Counting the calories (or not…)
A bit of “googling” revealed that walking consumes about 75 calories over your “base metabolic rate” for every mile that you walk. So a 20 mile walk would roughly double my normal calorific intake. Meaning I had to eat about 3000 – 4000 calories every day to make replace what I’d burned.
I discovered to my cost, early on, that at the end of a long day’s hiking, you don’t always feel very hungry. Sometimes I was so tired I just wanted to flake out in my tent. On one occasion I did exactly that – in Chepstow I was particularly tired so just had a packet of peanuts and a beer in the evening. I was OK the next day, but a couple of days later I felt lethargic all day – in retrospect probably because of the lack of a proper meal a couple of days earlier.
So from then on, I made myself eat every evening, even if I didn’t feel like it.
When I’d walked the West Highland Way in 2010, I’d carried all the food I needed for the whole 5 day trek, in my backpack. Mainly in the form of “pouches” of ready-made food that I could just heat up on my stove with minimal effort. This made for straightforward hiking, but as a result my pack was even more excruciatingly heavy (probably pushing 55 lb / 25 kg) than it was in the later stages of this LEJOG hike.
So for the LEJOG hike I decided to take a much easier approach and to buy meals along the way whenever I could. This pushed up the cost but I decided it was a price worth paying, given that the walking, camping and blogging were already taking up 100% of my energy. But I did carry a camping gaz stove and pot, which I used to prepare simple hot meals whenever there wasn’t anywhere else to eat.
My typical daily menu is listed below. You may want to skip this bit if you’re a health food fan or a camping purist because I have to be honest, my diet really wasn’t very wholesome..
- Breakfast in bed: a couple of “Belvita” style breakfast biscuits and half a litre of chocolate or strawberry milk before I got up
- Mid-morning snack: bacon sandwich and four cups of tea in a café
- Lunch – strawberry milkshake, crisps and granola bars that I carried with me
- Mid afternoon snack: flapjacks, cake and four more cups of tea in a café
- Dinner: steak-and-ale pie, sticky toffee pudding, pint of beer and glass of red wine in a pub
This all worked fine when my route took me past cafes and other places to eat. I was surprised actually how often I could find places to stop – greasy spoon cafes in caravans at the roadside, fish and chip shops in towns, garden centres in the countryside and posh cafes at the seaside. And even a café on the top of my first summit, Snowdon. In the evenings, most of the places I camped were generally within a couple of miles of a pub (which of course I had to walk there and back – sometimes adding another 5 miles walking to the end of an already long day).
Once I got into remoter areas – especially the north of Scotland, places to eat became fewer and farther between, so I had to just pick up food and drink whenever I could and carry enough to keep me going until the next place where I definitely knew I could re-stock. At its worst, I think I was carrying food and drink for 3 days / 50 miles of continuous hiking, and that pushed my pack up to 50 lb / 22kg in weight.
By my own calculations, I was drinking about 3 litres of fluid a day. It was never hot on my walk, and rarely even warm, so I didn’t sweat a lot. I’m not a fan of drinking out of streams, so carried bottled drinks and bought tea during the day and beer in the evenings. I found water and sports drinks unappetizing and tended to prefer milk – based drinks as they seemed to be more refreshing and easier to drink.
This sort of diet is OK on an occasional basis but I did come home with a rather novel craving for salad and fruit. And if I never see another sticky toffee pudding in my life, I won’t be sorry…