The biggest (and cheapest) weight that I had to lose was me, not being carried by me. I was late arriving to backpacking. Sure I had camped and hiked around the woods since I was a little boy growing up in rural upstate NY (think Canada), but I hadn't been on true backpacking trips. It wasn't until a buddy of mine (Whoopsie from my YouTube videos) and I decided it would be fun to strap our room and board on our backs and take off on a backpacking adventure. That's when it hit me - I am not in good enough shape to go on a 20 something mile, 3 day walk in the woods. This was the moment I started becoming determined to lighten my load.
Trying to get in (or stay in) shape for backpacking is the one motivator that has helped me make healthier food choices and stay committed to exercise. Backpacking trips are my pot of gold at the end of the healthier lifestyle rainbow. Now, the dust doesn't seem to build up on the elliptical as it had in the past. While it may be only a 30 minute workout, 2 to 4 times a week, thats OK. Why? Not because I find it particularly fun, no, that's definitely not the reason! It's because I know that it will make my next backpacking trip more fun. I will be stronger, less fatigued, and in a better mood (yes, I can be in a bad mood). At meal times I find myself asking for smaller portions, eating more salads, and generally thinking about what I eat. Sure I have done that in the past when I was on a diet, but I usually stay on a diet about as long as one of my videos lasts.
While I only try to maintain my current weight between backpacking trips, I use the actual trip itself to lighten my load. It makes sense right? All of that walking...up/down, up/down, up/up and up again. With that level of exercise in addition to your backpack on your back, losing some weight is bound to happen. As the frustrating weight loss saying goes, "weight loss is 20% what you do and 80% what you eat." This is where the backpacking trip calorie gap comes into play.
I have read that the average backpacker will burn between 5,000 and 9,000 calories a day. Those estimates will vary depending on the terrain, weight of gear, and the hikers level of fitness, but it is a good rule of thumb. The calorie gap is created when you compare what you have for calories in your food bag versus what you actually burn. A typical days worth of food (for me) weighs about 1.25 to 1.75 pounds with each day having between 2,500 and 3,000 calories crammed within. I refer to those calories as fixed calories, not variable calories. Variable calories are the calories you can easily add to; a quick trip to the freezer for ice cream, the pantry for a bag of chips, or in my case the cupboard for a peanut butter cup (or 10). Variable calories are why diets do not work for me. On a backpacking trip, all the calories are fixed, AKA the ones you can't add more to once you are on the trail.
Backpacking truly keeps me motivated to eat healthier and exercise year round. Part of that motivation is due to keeping my off-trail exercise and eating commitments simple:
1) Don't gain weight between trips.
2) Never go more than 3 days without 30 minutes of dedicated exercise time.
It doesn't get any easier, maintain and move. Maintain your existing weight and keep moving. Let the calorie gap that exists on your backpacking adventures lighten your load.
Are you trying to lighten your load? Are you trying to lose weight to be able to enjoy your backpacking adventures more? Is backpacking a part of your weight loss strategy?
Please leave a comment sharing your story.
I hope to see you on the trail,
[After my last blog (Filming Your Adventures) a comment was left on the Backpacking Adventures FaceBook page talking about weight gain/loss, backpacking, and how it all works together. I would like to thank Erik for that comment and for the inspiration for this blog.]
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