Weeks worth of food in a Bear Vault 500...how??!!

8:09 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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So a week from today i head to the great land of Alaska for a week long solo hike in Lake Clark National Park.  Last night i started doing the last pack up of everything to make sure i'm all set one last time.

This is the first time i've really packed my bear canister as i did not want to open and repack my mountain house meals to early.  Keep in mind this is the first time i've ever used a bear canister vs. just hanging a bag.  Anyways, i'm having a heck of a time getting a weeks worth of food into the canister.  And the worse part is the food i am trying to get in there only makes up about 1500 calories a day.  I'm 6'5" and 260lbs (fit no fat) and i don't think that's going to sustain me for a week long hike through the mountains.

I've got sufficient protein for each day, but the calories are really low.  Here's what i've got for an average days food:

Breakfast

-Oatmeal/dried milk/nuts/brown sugar

-Instant coffee

-Kind Bar

Lunch

-Beef jerkey

-Payday bar

-Snickers bar

-Slim Jim

-Wedge of Laughing Cow soft cheese

-Gatorade powder pack

-Small bag of tuna (hesitant to take this due to it's odor and the fact i'll be in bear country)

Dinner

-Mountain house meal (2.5 serving size) or Korr's meal with added dehydrated Mountain House chicken

-2 dark chocolate Lindor candies

-Gatorade powder pack

I would like to add a couple Ramen meals and some additional bars at backup/suppliment snacks/meals.

So where am i off?  What takes less space, has higher calories than what i have listed above and won't take away protein?

Thanks
Matt

9:05 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Matt,

Others with more canister experience will chime in but I've had the same difficulties with a weeks rations in those things. Reducing packaging of the Mountain House meals will help but requires that you re-hydrate in your cookpot or keep just one lined package to use for all meals. I prefer to eat out of my cookpot anyway and don't mind cleaning it. 

Stacking the bars vertically around the outside edges can sometimes help too.

I despise the BV500. 

No way I would be good with less than 1500 calories a day and I'm 5'7 165. I aim for 3000 per day but when going light will settle for 2200-2500.

9:50 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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I echo Patman - it's difficult packing a BV 500 with that much.  I do prefer it to a couple of others I have tried as it makes a handy camp stool, but there may be another that packs better. 

Definitely repackage (I prefer eating out of a pot as well for some weird reason).  Dehydrated meals will last a while out of their packaging - I find the boil in the bag ones and foil packaging to be less forgiving on scrunching them together than ziplocs.  Does create the clean up headache for some, although I don't mind after doing it a few thousand times.

Also, don't forget that you don't have to store the first day's food in the BV as it should be gone by nightfall (I keep mine in an Opsack as regular ziplocs don't prevent odor from leaching out.

I don't have a calorie count but know that I need at least 1.5 lbs of food per day adjusted based on level of exertion.  A bottle of olive oil to add some to each meal will give you a calorie boost without too much extra weight or volume - few things have more calories per ounce.

Tortillas pack perfectly in the bottom to wrap with various lunch options - cheese and hot sauce, peanut butter or nutella (both high calorie and able to be packed in various containers).

11:28 a.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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I don't think I've ever succeeded in getting more than about 3 days x 2 persons worth of food into a BV500. The food has to be physically dense as well as calorie dense (spaghetti, not macaroni). As Phil hints, fats have about twice the calorie density of carbohydrates so it's a good idea to work more oil, butter or margarine, etc. into your meals. Cheese, peanut butter, and nuts are also calorie dense. I don't think freeze-dried meals a la Mountain House aren't all that good in either density measurement, even if repacked, so you may be better off making your own. Our homemade granola with nuts and seeds and an oil/honey mixture stirred in is more calorie dense than oatmeal. Energy bars are often mostly oatmeal and sugar and not all that dense, I am now making my own nut clusters. For just 7 days, I wouldn't worry much about protein, you need calories, calories, calories. If you take tuna, get it in oil rather than water, way more calories. I'm betting the fd chicken takes up more space than it's worth, protein is only a little better than carbos and it's "fluffed up" by freeze drying.

The relatively simple meals in Andrew Skurka's Backpacking Food book (available online as a pdf), which I reviewed a while back, are pretty well formulated to deal with this problem, and a hell of a lot cheaper than Mountain House. Some of the same recipes are available online on Skurka's web site. One of them, the Thai peanut noodles, uses ramen but you can crush it to reduce volume. Another uses crushed Fritos as a garnish, and they are actually more calorie dense than cheese because they are so greasy.

I'm 6'4" and 175 lbs and can get by on 2400 to 3000 calories per day if I'm not going too hard (10-15 mile days on trail). At an average calorie density of 4 calories per gram, slightly better than pure carbos, that's a minimum of 600 g = 1.3 lbs of food per day, 1.5 lbs is more like it. I shoot for 500 calories at breakfast, 700 in the evening, the rest in lunch and snacks.

12:35 p.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Patman said:

Matt,

Others with more canister experience will chime in but I've had the same difficulties with a weeks rations in those things. Reducing packaging of the Mountain House meals will help but requires that you re-hydrate in your cookpot or keep just one lined package to use for all meals. I prefer to eat out of my cookpot anyway and don't mind cleaning it. 

Stacking the bars vertically around the outside edges can sometimes help too.

I despise the BV500. 

No way I would be good with less than 1500 calories a day and I'm 5'7 165. I aim for 3000 per day but when going light will settle for 2200-2500.

 I repacked in ZIP-Loc bags and plan to add boiling water to that and put into my insulated sleeve.

Agree with the stacking technique, but still didn't help my situation.

2:36 p.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Remember that your first day's food doesn't need to go in the canister, only the food you will need to store for overnight starting on the first night.

On the other hand, remember also that the canister does need room for "smellables" that you may not pack in their during the day, everything from sunscreen to toothpaste to used tp.

There are several You Tube videos on packing a bear canister, basically you have to use every bit of available space. So not only repackage meals but when you put in a layer of baggies with meals, mash them down to fill every little nook and cranny in between the baggies. Of course make sure  all baggies are purged of air first. 

2:59 p.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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On those dehydrated meals, rather than repacking, you can poke a hole to squeeze the air out and then use a piece of tape to seal the hole.  If the hole is near the top you can still rehydrate in the bag.

5:37 p.m. on August 17, 2018 (EDT)
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At 265 pounds, about the only way you are going to be able to provision adequately is taking a second bear canister.

I replaced the old version what is currently Bear Vault's BV500 (the large size canister) with a Wild Ideas Bearikade (the expedition size option).  All Bearikade models are 9" dia - about ½" wider than the BV500;  The expedition size is about 1" longer than the BV500.  While slightly larger, it is 5 oz lighter, and due to design can carry about 30% more than the BV500.  Wild Ideas touts the Expedition as capable of carrying 12 days of food; I can squeeze two weeks of food into it.  Alas the Bearikade is pricey.

6:09 p.m. on August 30, 2018 (EDT)
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It's important to remember that carbs and proteins are 4 calories per gram, and fats are 9 calories per gram. But, you can't just eat fat, even though a pound of fat is over 4000 calories. The most compact way to carry calories is pure vegetable oil or pure animal fat. Unhydrogenated lard or ghee (clarified butter) for pastured animals and extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed rapeseed oil (canola) are the healthiest and will give you 120 calories per tablespoon, and all of them are palatable when cold and will not spoil, provided they are kept away from light and oxygen.

Butter is about 102 calories per tablespoon, because butter isn't pure fat, it contains water and milk solids. A pound of butter is about two cups, or 32 tablespoons. if you eat 4 tablespoons a day, that's an 8 day supply at 408 extra calories a day. I prefer to split that between 1/2 pound of butter and 240 mL EVOO, for variety's sake.

No matter what kind of food you carry otherwise, you should be carrying pure fats to supplement your food both for flavor and for caloric intake.

As for carbs and fiber, both are also necessary, and the most compact way to carry them is sugar and flour or meal. I like chia seeds, because they are highly nutritious, complete proteins, high in omega-3 EFAs, and don't need to be cooked, just soaked in water.

I also like masa harina, nixtamalised corn meal. It makes delicious porridge or champurrado, you can make tortillas or pupusas out of it, and because it is treated with lime, it's much more nutritious than plain cornmeal. Another great complete protein pseudocereal is buckwheat. Cream of buckwheat also makes delicious porridge without much cooking. You might also try tsampa, the roasted barley meal that is used in the Himalyan cuisines, which the Sherpas commonly eat.

Green pea flour is very high in protein and can make delicious, near-instant soup with the addition of some vegetable stock concentrate and EVOO.


6:15 p.m. on August 30, 2018 (EDT)
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Carrying tuna or fish of any kind is an extremely bad idea in the backcountry, unless you plan on completely burning the container to ash in a campfire.

8:33 p.m. on August 30, 2018 (EDT)
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Huh.  I backpacking with my wife, but we figure we can get a five day trip Into a BV500...and that works out to 8 days of meals for a single person, plus the first night outside the can...

1:32 a.m. on August 31, 2018 (EDT)
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@Matt: Gemma's got it, I think. To maximize caloric density, backpacking food should mimic survival rations. Variety will suffer, but a quantity of oats, coconut oil and cheese will due, with various additions of salt, sugar, and spice to taste.

2:45 a.m. on August 31, 2018 (EDT)
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Back in the day, expeditions often included a product known as Kendal Mint Cake.  It was about the size of a greeting card, and ¼" thick, consisting of that sticky, sugary, peppermint candy.  One trip organizer required each member of the team consume one of these bricks per day.  It was disgusting!  Provisioning that places a premium on volume can really put a wet blanket over a trip.  That said, Gemma's advice about oils is a good tip.  Many dehydrated and freeze dried foods can tolerate a fair amount of butter and oil without messing up the taste too much.

Ed

7:32 p.m. on September 10, 2018 (EDT)
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I've decided I'm going to buy a BV500. I live in Northern New England, and the other day, someone posted a cellphone video of a bear running across the street near our downtown business district.

I made some seedy pancakes the other night for dinner:

2 T masa harina (55 calories)
2 T cream of buckwheat (70 cal)
2 T chia seed (130 cal)
1 T caster sugar (48 cal)
1/8 t sea salt
120 mL (1/2 c) water

I mixed it all together, then hydrates for 15-20 minutes and fried it in two batches in 1 T butter, then served with another 1 T butter.  Total calories: 55+70+130+48+204=507

I ate them with fried slices of ham and maple syrup.

Next time, I will add another ingredient, perhaps amaranth flour (2 T = 55 cal), and cut back on the water to make them a bit drier. This actually doesn't really even need to be cooked. It could just be allowed to hydrate and then eaten as cold porridge.

This pretty much represents my "survival food". Masa harina, buckwheat, chia, amaranth, sugar, salt, and butter. Human beings have survived for millennia eating these foods. You can't pack food any more tightly than that, unless it's compressed into solid blocks.

7:41 p.m. on September 10, 2018 (EDT)
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WILL1E said:

So a week from today i head to the great land of Alaska for a week long solo hike in Lake Clark National Park. 

What takes less space, has higher calories than what i have listed above and won't take away protein?

A bolt-action .30-06 Springfield. :D

All joking aside, the only way the outdoorsmen of old were able to pack lightly was because they expected to be able to hunt/catch their dinners on the way. Hunting is allowed in Lake Clark National Preserve, but not in Lake Clark National Park.

Lake Clark is a dream destination of mine. Someday. I'd like to see Dick Proenneke's cabin. 

7:43 p.m. on September 10, 2018 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

Back in the day, expeditions often included a product known as Kendal Mint Cake.  It was about the size of a greeting card, and ¼" thick, consisting of that sticky, sugary, peppermint candy.  One trip organizer required each member of the team consume one of these bricks per day.  It was disgusting!  Provisioning that places a premium on volume can really put a wet blanket over a trip.  That said, Gemma's advice about oils is a good tip.  Many dehydrated and freeze dried foods can tolerate a fair amount of butter and oil without messing up the taste too much.

Ed

 They still sell that Mint Horror.

May 26, 2019
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