AMC Outdoors > Equipped > Web Exclusives

The Highest Calorie Trail Foods

August 31, 2009
When I’m out on a long backcountry adventure, I aim to consume around 3,000 calories per day. This means that if my food averages 100 calories per ounce, I’m toting roughly 2 pounds (30 ounces) of food per day. If I’m out on a two-week backpacking trip with no options for resupply, that quickly adds up to 25 pounds of grub. If my calorie/ounce averages less than that, then it starts to become a real issue. For example, if the average is only 75 calories/ounce, we’re talking 33 pounds!
So what’s the best way to achieve that benchmark of 100 calories per ounce? Know which foods have the highest calories by weight!

Fat contains the densest concentration of energy, more than twice that of carbohydrates and protein. Thus a heaping ounceful of pure fat sets the upper limit: 255 calories.

You probably don’t want to eat Crisco or lard for your meals, however, and might want to consider our next calorie champion: nuts. Depending on the type, nuts range from 160-200 calories per ounce. In order, they are:

200 calories/ounce: Macadamias, Pecans
190: Brazil nuts, Walnuts
180: Hazelnuts
170: Peanuts
160: Almonds, Cashews, Pine Nuts, Pistachios

Next up are various seeds.

160 calories/ounce: Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds

Then we have a whole slew of items that hover around the 100-120 calories/ounce mark. These include:

Dried fruit—apricots, mangos, cherries, etc.

Cheese
Pasta

Salami (Pepperoni usually has more calories)

Candy bars (Go for the peanut M&M’s: 145 calories/ounce)

Most energy bars

Finally, for breakfast, consider granola (120-150 calories/ounce) instead of oatmeal (80-100 calorie).

Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.
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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.