Best lightweight Food Options for the Wall


Original Post
Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

One of the biggest post climb discussions between my buddy and I on the way home from our successful summit of El Cap last year was how to make the bags lighter. We were able to nail down a few extras that could have been left behind, but it amounted to about 10-15 lbs. Sadly that wasn't a very big percentage of our massive haul bag weight. The only thing we could come up with was to cut out freeze dried food, which would cut out the stove and about a liter of water a day. Over a 3 day climb, this amounts to maybe 10-15 lbs. 

However, if we cut out freeze dried food then what are the best choices for food? The only thing I can think of is canned, which is probably lighter than the water and the stove, but still heavy.

There is a bigger discussion to be had too, which is what should be in the bag and what common items (that you really think should be with you) should be left on the ground. I think I'll pretty much always take a portaledge. it offers a much better chance of getting a decent night's sleep, plus shelter in case the random storm blows in and you want to wait it out.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

I'll bet it's a toss up between canned food and a stove and water.

I go with freeze dried food and coffee and it easily fits into my ration of 3 quarts of water per day. I'm not a big water drinker though.

I don't know what you took, but I've gone light and I've also gone way not light! Phone, battery, camera, speakers for music, fun food, beefo sleeping bag, heavy sleeping pad, way too much clothing, etc... that stuff all adds up. You have to be safe so there is that, but what level of comfort do you want?

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0
Mark Hudon wrote:

I'll bet it's a toss up between canned food and a stove and water.

I go with freeze dried food and coffee and it easily fits into my ration of 3 quarts of water per day. I'm not a big water drinker though.

I don't know what you took, but I've gone light and I've also gone way not light! Phone, battery, camera, speakers for music, fun food, beefo sleeping bag, heavy sleeping pad, way too much clothing, etc... that stuff all adds up. You have to be safe so there is that, but what level of comfort do you want?

I have a lightweight sleeping bag and pad that I use (2.5 lbs total for the 2), also light puffy and UL emergency shell (1lb at most for those 2). Phone and camera, as well as some fun food. But that's pretty much it for the comfort items. I can do without pretty much everything else that does not fall into the Need catagory. 

My big problem is that I HAVE to have a lot of water. I'm a bigger guy 6'3" 200 lbs., to start with, plus it seems that I tend to need more water than other guys my size so that makes things worse. I easily used 1 gal. per day on the Nose and would haven happier and healthier if I had 5 quarts. 

Cho · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 0

I’ve used this thing called Perpetuem a few times which I liked.By ‘liked’ I mean the nutritional content to convenience to weight ratio. Taste and satiation, not so much. It’s a powdered energy drink that’s formulated for endurance athletes. Hammer Nutrition makes it. You can get it in single serving pouches, which is super convenient, and it mixes pretty easily with water. I mix up 2 pouches to drink as lunch at belays and use part of my daily water allowance to do so. I hate stopping to eat in the middle of the day, so it’s a good way for me to stay fueled without taking up too much time. Each pouch weighs about 2.5 oz. For breakfast and dinner, I go with the standard salami, bagels,energy bars, etc. I bring lots of mayo packets for extra fat and calories. Epic Bison bars are tasty and pretty good for calories/fat to weight also. 

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 0

Basic options are canned, freeze dried, MRE style pouches, and fresh.

Freeze dried is only lighter until you add in the needed water.  It does have the advantage on the walkoff if you have leftovers since you can pour out excess water, but can't magically remove the water from a can of ravioli.  Canned does produce the heaviest trash.

Focusing on weight is foolish if you ask me.  Finding food you will want to eat when exhausted is more important, and actually pretty hard.

After all, the lightest calories per pound is a bottle of olive oil and a sack of nuts.  Good luck with that sort approach...

I am a fan of MRE pouches and a few chemical heaters.  A few small cans of beanie weanies are a nice calorie bomb too.  Warm food is easier to get down than cold.  Wet food is easier to eat than dried (bread, bagels, and tortillas just don't work for me after the first day or so).  I also like some tuna curry pouches with rice pouches I found.  Beware of some of the canned soups that actually have very little calories, but a ton of salt; you'll piss out your water supply as a result.

A sack of apples and oranges are great wall food to supplement whatever else you decide on.  Even when completely destroyed I can gnaw on an apple between wimpers, and usually that gives me enough energy to move on to more calorie dense foods without a gag reflex.  Bars mostly give me a gag reflex now, but snickers or payday bars still seem to go down.

Whatever you choose, make sure you try E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G you plan to bring at home.  No shortcuts.  By 1 extra of anything and everything, and don't pack it until you have tried it at home.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0
Moof wrote:

Basic options are canned, freeze dried, MRE style pouches, and fresh.

Freeze dried is only lighter until you add in the needed water.  It does have the advantage on the walkoff if you have leftovers since you can pour out excess water, but can't magically remove the water from a can of ravioli.  Canned does produce the heaviest trash.

Focusing on weight is foolish if you ask me.  Finding food you will want to eat when exhausted is more important, and actually pretty hard.

After all, the lightest calories per pound is a bottle of olive oil and a sack of nuts.  Good luck with that sort approach...

I am a fan of MRE pouches and a few chemical heaters.  A few small cans of beanie weanies are a nice calorie bomb too.  Warm food is easier to get down than cold.  Wet food is easier to eat than dried (bread, bagels, and tortillas just don't work for me after the first day or so).  I also like some tuna curry pouches with rice pouches I found.  Beware of some of the canned soups that actually have very little calories, but a ton of salt; you'll piss out your water supply as a result.

A sack of apples and oranges are great wall food to supplement whatever else you decide on.  Even when completely destroyed I can gnaw on an apple between wimpers, and usually that gives me enough energy to move on to more calorie dense foods without a gag reflex.  Bars mostly give me a gag reflex now, but snickers or payday bars still seem to go down.

Whatever you choose, make sure you try E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G you plan to bring at home.  No shortcuts.  By 1 extra of anything and everything, and don't pack it until you have tried it at home.

I'm with you on all of these points, which is why I've avoided most things except for freeze dried food for my dinner meals. After hearing input so far, these still sound like the best option. I do need to come up with a good breakfast option as I don't usually have much of an appetite right away, but if I don't eat I get hungry and lose energy fast. I keep some dried mangos, beef jerky and trail mix in baggies in my pockets to easily keep fueled while belaying. We never stop for lunch. Also, I once got some bacon jerky to eat when I climbed Kingfisher. I felt like I was cheating the universe by eating bacon while climbing. It was awesome. 

From the sounds of things. I seems like my food isn't the issue causing the excess weight. I need to look at the other items I take and just cut out everything else that isn't totally necessary. 

Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 45

One other option, you can rehydrate Ramen and instant potatoes without a stove. Just add enough water in a closed container and let it sit for a few hours. If it's in the sun it'll even be warm. Everyone is different but I never have trouble getting food down after long hard days once I stop moving.

And I love sugar so I can always eat candy bars and pop tarts...

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

  Apples and oranges are sure good but as far as quality calories to weight, they ain't so good. Lots of sugar and not a lot of long lasting energy. They are firmly in the fun food category. When you're up there in a cold storm, an apple vs a hot, freeze dried meal is going to be a no brainer. 

Mydans · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

Last summer was the first time I had taken a stove up the captain.  I had always just skipped it and eaten colder stuff.  Afterwards my feelings on the stove were a bit mixed.  The plus is warm dinner and hot coffee and I don't think it was any heavier.  The downsides were potential stove flare ups and needing to pay attention to the stove when we were wiped and just trying to eat something before we passed out.  In the future I would take it with a cold forecast (like October or April) and probably skip it in the summer.  There are some good non canned options.  Wall burritios with pre cooked shredded chicken (these are pre made and sealed) are light and not much trash.  And I hate to say it but whiskey is much more weight efficient than beer, and a quarter weighs only 1/4 of an ounce!  I think the best way to save weight is to lighten clothes and trim down the rack.  The supertopo always has more iron than you need and almost everyone brings more cams than they need, but that all depends on how much you are willing to back clean.  Its always good to have a little extra food.  I always seem to top out late enough in the day that we sleep on top and descend the next day.  We were on the wall one extra day and still had some lunch food left for dinner on top.  Also topping out with a couple liters of water for the descent is totally worth hauling it.  The other obvious way to make the hauling easier is to climb something steep!  If your bag is dragging the hauling will suck even if its not that heavy.  The bag never touches the wall a lot of the routes on the right side of the captain.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

I have one of the Jetboil stoves and the hanging kit. The hanging kit might as well not weigh anything, as light or lighter than a carabiner, and the stove is 1lb, plus a bit for the fuel. It worked out really well on the Nose, without any problems of flareups. Just have to keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over (you only make that mistake once). +10 on saving water for the hike down. No one talks about how heinous that hike is with a loaded haul bag, even without the water there's still ropes, rack, portaledge, etc. Way too much... I got to choose the last route (Nose) my buddy wants to do Zodiac next so that should be better hauling and smaller/lighter loads. I'd like to learn more about how to cook and seal chicken. That sounds like a great option. 

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

I have a big El Cap route planned for this spring. The 7th night will be on top. I'll try to remember to weigh my food. 

Mydans · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0
Ryan Hamilton wrote:

I have one of the Jetboil stoves and the hanging kit. The hanging kit might as well not weigh anything, as light or lighter than a carabiner, and the stove is 1lb, plus a bit for the fuel. It worked out really well on the Nose, without any problems of flareups. Just have to keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over (you only make that mistake once). +10 on saving water for the hike down. No one talks about how heinous that hike is with a loaded haul bag, even without the water there's still ropes, rack, portaledge, etc. Way too much... I got to choose the last route (Nose) my buddy wants to do Zodiac next so that should be better hauling and smaller/lighter loads. I'd like to learn more about how to cook and seal chicken. That sounds like a great option. 

I F#uckin hate the walk down!  I'm only 5"6" and the heavy loads crush me.  I'm ready to pay a monkey to carry down a bag the next route I do.  I think half the reason I'm so destroyed after El Cap is the descent.  The chicken meals are made by hormel and you can find them in a lot of grocery stores. Near the dirty more beef stew and other pre-prepared stuff.  When we had a stove last summer we also did a package of instant mashed potatoes and added cheese and bacon bits.  I thought it was good but I was starving.  For breakfast I'm into bagels almond/peanut butter and precooked bacon.  Lots of fat and protein.  The zodiac is an amazing route and I was blown away at how much easier the hauling was compared to the nose.  The bag doesn't touch the wall and its even steep enough to haul your ledge open so you can lay down while you belay.  super cush! Here's a picture of the bags on the zodiac. no where near the wall

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Climbing a wall pretty much takes what it takes. There are lots of hauling threads out there so let's not start one here, but knowing how to efficiently haul (2:1) is key.

delly84 · · Golden, Co · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 64

cross post from the online deals thread:

Not an online deal, but a great deal nonetheless. Check your local Costco. The have a Mountain House variety box for $54.99. All added up at REI it's $108 (not including the 10% off for 10+ and 10% rewards).

Pics from Yorba Linda, CA Costco

Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 784

this reminds me a story that was told to me about John Stannard's first trip up El Cap, planning for five days on the wall he brought five roasted chickens for him and partner, by the second day the food was spoiled and they had to bail.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

DONT cut water.

You arent just simply cutting the weight of the water used to make the food. That is also a cut to your daily water consumption. Thats .5 liters (about) of water you arent putting in your body that day. On top of that your body will use water to process the food that has a low water percentage in turn making you more thirsty and using more water. 

Theres always something to cut. But, water just aint the thing to fuck with, its far too important. you can not eat for weeks but dont try that with water.

Freeze dried food, nuts, ramen, instant mashed, lipton side meals, peanut butter, tunafish, sharp cheddar cheese, snickers bar (instant energy but melts FUCK), wraps (lots of carbs very good works well with the tuna and cheese {TUNAMELT FUCK YEAH}), MRE (blah), Canned food is great jsut drink the juice/water dont let it go to waste, afterall, you hauled that shit up there and counts towards your water consumption.

Dont take anything unless you have more than one use for it (a jacket is a pillow). Wear the same clothes and underwear everyday. Cut your tooth brushes in half. Bring a travel sized toothpaste. Dont bring nalgenes, Platypus are light weight pack down to nothing and can be expanded to fill bag space if need be and have a lifetime warrantee (or at least they used to)

What stove are you using? Jetboils weigh very little. 

Im an AT thruhiker and had a 12 LB pack for 8 months including tent and sleeping bag, not including food and water. Not that means anything and its not SUPER or HYPER light and not trying to boast just letting you know that you can live with less than 12 pounds of shit not including food and water. Yes that includes my stove weight, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, headlamp, toiletries, Katadyn water pump and a game. Yahtzee with lamenated cards and erasable pens is lightweight, so is a deck of cards-ish.

From the absolute shit shows of people with 50+ plus packs on the AT or other trails (CDT PCT John Muir ETC ETC ETC) these people generally have too much clothing, Ridiculously heavy stove and gas (see coleman two person walmart stove with the green canisters YEP!) four person tent, jar of 50 pickels...anyway I digress. Just my two cents. 

The weight is probably in your comfort items. Just speculating of course.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0

We had maybe 1-2 lbs in comfort items. The whole idea here is that after mentally reviewing what we had in the bags the only place we could find to really reduce weight would be maybe the food. I wanted to see if there were other ideas out that that I had not considered. It sounds like the standard stuff is what is recommended. Next wall I do, my partner and I are just going to have to be really critical about each and every item that goes in the bag. I also learned more about how much to take in terms of wall food to have available while climbing during the day. We don't stop for any real breaks since aid climbing belays can last a while.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

Ah yeah, nuts are great for that. Just grab a pouch of them and go to town. Macadamia are expensive but packed with sooo much fat they are sooo good for their weight. I think 1/3 a cup of mac nuts is like 30% of DV of fat intake for a 2k diet worth their weight in gold. but you can eat a hefty serving and not feel full with those. I generally mix them with cashews.

Michael Holland · · Teton Village, WY · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 0

i've just bought a pizza from curry village and threw it into some ziplocks.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 0
Tylerpratt wrote:

Ah yeah, nuts are great for that. Just grab a pouch of them and go to town. Macadamia are expensive but packed with sooo much fat they are sooo good for their weight. I think 1/3 a cup of mac nuts is like 30% of DV of fat intake for a 2k diet worth their weight in gold. but you can eat a hefty serving and not feel full with those. I generally mix them with cashews.

I had never considered Macadamia nuts, sounds like a solid idea. Makes me curious of the fat content of other nuts, maybe there is a an even better one out there. 

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 0

Unfortunately, all the food that is good for you is heavy.

Good points from Tylerpratt.

Beyond saving weight is having enough food and water for safety. I make my best estimate for the time to climb the route, and then add a day for the unknown and another day for slowness. Yes, I add two whole days! BUT, I've weathered unexpected 3 day storms and have topped out happy and fat!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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