Bikepacking Food Guide: My Best Hearty and Squish-Proof Menu Ideas

Let’s talk bikepacking food! Whether we run a seat bag or panniers, suspension or rigid, flat bar or drop bar, there’s one thing all bikepackers have in common: a massive appetite.

Choosing the right sustenance, and packing the right amount of it, can make all the difference between a fun adventure and a sad hungry slog. But figuring out what to eat while bikepacking can be tough! We may need to carry days of food in limited space, piece together a menu from the tiniest rural store, or manage complications like intense heat (bye bye chocolate!) or limited water.

Related: Best Stoves for Bikepacking

Over 20,000 miles of bikepacking and touring I’ve learned a ton about what to eat (and of equal importance, what not to eat) on the road and trail. I’ve tried the full range of bikepacking food styles: dried, fresh, cooked, cold, canned, junky, healthy… In this post I’ll share my best ideas and pointers for what to pack, how to resupply if your trip is longer, and how to carry and cook your food.

If you’ll be venturing abroad on two wheels, things get even more complicated. Figuring out what to eat while bikepacking 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 here in the United States, but some tips apply to other places too.

First rule of bikepacking: always be snacking.

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    Menu Planning Considerations

    Before we get into specific bikepacking food ideas, a few words about how your packing style and route can influence your menu.

    How long is your trip? For a short trip, say 1-3 nights, you might carry most or all your food from the start. Dehydrated meals and other backpacking-style foods work well here (ideas below). For longer trips you’ll need to resupply along the way, which means being a bit more flexible.

    How much space do you have? Many people will struggle to cram more than 3 or 4 days of food into a bikepacking bag setup. You might need to use panniers or a backpack for extra space. In practice more than this is rarely needed.

    How often will you resupply, and what’s available? Take a close look at your route and schedule. How often will you pass through something resembling civilization? Peruse Google Maps and be sure to check business hours.

    Small towns often have a single general store or convenience store, and maybe a restaurant serving burgers and sandwiches, though their hours might be as limited as their selection. I usually carry more of healthy hard-to-find foods from the start and top up easy-to-find items along the way.

    Jarbidge Trading Post: funky small store with bicycle parked outside
    Resupplying from the only store in tiny Jarbidge, Nevada required some creativity, but it was a fun place to stop.

    Stove or no stove? 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, on remote routes I want a stove. I don’t bring a stove if I can get to a convenience store or restaurant roughly once a day. I never carry a stove while racing — no time for such luxuries! On a leisurely tour with chilly mornings and evenings I’m likely to bring a stove so I can enjoy hot meals and coffee in the morning.

    Read more: Bikepacking Stoves: Types Explained + How to Choose

    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 on the go? Do you have time to prepare in advance, or is it easier to just buy as you go?

    What are your dietary goals and needs? Generally speaking, the smaller the town the harder it is to find varied and nutritious food. If you’re down to subsist on microwave burritos and packaged breakfast pastries, you’ll be fine! Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks, and others with specific dietary needs will struggle to eat from convenience stores and roadside diners in the US.

    Solutions include carrying more food from the start, planning resupplies for larger towns with real grocery stores, and mailing yourself food along the way.

    Pile of packaged food on picnic table
    Here’s a 3-day haul from a gas station in Montana. 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 more of a “mobile buffet” style of ride with an emphasis on long lunch breaks and elaborate camp dinners? Definitely bring the stove and some extra goodies! On the other hand, if you’re packing light and putting some serious miles behind you each day, it may be worth the compromise of a more streamlined menu and cook kit.

    How big is your budget? While food isn’t a huge expense compared to things like bikes and gear, it can be the single biggest expense once you’re actually riding. Restaurant meals, convenience store resupplies, and pre-made backpacking meals are more expensive options. Grocery stores and DIY meals are the most budget-friendly.

    Freeze Dried Bikepacking Meals

    When it comes to food, a short bikepacking trip in a remote area is similar to a backpacking trip on foot. Freeze dried backpacking meals work well because they’re light, fairly compact, and calorie-dense.

    Two approaches to freeze dried or dehydrated bikepacking meals: buy them 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 more expensive, and often come in serving sizes that are too small for a hungry cyclist. Instead I buy big #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 veggies for more calories and nutrition.

    Getting ready to portion out a bunch of freeze dried meals from #10 cans.

    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.

    DIY meals come in a range of effort levels. You can combine a few simple ingredients from the grocery store, or buy ingredients that are already freeze dried and mix them together, or make your favorite homemade meal and then dry it in a food dehydrator.

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

    Freeze dried meals make the most sense as dinners, when you really want a hot and hearty meal. Egg-based breakfasts are a nice change from oatmeal in the morning and these can be hard to DIY, so I sometimes treat myself to Mountain House or Backpacker Pantry versions of breakfast scrambles. Otherwise I make my own simple breakfasts from oatmeal packets and trail mix.

    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 grocery stores. I buy them in bulk, usually from Amazon, and use them in two ways:

    • At home, while mixing or supplementing dehydrated meals to take on a trip
    • On the road, to supplement meals I make from grocery store and convenience store ingredients
    Close up of chili mac 'n cheese dry ingredients in blue camping bowl
    Jazzing up some Mountain House mac ‘n cheese with more protein and dried veggies
    Close up of cooked chili mac 'n cheese in camping bowl

    Below are my favorite dry ingredients to mix into meals for extra calories and nutrients. Most of these are available in bulk from my favorite brand Anthony’s on Amazon.

    • Whole milk powder
    • Butter powder
    • Cream powder (great for mixing with instant coffee)
    • Coconut cream powder (non-dairy alternative source of fat)
    • Cheddar cheese powder
    • Dehydrated veggies (mixed is easy, or you can get specific)
    • Bean flakes
    • Textured vegetable protein (soy protein source for vegans, or anyone else)
    • Egg powder: adds protein and fat to any meal, but especially good in ramen noodles
    • Shredded coconut, sliced nuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. for adding to granola or oatmeal

    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 even more ideas, see How to Make Dried Backpacking Meals More Delicious and Nutritious.

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

    Simple Hot Meals (Resupply-Friendly)

    Options are more limited if you’re buying food on the road. You probably don’t have access to a full kitchen and food dehydrator, and you might be hard-pressed to even find a grocery store.

    The simple bikepacking meals below 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.

    Breakfast Ideas

    • 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.

    Dinner Ideas

    • Ramen noodles: add peanut butter and hot sauce (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 good): 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 if you don’t have far to carry them.

    To literally spice up these meals, grab a few condiment packets from a fast food joint. 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.
    Ramen + peanut butter + hot sauce is always a favorite
    Adding sausage and extra cheese to instant mac ‘n cheese for a delicious bikepacking dinner
    An unusually fancy couscous dinner with dried pork and guacamole

    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 bikepacking stove-free or just want to diversify your menu, these bikepacking meals don’t require any cooking or hot water.

    No-Cook Bikepacking Breakfasts

    • Protein bars (see my favorites here – MetRx and Builder Bars are usually easy to find). Slather with peanut butter for extra calories.
    • 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.

    Peanut butter is a great way to supercharge any bar with more calories, fat, and protein. This combo makes a quick and easy no-cook breakfast.

    No-Cook Lunches and Dinners

    • Tortillas with cheese and salami. Hard cheeses and meats survive the longest.
    • 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 (thaw it while you ride)
    • Tasty Bite lentil pouches (can be heated, but not bad cold)
    • Canned food: can also be heated on a stove, but usually not bad 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.
    • Pretty much any dehydrated meal can be “cold soaked” to make it edible, but it might take a few hours.
    Packing out a Subway sandwich for dinner in a few hours.
    Protein bar, canned ravioli, and spoon sit on a rock with river in background.
    Simple no-cook dinner by the John Day River during one of my bikepacking trips in central Oregon.

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

    A note about microwave burritos: Most instructions say to microwave them for food safety reasons. Generally they are already cooked, but 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!

    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)
    • Baby food pouches! Weird at first, but they grow on you.

    More: Cycling Snack Ideas for Every Type of Ride

    Sometimes it feels like bikepacking is all about the snacks

    A note about sweets as bikepacking snacks: 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. That said, sometimes a quick sugary pick-me-up is exactly what’s needed to power up a big climb.

    (Trying To) Eat Healthy While Bikepacking

    There are so many different ideas about what it means to eat healthily these days, and I’m not one to judge. But personally speaking, I struggle to find my version of healthy during long bikepacking trips.

    Sugary treats, processed carbs, and greasy burgers are far too easy to find on the road, while nutritious fresh foods are scarce. It’s not about body fat – I’m burning off the calories – but about feeling healthy and strong both during and after a long ride.

    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 too much leads to uneven energy levels.
    • Take it easy on starchy carbs too. Most of the easiest bikepacking meals – rice, pasta, potatoes – are based on starch. Mix in more protein and fat (so much cheese!) 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.
    • 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.
    A balanced bikepacking “town day” meal: pizza, salad, chocolate milk and a double IPA

    Fresh Fruits and Veggies

    Fresh fruits and vegetables are notoriously awkward to carry during a bikepacking trip. They weigh a lot, squish easily, and don’t provide many calories.

    So why bother? When we’re bikepacking for weeks or months, going without could lead to nutritional deficits. Also sometimes cool and crunchy food is really enjoyable. I’m not normally one to crave veggies at home, but after a few weeks on the road a salad is the first thing I eat in town (ok maybe the second thing, right after that cheeseburger).

    If I’m going to carry fresh fruits and veggies on the road, these are my go-to’s. They usually last a couple days.

    • bell peppers: add to dinner or eat raw
    • avocados: great in almost any dinner, or on tortilla with beans or cheese
    • apples: delicious snack on a hot day
    • cucumbers: also delicious on a hot day
    • mandarin oranges: protect from squishing, but otherwise an excellent snack
    • dried fruit: ok, not fresh, but sometimes it’s the only option
    • baby food pouches: a little weird at first, but they grow on you
    Rice and veggies in camping bowl
    A luxurious dinner made from instant rice, fresh bell pepper, avocado, and pre-cooked sausage
    Hand holding pouch of veggie baby food
    When fresh veggies aren’t practical, baby food is a creative solution.

    Vegetarian and Vegan Bikepacking Food

    Life isn’t easy for vegans and vegetarian bikepackers, especially in rural places. We Americans love our meat and dairy. 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 I see regularly while bikepacking, 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
    • Avocados (available in grocery stores, but probably not convenience stores)
    • High-calorie dairy like whole milk and Greek yogurt (for vegetarians not vegans, obviously)

    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. I add it to most dinners for a little extra protein.

    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 typical convenience store bikepacking diet is likely to be high in 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.

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

    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 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, see my post on Resupplying by Mail Drop.

    Picking up a mail drop in Del Norte, Colorado to resupply on key ingredients for the next section of the GDMBR.

    Where 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. Top tube bags are another way to carry small snacks accessibly while riding (perfect shape for french fries).

    Related: Stem Bag Showdown: 6 Bags for All Budgets

    A handlebar pouch, like the Revelate Designs Egress, is great for meals or snacks you’ll get into less frequently.

    Your seat bag is a good place for dinner and breakfast you won’t need until camp. Try to put heavy stuff, like canned food, closest to the seat post and lighter stuff toward the back. Keep fresh stuff beneath other items so it doesn’t get heat directly from sunlight.

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

    Sometimes you’ll just have to get creative:

    Tip: Keep a few ziplock bags handy for repackaging food that comes in cups, boxes, or non-reclosable bags.

    Related: Beginner’s Guide to Bikepacking Bags

    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 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.

    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.

    For alternative stove ideas, including ultralight alcohol stoves and versatile multi-fuel stoves, see my post on choosing a stove for bikepacking.

    Bikepacking solo? Save space and weight by eating out of your pot or cooking in your mug.

    Esbit stove and titanium mug
    Cooking directly in my mug on a solid fuel 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. I recommend a packet of Ramen or dried potatoes and a few protein bars stored deep in your seat bag.

    Save your empty ziplock baggies. They come in really handy for repackaging food (think cup of noodles for example) to make it fit better in your bags.

    Stopping for burgers and waiting out a storm in Lima, Montana

    More Bikepacking Resources

    I hope this post helped you understand how to plan, choose, and pack food for bikepacking. Did I miss your favorite snack, meal, or menu strategy? Please share in the comments below!

    If you liked this post, 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, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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      24 thoughts on “Bikepacking Food Guide: My Best Hearty and Squish-Proof Menu Ideas”

      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.

        Reply
        • 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.

          Reply
      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.

        Reply
      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.

          Reply
        • Nutritionist here. Not to be too contentious, but I think this is important. Cholesterol numbers alone are pretty meaningless, as both HDL and LDL can be either functional or dysfunctional, depending on particle size. There are Lipid Particle tests that give far better information, but they’re not widely promoted or ordered by physicians. In fact, my own doctor, last year, had no idea what this test is nor how to order it. Lipid particle tests measure the volume (i.e., the quality) AND the number of LDL and HDL. High levels of small, dense LDL particles indicate easily oxidized, stick-to-your-arteries cholesterol, no matter the number. There will always be some small, dense LDL, but having higher levels of light and fluffy is what’s needed for good health, no matter the total number. HDL is less often measured this way (depends on specific tests), but it, too, can be functional or dysfunctional, depending on particle size. Very high HDL has been associated with systemic inflammation, as seen in conditions such as autoimmune diseases, so our fixation on high HDL and lower-is-better LDL is misguided. Cholesterol is a critically important compound of health. Without adequate amounts we can’t produce optimal levels of vitamin D or hormones, and it’s very important for brain health. We’ve gone way overboard measuring the QUANTITY of a substance rather than its QUALITY, and then medicating to achieve specific numbers. Keeping sugar intake minimal, when possible, helps keep cholesterol functional, as does avoiding all vegetable oils (except EVOO), which are highly overly processed and contain excessive levels of easily oxidized, therefore inflammation-producing Omega-6 fatty acids. Obviously, on bikepacking trips, this kind of dietary advice doesn’t work. We just pedaled 650+ miles on the GDMBR (with our dog), and it was simply impossible to get enough calories if focusing on these quality issues. Heck, change that to, it was simply impossible to get enough calories. Period. But bikepacking diets are temporary; it’s what you do over the long-term that really matters.

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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.

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        • 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!

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        • 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.

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        • 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!

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      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!

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      12. You can sprout many, many lentils, beans, grains and even peas. This allows you to carry the dried, non-perishable (as long as they don’t get wet!) foods without worrying about them going bad. Most are ready to eat in 24 hours or less. Some in 12 hours. They are the best way to eat these foods as cooking reduces vitamins (and wastes resources and often necessitates a fire which often ruins your air quality because of the smoke). People often explore their love of nature then decimate the air quality with a fire. Sprouts do require rinses a few times a day so you will need water for that. But it doesn’t require a lot of water. Also its wise to learn what edible insects are in your area. Just in case. Most can be consumed raw. Insects are the best protein on the planet as they are complete, high in B12 and other nutrients and low in fat. Its the mental aspect most people struggle with. But try a black ant. They are utterly deliciouso! Not red ants though….they’re bitter. Now if only we could find a way of gathering lots of ants.

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