The 1,500 Goldfish Diet: Meal Planning, Shopping, and Calorie Counting on the Colorado Trail

 

Food planning was one of the more intensive aspects of this trip. We have done extensive climbing and hiking in the backcountry so we had most of the gear and knew what we needed and how to use it. But food planning was a task upon itself.

The bad news: Food is heavy. The good news: Food is consumable.

Your pack will continually get lighter in between resupply locations. We resupplied on food about every 5-7 days at various places along the road where you can ship packages ahead and pick them up. But that also means every 5-7 days was quite the load to haul!

We began by researching others who had recently completed through-hikes and we aimed for a goal of 3,500 calories per day which ended up as about 1.5 pounds of food per day for us. Although hikers will average 5,000-6,000 calories burned per day, we felt this was the right amount to balance replacing burned calories and keeping the weight manageable. Even the fittest person has lots of calories stored in fat on their body so everyone's body has plenty of untapped reserves to pull from throughout the trip. It takes weeks to starve to death!

I created three "meal plans" that helped not only to track calories and shopping needs but also to vary the food we were eating. Calories per ounce is your key metric and I devised several spreadsheets that helped determine the best foods for the weight and total weight for each meal. This is typically high fat, high calorie foods like peanut butter, trail mix, and dried meat like jerky with a mix of energy bars and energy gels thrown in for good measure.

The count refers to the number of days I was planning on eating that meal.

Tables can be scrolled to the right to see the whole plan.

Breakfast Trail Dinner TOTAL CALORIES TOTAL WEIGHT
Item Calories
Oz. total
Item Calories
Oz. Total
Item Calories
Oz. Total
20 days
Meal Plan 1
Poptart (1 package) 400 3.67 Stinger Waffle (2) 320 2 Freeze-Dried Meal 420 3
3378
1.46 pounds
Jif to go (1) 250 1.5 Trail Mix (1 cup) 693 5 Fritos Corn Chips (2 servings) 320 3
Gu (2) 200 2.2 Jolly Ranchers (6 pieces) 140 0.5 Jif to go (1) 250 1.5
7.37 Goldfish (50 fishies) 140 1 7.5
8.5

 

Breakfast Trail Dinner TOTAL CALORIES TOTAL WEIGHT
Item Calories
Oz. total
Item Calories
Oz. Total
Item Calories
Oz. Total
10 days
Meal Plan 2
Instant Oatmeal (2 packages) 240 1.5 Stinger Waffle (2) 320 2 Ramen (one package) 380 1
3213
1.25 pounds
Jif to go (1) 250 1.5 Sesame Snap 160 1 Stuffing Mix 220 1.9
Gu (2) 200 2.2 Trail Mix (1 cup) 693 5 Beef stick (1) 120 0.9
5.2 Jolly Ranchers (6 pieces) 140 0.5 3.8
Triscuits (12 pieces with PB) 240 1
Jif to go (1) 250 1.5
11

 

Count
10 days
Meal Plan 3
Bagel with PB (1) 245 3 Stinger Waffle (2) 320 2 Instant Potatoes (1) 165 1.5
3083
1.5 pounds
Jif to go (1) 250 1.5 Trail Mix (1 cup) 693 5 Instant Mac and Cheese cup (2) 440 4
Gu (2) 200 2.2 Jolly Ranchers (6 pieces) 140 0.5 Jif to go (1) 250 1.5
6.7 Goldfish (50 fishies) 140 1 Beef stick (1) 120 0.9
Beef stick (1) 120 0.9 7.9
9.4

 

The Complete Shopping List:

Two-serving freeze-dried meals (split) 20 meals / 1 serving each
 Single-serve Peanut Butter 80 packets/cups
Gu Energy 80 packets
Instant Oatmeal 20 packets
Trail Mix 40 cups (1 cup per day)
Stinger Energy Waffles 80 waffles
Jolly Ranchers ~240 pieces
Goldfish ~1,500 fishies
Beef stick 30 sticks
Corn Chips 40 servings
Poptart 20 packages / 40 poptarts
Loucks Dark Chocolate Sesame Snap

10 packages / 2 per package

Triscuits

~120 crackers

Instant Ramen

10 packages

Dry stuffing mix

20 cups / (1 cup per)

Bagels

10 bagels

Instant Potatoes

10 bowls

Instant Macaroni & Cheese

20 bowls

 

As a journalist-turned-designer, the driving interest in my work is to unify the ethical and documentary obligations of journalism (storytelling) and its common ground with the projective, forward-thinking obligations of the design fields (futuretelling)."

Jonathan Knight