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[pct-l] Calories per day planning

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Hi PCT 98ers!

     The question of calories has come up.  It's a critical one.  When
I was asking this question during planning for my '97 hike, I reviewed
my meal plans from the many week-long Sierra hikes I've done over the
years.  For those trips, I carried about 2500 calories per 10 mile
day.  This works according to the formula:  Total = base + 10 calories
per mile.  For the PCT I estimated adding about 1000 calories per day
because of the higher mileage.  This was not enough!  My weight
finally stabilized at 150 lbs, down from 165, with a diet of 5,000
calories per day.
     Here's how I should have figured it.  Base metabolism for an
"active" male is 10 calories per day per pound.  (1500 for me)   100
calories per mile is about right for a 150 pound walker WITHOUT a
pack.  i.e. 2/3 of a calorie per pound per mile.  My pack was a little
heavier than some, at almost 20 pounds, before food and water.  My
average pack weight was perhaps 30 lbs.  Adding 30 to my 150, gives
180 as my weight as a thru-hiker.  At 2/3 calories per pound, and
20-25 miles per day, that's 2400-3000 more calories per day.  Then
there's the change in base metabolism.  I'm active and in good shape,
but there's a big difference between "good shape" in town and being
able to do 10+ hours per day of aerobic exercise!  Add another 1000
calories or so for extra base metabolism.  As you sleep, your body
repairs all the damage from the pounding you take.  You'll weigh less,
but have much more leg muscle than usual.  That burns extra calories.
You will be outside 24 hours per day.  Especially if you're packing
light, you may be a little cold.  That burns extra calories too.
     The total above comes to 4,900 - 5,500 calories per day for me.
But there is one positive factor.  That large pizza and quart of ice
cream you eat at each town counts too.  Pack a few less calories when
you know you'll be eating some meals in towns.
     There are also some special cases you should plan for.  At the
start of your trip, your body will be rebuilding itself into a lean,
mean hiking machine.  Your appetite will be poor as your body loses
weight, getting down to a more efficient level.  If you're starting in
Campo, you'll also be in the desert heat.  You'll burn no "keeping
warm" calories.  You'll be hiking fewer miles per day  than your long
term average.  I struggled for 15 miles per day at first.  I would
have been okay for the first 100 miles to Warner Springs on about
3,000 calories per day.  Just remember that one day you will wake up
HUNGRY!  From that day on, you're struggling to maintain your weight.
     The Sierra Nevada is also a special case.  Just when you think
you've got this thru-hiking thing figured out, the rules change.  If
you've been surviving on some body fat, this is about where most
people run out.  This is where colder temperatures, long climbs and
high altitude add to your caloric needs.  This is where you add that
extra gear to your pack.  This is where you can't resupply without
going out of your way, so this is where you planned to add a couple
extra days food to your pack.  This is where you planned to go "a
little hungry" to save weight.  This is where you're going to run into
that early season snow storm that adds an extra day to your schedule.
This is where you aren't adding pizza calories in town as often.  Most
thru-hikers come out of the Sierra QUITE thin.  This saps energy,
stamina, and fun.  The Sierra should be one of the "high points" ;-)
of your trip.  Don't make it an ordeal.  Pack extra food here and add
a resupply stop if you need to.
     One last point.  I noticed an inverse correlation between caloric
intake and rest days.  Those hikers who were getting plenty of
calories out of their packs were not stopping as long in towns as
others.  I think this is no coincidence.  The Rice brothers, two
"bionic walking machines" who averaged 30 miles per day over long
stretches and seldom took a day off, claimed to be eating 8,000
calories per day!  As part of your plan, you should decide how many
rest days in towns you'll want.  The fewer you plan, the more calories
you should pack.

Keep up the good work.  All your planning will pay off with a more
enjoyable hike.  And spring WILL arrive, ... eventually.  :-)

Brian Robinson
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