade Expedition canisters, my partner had a standard canister, and we were able to fit all 10 out of the 12 days worth of food in it. Our first night's camp had a bear locker, so we just stored day 2's food in there and then on day 3, we were all set. I plan to purchase another bearikade, the size down from the Expedition, as it was lighter and it's inside could fit more food than the plastic ones I currently have.
In case anyone was interested, here's the link to my food inventory for 12 days for two people. We never felt hungry and actually had some leftovers which would have lasted us another 2 days if we absolutely needed it to.
Our trip was amazing as well and I am starting to plan for another longer-ish one for next summer.
Thanks for circling back here in the community with this information! It is super interesting to see. Feel free to share some of those rad pictures of your adventure here in the community as well!