The stoveless backcountry hunting food list
The stoveless backcountry food list…sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But sometimes I like to embrace a little challenge, especially if it involves further simplifying my backcountry meals. This goal came to mind when I was sitting out a rainstorm in the mountains of Wyoming last September. Here I was with all this food in the backcountry…and I didn’t eat it all.
First off, to successfully accomplish this stoveless endeavor I need to let go of the “comfort meal” in the evening—aka my freeze-dried dinner. Most of the evenings after I get to camp I’m really never in the mood to sit down and make dinner. Sure, freeze-dried meals taste good and all, but a hot meal at the end of the day is not that essential for me. To me, food is fuel and in the backcountry, I just want to get the fuel I need in my body and go to sleep. Also, variety is thrown out the window. I’m fine eating the same thing day after day. Going stoveless also reduces the time required to cook dinner (I agree that freeze-dried meals are super quick and easy to make). Also, you can't eat your cookware, stove, and fuel, so the stoveless method allows for a unique way to add more items that you can actually eat.
My goal is to go lighter and faster this year in the mountains. If you read my 2017 early season gear list article, "Brady Miller's backcountry hunting gear list revisited for 2017," you'll know how much saving weight in your food can pay off.
Part of my light and fast goal was to modify some areas of my backcountry food list. Last year, on a nine day/eight night mule deer bowhunt I carried 14.44 pounds of food which equaled 1.58 pounds of food per day or 3,102 calories of food each day, also I had to carry around 13.25 ounces of cookware. After running that same setup for the past two years, it finally stuck with me that I was carrying too much food weight into the backcountry.
With this new system, I can also ditch my stove, cooking container, fuel canister and spork. This saves me another 13.25 ounces! Plus I'm not burning away precious water (due to evaporation and in the meal itself) to cook a freeze-dried meal in the evening. I'd rather drink that water to rehydrate.
For 2017, I dropped my nine-day food weight down to 13.14 pounds, at 1.45 pounds of food per day. But here is the big part... even with the almost 1.5-pound reduction in food, I still increased my calorie intake to 3,222!
Insight into my backcountry food list
Food is something that I am constantly working to improve for a backcountry hunt. I always shoot for high calories per ounce; I prefer to be at least 160 calories per ounce (this is a very difficult thing to accomplish without just trying to drink olive oil the entire trip). I honestly don't get burned out eating the same thing each day. I just pack what I feel is the best item and eating that each day because in the end, food in the backcountry is just calories and its main purpose is to keep me going. Again, my main consideration is calories per ounce. I've been testing this system out throughout the summer on multiple scouting trips. For my style of hunting, it's going to be perfect!
Right now I’m at 3,222 calories per day for the backcountry.
You’ll notice that my food list is mainly "snack" items. Throughout a hunt, I feel it's hard to have dedicated “meals.” I feel like I’m struggling to force food in my body throughout a day of hunting due to glassing, making a stalk or waiting out a buck. This is why my items are fairly simple and quick to eat and really pack on the calories. This also seems to be a more consistent source of energy for me having lots of small "meal" throughout the day.
A quick, easy and lightweight way to add fat calories to your backcountry diet is to carry a small water bottle full of flax seed or MCT oil to keep your fat intake up. An alternative would be olive oil at 251 calories per ounce. I will either add these items to my protein shake or suck it up and just drink them. There are a lot of great options for ways to carry these fat calorie oils in the backcountry, you can either use a collapsible water bottle like a small Platypus, or my favorite, small water bottles.
Table one: Food items and basic info
|Breakfast||Protein Shake Mix||9||1,063||7.79||70.11|
|Lunch||Pro Bar Meal|
|Subtotal||3,222||23.24 oz||210.16 oz|
|1.45 lb||13.14 lb|
In summary, with my stoveless method, I consume 3,222 calories per day. And the weight of my daily food items is 1.45 pounds and in total my food weighs 13.14 pounds.
Table two: nutrition and calories per ounce
oz of weight
|Lunch||Pro Bar Meal|
|Avg: 160.14||Total: 161.0||Total: 116.6||Total: 338.2|
The table above showcases how many calories per ounce of weight of each food item, as well as the fat, protein, and carb content of each item. I'm really happy with this setup. Especially the 160.14 calories per ounce of food average.
I will also supplement some of my water with some GU Hydration drink mix. In total, I'll bring 6.30 oz.
Just like in years past, my breakfast items are pre-made ahead of time by mixing all the items into a blender and then vacuum sealing. My breakfast is a combination of quick oatmeal, cinnamon, peanut butter powder, hemp seeds, protein powder and chia seeds.
- Protein powder (Universal Nutrition Real Gains): 3.5 scoops - 601 calories - 52g protein
- Hemp seeds: 2 tablespoons - 80 calories - 10.6g protein
- Cinnamon: 2 teaspoons - 12 calories - 0.2g protein
- Peanut butter powder: PB2 - 2 tablespoons - 45 calories - 10g protein
- Quick oats: 3/4 cup - 225 calories - 7.5g protein
- Chia Seeds: 1 tablespoon - 68.5 calories - 4.0g protein
All of these items are blended together at home.
In the field, I add the protein packet, some water and 1 oz of MCT oil (adds another 200 calories) into my shaker bottle.
Total breakfast calories: 1,063
Total with MCT oil: 1,263
- ProBar - Meal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: 130.07 calories per ounce and 390 calories per bar
- Phat Fudge: 177.18 calories per ounce and 200 calories per bar
Total calories: 590
- Justin's Maple Almond Butter: 168.32 calories per ounce and 190 calories per packet
- Justin's Hazelnut Butter: 159.47 calories per ounce and also 14 grams of fat or 180 calories per packet
- Honey Stinger Honey Waffle: 160 calories per ounce and also 7 grams of fat
Combining Justin’s Hazelnut and Almond butter on a Honey Stinger waffle is, by far, my ultimate snack. I crave these in the backcountry! This combination packs in 530 calories. These Justin’s packets are a perfect size and you don’t have the bulk of larger plastic tubes of peanut butter, which can cause you to overeat. Another great option is Yumbutter Almond packets at 190 calories per two tablespoons. They are packed with tons of calories and come in a resealable container. Plus they have chia, hemp seeds and goji in them.
Total calories for the afternoon snack: 530
- Greenbelly Meals: 114.28 calories per ounce or 645 calories
- Roasted Macadamia nuts: 204 calories per ounce and also 19 grams of fat.
Total calories for dinner: 849
Food breakdown graphics
What you’re seeing in the above graphic is the percentage of my total daily caloric intake by meal. You’ll notice that I start and end each day with the most calories. I do this to kickstart my body in the morning and then to recover in the evening.
Weight savings going stoveless
2016 food/cook kit weight
230.97 ounces in food + 13.25 ounces for the stove, cook pot, titanium spork and fuel + 5.3 ounces for shaker bottle = 244.22 ounces or 15.26 pounds
2017 food/cook kit weight
210.16 ounces in food + 5.3 ounces for shaker bottle = 215.36 ounces or 13.46 pounds
When comparing my 2017 and 2016 food/cook kit, I saved a total of 28.86 ounces or 1.8 pounds! I will gladly run the stoveless method for those weight savings plus an increase in calories.
This backcountry food list may seem crazy to some. But, for backcountry hunts, I can trade comfort food for a food item formulated to contain just the fuel I need. Note: I highly suggest you test out any combination of backcountry food before you jump on a hunt. You need to feel out what your body needs and what flavors your body needs. If you're a freeze-dried meal person, then grab a handful of flavors and test them all out ahead of time.
Hopefully, this stoveless food list might help you think outside of the box. There are still some items I might modify after this season, but after saving 1.8 pounds from my 2016 setup, increasing in total calories and increasing my average meal to 160.14 calories per ounce, at this point in the game this backcountry food list is a winner for me. Let me know your thoughts or if you have any suggestions on food items that I could add or remove. I’m always trying to evolve my setup and hopefully, this will help you create your own food list. Feedback is always welcome.