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Expedition Food Planning

Here's how we did our food planning for the Wrangell's trip.

We must find the balance between getting enough food to sustain ourselves and stay well fed and warm, while not going overboard and hauling an unnecessary amount of weight on the icefield. Food will not be stashed in advance at our other camps.

To help us determine where this balance might be, we followed the NOLS food rationing plan on last year’s expedition. We calculated approximately 2lbs of high calorie food per day per person because of the miles we’d be covering. In the NOLS food rationing plan, 2-2.25 lbs per day is described as good for “when you are hiking, climbing, or skiing with full packs during cool days and cold nights…this gives you between 3,500 and 4,500 calories per person per day.” We then calculated how much total weight in food we wanted to aim for:

2 lbs per person per day x 6 people x 13 days = 156 lbs of food

Two of our group members eye-shopped at Costco to get ideas for meals and information on the cost, weight, and number of servings in the items we could purchase there. One of our goals was to eat lots of snacks so we wouldn’t have to pack as much fuel to use cooking long meals. The results of our Costco search was created in an excel sheet.

From this, we planned meals, calculated how many of each item we would need, and then made sure that the total purchase would fall within both our weight and budget goals. Our meals were as follows:


  • Instant potatoes Add-on: Gravy, bacon bits, TVP

  • Instant oatmeal (already flavored packets) Add-on: peanut butter, granola, sliced almonds


  • Summer sausage

  • Cheese

  • Dried fruit – chocolate covered acai berries, dates

  • Granola bars

  • Pita bread with peanut butter, jam, or cream cheese

  • Ramen

  • Jerky sticks

  • Pub Mix

  • Pocket chocolate (assorted snack sized candy bars)


  • Annie’s mac and cheese (Add-on: Sausage, dried veggies, bacon bits)

  • Quinoa/brown rice (Add-on: canned chicken, cheese, sauce packets, tvp)

  • Pasta (Add-on: Sauce packets, dried beans, pesto)


  • Instant coffee

  • Tea

  • Energy gels

  • Hot chocolate

  • Whiskey

  • Gatorade powder

Most of these items came from Costco. Our total weight came to 81 pounds and a cost of $304. With the remaining $88 budgeted, we purchased items such as dehydrated sauce packets, energy gels, jam, cream cheese, Gatorade powder, etc from Fred Meyer. We also pinched a few random donations from my parent's house that we didn’t want to buy in bulk (thanks for the peanut butter and hot cocoa mom).

The last thing to plan out was how much fuel we would need to bring. The needs for fuel were to melt snow for drinking water, coffee, oatmeal, hash browns, pasta, and hot drinks before bed. The NOLS rationing plan suggested .25 of a liter of fuel per day person in warmer snow conditions. So for a possible 13 days in the field, we calculated:

.25 liter per day x 8 people x 13 days = 26 liters of fuel

As it turned out, we used much less fuel in the field than we calculated on the Stikine Icefield, but our trip length was much shorter than planned and it is critical to pack extra in the event of weather days. Furthermore, the Stikine Icefield has a warmer, wetter maritime snowpack. The Wrangell's have a drier, colder continental snow pack. So for drier colder climates we suggest going a little fatter on fuel because it takes longer to melt snow.

There is little I would change from our meal planning from last year. The variety was nice, the ability to make an easy base meal and then add the preferred toppings was great for making both a tasty vegetarian and a meat option. I felt well fed while still well under our goal of total weight in food. Sadly, we did run out of cheese only several days into the Stikine trip. I’ve decided it is almost impossible to bring too much cheese on these types of trips as it goes well with almost every meal. This is of course only if you are willing to carry the extra weight. I would also budget a little more money for travel food or eating out. On the Stikine trip we were weathered in our staging town for several days and ended up buying fruits, vegetables, beer, and a couple meals out while. When you don’t have to eat instant hash browns for breakfast, it is a sweet luxury to have a little money to buy muffins, or fresh fruit instead!

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