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There are a couple of long hikes that I am thinking of doing, both are 70 to 80 miles (110 to 130 km) long one way. I would like to do a yo-yo (140 to 160 miles, 230 to 260 km) without a resupply.

I am not worried about running out of food, since I can just hike until half of the food is gone and then turn around, but I would like to make it to the end and back.

What strategies/tactics would help me backpack further without a resupply?

  • 11
    Eating half the food and turning back could be problematic if you run into weather delays on the way back out. – Loren Pechtel Mar 26 '17 at 3:00
  • 4
    Kill something and eat that. – Valorum Mar 26 '17 at 13:13
  • 1
    Drive to the yo-yo point and cache some cans of food. – Valorum Mar 26 '17 at 13:14
  • 2
    @Valorum This works only if the yo-yo point is on a road. It might be a high mountain lake, or the summit of a peak. Please clarify, Charlie. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Mar 26 '17 at 14:01
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    @ab2 It's not that I can't go to the other end, or pay for a shuttle or cache food at the end but rather that I would rather spend my time/in the outdoors than in a vehicle and save money by not getting a shuttle. – Reinstate Monica Mar 26 '17 at 18:03
24

You don't say anything about the climate and ascent/descent involved, but assuming an average mountain trail 160 miles (260 km) should be doable in a single push.

I don't think there's any magic solution to this - it's simply applied common-sense. The main issue is the extra food you have to carry without resupply - around 1kilo/2.2lbs per day on trail plus a bit extra for safety.

First, get fit so you can cover the ground fast

First and foremost, I would suggest you get well trained before you go. This means you can travel fast and carry less food, keeping your pack-weight more reasonable. Get going at first light and walk steadily till dusk. Start slow and finish strong, keeping plenty of energy in hand. Strong walkers would aim to average well over 20 miles (32 km) a day on mountain trails in summer conditions - this is a typical pace for anyone tackling trails like the AT or the PCT so it's doable if you're trained. Even if you only manage 20 miles (32 km) a day, you should cover 160 miles (260 km) in a maximum of 8 days. Fast walkers would complete a trip like this in 5-6 days. If the weather in your area is volatile, you need to allow an extra day or two in case you get storm-bound.

Second, minimise your base weight

If you want to cover distance, you'll probably want to prioritise lightness over comfort. So you should reduce your base pack weight as far as your skill and experience allows without compromising safety. For example, if conditions allow you might want to take a tarp rather than a tent.

Third, pack calorie-dense food

Then you'll want to pack calorie-dense food with a high fat content. It's reasonable to aim for an average of around 120 calories per oz (18 MJ/kg), or even higher if you're prepared to eat a lot of fats such as peanut butter or olive oil. As an average sized male carrying a pack all day on a steep trail you'll be burning around 4000-5000 calories (17-21 MJ) daily. To maintain your weight, you'd have to carry 5000/120 = 42 oz (1.2 kg) of food per day. Most people feel this is too much, and carry around 2.2 lbs (1.0 kg) of food per day (or less if they're small and light). On long trails they re-feed in the trail towns to maintain their weight. On a relatively short walk like this, you would lose a little body-fat. If you have body-fat to spare, you could safely under-eat by an additional 500-1000 calories (2.1–4.2 MJ) a day, so you'd lose a few lbs from your belly during your walk, reducing your pack weight by a few lbs. It's important to trial this on day-walks or weekenders before committing to a bigger walk, so you know how much food you need to keep you happy on the trail.

  • 4
    It will of course depend a lot on circumstances (terrain, fitness, hiking style), but I have the feeling that 32 km/d as a baseline is a bit high. I assume that trails that don't allow for resupply over 100+ km will typically be less well kept than the AT and might significantly reduce your walking speed. That said, I fully agree with your other tips and the conclusion that this is doable with good preparation. I've done a 240 km hike with practically no resupplies. But, taking it easy, we only averaged slightly below 20 km/d. – Emil Mar 26 '17 at 10:26
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    @Emil - well, as you say, you were taking it easy. The tradeoff is that you had to carry more food. It's a balance that every walker has to decide for themselves, I think, depending on their goals and preferences. – Tullochgorum Mar 26 '17 at 18:01
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    Additionally you might want to stash food on the side, so that you can pick it up on the trip back. That way you don't have to carry as much weight. (With the downside of risking your stash to animals / weather / whatever you didn't prepare for) – Angelo Fuchs Mar 27 '17 at 7:19
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    @AngeloFuchs - I think that the advisability of caching your food would need to be thought through very carefully. As you say, there's a risk you might lose your food and get into quite serious trouble. Plus weather or injury might force you to change your route, meaning you couldn't get back to your cache. So you would have to work out the balance of risks – Tullochgorum Mar 28 '17 at 9:08
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    After much personal experience I have to agree with @Emil here: I think 20-25km/day is a more reasonable baseline for most people and trails (ultralight/athletes/very easy trails not withstanding). Keep in mind you'll likely be carrying some 20-25kgs in the beginning - that is a lot! – fgysin reinstate Monica Apr 3 '17 at 9:37
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I agree with what @Tullochgorum said, and will not repeat his points, but let's examine your strategy of eating half your food and then turning back.

This is a zeroth order approximation to how to end your trip at the same time as you finish your food. As @Loren Pechtel said, you may run into bad weather on your way back. But you are young, fit, strong and intelligent. You can afford to be tent-bound for a few days, eating very little and burning few calories. You will then do what explorers in similar situations have always done: Cut your rations, try not to think about food, bull through and arrive at the end thin and hungry.

You can fine-tune your strategy by taking into account the altitude profile of your hike. At one extreme, the trip out has all of the ascent and the trip back is pure descent. Since descent is usually twice as fast as ascent, this means you would turn around when you had eaten 2/3 of your food. In the other extreme (going into the Grand Canyon, for example), you'd turn around when you had eaten 1/3 of your food. Taking the profile of your hike into account gives you your first order approximation.

Now for the second order approximation: Your pack will be lighter on the return, so you can make better time. You will be fitter on the way back, so you can make better time -- or you will have gotten exhausted or sprained something so you will make worse time; you have to deal with this variable statistically, based on what you know about how you perform on long hikes and how accident prone you are.

Finally, you can deliberately plan to lose weight on this trip. You should be OK planning to lose 5 pounds, but your safety margin for bad weather is less. You might want to gain weight before the trip, but if so you have to embark on a weight-gain plus improved fitness regimen, as Jon Krakauer did before his successful Everest attempt, reported in Into Thin Air. This may be overkill for the trip you are planning.

9

I would add one suggestion to the other answers:

  • Since you are coming back by the same way, you can cache your food on the way up. The first day will be heavy, but the weight will go down much faster. It requires some extra planning and a few extra approximations, but i means that you basically do the way back with at most 1-2 days of food with you. (You need to plan for caching, though, especially if you have bears and such in your region).

Also, I assume you have a strategy for water. To carry as little water as possible, get as much information as you can on where you can get water, and what is the situation when you are actually reaching that supply. (For example, some springs may be dry in summer or frozen in winter.)

Finally, make sure you know yourself. How much food you need, what type of food you can eat for several days in a row, how much more you can walk when you are tired, what is the impact of bad weather on morale and speed,...

5

I used to do week long trips as a kid with a pretty light pack. If you hunt, fish, & gather along the way, you'll find that you can greatly extend your food supply. A telescoping rod, or an Ugly Stick™ pack well and only add a few ounces of weight.

A .22 is slightly heavier, but well worth the 4 or 5 pounds. I always felt just a touch safer having my rifle along anyway. I don't recommend anything bigger than this though. Larger caliper rifles are too heavy, have heavier ammo, and it's not like you're hunting big game. We're talking squirrel & rabbits here anyway. (Actually, a 410 gauge shotgun would be a nice alternative, now that I think about it.)

Also, take advantage of nature's bounty! Keep your eyes open for wild carrots, berries, nuts, and other forage. Just, be sure that you know what you're eating. You wouldn't want to eat something that makes you ill on the trail, so only forage if you know what you're doing.

Lastly, don't count on finding food on the trail. Keep a good eye on your rations and turn around if you even think you're running short. Sure, people can live a lot longer than a few days without food, but the odds of making a stupid mistake and getting hurt go way up when you're hungry.


I don't know where you are, and therefore I don't know the legality of what I'm recommending, so please check your local laws and obtain any necessary licenses/training before taking along a gun & fishing rod.

5

@Tollochgorum has a lot of great ideas/suggestions, but I'd like to add on a few points.

Depending on how serious you are about covering this ground quickly, I'd scrap the tent/tarp and replace it with a waterproof Bivy Sack. Having used this in the military for extended overnight hikes, it worked great. Simply hike/walk until you're too tired, plop it down in a small clearing next to the trail, go to sleep and start again the next day. These have the added benefit of being able to house a sleeping bag within the Bivy Sack, which ensures that you and your sleeping bag don't get wet.

As a few of your other posts/questions recently have hinted at, using this method you, with an adequate light source, you could also conceivably hike well into the night. This would expand the amount of time during the day that you'd be able to hike/walk.

Beyond bringing only high calorie based food, you might want to keep the amount of foods that you'll need a heater to cook to a minimum. Time spent prepping food or waiting for water to boil is time you're not moving or resting, which should be the only two things you're focusing on, if completing this quickly is your goal.

Opinion Based:

I'd scrap any ideas of catching/hunting game along the trail. Besides the extra weight for the tools to catch anything you'd want to eat, you'd also have to bring tools to clean and dispose of the animal properly. This extra weight would deter me from ever doing this, if you're looking to cover ground quickly. 4lbs for a rifle is 4lbs of food you're not able to bring. 4 lbs of Oatmeal or protein powder is a ton of calories, which you'll need to keep up the pace.

Not to mention that any time you spend looking/hunting/fishing for food is time you're not moving closer to your goal. While it sounds neat, in practice, unless you're a very skilled hunter, this type of foraging is better for trips where you have a base camp and plenty of leisure time.

Also, you'd have to add in the time you would have to spend gutting the animal and digging a hole to bury the entrails or otherwise stash them. If you're practicing "leave no trace" you might also have to pack out the carcass and entrails after you eat the animal.

In other words, if completing this trek as quickly as possible is your true goal, forsake all other endeavors or distractions which might slow you down.

  • 3
    +1 for your critique of the idea of gathering food on the way. If you're very skilled and know the area well it might just be possible, but then you wouldn't have to ask. For the rest of us - don't even think about it. – Tullochgorum Mar 31 '17 at 22:57
  • @Tullochgorum is probably right about that. If you're asking, it's not really an option for you. Also, I was definitely never in a hurry when I made those trips. There was no destination, just a journey. – RubberDuck Apr 2 '17 at 15:34
1

When I trekked in the desert for few days I had the same problem. We solved it by hiding the food in the ground. We took a car few days earlier with lots of water and food (mostly in cans) and a hoe, and in points that our trail was close to the road we dug and put food and water. Then covered with soil and took few photos, both in zoom-in and zoom-out in order to help us to find the exact spot later (it's harder than it sounds). It helped us a lot, and it's also fun - you earn an additional car trip, and also every time you find the right spot it's really exciting :)

Enjoy your trek!

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