Foodpacking (Vol. 1): Bikepacking Meal Plan by Glenn, Joe, and Eszter
What do folks eat on a backcountry bikepacking trip? How do they plan, pack, and cook? Find out how seasoned riders Glenn Charles, Eszter Horyani, and Joe Cruz plan and prepare food for a 3 day bikepacking trip…
Foodpacking is a new series exploring how folks cook, eat, and drink on bikepacking trips. The idea was born from a bikepack with new friends on the Kokopelli Trail and an avid curiosity as to what others use for energy and how they maintain calories while preserving a lightweight setup. This first installment explores how experienced bikepackers eat when they are out on the typical long weekend (three day) bikepacking trip. First up Glenn Charles, Joe Cruz, and Eszter Horyani… there is some great stuff here and you can see how different minds approach the same subject. Stay tuned for the second post with 3 more riders.
Glenn is a traveller, writer, photographer, and Jupiter’s Traveller Recipient. Follow his journey at thetravelingvagabond.com.
“What I eat and how I cook, like all things related to my travel by bike, has evolved over the recent years. If anything, I have made a push towards eating ‘fresher’ ingredients with a focus on dense calories and cooking that minimizes fuel consumption. Because I eat non-stop when traveling, my only big meal is dinner. Everything else is largely based on food consumption every hour of my travel day. Below is my current shopping list for a domestic 3 day, 2-night trip…”
- Coffee beans, locally roasted if possible
- Organic Granola, 2-3 cups worth
- 6-8 packets of Justins Organic Almond butter. A mixture of flavors
- Organic GORP. 20 ounces is generally enough
- 6-8 Lara Bars
- 6 packages of shot blocks
- Small container of hummus
- 1 avocado
- 2 large apples cut up and bagged
- Can of Pringles, crushed up and transferred to a zip lock bag
- Medium block of cheddar cheese
- Some type of hard sausage
- Small vial of olive oil or butter if temps will support
- 2 servings of Organic noodles. I prefer Udon noodles as they are nutritious and cook incredibly quickly. If they are unavailable I turn to Organic Ramen with regular ramen being my last choice.
- 2 servings of Protein. My current preference is the Patagonia Provisions Salmon. A bit expensive but great stuff. I now stock up on it and carry it with me whenever possible.
- One Package of Patagonia Provisions Tsampa soup. This stuff is amazing and a key element for me on longer trips. Highly nutritious and weighs next to nothing. The only downside is it requires a longer cook time than just noodles.
- A mix of chocolate ranging from Dark Chocolate bars to Justins Peanut Butter Cups
- 1 Good To Go rehydrated meal if I still have space. This is an emergency serving of delicious pre-packaged food
- Coffee hand ground and dripped through my Snow Peak pour over
- Organic Granola with a touch of hot water added from ‘coffee water’ mixed with a package of Justins butter.
- Lara bar before leaving camp
- Apples dipped in hummus
- Sliced cheese
- Sliced sausage
- Snack of my choosing
- Note: Day 1 lunch is a prime opportunity to eat left over pizza that you and your buddies had the night before rolling out. Whenever possible I try and do this for my first meal of the trip.
- Pasta, brought to a boil and then allowed to cook on its own with no flame. A pot cozy comes in handy here and everything cooks up while chores are being performed.
- Sliced cheese, oil and protein added to finished pasta. Soup mix added for extra big days.
- Chocolate and Justins Butter for a snack gets me another 400-500 calories right before bed.
- On longer trips I really like the Good To Go meals as they are made with high quality ingredients and are low in Sodium. For extended trips, I will be going with these as my main dinners, thus eliminating the need to carry my traditional dinner mix. Saves space, and cooks up quick and easy.
- Gorp, eaten on demand, stored in a large water bottle stashed in a feedbag on the bars
- Lara Bars
- Apple slices
- Shot Blocks
How Do I cook?
This is another evolution in my setup. I have gone from primarily using an alcohol stove to now using a Snow Peak canister stove mated with a Snow Peak pot kit. I have varying sizes of pots that I select from based on the trip and how I am planning on eating. I find that I just want to eat or drink coffee as quickly as possible and am willing to pay the weight penalty on the canister. My Snow Peak Ti stove is lighter than my Trangia, which minimizes the weight penalty. So if I am somewhere that I can get canisters, I go that route and if not, I will go with the Trangia. Since I am only doing one boil at night and one boil in the AM with no real extended cooking, I get extremely good fuel burn rates.
Where do I carry it?
Snacks are stored all over the bike. Feed bags, Back Pockets, etc. Chocolate bars fit perfectly in the map side of my Frame Bag. Fresh items like apples, hummus, avocado are typically stored in my pocket on my Porcelain Rocket sling if that is my setup. With my new Fat Bike Carradice bag, more things go there which makes carrying bulky food items WAY easier. My frame bag carries the cook kit, fuel, and a small bag with a mixture of snacks and Justins. The bulk of the remaining items are stowed in the seat bag, typically divided up in a bag for Breakfast/Dinner and then one for Lunch.
To store water, I use a combination of feedbags, fork mounts, and traditional bottle mounts. I don’t wear a back pack except on the full-suspension bike, so I maximize those water bottle mounts. The fat bike can carry a 64-ounce Klean canteen on the bottom down tube, which is awesome. I typically count on 4 liters a day unless I am in really warm conditions. In regions where water is readily accessible I may opt to carry less knowing that I can resupply strategically during the day.
I have always used two part chemicals or boiling to handle water. However, I am going to be experimenting with some other systems this year in an attempt to drink water that does not have a nasty chemical taste.
Note: Cover photo by Glenn Charles
Joe Cruz is an intrepid adventurer whose off road tours have taken him throughout the US, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the length of South America. His writing and photography can be found at Pedaling In Place.
“I’m fussy and a nerd about a thousand things. I try not to let camp cooking be yet another one. Instead, I’m looking for compactness, ease of one-pot preparation, decent calorie density, and invitingness of the tastes.”
- Quick oatmeal
- Hibiscus Tea bags or Starbucks Via packets
- Peanut butter
- Pack of tortillas
- 2 Avocados
- 2 Apples
- Dried mangoes
- 2 tomatoes
- Canister of fancy salt
- Block of cheese
- Pack of crackers
- Hard candies, e.g., Jolly Ranchers
- Soup packets
- Couscous or quinoa
- Dehydrated spicy black beans
- Indian dinner in foil packet, dhal or chana
- Milk chocolate bar
How I Pack
With regard to packing, snacks get distributed across the Revelate gas tank, the shell mittens that are clipped to the bars, and the two side pouches on the front pocket, which are perfect for the avocados. Lunch options should be easily accessible, and that usually means they are behind the main zipper of the frame bag. Dinner can be packed deep into bags, and is usually distributed lower in the frame bag and close to the seatpost in the saddle bag, behind the light soft stuff like a sleeping bag and puff jacket. This is to minimize saddlebag swaying or sagging. Enough whiskey—Laphroaig if I’m on the ball—for sharing goes in a small kleen kanteen bottle.
Eszter is an accomplished bikepacker who holds nearly every bikepacking record worth holding including the women’s record for the 493-mile Colorado Trail Race. Follow Eszter’s travels at Zen On Dirt.
“Most of my food and water choices are based on the idea of going light and fast on rocky and technical trails much more so than choosing food that’s good for you, tastes amazing, or is unique or fun to make. I eat simply in real life and that definitely carries over to bikepacking.”
Generally speaking, for a three-day bikepack, I’m not too concerned about nutrition. I’m not going to get scurvy from not getting enough vitamin C for three days. While I’d love to have fresh fruit or veggies, I don’t have the capacity or the desire to carry items with such high water content, at least not past the first hour or two of the ride. Avocados are my exception to the rule.
Food weight really is fairly high on the priority list for me. I’m lucky that I’m the type of girl who’ll happily eat oats for breakfast even at home, and view any excuse to eat mac and cheese as amazing.
After choosing snacks out of gas stations for so long, I’ve become happily accustomed to eating fairly trashy food without worrying about the toxicity of food coloring. For longer tours, I start to worry about yellow Skittles.
Dinner: Breakfast burritos bought from town. Dessert is chocolate and/or cookies.
Breakfast dessert: Pastry or roll of mini-donuts. I like the chocolate covered ones. Zingers, Little Annie Apple Pies, and Big Tex cinnamon rolls are also happily eaten and contain more calories per gram than any other “food” out there.
Lunch: Small roll of sausage, block of cheese, tortillas (2-3), Ranch dressing or hot sauce packets from a grocery store deli.
Dinner: Box of Mac and Cheese. Annie’s is preferred. Kraft is enjoyed. Generic brand is tolerated. This is generally spiced up with an avocado, hot sauce, or mayo packets from a grocery store deli. Dessert is chocolate and cookies.
Lunch: Fish tacos. Tortillas, packet of tuna or salmon, mayo, avocado, and hot sauce.
Dinner: You’d better make it to town by this time or you’re going hungry.
Snacks (spread out over three days of riding): King sized bags of Skittles, bag of Peachie-O’s or Happy Colas, Snickers Bar, 2-3 granola bars, Larabar or two, Mentos, ziplock baggie of dried fruit, small baggie of almonds or cashews, small bag of Fritos.
As far as cooking goes, I’m hesitant to cook much even if I have my own kitchen, so anything on the trail needs to be made with a single pot of water. Freeze dried meals have so much salt and cost a lot, I aim to avoid them, but Rice-a-Roni, flavored pastas, and mashed potatoes are all a go in my book. Plus, there’s not much packaging and can be picked up in grocery stores in the middle of nowhere.
I carry an MSR Pocket Rocket and a small fuel canister. After ten+ years of service, it’s proved to be a reliable companion and, with a little bit of advanced planning, finding fuel in the US hasn’t been an issue.
Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner food mostly gets packed in a framebag with overflow going into a pack. The sound of mac and cheese noodles rattling around during a fast descent makes me think of dinner, which is always a good thing. Snacks get put in a GasTank and a feedbag or two for easy access.
For the vast majority of bikepacking trips, I’ve found 100oz bladder of water to be plenty. Unless is scorching hot, I can make it last 6-7 hours as long as I drink a lot before and after. I carry all of my water on my back and anything over 100oz cramps my style. For filtration, I’ll attach a Sawyer in-line filter to my bladder. It’s great for the grab-and-go capabilities.