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How To Fit 32,560 Calories In A Bear Canister

Author: Jaeger Shaw

June 24, 2013

When you’re hiking 15 miles a day, multiple days in a row, you get hungry. Real hungry. It’s a very delicate balance to pack enough calories but keep it lightweight. Add in the challenge of fitting it all into a bear box, and you have yourself a full-on riddle.

This summer I’ll be trekking 220 miles through the Sierras on the John Muir trail, making it a goal to cram as many calories into my system as possible. I’m trying to avoid freeze dried meals. They’re extremely lightweight and provide delicious variety, but the boil bag packaging is massively space consuming when you need to live for six or seven days out of the same bear canister. They’re also very expensive victuals, at about $10 per day. 

Here’s my solution for one Bear Vault 500, crammed to the absolute max. Warning: Some body-weight shoving and Tetris skills involved.

Breakfast: All combined into one super gruel.

2 servings of granola, 300 calories

1 serving of peanut butter, 190 calories

1 serving of chia seeds, 150 calories (these little guys are loaded with protein, fiber and Omega-3’s.)

3 servings of powdered coconut cream, 150 calories

1 serving of olive oil, 120 calories (trust me, you can’t even tell it’s in there)

1 serving of Craisins, 150 calories (these can be purchased on the cheap at restaurant supply stores)


Total: 1,060 calories


Lunch: Spread out throughout the day. At brakes, eat some of this and dip most of it in peanut butter

1 serving of chia seeds, 150 calories

5 servings of powdered coconut milk, 250 calories (protein/muscle building powder works too)

2 servings of granola bars, 400 calories (power bars are the most space efficient. 

2 servings of peanut butter, 380 calories

1 serving of candy 250, calories (Ritter Sport bars are highly recommended)

1 serving of peanut butter, 190 calories

1 serving of parmesan, 100 calories (lasts forever, combine the rinds with dinner)

1 serving of summer sausage, 200 calories (alternate better dried meats if you can afford)

1 serving of Craisins, 150 calories (alternate other dried fruits)

Total: 2,070 calories



Dinner and Dessert: Relax and enjoy something relatively gourmet.

4 servings of powdered garlic mashed potatoes, 440 calories (alternate curry-couscous, Mexican-rice)

1 servings of olive oil, 120 calories (I recommend designating a 1L Platypus brand bladder to carry it)

1 serving of summer sausage, 200 calories

1 serving of parmesan, 100 calories

1 serving of candy, 250 calories

Total: 1,110 calories



F%&$ it: That’s why you brought a five-pound tub.

3 servings of peanut butter, 570 calories

Total: 570 calories



Grand Daily Total: 4,810

4,810 x7 (days), - 1 dinner = 32,560


*Post Hike Notes*

While extremely efficient and calorically dense, the breakfast oatmeal "gruel" was exactly that. Gruel. Also, extremely filling. Large, active dudes has trouble finishing their breakfast.

The author also advises more variety in terms of bars, fruits, meats, cheeses, breakfasts and dinners than is listed in this article.

Jaeger Shaw

Sandwiched for warmth between three other dudes in a two-man tent just North of Mount St. Helens, Jaeger thought to himself, “I need better gear.” His other tent was leaking. His rain jacket was rubber and his pack weighed 50 pounds. But no longer. Ever since that first miserable trip, Jaeger’s life has been a quest for the perfect adventure with the best gear. Today, he works at Outdoor Research in Seattle, spending his time desk jockeying the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts and taking extended backpacking trips through the American West. No more disasters for this guy. Except climbing the occasional V4.