Five Backcountry Hunter Nutrition Tips

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Hunting from a backcountry camp opens up a world of advantages, but it also requires more logistics than a day hunt. Backcountry nutrition is at the top of the list, and it’s an issue we get a ton of questions about. How do you pack and eat enough food to properly fuel yourself so you don’t crash on the mountain and ruin a dream hunt, or worse, put your life at risk?

It’s a classic backcountry conundrum: do you err on the side of overpacking to ensure you have all the nutrition you need, or do you go minimalist and save energy by not having to schlep a 150-pound pack into camp?

Our approach has evolved a lot over the years. We’ve tried everything, from bringing the kitchen sink to bare-bones trips that left us skinny and angry by the time we got back to the truck. Solid options in the middle remained elusive. Unsatisfied, we started to dig into the science and found some pretty enlightening information that guided our backcountry nutrition plans.

While there are way more freeze-dried, gel, and powder nutrition options available to us now, at the end of the day, you’re simply going to burn more energy than you’re able to replace on a backcountry hunt. There is no silver bullet, but you can manage that deficit. The good news is, there are five primary considerations to pay attention to: calories, fat, protein, sodium, and hydration.

Above all, it’s critical to maintain a consistent intake of nutrients throughout the day. Don’t try to cram it all in at lunch or dinner.. We like to break our food out into daily rations that give us the nutrition we need for each day. This alleviates any guesswork so you know how much you need to consume per day. Make snacks easily accessible so you can eat on the go, and drink small amounts of water throughout the day.

With that said, here are our five backcountry nutrition priorities. As always, hit us up if you have any questions.

Calories

You need to get as many calories as you possibly can when you’re covering long, rugged miles in the mountains. The problem is, hunters typically burn more calories than they’re likely willing to pack on a backcountry hunt. An average 40-year old male will burn around 6,000 calories per day carrying a 50-pound pack in vertical terrain. For a four-night/five-day trip, that’s 30,000 calories you would need to pack. Try shoving 30,000 calories worth of food into your pack with all your other gear and you’ll realize why this may not be a realistic option.

See also  .300 Winchester Magnum for Grizzly Or Brown Bear Hunting? Best Ammo (Round, Load, Cartridge) for a Successful Grizzly Or Brown Bear Hunt Hunting Calibers 04 Apr, 2020 Posted By: Foundry Outdoors Is the .300 Winchester Magnum a viable caliber/load/round/cartridge for grizzly or brown bear hunting? The accurate answer is “it depends”. However, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether the .300 Winchester Magnum is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest grizzly or brown bear. As with anything, the devil is in the details. To answer the question completely, we would need to evaluate the downrange distance to the grizzly or brown bear, the bullet type, the grain weight of the bullet, the physical condition of the firearm, the size of the grizzly or brown bear in question, the shot placement, the local wind conditions, the expected accuracy of the shooter, the ethics of the ideal maximum number of shots – the list goes on. [Click Here to Shop .300 Winchester Magnum Ammo]What we can do is provide a framework to understand what average conditions might look like, and whether those are reasonably viable for a shot from the average shooter to harvest a grizzly or brown bear in the fewest number of shots possible, i.e., ethically. Let’s dive right in. In the question of “Is the .300 Winchester Magnum within the ideal range of suitable calibers for grizzly or brown bear hunting?” our answer is: Yes, the .300 Winchester Magnum is A GOOD CHOICE for grizzly or brown bear hunting, under average conditions, from a mid-range distance, with a medium grain expanding bullet, and with correct shot placement.Let’s look at those assumptions a bit closer in the following table. Assumption Value Caliber .300 Winchester Magnum Animal Species Grizzly Or Brown Bear Muzzle Energy 3520 foot-pounds Animal Weight 595 lbs Shot Distance 200 yardsWhat is the average muzzle energy for a .300 Winchester Magnum? In this case, we have assumed the average muzzle energy for a .300 Winchester Magnum round is approximately 3520 foot-pounds. What is the average weight of an adult male grizzly or brown bear? Here we have leaned conservative by taking the average weight of a male individual of the species, since females generally weigh less and require less stopping power. In this case, the average weight of an adult male grizzly or brown bear is approximately 595 lbs. [Click Here to Shop .300 Winchester Magnum Ammo]What is the distance this species is typically hunted from? Distance, of course, plays an important role in the viability of a given caliber in grizzly or brown bear hunting. The kinetic energy of the projectile drops dramatically the further downrange it travels primarily due to energy lost in the form of heat generated by friction against the air itself. This phenonemon is known as drag or air resistance. Thus, a caliber that is effective from 50 yards may not have enough stopping power from 200 yards. With that said, we have assumed the average hunting distance for grizzly or brown bear to be approximately 200 yards. What about the other assumptions? We have three other primary assumptions being made here. First, the average bullet weight is encapsulated in the average muzzle energy for the .300 Winchester Magnum. The second important assumption is ‘slightly-suboptimal’ to ‘optimal’ shot placement. That is to say, we assume the grizzly or brown bear being harvested is shot directly or nearly directly in the vitals (heart and/or lungs). The third assumption is that a projectile with appropriate terminal ballistics is being used, which for hunting usually means an expanding bullet.Various calibersA common thread you may encounter in online forums is anecdote after anecdote of large animals being brought down by small caliber bullets, or small animals surviving large caliber bullets. Of course those stories exist, and they are not disputed here. A 22LR cartridge can fell a bull elephant under the right conditions, and a newborn squirrel can survive a 50 BMG round under other specific conditions. Again, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether .300 Winchester Magnum is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest grizzly or brown bear - and to this question, the response again is yes, the .300 Winchester Magnum is A GOOD CHOICE for grizzly or brown bear hunting. [Click Here to Shop .300 Winchester Magnum Ammo]This article does not serve as the final say, but simply as a starting point for beginner hunters, as well as a venue for further discussion. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and share stories from your own experience in the comments section below. Disclaimer: the information above is purely for illustrative purposes and should not be taken as permission to use a particular caliber, a statement of the legality or safety of using certain calibers, or legal advice in any way. You must read and understand your own local laws before hunting grizzly or brown bear to know whether your caliber of choice is a legal option.Foundry Outdoors is your trusted home for buying archery, camping, fishing, hunting, shooting sports, and outdoor gear online.We offer cheap ammo and bulk ammo deals on the most popular ammo calibers. We have a variety of deals on Rifle Ammo, Handgun Ammo, Shotgun Ammo & Rimfire Ammo, as well as ammo for target practice, plinking, hunting, or shooting competitions. Our website lists special deals on 9mm Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 45-70 Ammo, 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, 300 Blackout Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 5.56 Ammo, Underwood Ammo, Buffalo Bore Ammo and more special deals on bulk ammo.We offer a 100% Authenticity Guarantee on all products sold on our website. Please email us if you have questions about any of our product listings. Leave a commentComments have to be approved before showing up Your Name * Your Email * Your Comment * Post Comment

With calories, it’s all about finding what your anticipated caloric burn will be and building a nutrition plan that will give you the performance you need, especially as you burn more calories than you’re able to replace. We built a Backcountry Calorie Calculator to help you estimate your caloric burn for up to an eight-day hunt. By inputting your weight, pack weight, elevation gain, and hiking distance and speed, the calculator helps you anticipate what that burn will be — and what your caloric deficit will be — so you can effectively plan for each day of your hunt.

The primary reason hunters bonk is because they run at a caloric deficit for too many days in a row. This can bring a long-planned hunt to an early end and even put a hunter’s life in danger deep in the backcountry. Planning for each day of your hunt will help to ensure you have the energy you need to stay on point and in pursuit day after day, especially if you get a kill and have to pack out an animal.

Find lightweight, calorie-dense meals and snacks for each day of your trip. Using the calculator, we like to place each day’s nutrition into a ziplock bag so we know exactly what we need to consume each day. Do everything you can to get 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day.

There are more freeze-dried meal options than we can mention here. The important thing is to find real food, calorie-rich meals that you like and then stick with them. We often like to eat our freeze-dried meals at lunch during the downtime between animal activity rather than late at night when we get back to camp after an evening hunt. This allows your body to fully digest a big meal instead of shoving 1,000 calories down your stomach at 9 p.m. before you go to sleep. Another pro tip we love is to throw a ramen noodle packet into your freeze-dried meals when you add hot water. They’re light, cheap, tasty, cook quickly, and add a nice boost of calories and sodium.

For snacks, dark chocolate and macaroons are great calorie-rich options. It’s also hard to beat the Honey Stinger Waffle’s high calorie-to-ounce ratio. Most importantly, keep your daily snacks at your fingertips so you can eat them all day long.

As we said earlier, the most important thing you can do is to plan your food strategically and spread your calories throughout the day. Understand your prey’s patterns, and eat accordingly so you can effectively digest your food and stay in pursuit when opportunities arise.

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Fat

This one is often overlooked, but fat might be the most important source of nutrition in the backcountry. Fat provides essential fatty acids, which the body cannot produce on its own. Fat is also high in energy and helps the body to absorb vitamins.

Our heart rate slows at altitude, causing our body to burn more fat as an energy source. Your body will thank you for consuming as much fat as you can in the backcountry. Fat is typically a heavier option, but for us, the benefits of healthy fat consumption outweigh the downside of packing a few extra ounces.

Coconut oil is a great fat source, plus it’s lightweight. Bring a container of coconut oil and stir some into your coffee in the morning and even your freeze-dried meals. Mini Babybel Cheese rounds are another great fat source and can be eaten as a snack on the go. Some of us even pack an old school log of hard salami, which provides vital fat and protein. Is it lightweight? No, definitely not. But after eating freeze-dried meals and bars for days on end, sinking your teeth into some salami will make you forget all about the weight.

Protein

Protein is absolutely essential for muscle recovery and for maintaining your metabolism during active endeavors. Protein also provides calories, and experts recommend that anywhere between 10 to 35 percent of your calories should come from protein. Once you find your optimal daily caloric intake, make sure at least 10 percent (we aim for 25 percent) is coming from protein.

Freeze-dried meals containing meat are a great way to get a protein boost, but you should also consume other sources of protein throughout the day. Nut butter, mixed nuts, and seeds are all great sources of protein on the go. Those delicious salami logs we mentioned as a fat source are also a replenishing source of great protein. Protein powder is another nice option that can easily be consumed with water.

Sodium

Most of us don’t need an excuse to eat sodium, so there’s no reason you should deprive yourself of this vital nutrient in the backcountry. Too much sodium is definitely not good, but it’s essential for providing electrolytes and maintaining the body’s proper pH level. Sodium is the primary electrolyte lost when we sweat. You could drink water all day long, but if you don’t consume enough sodium your body won’t be able to maintain its pH. Elevation, hot weather, and long periods of high activity all contribute to a greater loss of electrolytes.

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You can easily get sodium in both your meals and snacks. Just make sure that your nutrition plan accounts for a healthy amount of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends eating between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

There has been a ton of research done around sodium intake for ultramarathon runners, and there are some great products on the market that can give you a nice boost on the go. Many endurance runners now use salt tablets to maintain electrolytes. Salt tabs are lightweight, and they allow you to easily measure how much sodium you’re adding to your diet. In general, try to consume around 500 to 700 milligrams of sodium per liter of water. Remember, you are getting sodium from other food in your daily ration. Don’t overdo it, but if you’re running low on sodium, salt tabs are a perfect option to give you a boost.

Hydration

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s really easy to avoid drinking water when we’re hunting. This leads us to drink large amounts all at once, which is a recipe for a severe stomach ache. Whether you prefer drinking out of a bladder or a bottle, make sure your water is in a convenient spot so you can sip on it all day long.

We also like to add supplements to our water, which give it some flavor to help encourage us to drink it and can also provide many other great nutrient boosts. Tailwind Nutrition has a ton of great powder concoctions that you can add to your water to replenish calories, electrolytes, and carbohydrates as you hydrate.

Lastly, water will likely be the heaviest thing in your pack. It’s crucial to understand where you will be hunting so you don’t have to pack in more water than you need. You may find an incredible hunting spot that is loaded with game, but if a water source is miles away, you’re going to run into problems camping there. Packing enough water for even just one day is completely unrealistic. Camp near good water sources, and carry a portable water filter like a Katadyn BeFree so you can drink as you cross water sources without having to haul several liters as you hunt.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>