Bikepacking Food Guide: Fill Your Stomach Without Filling Up Your Bike Bags

No matter where we ride, how we pack our gear, or whether we prefer gravel roads or singletrack, there’s one thing all bikepackers have in common: a massive appetite.

Figuring out what to eat on a bikepacking trip can be tough. We need to carry all our food in limited cargo space, find what we need in out-of-the-way places, adjust to unfamiliar cuisines, and sometimes keep an eye on our budget. Satisfying a cyclist-size appetite within these constraints can be a tricky puzzle.

In this post I’ll share what I’ve learned about eating while biking thousands of miles on gravel, dirt, and pavement, in remote and populated areas, on both coasts and straight through the middle (twice) of the US.

If you’ll be venturing abroad on two wheels, things get even more complicated. Figuring out what to eat while bike touring in Vietnam, Sudan, or Kyrgyzstan presents a whole other set of issues. In this article I’ll focus on the types of food typically available in my home country, the United States, but some tips apply to other places too.

Related:
Where to Sleep for Free While Bikepacking in the US
Planning for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Bikepacking Resupply Checklist

Spend your town time resting and eating instead of wondering what you’re forgetting. Download this free bikepacking resupply checklist to your phone, or even print it out like in the old days:

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Town Day Checklist!

Sign up to receive the free downloadable bikepacking town day checklist to help with your resupply stops:

    You’ll also receive occasional emails with other bikepacking and touring resources. I think you’ll like them, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

    Bikepacking vs. Bike Touring?

    Let’s get this out of the way first. I’m all for inclusive bike travel terminology! Panniers or seat bag, I don’t care what you run, we’re all one big happy family.

    But food for bikepacking, traditionally defined as more about remoteness, camping, and dirt or gravel, is a trickier puzzle to solve than food for bike touring, which I’ll loosely define as involving more towns, motels, and pavement (and thus, of course, more grocery stores and restaurants). The space constraints of a bikepacking bag setup, compared to rack and panniers, don’t help either.

    So, I’ll be talking about bikepacking food from here on out. But if you tour in the US, especially in less populated areas, a lot of this applies to you too.

    Pizza in box with gas station and touring bike in the background
    On some bikepacking routes, a gas station pizza counts as picture-worthy luxury!

    What to Consider When Planning Your Food

    Before we get into specifics, we need to talk about what kind of bikepacking trip you’re planning for. I loosely break this up into a few different categories based on availability of food, gear you want to carry, and desired mood / pace.

    How long is your trip?

    For a short trip, say 1-3 nights, you might carry most or all your food from the start. This lets you control your menu and not worry about store hours. Dehydrated meals and other backpacking-style foods work well here (ideas below).

    For longer trips you’ll need to resupply along the way. With this kind of flexibility it’s easiest to just buy what’s available as you go along, never planning more than a couple days ahead.

    Most people will struggle to pack more than three days of food into a bikepacking bag setup, though it can be done. In practice it’s rarely needed. since small towns are fairly easy to come by every few days except on the most remote of routes.

    How often will you resupply, and what’s available?

    Take a close look at your route and expected daily schedule. Will you be passing through something resembling civilization multiple times each day? Once every day or two? Not at all?

    The size of the town usually determines what you can buy there. Peruse Google Maps if needed, and be sure to check business hours. Most towns big enough to have a 24 hour gas station will also have a grocery store, fast food chains, and other restaurants to choose from. Knock yourself out!

    Small towns often have a single general store or convenience store, and maybe a restaurant that serves burgers and sandwiches. Their hours might be as limited as their selection, so call ahead to check their hours before relying on them.

    My typical US bikepacking trips usually involve a mix of resupply stops. I might carry a few dehydrated meals from the beginning, restock snacks along the way, and take advantage of occasional restaurants and grocery stores for extra calories and nutritious food.

    Jarbidge Trading Post: funky small store with bicycle parked outside
    Resupplying from the only store in tiny Jarbidge, Nevada required some creativity.

    Stove or no stove?

    Do you need to bring a stove on your bikepacking trip? This comes down to personal preference and will be influenced by:

    • How often you’ll encounter food on your route
    • How light you’re trying to pack
    • Dietary restrictions that limit what you can buy when resupplying
    • How much you mind the occasional cold cup of ramen, canned chili, or instant coffee
    • How cold the weather will be. Freezing mornings make hot coffee and oatmeal extra-appealing.

    For me personally, it’s usually not worth bringing a stove if I can get to a convenience store at least once a day. The exception is a leisurely tour with chilly mornings and evenings.

    Alternative Lightweight Stoves

    Most of us picture a traditional backpacking stove with a bulky fuel canister, or even a JetBoil. But there are smaller and lighter options. Two of the most popular:

    • Alcohol stoves, popular with ultralight backpackers (you can even make your own)
    • Esbit solid fuel stoves, best for occasional warming of coffee, not sufficient for boiling or cooking in cold weather
    rehydrated mac and cheese in pot
    A stove is nice for making yummy hot meals at camp, but it’s not necessarily a requirement for bikepacking.

    Do you enjoy planning and prep?

    Are you the type who wants to plan and pack every meal in advance, or do you enjoy the challenge of piecing together a menu from sparse shelves? Do you have time to prepare in advance, or is it easier to just buy as you go?

    Dietary requirements can also put some riders in the planner category simply because they can’t count on finding what they need if they don’t bring it themselves.

    What are your dietary goals?

    Generally speaking in the US at least, the smaller the town, the harder it is to find varied and nutritious food. Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks, and others with specific dietary needs will struggle to eat from convenience stores and roadside diners.

    If you have strict dietary needs, look for towns large enough to have chain grocery stores. You can also mail food drops to yourself via General Delivery at most US post offices, but pickup hours in small towns can be inconveniently limited.

    When resupplying from gas station convenience stores for days in a row, bikepackers can’t afford to be fussy about nutrition.

    Relaxed or ambitious pace?

    Is this trip more of a “mobile buffet” style, a ton of eating with some biking thrown in? Then it’s totally worth carrying the stove and some extra goodies if cooking at camp, and scheduling plenty of time for restaurant meals when available. Bring on the bacon cheeseburgers!

    On the other end of the spectrum, bikepack racers are all about shoving down calories – any calories – while riding as many miles as possible. Racers typically stick to convenience stores because restaurants and grocery stores take far too much time, and they wouldn’t dream of carrying a stove and spending time to cook. It’s all about energy bars, trail mix, and as many frozen burritos as you can carry.

    How big is your budget?

    While food isn’t a big expense compared to things like bikes, gear, and travel, it can be the single biggest expense once you’re actually riding. Generally speaking, here’s the expense hierarchy:

    • Most expensive: restaurants
    • Moderately expensive: fast food, convenience stores, ready-made dehydrated meals
    • Least expensive: grocery stores, DIY dehydrated meals
    Resupply at gas station in bike race
    Enjoying a chocolate milk at a gas station somewhere in the American midwest

    What Makes Good Bikepacking Food?

    Before getting into the specifics, let’s get on the same page about goals. Preferences vary, but here’s what most bikepackers strive for:

    • Food that’s lightweight and doesn’t take up much space.
    • Food that’s calorie dense, which usually means high in fat content.
    • Food that packs well – no squishing, squooshing, or spilling inside our bike bags.
    • Enough food – bikepacking makes us hungry.
    • Some semblance of nutrition, especially on longer trips. It’s all too easy to overdo the junk food.

    Depending on your location and budget, some of these can be easier to achieve than others. Let’s look at some specific ideas and techniques.

    Small town cafes and general stores aren’t known for their nutritional variety, but they’re great for making new friends and having interesting conversations. Thanks, folks at the Service Creek store in Oregon, for the warm welcome!

    Dehydrated Bikepacking Meals

    When it comes to food, a short bikepacking trip in a remote area isn’t all that different from a backpacking trip. Dehydrated meals intended for hiking are a great option for bikepackers too, because they’re designed to be calorie-dense and weigh as little as possible.

    There are two main approaches to dehydrated meals for bikepacking: buy premade, or make your own at home.

    Premade dehydrated meals: Mountain House and Backpacker Pantry are two popular brands. The single-serve pouches are convenient but they’re also more expensive, create more packaging waste, and often come in serving sizes that are too small for a hungry cyclist.

    I like to buy #10 cans from Mountain House (Chili Mac n Cheese is my favorite), portion them out in custom serving sizes, and add extra powdered fat and freeze dried vegetables for more calories and nutrition.

    Getting ready to portion out some pre-made dehydrated meals for a long hiking trip (works well for bikepacking too).

    DIY dehydrated meals can be made to suit your preferences and pack in more nutrition, and the process can be fun if you have the time. Here’s a good collection of ideas.

    Even DIY meals come in a range of effort levels. You can combine a few simple ingredients from the grocery store, buy ingredients that are already freeze dried and powdered and mix them together, or make your favorite homemade meal and they dry it in a food dehydrator (I use this one from Nesco).

    Dehydrated meals make the most sense as dinners, when you really want a hot and hearty meal that doesn’t weigh too much while you’re carrying it. Egg-based breakfasts are a nice change from oatmeal in the morning, but they take a long time to rehydrate (crunchy eggs… yum…). Buying oatmeal and other simple breakfasts from Mountain House seems like a waste of money to me, since they’re easy to assemble from grocery store ingredients.

    Dehydrating Tasty Bite lentils, an easy compromise between store-bought and DIY bikepacking food

    Here are a few of my favorite dehydrated meals:

    All of these can be fancied up by adding extra cheese (real or powdered), butter powder, bacon bits, dried veggies, or other goodies according to preference. See the next section for ideas.

    Powdered and Dried Ingredients

    Powdered, dehydrated, and freeze dried ingredients are easy to buy online but hard to find in stores. I use them in two ways:

    • At home, while mixing or supplementing dehydrated meals to take on a trip
    • On the road, packed in smaller baggies to supplement meals I make from grocery store and convenience store ingredients

    Here are some of my favorite dry ingredients to mix into meals for more calories and nutrients:

    The powdered fats can be added to pretty much anything – pasta, rice, oatmeal, coffee – to add more calories. The veggies and beans make me feel like I’m getting a little more nutritional variety.

    For a long ride like the GDMBR, I mail myself bags of these every few weeks so I can add them to the meals I make on the road. See the Mail Drops section below for more on mailing food.

    Powdered fats are a lightweight way to add more calories and flavor to any bikepacking meal.

    Simple Hot Meals for Resupplying on the Road

    When buying food as you go, options are more limited. You probably don’t have access to a full kitchen and food dehydrator; you might be hard-pressed to even find a grocery store.

    These simple meal ideas can be made from ingredients found in most small grocery stores or even convenience stores. You can also make them at home and pack them for your trip if you need quick and affordable dry meals.

    To spruce these up, add some powdered or freeze dried ingredients (especially extra fats and veggies) from the section above.

    For meal ideas that don’t require cooking or adding water, including lunches, see the next section.

    Breakfasts

    • Instant oatmeal: add peanut butter, nuts or trail mix, powdered milk or cream.
    • Granola with water: add milk powder and nuts or trail mix (also good cold).
    • Instant coffee (I particularly like Anthony’s for buying in bulk, but single-serve packets are convenient for short trips): add cream or milk powder.
    Close up of oatmeal with peanut butter as backpacking meal in collapsible cup
    Peanut butter and trail mix really jazz up a packet of plain instant oatmeal, and are all easy to find in grocery stores.

    Dinners

    • Ramen noodles: add peanut butter and hot sauce (Trust me! This is a favorite, and very affordable too.)
    • Mac ‘n cheese: add extra cheese, bacon bits, or salami. Be sure to get the fast-cooking instant kind (usually comes in cups).
    • Instant mashed potatoes: add cheese, bacon bits, or salami
    • Couscous: add cheese (are you seeing a pattern here?), canned chicken or tuna
    • Instant rice (Korr brand “Rice Sides” are popular): add canned chicken or tuna
    • Couscous: add bacon bits, bean flakes, canned meat, and extra butter or cheese powder
    • Cans and pouches of soup, stew, etc: Though heavier than dry meals, these can be a nice change of pace.

    To literally spice up these meals, horde a few condiment packets from restaurant or fast food meals. A squirt of taco sauce, salsa, or ketchup (the latter especially for mashed potatoes) makes these simple meals a tad more exciting.

    Instant potato packet next to bacon bits and cheese
    Getting ready to supercharge a packet of instant mashed potatoes with extra bacon bits and cheese.

    Warning about pasta: Most of the pasta in the grocery store needs to be cooked in boiling water for about ten minutes. This uses lots of fuel and leaves you with a bunch of pasta water to dispose of – not exactly “leave no trace.” Look for instant noodles instead, which have already been cooked and then dehydrated. They’ll rehydrate in hot (not necessarily boiling) water in just a few minutes.

    No-Stove Bikepacking Food Ideas

    Whether you’re packing light and going stove-free, or just want to diversify your menu, these bikepacking meal ideas don’t require any cooking or hot water.

    No-Cook Breakfasts

    • Protein bars (see my favorites here – MetRx and Builder Bars are usually easy to find)
    • Various pastries, pies, muffins, etc. – add peanut butter to make them more filling.
    • Cold instant coffee, optionally with milk powder and sugar. Tip: instant coffee does dissolve in cold water, but it helps to shake it well in a bottle.

    No-Cook Lunches and Dinners

    • Tortillas with cheese and salami. Hard cheeses and meats last a long time without refrigeration, but softer ones may not.
    • Tortillas with peanut butter or other nut butter, and perhaps fruit jam
    • Tortilla with canned refried beans and cheese
    • Tortilla with canned tuna or chicken
    • Pre-made sandwich, often available in convenience stores, or Subway if you’re lucky
    • Microwave burrito, a convenience store staple
    • Tasty Bite lentil pouches (can be heated, but also not bad cold).
    • Canned food: can also be heated on a stove, but usually not bad cold. I find ravioli and vegetarian chili more appetizing than other options when cold. Be sure to choose cans with pull-off lids if you’re not carrying a can opener.
    • Ramen rehydrates fairly quickly (give it 20 minutes) even in cold water and tastes pretty good too.
    • Pretty much any dehydrated meal can be “cold soaked” to make it edible, but it might take a few hours.
    Simple no-cook dinner by the John Day River in central Oregon. I was mostly able to grab hot to-go meals for dinner, and the occasional cold can of ravioli got me through the other nights without needing to pack a stove.

    Looking at this list, you can see that many no-cook meal options are heavier than dehydrated meals, and they also may not stay fresh as long (especially sandwiches and burritos). This makes them particularly well-suited to routes with frequent resupplies, or as a treat on your first night after resupplying.

    While in town, some of my favorite foods to buy and eat before pedaling out include chocolate milk, yogurt, and bananas.

    A note about microwave burritos: Most instructions say to microwave them for food safety reasons. Generally they are already cooked, but presumably the microwaving kills any pathogens that may have grown during transport and storage. It’s probably a good idea to follow this precaution and microwave them before you leave. That said, I and many others have taken them frozen to-go and eaten them once thawed, with no ill effects. Try at your own risk!

    Small town convenience stores often have a lot of character, but not a great selection of healthy food.

    Bikepacking Snack Ideas

    Snacks are probably the easiest type of bikepacking food to find, and also the most dependent on personal preference. Here are a few of my staple bikepacking snacks that are usually available at even the smallest convenience stores:

    • Trail mix
    • Nuts
    • Dried fruit
    • Peanut butter
    • Meat sticks or jerky
    • Cheese sticks or wheels
    • Protein bars (tip: slather on some peanut butter to super-charge a low-calorie bar)
    • Chocolate chip cookies
    • Potato chips, especially in hot weather

    If you have access to a larger grocery store, here are some tasty healthier ideas:

    • Bite-size fruits and veggies (carrot sticks, grapes, sweet peas, berries)
    • Date bites or similar idea, if you can find them. They’re nicely sweet but not overly processed, and they don’t melt in the heat like chocolate does.

    A note about sweets: My own experience has been that overdoing sugar leads to bad places. Convenience stores in the US are filled with candy, but it will only power you so far before your body begs for something more substantial. The more I ride, the less candy I eat or even want. That said, sometimes the quick pick-me-up of sugar is exactly what’s needed, and if you have a sweet tooth there’s no better time than a bikepacking trip to indulge it.

    Peanut butter is a great way to supercharge any bar with more calories, fat, and protein.

    How Long Will Food Stay Fresh?

    If you buy a sandwich in the morning and it sits in your handlebar bag until dinner, is it still safe to eat?

    I’m not a microbiologist, and spoiled food can occasionally be dangerous, so use your own best judgment. But from personal experience:

    • Most perishable food, like a sandwich, will easily last a few hours to a full day. In cool weather with overnight temperatures in the 30’s to 40’s F, a sandwich can last until the next day.
    • Hard foods like aged cheese and dry salami can last weeks, especially in cool weather and if not pre-sliced. The less moisture and surface area a food has, the longer it will last.
    • Frozen burritos will defrost slowly in your bag, in theory keeping them ready to eat for longer.
    • Try to keep all food sheltered from the sun’s heat and light. Pack it in the bottom of your bags, not the top where the sun warms the fabric.
    • If you start to eat something and it seems “off,” don’t finish it. Keep some emergency energy bars on hand for times like this. It’s not worth getting a nasty stomach bug while you’re on the road.

    Bikepacking Nutrition Tips

    There are so many different ideas about what it means to eat healthy these days, and I’m not one to judge. But personally speaking, I struggle to eat a diet that doesn’t make me feel disgusting during long bikepacking trips.

    I can enjoy cheeseburgers and candy for a few days, even a week or two. But if I’m on the road for a few weeks or more, this diet just doesn’t work for me. I start craving salads. If my daily mileage isn’t very high, I might even gain weight. It’s hard to explain, but I just don’t feel good after too much junk food.

    If you can relate, here are the tips that help me:

    • Take it easy on the sugar. The candy aisle at the gas station can be so tempting, but when I overdo it I get energy crashes and start to feel gross. When I catch myself reaching for a candy bar or package of cookies that I don’t even really want, I substitute “real food” (cheese, nuts, etc.) instead.
    • Take it easy on starchy carbs too. Most of the easiest bikepacking meals – rice, pasta, potatoes – are based on starch. I try to use smaller amounts of the starch and mix in more protein and fat for better macronutrient ratios.
    • Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible. If it’s not practical to take them with you, buy extra in town and eat them before you leave. I don’t normally love vegetables, but I’m always surprised by how good a salad tastes after a week of trail food.
    • Listen to what your body wants. If salty food looks delicious, you might need the electrolytes. If sweet food seems extra appealing, perhaps you need a pick-me-up. If a big greasy pizza sounds amazing, you might need the calories.
    A balanced bikepacking “town day” meal: pizza, salad, chocolate milk and a double IPA

    Vegetarian and Vegan Bikepacking Food

    Life isn’t easy for vegans and vegetarian bikepackers, especially in rural places. We Americans really do like our meat. My best suggestion for non-carnivores is to focus on other sources of protein and fat – you’ll be eating a LOT of nuts and beans.

    Some options that I see regularly while riding, even in small stores:

    • Peanut butter (add to tortillas or eat with a spoon)
    • Canned beans or vegetarian chili
    • Nuts and trail mix
    • Certain protein and granola bars, for example Kind Bars, are vegan
    • Dairy like whole milk and yogurt (for vegetarians not vegans, obviously)
    • Avocados (available in grocery stores, but probably not convenience stores)

    To get enough calories, vegans may need to add extra fat to pretty much everything. Olive oil decanted into a small plastic bottle, and powdered coconut milk, are both good vegan-friendly options.

    Textured vegetable protein is a vegan source of complete protein that can be mixed into all kinds of meals and takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with.

    If you happen to be vegan or vegetarian yourself, please comment below with your ideas! I would love to expand this list with some concrete experience.

    Keto and Low Carb Bikepacking Food

    Low carb diets are a growing trend these days, and not just for weight loss. It turns out our bodies can fuel themselves using stored fat, if we train them to, which allows us to ride farther between meals without that horrible bonky feeling. A low carb diet also limits sugar, which has been shown to be unhealthy in a variety of ways.

    A typical convenience store bikepacking diet is likely to be high in both sugar and carbs. Think about all those Snickers bars, Gatorade, and ramen packets! It’s definitely possible to maintain a low carb diet on the road (strict keto is a bigger challenge), but you’ll have to make careful selections. See this list of low-carb backpacking food ideas, which apply well to bikepacking too.

    Quick stop at a cafe to pick up a soda and snack for the road somewhere in the midwest.

    Mail Drops for Bikepacking

    Mailing food to yourself on the road, as thru hikers often do, is usually more trouble than it’s worth since bikepacking gets us between towns faster than hiking. But there are a couple cases when it might make sense:

    • You have special dietary needs that can’t be covered by the resupply stops on your route.
    • You’re on a long ride (like the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route) and want to restock on ingredients that are hard to find even in grocery stores, such as powdered coconut milk, freeze dried veggies, or healthy homemade snacks.

    If you’re thinking about mailing food drops for your bikepacking trip, keep these tips in mind:

    • Address the package to Your Name, General Delivery, and the address of the post office where you want to pick it up.
    • Label your box with an ETA (estimated date of arrival), but note that many post offices won’t hold General Delivery mail longer than 2 weeks. Some will though; call ahead if you’re unsure or need them to hold it for longer.
    • Bring your ID, you’ll need it to pick up the box.
    • Factor post office hours into your schedule. Many are only open on weekdays, especially in small towns.
    Picking up a mail drop in Del Norte, Colorado to resupply on key ingredients for the next section of the GDMBR.

    How to Carry Food While Bikepacking

    As with the rest of packing for bikepacking, figuring out where and how to pack your food is a puzzle.

    Stem bags – also called feed bags for good reason – are used to hold snacks you want to nibble on the go. Here are a couple budget-friendly options available on Amazon (the first is my personal favorite):

    Feed bags holding beer. I mean snacks. Why not both?

    A handlebar pouch is great for meals or snacks you’ll get into less frequently. I love this budget-friendly pouch from RockBros because it holds so much. It can attach to the top or front of a typical handlebar roll bag for extra capacity.

    Top tube bags like this one (also budget-friendly) are another way to carry small snacks accessibly while riding.

    Your seat bag is a good place for dinner and breakfast food that you won’t need until you get to camp. While budget options exist, I’m partial to Revelate these days. Try to put heavy stuff, like canned food, closest to the seat post and lighter stuff toward the back.

    Dry sacks in cages on the front fork can also work well for food, especially stuff that’s heavier and should be carried down low.

    For everything else that doesn’t fit, you’ll have to get creative:

    Safe Food Storage For Bikepacking

    If you’re bikepacking in bear country, or even rodent country, you’ll need to take care with how you store you food overnight.

    I once left some trail mix in my stem bag overnight by accident. I woke in the morning to find a rodent had eaten half of it, pooped all over my stem bag, and ran off with my cycling gloves! At least it wasn’t a bear…

    If bears are not an issue, I will usually pack all my food in a single bag and bring it into my tent at night to keep it safe from rodents. At the very least, I put it in my seat bag and buckle it up securely. I have heard stories of rodents chewing through tents and bags, but at least they have to work for it instead of just enjoying a rodent buffet.

    When camping in bear country, it’s important – for both your safety and that of the bears, who are often euthanized if they develop a taste for people food – to store your food properly. Bikepacking bags and bear canisters don’t play well together, so you’ll be doing a bear hang (harder than it looks) or ideally carrying an Ursack (see my review for more detail) for overnight food storage.

    Eating and Cooking Gear For Bikepacking

    This could be a whole post on its own, but here are a few quick notes on cooking gear for bikepacking.

    Whenever I travel on my bike I always pack a lightweight but durable spoon and a collapsible cup/bowl. Even if I’m mostly eating grab-and-go meals and never plan to cook at camp, these always seem to come in handy somehow.

    For cooking at camp there are quite a few options and you’ll need to consider fuel availability. In the US, canister fuel is available at outdoor gear stores and you can find it in most medium to large towns. Two popular canister fuel stove styles are:

    • Simple backpacking stove: small and light, cheap, versatile
    • Jetboil (I recommend the MicroMo): very efficient at boiling water, especially in cold weather. Can be a bit bulky, but keep in mind it replaces both your pot and stove.

    Two alternative stove types that don’t use those bulky canisters:

    • Alcohol stoves are a common alternative to canister stoves. They’re lightweight, cheap (you can make your own) and pretty easy to find fuel for.
    • For a super-lightweight stove setup on short trips, there’s also the solid fuel Esbit stove and fuel tablets. These won’t cook a full meal, especially in cold weather or at high elevation, but they’re perfect for when you want to warm the occasional mug of instant coffee or canned food.

    When bikepacking solo, I’ll cook directly in my titanium mug so I don’t need a pot. This works for every stove type mentioned above except the JetBoil, which has an integrated pot.

    Esbit stove and titanium mug
    Cooking directly in my mug on an Esbit stove near Marin, California.

    Other Bikepacking Food Tips

    A few last assorted tips:

    • Pack enough food! Count your total calories if you can, and pack more than you think you need. The correct amount of food will probably feel like too much when you’re stuffing it into small bikepacking bags, but I promise, you’ll appreciate it later.
    • Always keep some emergency food on hand in case that small town store is closed or a mechanical issue delays you by a day. I recommend a packet of Ramen and a few protein bars stored deep in your seat bag where you won’t be tempted to break into them.
    • Save your empty ziplock baggies. They come in really handy for repackaging food to make it fit better in your bags (like cups of noodle soup).
    Stopping for burgers and waiting out a storm in Lima, Montana

    Final Thoughts

    I hope this post helped you understand how to plan, choose, and pack food for bikepacking. If you have any favorites or helpful tips of your own, please share in the comments below.

    More Bikepacking Resources

    You might also find these helpful:

    Or visit the bikepacking resource center for even more pedal-powered goodness.

    About the Author

    Hi there, I’m Alissa. I’ve traveled over 15,000 miles (enough to stop counting) by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride. Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more or say hi.

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    22 thoughts on “Bikepacking Food Guide: Fill Your Stomach Without Filling Up Your Bike Bags”

    1. Been touring since 1987, i use some of your suggestions, i buy 5-6 dehydrated meals that I’ll carry,just in case and usually find grocery stores via adventure cycling maps. I carry energy bars anyway, so whats a few more?? I carry a stove, which helps with expense… 1 time in brookings,oregon at harris beach state park. I walked to town,went to the grocery store and came out with 4 vafs of groceries… i then realized i was on a bike trip… i stayed an extra day anyway to rest. I left “food heavy” riding south to california…

      Reply
    2. Great article, you hit many types of riding, cooking styles and dietary needs.

      A couple more ideas:

      Beginning a trip with some frozen homemade items ensures nutrition and variety for the first couple days, see @rocketfuel food for ideas/recipes eg egg white and spinach muffins, sweet potato and rice muffins

      Baby carrots are bombproof and last for days, nice for some crunch and vitamins.

      Last but not least…restaurants and take-out joints are a great, and necessary, opportunity to charge phones, GPS, battery pack, lights etc 🙂

      Reply
    3. How many calories are you shooting for for a day of riding fully loaded? I’m riding 50 to 60s miles per day. Steel frame bike with 20lbs of gear. I’m 5’7″ and 125 now.

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      • Hi Reba, it’s hard to compare numbers for a lot of reasons. 50 to 60 miles of pavement or gravel, or tough singletrack? How long is the trip? How often will you go into town and make up for any calorie deficit with a big cheeseburger or other indulgence of choice? What’s your metabolism like? That said, I’m a similar size to you and ride a similar bike, so I’ll throw out there that I’m usually shooting for between 3000 – 3500 calories per day. Sometimes, if days are long or tough, this will be not quite enough and I’ll need to eat big meals at resupply stops (if the trip is long enough to have them). If the miles go by easily it might be plenty. Food that’s high in fat content goes farther for me than very carb/sugar-heavy food, but not everyone is the same there.

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    4. A few vegan-friendly tricks from thru-hiking:

      – Decant olive oil into a small plastic bottle and add it to dehydrated meals for extra calories.
      – Powdered coconut milk is a vegan substitute for powdered milk (I found it at an asian grocery).
      – Chocolate-covered espresso beans as a stove-free morning “coffee”.
      – Add powdered mashed potatoes to make any wet meal heartier.

      That said, it’s difficult to find vegan protein and if you’re like me, eating mostly peanut butter will eventually wreck your digestion.

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    5. Hello Alissa:
      I imagine you are able to burn many, if not all of the high calories you seem to be consuming. I was wondering how your cholesterol levels are, both bad and good? Do you get your blood drawn often?
      Just the ER RN coming out in me.

      Reply
      • Hi Michael, I hear you! I was just looking over this post and feeling like I overemphasized the junk food. On a recent multi-month trip without regular access to healthy food, I really missed it. I may reorganize this post to give nutrition a bit more prominence, even though it can be really hard to do better in the types of remote places I like to ride.

        I eat well and work out when I’m home, have always been relatively lean, and I’m “young” (in my thirties) so it seems I can get away with a lot. It’s been a couple years since my last blood draw but my cholesterol levels have always been fine. I worry more about all the sugar in a typical road / trail diet, and do my best to keep that reasonable these days even when I’m riding.

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    6. Hammer Bars and Gels for a quick vegan pick you up between meals. I will go for the freeze dried meals I find at REI for dinners that require boiling water.

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    7. I met a rider on the Great Divide who carried a jar of ghee. Doesn’t spoil in the heat and adds calories.

      I like having small bites in my top tube bag to munch on all day. Examples: grapes, cherry tomatoes, dates, snow peas. I found these often enough in grocery stores on the Divide.

      Reply
      • Thanks Linda, those are great tips. I’ve used ghee for backpacking too, great way to add calories. I like your idea of healthy snacks in the top tube bag to get more nutrients. I usually go for more calorie-dense foods but then end up missing fruits and veggies.

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    8. Hi All! New to bikepacking and going on our first trip in 2022. Where do i put the pot? It doesn’t seem like it would fit in a frame bag since my bike is so small. Put it in the saddle bag? Or… handlebar? I was going to get the Snow Peak 1400 since there are two of us.
      Thanks so much!

      Reply
      • Hi Jennifer! Yes, the pot can be one of the hardest things to fit. When my husband and I bikepack together we take a JetBoil MicroMo, which is only 0.8 liters. That’s plenty for “just add hot water” types of meals for two people, and it boils so quickly that it’s easy to do two rounds of water if needed. It (along with fuel and collapsible mugs) fits in a 5 liter dry sack that can go in a front fork cage, or sometimes in my saddle bag or even strapped on top. The Snow Peak 1400 looks like it would fit in similar places and gives you extra capacity, which is nice if you like more elaborate trail meals.

        Some people have room under their down tube, in a handlebar roll bag, or even just dangle the pot by the handle (will get dusty!). You’ll figure something out. Enjoy your first trip!

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    9. Great article! One thing I didn’t see listed was TVP, or “texturized vegetable protein.” I add it to all my freeze dried meals (and even oatmeal—anything cooked) for extra nutrition, calories and bulk. It looks like little crumbles of pasta, and cooks to a texture of ground turkey; and it takes on the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. It’s nothing like tofu. I love it!
      Another thing I always do is repackage any freeze dried meals into plastic baggies. It saves an enormous amount of space and (later) bulky trash to pack out.
      I also like to make desserts on the trail, so I often bring packages of instant pudding and full fat powdered milk (again repackaged into snack-size baggies). Simply add water, mix, and let it sit while you eat dinner. Eat the pudding straight out of the baggie.
      Along those same lines I can get by eating GrapeNuts with full fat powdered milk for days on end, adding nuts and dried fruit to taste. I measure the portions out at home and eat the cereal straight out of the baggie.
      Hope this helps!

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    10. Eating enough has always been a problem for me on bikepacking trips (or really most travel, especially Burning Man) partially because I never feel hungry and I have a bad habit of not drinking enough water, which can affect … everything.

      I try to cram as much calorie bombs down my neck as I can, but I often have nowhere near the typical appetite associated with hikers and bikepackers. When I can stuff myself full of actual food and enough water to make it all work and pee clear [an unofficial motto and greeting for Burning Man is “piss clear.” It was also the name of one of the newspapers in Black Rock City, the temporary home of Burning Man].

      The tip of buying powdered cheese is brilliant, as is the large cans of Mountain House chilli mac and cheese. I’ll do that next time. Powdered peanut butter is a good thing to have, as is instant coffee or powdered instant chai — they can be added to instant fake oatmeal. I often travel with a small can of Old Bay seasoning, it’s good in almost anything.

      A while back I came up with a calorie-dense snack idea: Procure a jar of processed peanut butter (I prefer smooth/creamy) and scoop out half into another jar or some sort of vessel. Fill the peanut butter jar with bulk granola and maybe M&Ms and combine it until it’s consistent.
      It’s easier to mix it all in a bowl and then transfer back to the jars if that’s an option.

      Scoop out with a spoon or chopsticks as necessary. Eat it alone or with an additional snack of your choice.

      Reply
      • That peanut butter jar trick sounds like a winner! I’ll definitely try that. Interesting comparison to Burning Man food too. We usually pack a totally different menu for that since we have a cooler and weight / bulk is less of an issue, but I suppose many of the same principles apply. On the playa I can eat endless amounts of salty snacks, particularly potato chips, though that does require staying on top of water intake. Anyway, thanks for the good tips!

        Reply
    11. Ever tried baby food? I’ve been carrying organic baby food in squeeze pouches to get fresh fruits into the mix, since I can’t carry a banana or an apple. It usually will have some oatmeal in it and sometimes chia seeds. Not high in calories, but it is really refreshing to have “fresh fruit” on a trip!

      Reply

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