Backpacking long distances in mountainous terrain can burn up to 5,000 calories per day. Because fat provides the highest source of calories by weight, hikers need to consume a greater amount of fat to account for lost calories. Besides providing energy, fats are vital for insulating your body, supporting immunity and brain health. They are also necessary for vitamin absorption, acting as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
There are many different types of fats, but only a few are essential. The essential fats are those that your body cannot create internally and must be consumed through food. These essential fats include omega-6 fatty acid (linoleic acid), and an omega-3 fatty acid (linolenic acid), and are highest in nuts, seeds, and fish. See also a chart of the breakdown of fats (omega-3 and omega-6) found in nuts and seeds.
If you are planning a thru-hike, we suggest adding an extra amount of fat gradually to your diet, and to focus predominately on non-animal (unsaturated) sources to maintain cardiovascular health. While hiking, continue to add fat calories by supplementing all your meals with the added fats listed here.
High-Fat Foods Sorted by Total Calories
|Nutrients Per Ounce|
|Food Product||1 ounce
|Total Calories (kcal)|
|Oils (Olive, Peanut, Canola)||2 TB||28||0||0||250|
|Coconut Oil||2 TB||27||0||0||234|
Butter Powder, Full Fat (Use Sparingly)
|Macadamia Nuts, Roasted||11 whole nuts||2||4||204|
|Pecans, Raw||19 halves||20||3||4||196|
|Peanut Butter||2 TB||16||7||8||188|
|Coconut, Dry Shredded, Unsweetened||1/3 cup||18||2||7||187|
|Brazil nuts, Dry||6 whole nuts||19||4||3||186|
|Walnuts, English, Raw||14 halves||18||4||4||185|
|Hazelnuts/Filberts, Blanched||21 whole nuts||17||4||5||178|
|Sesame Seed Sources (e.g.Tahini in Hummus)||2 TB||15||5||6||175|
|Peanuts, Dry, All Types||28 whole nuts||14||7||6||166|
|Chocolate, Dark, 60-69% Cacao||2 squares||11||2||15||164|
|Sunflower Seed, Dry Kernels||3.5 TB||14||6||6||164|
|Cashews, Roasted||18 whole nuts||13||4||9||163|
|Almonds||23 whole nuts||14||6||6||163|
|Pistachio, Dry||49 whole nuts||13||6||8||161|
|Flax Seed||3 TB||12||5||8||151|
|Whole Milk, Dried
|Chia Seed||2 TB||9||4||12||139|
|Tofu, Freeze Dried (Koyadofu)||2 square pieces (1.5″)||9||14||4||136|
|Hard/Aged Cheese (Goat, Cheddar, Muenster, Monterey, Parmesan)
A complete listing of food calories can be found at USDA database.
The vegetarian website soystache also offers an excellent summary of high-calorie foods.