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Food Tips for Self-sufficient 7 Day Event

Blind adventurer Geoff Hilton-Barber, who has completed the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon five times, compiled this suggested Food and Packing List.


This food list/menu is intended only as a guide to people who are participating in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon.

In essence, it consists of some 5.5 to 6 kilograms of food and sports drinks which should be the minimum carried by a person of 70/80 kg for a 7 day, 250 kilometre desert race. It contains over 21000 calories – more than sufficient for such a race. (The minimum required for the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is 2 000 per day). It is based on the runner who wishes to carry a pack of around 10 kg dry weight and who wishes to be moderately competitive. A minimum of 1.5 litres of water should be considered – taking the start weight on the first day to 11.5 kg. I would say that the average first day dry start weight is around 11 – 12 kilograms and that the average novice competitor spends much time deciding which food to discard after the first day!

However, having said that, I have seen very competitive runners hit the start line carrying 16 kilos and braai fillet steak for two days – to the disgust of the rest of the field! The lightest pack I have seen was only 7 kilos, but that was Titanium Bob from the good old US and you really don’t want to meddle with him.

It must be understood that this list is based on personal experience and from discussions with other previous desert race participants. Many other foods will be found to be as nourishing and even tastier!


  1. Breakfast mix
    Breakfast is really important. I have used PVM porrige mix before and it is pretty popular – or unpopular as it gets pretty gummy when you mix it with water! However, it is good for you and easy to prepare. I tried something different last year which I think was really good. Mix equal quantities of PVM porridge, Pro-nutro and raw Jungle Oats. (I have been told that the Bokomo brand is far better than the conventional “Jungle” oats). To each 100 grams of mix, add a teaspoon of fructose and two or three teaspoons of soya milk powder to taste. (It is important that you taste your breakfast when you mix it – it is a bit late to leave it for the day…) You can even add raisins on the day or your Jungle bites fruit squares for better taste.

Heat seal each days mix in a separate plastic bag and mix it and eat it out of a water bottle which you have cut up. (You will be given 1.5 litre bottles of water each day – just cut the top off and you have a great cup which you don’t have to wash – just throw away – in the dustbin, of course!). I think that 100 grams is OK for breakfast.

  1. Mixed nuts
    A mixture of cashews, macadamias, pecans, almonds, etc, are a great snack to eat during the whole day.
  2. Salami sticks
    Mention has to be made of salami in either stick form or sliced from a large roll. (Norrie Williams took much too much in 2002 and had to give much away – he was very popular as he took well over a kilo with him!). Salami has a very high fat content and tastes like nectar at midday on a scorcher – it sounds as though as it would be the last thing you would want to eat, but I have seen the English fighting for it in the Sahara! Highly recommended.
  3. Halva
    Very high carbohydrate content, being a mix of honey and sesame seeds. Very sweet and a great energy food when you are tired. Something to be kept in reserve.
  4. Biltong – dry sliced
    While fatty biltong has a higher energy factor, it goes off quickly in hot conditions. I have vacuum packed it before, but prefer to take dry sliced game biltong as a snack rather than for the higher calorific value of the fatty stuff.
  5. Sesame seed bars
    High energy, easy to chew, don’t go soft and sticky in the heat and taste very, very good as a snack during the day. (Last year, I tried Black Cat bars, which are great in the Berg, but melt and taste not so good in the desert).
  6. Provita biscuits
    They are surprisingly high in calories, pack easily and are a good, filling, not so rich snack. Great to munch in the evening while preparing dinner. If you want to carry them, cheese wedges with your Provita biscuits will earn you many jealous looks from other runners…
  7. Energy Bars
    I know some runners like to carry lots of them and so did I – up to 20 for the week as I recall. Personally, I find that 10 for the event is enough. I would suggest that you experiment with energy bars. Some get very leathery or sticky and are not easy to chew or swallow. OK when you are not panting and not having to think about where you are going. If eating an energy bar becomes a mission, you will probably not eat one when you really need it – to your detriment!
    I personally only use PVM Zone bars. While they are nearly twice the price of others, they are easy to chew, swallow and, to me, taste good. They also don’t get horribly sticky in the heat. I repeat, energy bars are a very personal and much debated issue. Look around and take the bar you like.
    GU sachets are also good. I will be using them this year. I think that your essential energy and mineral replacement for your daily running comes from the sports drink, energy bars and GU sachets.
  8. Sports drink
    95% of runners take a powdered sport’s drink as a electrolyte and carbohydrate supplement. I rely heavily on PVM Octane and have also used FIT and Sytomax before. I use a 50 gram sachet for approximately every 10 kilometres of the race. I mix one sachet in 750 ml of water and also drink from another water bottle.
    I suggest that you use a really good sports drink – Game, for example, in my opinion, is not good enough for such an event. Again, a very personal issue – it’s what works for you that counts!
  9. Powdered protein drink
    I think that a replacement protein drink is absolutely essential at the end of each day. Take a minimum of 50 grams in water within half an hour after finishing. While I use PVM Fusion, there are many good ones on the market. (If you think of cutting down on your food for weight, DO NOT LEAVE OUT YOUR PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT!!!)
  10. Sweets
    I suggest that you don’t take chocolate or jelly babies – they get really messy in the heat.
    Super C, jelly beans, jube jubes, etc are good. Also energy sweets that are produced for sportsmen. I have found Bio plus sweets great! I will take jelly beans & probably Super C this year. Peppermints or Stimorol are nice mouth fresheners for evening frolicking…
  11. Dinner
    Very personal. Estimate on around 150 to 200 grams per evening and don’t hesitate to take more if you feel that you need more. Two minute noodles, Cup of Soup, soya, etc, are popular. While they are pretty pricey, you can also buy some vacuum packed meals from camping stores. You might also consider adding in some olive oil to your evening meal – it is incredibly high in fat content! Tuna sachets, approx 80 grams each, are also good for the evening meal. Make sure that you take the ones best for you. Some are very diet orientated and have little oil in them – not for you!
  12. Horlicks and milk powder
    You may well feel like coffee or suchlike after dinner. There are many sachets of hot drinks available from cappuccino, hot chocolate, etc. I like a mixture of Horlicks and milk powder. You can have it hot or cold, and, if you don’t feel like it at night, just mix it in with your breakfast mix the next morning
  13. Salt tablets
    In hot desert conditions, you will be drinking approx. 1 litre of fluid per hour. Normal supplements have insufficient salt in them so don’t rely on your sports drink alone for your salt. One of our past race doctors, an endurance runner herself, told me that I could safely take one salt tablet every 2 hours. I know that Comrades doctors advise against salt, but I have always taken salt on my past Comrades.
  14. Water bottles
    While we all take two by 750 mm bottles and they are usually enough, the first day last year was a killer – & I definitely did not have enough water carrying capacity. I suggest an additional 1 litre capacity – in the form of 2 by 500 mm coke buddy bottles. They are extremely light, tough as hell and can be stuffed anywhere in your pack! Stuff your pack with these extra bottles to avoid getting stuffed yourself…
  15. Rehydrate sachets
    Take six with you. If you have a really bad leg, and I am not referring to Estienne – a rehydrate sachet will pull you right quicker and better than sports drink.
  16. Eno’s sachets
    There were a number of runners last year who felt nauseous during the day. Eno’s in a water bottle sounds terrible – wait until you need one – you will offer R100 for one… Also, you probably don’t realize it, but you generate lactic acid from heavy exercise & our diet doesn’t really compensate. An Eno’s at night – or equivalents such as Rennies – is a must for me…
  17. Cold drinks
    You get really tired of the taste of sports drinks. I suggest a sachet of Drinko Pop – or similar for something to drink with or after dinner. We are talking about 5 grams each…