I’ve been paying more attention to the calories per ounce in the food I take backpacking. I’m totally revamping my recipes and food for trips this summer, which I will post on later (spoiler, on top of better calorie density I’m also hoping to convince K to going down the cold soaking rabbit hole with me).
One food that is surprisingly calorically light is the raisin. I bank on raisins pretty hard, they are a big part of my breakfast and my homemade trail mix. After this realization I went on an interesting (and opinionated) path through blogs, sub-reddits and nutrition data websites. Coming in at ~85 cal/oz it gets dropped out of a lot of ultralight pack lists.
This new information sent me on a frenzy of thinking about how to get raisins out of my pack too. I bounced from one solution to another. “Cranberries have a few more calories/oz, I need to use them!”, “What if i just replace raisins with more shredded coconut for breakfast!?”, “More banana chips!”...
The cranberries have more calories but most of that comes from sugar. I don’t think I’d like the taste of that much coconut in my breakfast. Raisins have some stuff that can’t be quantified in calories; iron, magnesium, potassium and folate (B9) for example. All of these are essential and hard to come by on the trail. I like packing food that tastes good and is nutritionally well rounded. If I eat bad food I feel bad. Low energy, grumpy, etc.
Some disagree and say there are studies that prove we focus way too much on nutrition on the trail. As long we feed our bodies with enough energy it’s fine till the next town. If that works for you that’s awesome. But I personally feel much better on the trail if I’m getting a well rounded diet. In the end I settled down and remembered that what works for me is finding the balance between calories, nutrition and taste. Raisins will stay in my pack.