Backpacking for weight loss - pros, cons, advice

9:18 a.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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It's pretty much a given that you'll burn more than you consume on a backpacking trip because your digestive system isn't calibrated to carry all that extra weight.

I lost over 30 pounds by day-hiking on hills and cutting my calorie intake so I know it's possible to hike off excess flab. I'd like to hear other people's experiences -- whether they tried to lose weight via backpacking and how it turned out long term.

My experience was that it was impossible to lose weight by exercise alone, and that a constant exercise regimen seemed to actually cause rapid weight gain as soon as I stopped.

My thinking lately is that you should exercise because of the health benefits but concentrate on diet to control weight. How has it worked for the rest of you?

10:04 a.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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Personally I always look forward to summer when I can get back out and hike all day and travel for weeks on end. I don't hike much in the areas that I work where its snows like I used to when I was in my 20's, so I tend to put on quite a bit of fat mainly in my gut. I do walk everywhere or bicycle when the weathers nice.

I am 54 and have never had or driven a car,truck or motorvehicle since I had a Moped when I was 16.

I usually gain about 30-40 extra pounds in the winter. So when summer comes and I can get out and hike I really drop the pounds quick.

Generally I eat about two pounds of food a day in the form of Oatmeal, crackers/cheese and Pasta for my main three meals every day. But much of the time I go out with 2-3 weeks worth of food stuffs in my pack and finish a long hike with still almost half the food carried cause I tend to hike a lot and eat less, living off my body fat I assume. I can usually loose 50% of my winter fat in the first few weeks to a month, no matter what I eat.

If I am lucky enough as I usually am to take off many months to hike, bike tour,canyoneer or just stay in the wilderness for many months, I can usually get my body weight down from a late winter weight of 245-50 lbs to about my average late summer weight of 180-200 lbs.

For 34 years I have lived the same way, usually working the summers and taking fall,winter and spring off to do whatever I like to do. So my body has stayed in reasonable shape and has few complaints about age that most people who work year-round seem to have.

Me during a bicycle tour across Alaska in 2006

11:33 a.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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My thinking lately is that you should exercise because of the health benefits but concentrate on diet to control weight.

I think so too. Apparently sugary foods and alcohol make a huge difference. John Ratey has a book out (and there is a google video I think) on exercise and the brain but it just reinforces common sense. Regular exercise just makes it possible to do more with yourself because you are more 'balanced', I think; this could include a purposeful weight loss.

12:31 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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It does not matter what the activity is . . . the weight loss formula is easy:

"kcal inā€”kcal out"

It is the "implementation" of the formula that is hard!

The basic Hammer Nutrition calculations is that the body can not handle more than 200-260 kcal an hour, so trying to intake more is just a waste.

If you hike/bike/run and burn "X" kcal, then intake as much, then no weight loss. Then you need to keep from "over re-fuel" afterwards.

10:41 p.m. on March 5, 2010 (EST)
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I guess I'll be a test case for this over the next year.

I grew up eating fatty southern fried foods and then went into the Army. When I was in high school and in the service, I was completely active and young, so the lessons I learned at that time were eat what you want and don't worry about it. You'll just burn it off.

Then I got out of the Army and went to college. I ate what I want, drank what I want. Then I woke up one morning and found I had gained 90 pounds and was pushing 270 at 5'9. I immediately got a bike and started hitting a nearby bike trail. I went from 270 to 230 in about a year.

But then life got in the way. I moved to a new city. Bought a house. Had a child. It seemed that every time I turned around I just never had time for exercise.

I just turned 35 a few days ago and it finally got me thinking about some things. Basically, that it is time to stop making excuses and get out of the house. I've basically been around 225 for years now. I'm supposed to be at around 160 for my height, but that's ridiculous. I got to 167 in the Army after basic but never maintained it. If I could get somewhere between 180 and 190, I'd be happy.

So, my biggest motivator and also what I think is a good way to lose weight is getting back to what I love. That's backpacking. I just spent a ton of money on some equipment over the last few months to prepare. I've been doing dayhikes for years now, but I think it's time to go the extra mile. Not only for backpacking, but for health. I've been hitting the gym now for the last few weeks using backpacking as my motivator. The fact is, I'd like to be the guy hiking until he's 70 or 80. I don't want to face the prospect of having a heart attack in my 50s and wandering if I can get on the trail.

There's also that little girl in my profile pic I need to think about and another one on the way in August.

I'm doing what I call a lifestyle change. Not a diet. Diets are temporary to me. I need to change my eating habits all together. I'm taking it slow right now, just trying to make healthy choices one step at a time. The kind of choices where I don't just pull into a fast food place on the way home because I'm hungry and its convenient or I don't pick up a bag of chips at the convenience store.

So, my first foray this year is the second week of April. I'll give you an update on how much weight I've lost by then. :-)

6:26 a.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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You make a lot of good, important points Rocklion. I think that cars, supermarkets/food outlets, TV, and the things that disappeared when they appeared, seem to be crucial.

I have never understood the subject of 'motivation', at least in a scientific way, but there has been some good writing done recently and it is on my reading list (which I cannot be bothered getting stuck into right now).

Lately, I have begun to think that 'imitation' and 'emulation', as in being inspired by the actions of someone else, in a deep way, has a lot to do with it. I'm not talking about the more long term 'role models' or 'mentors', as they can lead to dependence; just seeing someone who you resonate with but in a way that throws up those contradistinctions that seem to both deflate and then inspire you to go and change yourself. In other words, you see a character who you think, "I could be like that because in a way I am like that" and you begin to change on purpose. I always wanted to be Jesse Ventura (kidding). I'm sure there is a better way of saying all this.

9:00 a.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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I hear what you are saying Path, but I think that can only last for the short term. I don't think that is sustainable. Especially if genetics plays a role in your weight. For me, I think it does tremendously. I come from a family of big people, so it's always going to be a fight.

The problem with emulation is that it only leads so far. It takes a lot of determination to stop eating the foods you shouldn't. It takes a lot of determination to get on the treadmill/elipitical trainer/weight machine over and over.

I've also done emulation to a certain extent and found it only got me so far. It takes something deeper and more profound, I think. That's why for me I'm using the motivator of hitting the trail. Do I want to be the guy huffing and puffing 10 minutes behind everyone else? But it goes much deeper than that. It's about a long-term commitment. I've got short-range goals and long-range goals.

I just subscribed to a few different men's magazines. I've found that reading my Backpacker every month keeps my eye on the prize, so to speak. Recently, I just subscribed to Men's Journal and Outside. I'm hoping that these additional magazines not only give me tips, but also some inspiration.

11:25 a.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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I also read Outside, Backpacker, Nat Geographic and others, but not the paper issues, I go to them online. They have all the articles and picture, plus many things the monthly paper issues dont have room for.

11:53 a.m. on March 6, 2010 (EST)
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We subscribed to Backpacker - don't know when it will arrive though. Being in the UK, I found the DVD, Mountain, featuring Griff Rhys Jones, very inspirational this winter.

Apropos of weight loss, this was interesting from a few years ago:

The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years

Obesity is Contagious

12:59 a.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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You go, dude. We're cheerin' ya on.

As I've gotten older, I have found, like most do, that putting on pounds becomes easier, and getting 'em off harder, by a far sight, than when I was young. To battle that, I have had to make lifestyle changes, akin to what Rocklion mentioned. As long as I follow my chosen lifestyle--as long as I'm actually trying to be what I want to be, I do fairly well. When I let myself get sucked in by temptation away from what I want to be, not so well.

Hiking/backpacking, and other physical activities, especially of the outdoor type, are great at burning calories. But at least as important is developing a long-term approach to diet and the control thereof. (Diet in this sense being what one actually eats, not any particular plan, short or long term. What I mean is that development of a diet plan that is tolerable and sustainable long term is the key.) For me, a big one is simply avoiding unnecessary snacking between meals. It is all too easy to munch a few chips, or toss back some M&Ms, or whatever, while watching TV, reading a book, etc. By simply not doing so, I find that my diet improves both in terms of quantity--I eat what I need, re: calories--and quality--I eat generally healthier items, since I'm paying more attention to meals.

My final comment here will be to say that doughnuts are evil creations, put on the earth by Satan. The temptation they present cannot be explained otherwise.

9:49 a.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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Doughnuts consist almost entirely of sugar and fat, which have the magical qualities of not only tasting wonderful but encouraging you to consume more than you really need.

When I was studying up on weight loss I learned that burning 3500 calories will consume a pound of body fat, that Cokes and beers contained 150 calories each, that a big fat tasty chocolate chip cookie contained about 400 calories, and that an hour of hiking burned 250 calories.

If I removed one coke, one beer and one chocolate chip cookie from my daily regimen and hiked for an hour, I created a 1,000-calorie deficit, which meant I could lose a pound every 3.5 days.

The real challenge is what to do after you reach your target weight. Then it's like hunting in a forest with no game; with nothing to shoot for you eventually lose interest.

1:26 p.m. on March 7, 2010 (EST)
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Have a bear take your food a few days out - you'll drop some weight!

3:02 a.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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ya i lose a little weight when bare ground campen starts but i keep most of it off xc skien and snowshoen.if its a week or 2 out i can lose as much as 15 to 20 lbs depending on when da bear eats my food bag. LOL just kidden

7:59 a.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Hi everyone.

I usually backpack casually. But now I am so in love with it that I want to get serious. Its all I think about when spring comes. (I live in Wisconsin)

Staying with the thread. I would like to make a comment about the availability of backpacking accessories for those of us women who are overweight and trying to get proper gear. Im trying to use backpacking (this year) as a wonderful way to take me on the path of weightloss. It is extremely difficult to find backpacks, clothing, etc. that fit an overweight active woman. If I do find something, it is unreasonably expensive. I have to buy mens clothing and equipment. Obviously that does not make for comfortable fits. Nobody seems to understand that some overweight people are in better physcial shape than those that are thin. I can out hike my teenagers!

Thanks for letting me vent.

8:48 a.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Dawner: just thought I'd toss this out there: most people's motivation to lose weight is media- and society-induced body-image BS. I've known people who are 40 to 50 pounds "overweight" who jog every day and are in excellent health.

However, from a backpacking perspective, one of the best ways to reduce the physical grind is to reduce body weight. Taking 20 pounds off yourself is exactly the same as taking 20 pounds out of your pack.

Ultimately all motivation has to be internal but sometimes external goals are more attainable if they're linked to making something you enjoy even more enjoyable. All the better if you're not trying to conform to somebody's else's idea of what you ought to be.

(Ask me how I quit smoking and I'll be glad to impose my thoughts there, too -- anytime I have a "success" I have an irresistible urge to encourage others to do the same).

9:42 a.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Im doing it for myself. If you knew me, you would know that I am definately not a conformer and are not bothered by others opinions of me. I just wish I could find clothes and a backpack that fits decent until I loose enough weight to be the STANDARD size backpacking women so I can get decent gear. Wow, that was a mouthful! Thanks for your help.

12:18 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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I could make a snide remark about the media image of what constitutes a ""standard size" woman, but will refrain. I understand what you mean about getting decent fits in gear. Barb (my spouse) is 5 ft tall and wears size 4 or 5 shoes/boots. I guess because they want to sell more and not "waste effort" on fitting people more than one standard deviation from someone's idea of "standard", no one makes quality boots for adult females as small as size 4. So Barb has to either get custom boots or get the smallest size available for adults (6 most of the time, occasionally a 5) and add extra socks. Kid's boots are made differently, plus teenagers are a lot taller these days and closer to adult sizes.

Same thing with packs. Packs intended for adult backpackers generally do not come in torso lengths small enough, though we were able to get an Osprey that adjusts for a very good fit, thanks to their well-thought-out adjustment system. Years ago, she used external frame packs from Kelty, since those frames were so easily adjustable to a wide range of sizes - you got the aluminum frame in more or less the right height, then slid the back-bands up and down, plus picked the right set of holes to attach the shoulder straps, plus cut the overly long waist strap to fit your hip size (the "waist" belt is actually supposed to ride on the top of the pelvis, not the waist).

One thing you can do is find a shop that is specialty outdoor and has trained, experienced pack fitters. Too many "outdoor" shops aren't really that knowledgable and often do not have someone who is trained or experienced in fitting packs. But I am sure with a bit of searching, you can find a shop that will work with you to get a proper fit (you might have to travel to find one, though). Here in the SFBay Area there are a couple of the REIs (out of 10 or so) and 2 more specialized climbing/backpacking shops who work with everything from kids up to "supersized" adults. In the training and hikes I lead, I see a wide range of sizes who have used these shops and have properly fitting packs (and boots), and unfortunately people who have gone to some of the other shops and gotten poor fits (many in the so-called "standard" size range - it ain't just the people outside the one standard deviation "standard" size range who get poor fits). The extra effort to find the qualified shops is worth it.

Good luck in your quest.

12:58 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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your not going to have any significant weightloss from backpacking unless you do it for 30 minutes/day a minimum of four days a week.

And, it will take a few weeks before your metabolism starts to speed up and you start to feel the waistline of your pants loosen up.

Along with that minimum amount activity, you do need to keep an eye on the calorie intake...eating single size portions can be an amazing thing.

Thanks to cancer radiation treatments and a daily walking to running training program, I dropped 40 pounds between Feb and June 2009 and have just run my 2nd marathon in four months.

1:34 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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My experience was that it was impossible to lose weight by exercise alone, and that a constant exercise regimen seemed to actually cause rapid weight gain as soon as I stopped.

My thinking lately is that you should exercise because of the health benefits but concentrate on diet to control weight. How has it worked for the rest of you?

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by it is impossible to lose weight by exercise alone..... From what I know, exercise is the most positive way to lose weight because it improves your respiratory condition (lungs), cardiovascular condition (heart), muscular condition. When your lungs, heart and muscles are stronger and better conditioned your metabolism is far more efficient. When I say metabolism I mean the chemical reactions in your body such as cellular respiration, muscle contractions, ect. ect.

So eventually your fat reserves will be broken down to supplement cellular processes since you are burning more calories than you are taking in. This will cause weight loss. Eventually with a decent rigorous exercise regiment, you will begin to build lean muscle, so the weight gain would be steady then. Remember, fat does not turn into muscle, and muscle does not turn into fat. Just live by the old saying "use it or lose it."

So I'm assuming you mean exercise along with a healthy diet, which is by far the greatest way to get in shape. Like the reasons already said, caloric restricting diets alone are not a good long term solution because you are not improving your cardiac, muscular and respiratory system shape. So the second you start eating the other way again...BOOM....the weight gain will be almost immediate.

I still have not been out of shape since my basketball days, but if you are exercising solid and eating healthy, you shouldn't even need to count your calories.

For my workout routine it usually involves:

20 minutes cardio (running, biking, strenous walk uphill, all with a 10 pound weight vest on)
40-60 minutes of weight training

Remember, don't skip the muscle training. Having more muscle fibers increases metabolic rate. Lunges, squads, pushups, dips and ab exercises are key to a good workout routine. Maybe throw in a couple of these after a good walk. It is always great to have extra upper body, core and leg strength to help.

2:17 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Porterwake: I was talking from a "beginner's" perspective -- I used to think I could keep eating all my favorite snacks and drinking all the cokes and beers I wanted and could still lose weight as long as I exercised hard enough. Didn't work out -- I'd burn off 10 pounds and hit a floor.

When I killed a bunch of empty calories in my diet, I finally started making progress (that plus six miles of walking with 1,000 feet of elevation gain every day for two months).

We can find a thousand excuses for not exercising, but we gotta eat, which is why I see diet as something that's more intuitively quantified and controlled. If everybody could find 90 minutes day to run, hike and pump iron, the diet industry could go bankrupt tomorrow.

The great advantage of exercise is that it demonstrates how much work is required to burn off the effects of high-calorie foods. Once I knew how much sweat it took to get rid of that chocolate chip cookie, it was easier to get along without it.

I think too many people are looking for one thing that'll help them lose weight, when they really need about six things, and focusing on at least five out of six every day of their lives. How I would rank it:

1) Diet

2) Exercise

3) Attainable goals

4) Discipline to execute them

5) Meaningful motivation

6) Can-do attitude

2:50 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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Quick fix off trail diet change is to remove wheat, sugar, alcohol. Surprisingly tough to do if you eat anything packaged (alcohol being packaged in cans and bottles).

Backpacking a full day everyday for a long trip, will expend more calories than you are able to carry or willing, usually, to eat. The problem with this is that you will be tired and listless much of the time as you won't have the time to build immediate muscles to match what you are out there to do.

The best way to loose weight reasonably quickly consists of two dependent steps: First eat 6-8 smaller portioned meals that totally add up to what you normally eat minus about 10%. Each meal should be higher protein, lower carbohydrates and even smaller fat. Each meal should have vegetable, protein and carbo. A gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is not out of bounds. That could be 30-40 grams a meal. You need help for fat replacement with muscle in part two below.

Second start a serious weightlifting program at a gym under the watch of a personal trainer. Get somebody that loves you to buy a few hours from a trainer and use him/her once a week or so to keep you doing things correctly. Your home/gym work every day is to implement his instruction. Plan on pumping iron 4-6 days a week with rest days. Aerobic training should be reduced (or left out) so that you have enough energy to put into the weights. You will get plenty of aerobics from all the body movement under restraint. Most of your activity must be on the large muscles below the belly button - they will be doing most of the fat conversion for you. 25% above it. Minimal abdominal exercise replaced with increase emphasis on back. The more muscles you get involved the faster will you metabolism work for you - even asleep. Associated with this is a large increase in your water consumption. You need it for all the chemistry that is now occurring in your body.

After 6 weeks restart the aerobics again but slowly and mix with the weight lifting. The idea is to provide your body with enough Kcals to have an active weight lifting program not a running program. If you are too tired all the time add a few more carbohydrates. If you smell like ammonia after a work out cut back on the protein a bit.

After 10 -12 weeks you should be full run with aerobics and just tinkering with the weights so you don't loose ground. Six more weeks of a running (or jogging, stair step, treadmill) program you will be as fit as you will probably ever going to get. Now it is working on stamina and getting bone and tissue structures adapted to being beat up on the trail.

You might notice not a lot of weight loss in the begining but a lot of inches lost. Muscle is denser than fat so you could have a net zero loss for a period. But if you are working hard routinely and controlling your intake you WILL loose fat. The trick is that you should be eating enough not feel hungry and to keep your energy up to complete the weight lifting each day. You may have a difficult time eating that many small meals to start with. Women will NOT bulk up...unless they use illegal supplements. Their muscles are smooth with longer tissue than mens are.

The reason for the many small meals is to maintain a more constant blood sugar level, trick the body into thinking it is not starving to death and provide nutrition all day long so you don't have dives and highs. Hopefully the meal program will change how, what and when you eat as a life style. I've a shopping list and an example one week meal plan - just email me.

THEN you are ready to firm it up on the trail. And, surprise, you will have to carry less weight in calories and most of your trail mates will be hacked off at you for all the energy you have and they don't.

3:55 p.m. on March 8, 2010 (EST)
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One thing that just occurred to me while reading these last posts.

The idea of backpacking weight off. One problem I find is that after backpacking I'm hungry as all get out. Starving sometimes. So next thing I know I'm hitting the nearest restaurant and getting a hungry man meal. At the places I go to hike, the vegetarian fare is usually not the nearest option. It's either fast food or a greasy spoon.

So, while backpacking can burn off calories, the eating afterward can just replenish the calories again.

I'm thinking I'm definitely going to cut back on how much I eat when I get off the trail, but it might be hard trying to completely control the urges to eat something until I get back home.

By the way, lost 3.5 pounds this week. My journey has begun.

10:33 a.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Oh, but aren't those cheeseburgers deliciously oppressive to your goals? Don't even start thinking about how oppressive that cheeseburger would be with some thick cut bacon on it. Don't even think about that stuff, ever!

Congrats on the 3.5 pounds. Stay motivated. One solution I always found is to always stock complex carbs with as little fat as possible. Spaghetti with sauce is always delicious. Peanut butter is actually a good substitute for a lot of other stuff out there. Eggs without the yolks are excellent supplements to a workout routine that fill you up. Skim milk? Solid too!

Tom: Well I think a lot of people do have at least the 30 minutes to get a brisk workout in. But it is a lot easier not to do it. I would almost put the "can-do attitude" at the top of the list. The only reason I have 80-90 minutes to invest a day is because I work a steady shift and I have no wife or children.

4:36 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Dawner, good luck on your quest for better fitting gear. I know (well, not personally) that it can be tough for tall women at times too.

Have you considered using a tailor for your outdoor apparel? A decent one can be inexpensive (ask around for references) and can make a big difference in the performance of your clothes.

If you do find clothing and gear that works for your shape, please share those brands in a thread or in reviews here on Trailspace, for the benefit of others in your situation.

I'll also add that while you don't want to blow your money, particularly if your figure is changing, it can be worth paying a moderate amount on one or two key pieces you'll use a lot. When I was pregnant the second time (a couple years ago) I initially hemmed and hawed about buying a certain maternity long-sleeve zip shirt. It wasn't cheap, but it was just what I needed and I knew I'd use it practically every day in winter for months (skiing, hiking, walking, running, etc), so I went and bought it and it was totally worth it. I then passed it on to another pregnant friend.

As to the original comments on the thread: I'm with those who say it comes down to the math: calories in and calories out, though it does seem to get tougher as you get older (or at least after having two kids).

We all need to exercise regularly, that's most days, whether it's hiking, backpacking, running, walking, climbing, skiing, or whatever. And we also need to eat well, and portions matter. Easy enough to say, right? I'd be a millionaire if I could make it that easy.

So, yes, backpacking can be a significant part of a weight loss plan, but unless you're backpacking every day (and if you are, you're mighty lucky) you still need other forms of regular exercise nearly every day, 30 minutes minimum.

I figure it's all part of a lifestyle of being active. Do stuff every day, and you'll be able to do what you want when the opportunities arise. I also think backpacking trips and other goals can help motivate you on those regular days when you need an extra push out the door.

7:55 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Ed hi welcome back, I wondered what happened to you, now I know. Glad you survived to haunt us again... (:->)


7:59 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Actually calories in = calories out or some such nonsense implies that humans are linear systems which we are not. It might be true to say that maybe calories in might sort of have some relationship with calories out but not directly. Unfortunately you will not lose much weight backpacking unless, seriously, the bear gets your food a week from the trail head. It takes a huge number of calories to sustain backpacking and then the fresh air gives you an hearty appetite. Hiking is probably a better wight loss method, then come home and don't eat camp food, trail mix or doughnuts. Sweat pants make great trail clothes.


8:12 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks to cancer radiation treatments and a daily walking to running training program, I dropped 40 pounds between Feb and June 2009 and have just run my 2nd marathon in four months.

It's good to hear from you, Ed. I hope you're doing well and your chemo treatments have been successful. Running two marathons sounds like a good measure of success!

Actually calories in = calories out or some such nonsense implies that humans are linear systems which we are not. It might be true to say that maybe calories in might sort of have some relationship with calories out but not directly.

You've made me feel better, Jim. I will blame any extra pounds on whatever vague processes are happening inside that are beyond my control. Just kidding.

I know the process is more complicated, but since I can control what I eat (well, mostly) and what I do, I'll focus on those two factors.

9:54 p.m. on March 9, 2010 (EST)
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Actually calories in = calories out or some such nonsense implies that humans are linear systems which we are not.

This is very true. This is just a vast oversimplification of human physiology to give you the gist of what your diet should be. (i.e. don't eat more than what you think you should)

But to be more technical, yet simplified: All calories are not created equal.

For example, there is a huge difference in calories from fat vs. calories from protein vs. calories from carbohydrates. Your body deals with these molecules in very different ways.

7:23 a.m. on March 10, 2010 (EST)
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The problem for people who want to lose weight as that it's simultaneously too simple and too complicated.

It's indisputable that burning more fuel than you consume triggers a mechanism that leads to weight loss. Unfortunately, the mechanism is optimized for hunting and gathering and works differently in every person, adapting constantly to changes in fuel supply and demand.

No wonder it's almost impossible to go broke peddling weight loss methods.

2:29 p.m. on March 10, 2010 (EST)
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Well there ya go Tom. The solution is to backpack eating only food you can hunt or gather.

Jim S

2:35 p.m. on March 10, 2010 (EST)
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I think that "Into The Wild" guy tried that.

2:59 p.m. on March 10, 2010 (EST)
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he lost weight too didn't he?

Jim S

11:12 a.m. on March 11, 2010 (EST)
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The formula stated as "kcal in = kcal out" is only part of the equatiion, which is:

kcal in = kcal out + kcal stored

Only when kcal stored = 0 is the commonly quoted version correct. And even then, kcal in should be kcal in and absorbed (ask the bulemics about that one). The stored part can be fat or muscle (or some other forms as well, but that's not the question here).

9:30 a.m. on March 12, 2010 (EST)
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Everyone knows what they need to do to lose weight. Its just a matter of doing it. (will power) What is working for me is counting calories and excersize. I do not deny myself any foods. So far 23 pounds gone. I dont really have any total pounds goal except becoming a healthy weight and being able to go into a store and buy something off the rack! (I know the rack thing irritates some of you) A slow and even process. And I dont feel like Im on a diet. Thanks for everyones input and Happy Hiking!

11:49 a.m. on March 12, 2010 (EST)
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Dawner, and you have the displeasure of trying to lose weight in our beautiful state of Wisconsin......where fried cheese, fish and lots of beer is the culture

4:45 p.m. on March 12, 2010 (EST)
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I am with you! You want to get out there and use hiking as away to be fit and lose weight. And let's honest gear is as important for those of over average size as it is for those who are average. But finding it is extremely difficult. Men's gear can be used in a pinch, but often it is for someone longer in the torse or wider through the shoulders. And try finding a sleeping bag that is wide enough and if you do it is probably designed for someone 6' 2".

Im doing it for myself. If you knew me, you would know that I am definately not a conformer and are not bothered by others opinions of me. I just wish I could find clothes and a backpack that fits decent until I loose enough weight to be the STANDARD size backpacking women so I can get decent gear. Wow, that was a mouthful! Thanks for your help.

9:44 p.m. on March 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Dawner, and you have the displeasure of trying to lose weight in our beautiful state of Wisconsin......where fried cheese, fish and lots of beer is the culture

You left out 'brats.

8:11 a.m. on March 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Dont I know it. Beer, fish and cheese! As Rachael Ray would say.....YUMMO!

4:10 a.m. on March 18, 2010 (EDT)
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reading this trailspace stream of comments on weight control/loss is very interesting from the depths of Budapest. I do backpack, have done long walks etc. Whilst teaching at University, getting up c 4.30 am and getting back c 10.30pm I obviously did not have the chance to put weight on. IKt was a constant 60 - 63kg. Five years on from stopping this work patter, I have crept up to 70kg - to my horror. So yes, one really needs to establish a more disciplined exercise regime in such instances. I think my one advantage is that I am not a snack person - although I do love my large glass of red wine every evening.

Now as for that fried cheese in Wisconsin folks - it had to be a Hungarian who brought that into the state!! I could write a guide book on how to get a stuffed digestion system by travelling across Hungary as a lifetime veggie. Fried cheese is the way to do it!! Totally indigestible!! So anyone salivating after fried cheese - just spend a holiday in Hungary!!

However, good obsercvations and guidance here - and yes - dieting is useless I'm sure. The only way is dietary common sense and being active - and a little more active if one is into weight loss. And now with Spring poking it's head through my patio door I am very determined to get fit for my next Nepal trip.

11:38 a.m. on March 18, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi Everyone, I'm a professional fitness and weight loss trainer. I am the owner of Training Buddies Personal Fitness And Weight Loss Training in El Paso Texas. I am also a veteran of our US Army, having served in the 75th Ranger Rgt, STB. I have years of experience in hiking and backpacking and even have several programs and bootcamps that I currently offer my clients that will help them get fit and lose weight. I have read all the posts here concerning this subject and am familiar with the formulas and such. But to answer the very first question that started this entire forum, Yes! Backpacking is an excellent way to Lise weight and get fit. Also, what an excellent hobby to stay fit! Army, Marines and even Navy Seals use this method during training to condition our troops. It's mission oriented training as well as a great source of fitness. Stay hydrated, eat 6 times daily, calculate your calorie intake and have a general knoedge of your BMI and set your calorie intake to your Basal Metabolic Rate calculated by the Harris-Benedict Equation of needing roughly 15 calories per body pound when exerting yourself. Know, the harder the hike, the more your pack weighs, temperature and environment also all play a roll in how many calories you need as well as how many you'll burn. All in all, if your moving and watching what your eating, you can lose several pounds every backpacking trip. Males have more muscle mass than most women, so they tend to lose more fat accordingly. If anyone has any questions regarding my comments or would like to sign up for one of our trips to Big Bend or other places, I can be contacted at

1:09 p.m. on March 18, 2010 (EDT)
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those weight goals are crazy for people who do not have rail thin shoulders and hips

if you backpack, you will put on muscle - which will add weight to your body

and you cant backpack every day

you need regular exercise that burns calories - like running

and then you need to eat less

1:41 p.m. on March 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't think the weight in question on this thread is muscle.

1:19 a.m. on March 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Eating any form of processed food is the cause of excess weight, and i was pleasantly surprised to learn that I can eat as much as I want as long as it doesn't come already processed. After gaining 60 pounds my first pregnancy and developing gestational diabetes, I got the hint and started taking my health seriously. Maybe too seriously, but I've got it down to a delicious science for backpacking.

Generally I eat high quality protein foods like quinoa, chia, and nuts, and fill in the blanks with greens. Lots and lots of greens, like spinach, kale, mustard greens, and dandelion greens. My backpack contains all of that for a long trek, along with some dehydrated garlic, onions, tomato, and peppers, olive oil, Bragg's, sea salt, spices, dehydrated peanut butter, and corn tortilla's prepared in the traditional way, and a couple of lemons. I carry Harmony House dehydrated lentils and beans, too. Oh, and a dehydrated hummus mix. A day's worth of food is about 1/4 pound because water is used to bulk them up. A huge bag of greens weighs next to nothing, and is a nice fresh addition to my meals. I cook at night, and prepare the peanut butter or hummus for the next day's breakfast and lunch. A tortilla with hummus, greens, and garlic is very tasty and filling. I can eat them while hiking if I want to get a quick start.

I've backpacked with the traditional packets of oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, and dehydrated cheesey dinners, and felt like I had a hard rock in my stomach. My way works for me. I only mentioned it to give out some new ideas and backpacking meal alternatives. Yes, I'm vegetarian, for my health. It's so tasty, too!

Here is a typical recipe:

Rehydrate onions, garlic, peppers, tomato, and saute in a teaspoon of olive oil. Add a handful of greens, torn into bite sized pieces. Add salt and Bragg's. When it starts to smell fantastic after a few minutes, add a quarter cup of quinoa and saute another minute, then add a half cup of water. Simmer for a few more minutes, or until the quinoa is translucent. Eat and enjoy. It takes no more time to cook a proper meal than to boil water and wait for a dehydrated meal to be ready. I have a titanium pot set that includes a small skillet along with two pots, so you can see cooking is a priority for me. This set weighs as much as my old 1/2 liter titanium pot, so it isn't heavy.

8:13 a.m. on April 2, 2010 (EDT)
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I met two overweight people who set out to thru-hike the Appalachian trail to lose weight.
The first, weighed probably close to 400 pounds. I met him standing alongside the trail in GA. He had spent two nights in the second shelter 2.5 miles from the start.

The next hiker with the same goal, but not quite as heavy had made it into NC. When I met her at a shelter, she had gone to bed before dinner, was still asleep when I left after breakfast the next morning. I later learned she had left the trail.

For these two, their goals and expectations were way too ambitious. They probably also had the pressure of having told friends at home knowing of their plans, and if they left the trail would consider themselves failures.

I think the idea of day hikes would have been a much better way of setting up the challenge.

Another thru-hiker, I met in Maine, had lost 30-40 lbs. on his hike. He did not look like he could afford to lose any more, but he was only 82 years old! He completed the whole trail in two summers. GA to Harper's Ferry, then Harpers to Mt. Katahdin.

I usually hike for 10 days at a time and do not lose weight. Last summer, spending two weeks hiking the JMT I lost about ten pounds.

11:16 a.m. on April 2, 2010 (EDT)
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I was a decent athlete as a teenager and did a lot of backpacking in the 70's- 80's but a lot of that kind of went by the way side as I married and got freaked out about the picket fence cottage in the nice suburban addition.

Last November after the purchase of nice camera gear and a desire to get out and do wildlife photography, I really began to see myself as an overweight coach potato with bad lifestyle habits.

Since I do 90% of the cooking in the house, it was easy to get my wife and daughter on board to becoming smarter about diet. I also started using the total gym everyday that was bought a year ago for my gymnast daughter for some conditioning at home when injury keeps her sidelined.

I've lost an inch in the waist so far and put on some decent muscle tone.

I day hike a few times a week in our rural setting and at the national refuge down the road about an 80 minute drive away.

At 54 I'm very pleased with my progress and in better shape than I have been in 18-20 years.

I leave Sunday morning for Big Bend and really excited about it. I've not climbed a "real" mountain since bow-hunting in 1985. It's probably no biggie to most of you here, but climbing about 2400' of elevation on a 5 mile trail will be exciting to me considering how much water I have to carry on the 12 mile loop.


10:35 p.m. on April 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Having worked as a professional alpine climbing guide I would say yes backpacking is a excellent way to loose weight, but start slow and condition yourself be taking progessive trips that slowly become more challenging. The main focus of your conditioning program should at home before you go to the hills. Eat and drink less and exercise at progressivly longer intervals, this will slowly acclimate you. The danger to restricting to many calories is that in mountain enviornments you could be setting yourself up for altitude or cold weather problems. I have been in mountain rescues of non guided climbers and backpackers who didn't eat or drink enough and passed out. Remember you may not get a second chance if you get frostbite, hypothermia, hyperthermia, acute mountain sickness ACS, etc.

5:09 p.m. on April 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I have not read all of these post, I do intend too.

I'll give a little history of myself and where I am at now.

Growing up, I ate whatever the heck I wanted to eat. I was a 3 sport athlete for 7 years of my life (football, basketball and track). I was a long distance runner in track and even did a few half marathons when i was 16-18 years old. I never gained weight and was about 170 - 180 lbs depending on the sport/season. At 6'3" I had barely any body fat on me.

When I went to college I had nothing to "compete" for. I stopped working out because I lacked the competition of going against someone else, or working with a team. Needless to say, I kept eating what I wanted...

Calories IN > Calories burned ---- by a lot.

Over the next 10 years I went from 170 lbs to 255 lbs ..... 85 lbs gained, over half my body weight. The only thing that I did for exercise was go on a backpacking trip once a year.

I had tried, in the past, to get back into working out... but I had/have such a mental blockage in my mind of running as fast as I used to. (i was a sub 5 minute mile runner in high school). Each time I tried to workout, I would hurt myself or just get unmotivated because I could not do what I wanted.

Recently, about a month and a half ago, I started a weight loss program called Core 4, with the objective of changing my lifestyle .. not a diet. This program helped me loose 13 lbs in a month (and its totally legit, everything is organic and my nutrient crazy ER doctor uncle gave it the ok). It got me down to 240, and just recently I have started to run and hit the treadmill again (incline walking). Over the last week, I've lost another 5 lbs.

I have a decent hiking trip coming up in about 2 weeks, and that is giving me the motivation to continue to go. I feel better now than I have in the last few years, and I believe through my hard work I will come back at 220 lbs.

My lifestyle change has been a complete change of my eating habits, and I am actually counting calories using an IPHONE APP. Its nice to see what I am not using up, knowing that in the morning it will show on the scale.

My ultimate goal is to be 200 lbs by the end of summer!


12:54 a.m. on April 10, 2010 (EDT)
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The equation is easy and the weight lose concept is easy. 3500 calories equals one pound of fat. How do we get there is the problem, of course. Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers. No- discipline and exercise.

Guys can eat up to about 2300 calories a day and pretty much maintain a given weight, for women that is about 1800 calories or so. If you want to lose weight either decrease calories in or pump up the activity meter.

A weekend trip into the forest will not do it I have found. But after about 3 weeks in the backcountry or on expedition I lean down pretty well. The equation works. I love food but it will not fit into my pack so I lose weight. I weight about 190 pounds and maintain that weight most of the year. When I get up close to 200 pounds the personal PIG Meter bell rings and I just slow down on the pizza and beer. That is the discipline part and I can assure you it does suck. Find about a month in the backcountry and you will be lean and happy.


2:34 a.m. on April 22, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm pretty much like jbellon in that I have not read all the post in this gigantic thread but will go back to catch up and have a similar backround. I had been constantly active growing up, sometimes playing on up to 7 teams at one time (split between 5 baseball travel teams and 2 hockey at once). When I got to college I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play baseball and my healthy lifestyle exploded. I was putting an average of 40 hours a week into my sport and weight training and developed some of the worst eating habits a late teen/early 20 year old could have.

When I finally quit baseball I knew that I either had to find a way to supplement the exercise or cut down on the food intake. I didn't do either. I went from a 190 playing weight to 215 (not exactly ideal for a 5'10" male) So this year I finally decided to do something about it and starting with Lent I gave up all sodas (140 calories a can...outrageous!) and all fast food. Then I started hiking my local trails with a 20 lb pack. For the first couple weeks I didn't see much of a change and then in the last two weeks I dropped 10 lbs in the blink of an eye. I'm down to 202 as of today and I'm still going with the diet and exercise. My goal is to get down to 185 which is a perfect weight for my frame so I can backpack farther and start riding my bikes again.

The most important thing I've seen is that if you cut out your liquid calories and try to maintain a 2000 calorie diet you can shed those lbs with a bit of regular exercise. And I'm not talking about monitoring your caloric intake like a hawk either, I just keep my intake in mind when I'm looking for something to snack on and eat a reasonable portion when I eat a meal.

10:49 a.m. on April 30, 2010 (EDT)
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I've been gone from here for a little while, but a little update on my progress. I talked about at the beginning of this post how I wanted to drop weight and make a lifestyle change.

Since March 1, I've dropped a total of 17 pounds.

A lot of it has been from hiking. I've did four long day hikes over the last month, but on top of that I've also changed my diet, eating more fruits and vegetables and other organic products, instead of processed food. I also go to the gym six days a week. I'm feeling better than I have in a very, very long time. Last weekend, I just did an hour and a half circuit - 30 minutes eliptical, 30 minutes cycling and 30 minutes rowing. It was one of the most intense workouts I've had in a long, long time. And I loved it.

This weekend, I'm heading out on my first backpacking trip since college.

So does backpacking help you lose weight? I don't know. But I know the thought of wanting to backpack farther and harder has helped me. Heck, now I'm at the point where I'm thinking of doing other things - mountain biking, kayaking, maybe even some rock climbing.

I still have a lot more pounds to shed, but it definitely opened my mind to other possibilities.

June 21, 2018
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