Logistics for a Viking force in the field – part 1

Viking army in the field would require 4 pounds of grain a day to keep soldiers alive. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Keep in mind as a leader of  Viking force in the field you really don’t want to be the boss of a lot of grumpy, starving soldiers who also happen to be armed with heavy weapons. That is not a formula for a long reign and perhaps not a great plan for a long life.

This is one is a series of posts on this blog talking about ancient finances.


I’ve read several comments so far on the logistical needs for a force in the field.

I’ll start with Viking: The Norse Warrior’s [Unofficial] Manual by John Haywood.

The book provides a reference for the goods needed to keep warriors fed. A force of 1,000 warriors would need 2,000 pounds of bread along with 1,000 pounds of meat. For liquids, the book says add about 240 gallons of beer.

Per warrior: That would be about 2 pounds of bread, 1 pound of meat, and 1 quart of beer.

That is not quite enough liquid to keep a person healthy or to cook and clean, so I’ll guess there would be additional need of fresh water.

Scaling that up to two boats with 40 warriors for a total of 80 soldiers would mean finding 80 160 pounds of bread and 40 80 pounds of meat a day. For a week that would be 560 1,120 pounds of bread, 280 560 pounds of meat, and 140 gallons of beer. (update: I really am an accountant. Really.)

All of that means a force on campaign must spend a lot of time foraging or have good enough relations with the surrounding area to buy lots of food.

Imagine scaling that up for the winter.

Vikings at war mentions in location 188 that an army of 500 soldiers would need about a ton of food per day plus forage for the animals they had captured.

At 2000 pounds that is about 4 pounds per soldier per day, which seems reasonable.

Per warrior: That is total of 4 pounds of food per day.

Scale that up. For the 500 soldiers on the move that is 14,000 pounds of food a week. That means a lot of time out scavenging for foodstuff.

Scale that down. For each boat of let’s say 30 soldiers, with say a week to get to a raid site (a very wild guess at this point in my learning), 3 days for recon and the raid, plus say a week getting home, that means loading about a ton of food for the trip (4# each x 30 men x 17 days = 2,040#). Figure a boat of 30 warriors needs to carry a ton of foodstuff. For 50 warriors, figure 3,400 pounds, or a ton and a half.

Before leaving, a lot of effort would go into gathering enough food to function during the raid.

2 thoughts on “Logistics for a Viking force in the field – part 1”

  1. So are you going to go Into more specifics? Such as what type of grain was used for the bread, how did they prepare it, what other essentials did they carry besides just bread, meat and beer. A good example is that Roman soldiers were given a daily ration of olive oil and vinegar on tip of there meat, grain and whatever else was available in the region. I’m fascinated with the logistics of ancient armies and it seems there just isn’t enough good info out there.

    1. Hi Jerry:
      If I had more specifics, I’d love to mention them. If I ever come across more info, I’ll talk about it. Like you, I’ve noticed a lack of info about logistics. At the moment, I am glad to have a few data points on the gross amount of supplies for a mobile force.

      By the way, I’ve copied all my discussions on ancient finance to my other blog, http://www.ancientfinances.com. Have a little more discussion there and will have more in the future. All additional posts in the future will be over at the other site.

      Thanks for the extra tidbit. Thanks for reading!

      Just as a long shot, are you interesting in sharing some of what you have learned?


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