Foodpacking (Vol. 2): Bikepacking Food by Brendan, Skyler & Donnie

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How do riders plan their bikepacking food pack list, pack it, and cook on a bikepacking trip? Volume 2 continues the exploration with thoughts and packlists from Brendan Collier, Skyler Des Roches, and Donnie Kolb…

In the first post of the foodpacking series we heard from Glenn Charles, Joe Cruz, and Eszter Horyani. Volume 2 continues the exploration of how bikepackers eat when they are out on the typical long weekend (three day) trip. On the menu: Brendan Collier, Skyler Des Roches, and Donnie Kolb:


Brendan Collier

Brendan is co-owner and operator of The Hub Cyclery, a bikepacking-focused shop in Idylwild, California. Brendan also founded and started the famed bikepacking route, the Stagecoach 400.

For me, there is no standard food packout, just as there isn’t really a standard gear packout for a bikepacking trip. I have wild variation in my bikepacking menu from one trip to another. The route, the crew I’m headed out with, and even my own fitness level are all factors to consider. On some trips I might be able to carry heavier, more luxurious gear such as a proper camp stove, but on other trips I might need to keep the packing lighter & simpler for less time and effort. And everything in-between.

  • Bikepacking Food Packlist - Brendan Collier
  • Bikepacking Food Packlist - Brendan Collier
  • Bikepacking Food Packlist - Brendan Collier

Touring Pace, Riding With Friends

These are the trips when many of us in the Idyllwild bikepacking crew like to wow one another with delicious treats in camp.

Divy up the (work)load.

Each person in the group can contribute something special for a given meal. Consider sharing gear, too, such as the camp stove and cook wear. Take turns cooking meals so everyone gets more time in camp to relax.

Bring real food

My buddy Dave sometimes brings a home-prepared portion of sushi rice. He makes fresh rolls for us in camp with some pieces of dried seaweed, and a can of eel, seasoned bonito or Spam, and avocado or cucumbers and sometimes a pickled radish. The beauty of Dave’s bikepacking dinners is while they’re delicious, every component also keeps well and packs viable calories for riding. I have come to enjoy our meals in camp as much as the riding to get there.

Marlin packs cold pizza for dinner. Since it’s flat it can fit in just about anywhere, even in frame bag. He’s also carried a block of parmesan, which keeps exceptionally well and can be a tasty mid-day treat on crackers or with slices of apple.

Take advantage of the freezer

Portion out some cheese, toss in the freezer and it will keep very well for up to 3 days on the bike if you bury it somewhere in your gear that’s well insulated, like near your sleeping bag or clothes. (Ditto for frozen butter) Frozen berries are a delightful treat anytime during the day or mixed in with morning oatmeal.

Pack sturdy fruits & vegetables

Broccoli, apples, onions, potatoes. Avocados are a bit less sturdy but well worth the effort! Put the fragile stuff inside hard containers. I have carried fresh eggs, wrapped in a bandana inside my titanium cook mug.

Sturdy staples

Tortillas & Nutella may have been made for bikepacking. Get your beer in cans so you can pack them out. Wine goes in theGSI Wine Flask. (wine, by the way, carries a load of sugars from grapes and can metabolize quite well- plus it might be gentler and less filling on the stomach than beer).

Raid the bulk aisle

Those dried foods pack, portion, and keep very well with great weight-to-calories ratio. Potato flakes are indispensable for a lightweight, viable starch, and they also thicken *anything* you accidentally added too much water to. Where water sources are available I have cooked up chicken alfredo using dry pasta & sauce, some frozen butter & frozen cheese, and a can of chicken and fresh broccoli. Voila! It’s pretty tasty.

Eat the heavy stuff first

Ditto for the stuff that’ll expire sooner. This way you’ll always be eating the best you can and carrying the least weight. win/win. If you’re wearing a backpack, load that heavy/fragile stuff on your initial packout in the backpack. This way you’ll feel your load lighten on the back once it’s gone and feel all the better for the rest of your ride.


If I’m feeling extravagant and have the room for the load, I’ll carry my Backcountry Oven along. Baking brings a whole new array of menu, such as pizza with premade dough and that frozen cheese, or even brownies. I have premixed brownie batter in a ziplock bag, then simply cut a corner off the bag to squeeze out the yumminess into the baking pan.

Bikepack Racing or Big Personal Efforts

When I’m going light & fast, I might only carry “robot food” and other items we likely won’t find on the route.

Remove wrappers, and pre-portion your robot food

For me that’s generally a few baggies of Skratch Labs powdered drink, which I dose ahead of time with homeopathic Arnica to help manage swelling. I drink these bottles when I need a light pick-me-up, maybe only 2-3 bottles of this over the course of an intense 14-18 hour day.

Mix your pills into water

When I need more electrolytes, I’ll break open a couple Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes capsules and mix them into my water. I have come to believe a “steady drip” of electrolytes is more effective for me over the long haul rather than simply swallowing the capsules, which I feel can spike the electrolyte level too rapidly and gets expelled more quickly via the renal system.

Start your day off with a clear head

I start every day during a big effort with a packet of Emergen-C or a half of a lemon squeezed into a water bottle. Either of these help relieve that bags under the eyes and other swelling that seems to come with big, hard rides. I am a believer in using lemon water to help alkalize the digestive system. I can only report my own anecdotes- it sure makes me feel good first thing in the morning. (don’t double up on these unless you have a potty very close by).

Nuts, I’m going nuts

On the bike, I eat a lot of nuts. Mixed nuts and trail mix with some M&M’s give good long-burn energy and are very satiating for a grumbly belly. More recently I have come to enjoy a product called Trail Butter, which we carry at the shop. (we haven’t put it on the online store yet, otherwise I’d link to it here) Made from nuts, dried fruits, and other goodies such as maple syrup or espresso, these squeeze packets carry more than 700 calories in a 4 ounce pouch with a resealable cap. They’re easy to pack in a handlebar bag or pocket and have saved me from many rough afternoons. They cost about 5 bucks and keep very well.

A cheese sandwich (on bread or even a burrito) does me well, packs nicely and keeps for at least a full day. When I pass by a store I might pick up a can of chicken noodle soup and drink it on the spot. Calories, fluids, and much-craved salt all in one easily digested package.


Quite possibly the most underrated endurance fuel. Available everywhere, sturdy for packing, and calorie dense. Three ingredients are Corn, Oil, and Salt.

Get robot food on board as soon as you stop

For the evenings, I’ll pack a few baggies of a powdered recovery drink such as Muscle Milk. I keep them pre-portioned in ziplocks, one for each night out, and packed in with my sleep gear. If I’m going to stop long enough to use my sleep gear, I can also use that time for recovery nutrition. Two scoops of Muscle Milk in a ziplock bag packs more than 300 calories and weighs only 70 grams. I have made a habit of consuming a the recovery powder the moment I arrive in camp. Once that’s on board I can unpack my sleep gear, kick up my feet and enjoy some real food and a beer. My choice for dinner is often a pollo asado burrito or something else similarly “heavy” that I couldn’t otherwise digest during the day.

Emergency food

What can I say, I like canned sardines! Even better are the smoked trout fillets from Trader Joes. This stuff keeps forever and is oh so very satisfying.


Skyler Des Roches

Skyler Vancouver based climber, bikepacker and ski mountaineer. Follow Skyler’s travels at And find his full 3-day desert pack list here.

“My general objective while packing food is to assemble some collection of foods that weight about 1kg per day, and have an average calorie density of at least 4Cal/g. Pure carbohydrate and pure protein are about 4Cal/g, fats and oils are 8-9Cal/g. (Pure alcohol is 7Cal/g) But that’s about as scientific as I get. Few items in the grocery store are pure anything, so I shop for a combination of the important athletic fuel nutrient sources – carbs, fat, and salt – and try avoid buying too many items with a low energy density.”

On particularly strenuous trips, which usually means skiing or climbing trips where the weight is on my back, I might aim to increase that average calorie density with fattier foods, and/or to bring less than 1kg per day. On easier, more social, or very short trips I will include low energy ‘luxury’ foods like fresh fruits. Fresh fruits and vegetables are made almost entirely of water, so they can also count toward my water weight on Day 1 of any trip.

  • foodpacking-skyler-02
  • foodpacking-skyler-03
  • foodpacking-skyler-04

Other requirements are that the food is relatively cheap – I have never purchased a prepared dehydrated camping meal – and, depending on what stove and pot I have with me, that it can be cooked by just boiling water.


These days I usually carry a Jetboil Zip (0.8L) stove for myself. Occasionally, when I worry about finding fuel mid-trip, I use a Trangia alcohol burner and a home-made pot stand with my Jetboil pot. With either burner, it’s simmering is a challenge, and so I plan meal that just need boiling water like couscous, instant mashed potatoes, or instant dehydrated refried beans. I eat from the pot, and clean it by scraping every last scrap into my mouth with a GSI scraper – I can live with the oil slick on my coffee in the morning.


I usually carry the majority of my food in my frame bag. Beside my tool kit, food is usually the densest thing I’m carrying, and I like to keep weight low and central. The day’s snacks can go in my bar pocket, and delicate foods (like avocados) go in my seat pack, padded with clothing, if there is space. I don’t like riding with a pack, and prefer drinking from bottles than from a hose, so I mount bottle cages on each blade of my fork. When I need the capacity, I’ll use 1L Zefal Magnum bottles, and add a 1.5-2L bottle below my down tube. Otherwise, I just use two 0.8L bottles.


As long as it’s delicious, I have no problem eating the same thing every day. Within reason. So, here are some ideas of what I like to eat:


The classic choice, instant oatmeal, is pretty revolting, and low in energy. Plus, sweet breakfast foods won’t keep you going long, fatty food helps level out the blood sugar. With my body outright rejecting that sugary mess, I tried hard to convince myself that I could eat instant noodles (i.e. ramen) for breakfast. Nope. Instant noodles, instant pooping.

So, now I just eat crackers and peanut butter for breakfast. That’s my only suggestion. I like big, sturdy crackers, like Wasa or Ryvita, or flattened croissants as my peanut butter delivery vehicle. And, I like black tea or coffee with powdered milk in the morning. A breakfast should usually weigh around 250g.


Lunch is the heavy meal of the day, since it needs to be edible without cooking (unlike dinner). I aim for a total around 500g, including snacks. Some of my favourite lunch items are:

  • Tortillas
  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Avocados
  • Dried fruit
  • Dry salami
  • More cheese (150g/day!)
  • Instant hummus (add cold water)
  • Salt
  • Fresh apple and/or tomato (optional luxury)


  • Dried banana, mango, cranberries, etc.
  • Clif bars (2/day)
  • Potato chips or tortilla chips (still taste good when crushed)
  • Chocolate
  • Chick Pea puffs/chips (various Indian snacks, my favourite of which is ‘boondi’)
  • Nuun elecotrolyte beverage tablets – makes tasty, fizzy water. The caffeinated cola flavour is the best.

I enjoy nuts, but you’ve got to chew them really really well, or they’ll pass straight through the system and be wasted weight. Since I often snack during very short breaks while bikepacking, nuts aren’t my top choice.


My favourite easily assembled instant meals, ranging from petit bourgeois to plebian, are:

  • Couscous with feta, dried cranberries, chopped parsley, soup mix, olive oil and pine nuts
  • Instant refried beans with cheese, dehydrated onion, and fresh peppers in tortillas
  • Instant mashed potatoes with cheese, salami, and olive oil
  • Couscous with soup mix, cheese, and olive oil
Food packing for Bikepacking

Donnie Kolb

Bikepacking has recently exploded in popularity, especially in Oregon. No other person has helped this movement more than the man behind and, Donnie Kolb.

“Although I have no hard and fast rules, I prioritize space over weight and value simplicity for dinners. I focus on calorie dense foods even though they tend to be heavy – think nuts, cheeses, butters, cured sausage, etc. And because I don’t want to have to think hard about meal planning or cooking at the end of a long day, I prefer easy meals that taste reasonably good under all circumstances. Compared to folks I usually ride with, my dinners are boring. But I’ve never rolled into camp from a hard day and been too tired to boil water and eat a batch of salty ramen.”

  • Food pack list for Bikepacking
  • Food packing for Bikepacking
  • Food packing for Bikepacking

I hate oatmeal. No matter what you do to it, instant oatmeal is boring and I’m usually hungry almost immediately afterwards. I prefer something simple and tasty, usually a bar of some sort. And after various iterations, I’ve given up on real coffee. It never tastes good enough to justify all the extra stuff/effort to make. Instant 3-in-1 from the Asian grocery is decent enough for a couple days on the trail.

I’m not a racer and I rarely ride hard for extended periods of the day – I’m a plodder. As such, I find I do better on the slow burn, focusing on fats as my main energy source (nuts, cheese, etc.). If I start feeling my energy levels drop, I add some sugar to mix (candy, candy bars, etc.). Towards the end of long hard days when I’m more likely to feel bonky I add in things like Nature Valley Sweet & Salty bars, which always taste good even when I’m not feeling great, and Cliff Bloks.

Day food gets packed in the frame bag, with food specific to that day right inside the front of the zipper for quick access. The rest, including dinners and breakfast, typically ends up in the seat bag with the stove and pot.


  • 3-in-1 Kopiko “coffee”
  • Snickers
  • Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Almond bars

Lunch/Riding Snacks

  • Cheese ~4-6 oz./day
  • Triscuits
  • Nuts – Cashews, Blue Diamond Smokehouse or Wasabi almonds, Peanuts
  • Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Almond bars
  • Candy bars – faves include Snickers, Almond Joy, Peanut M&Ms
  • Candy – Jelly Belly, Sour Patch Kids
  • Cliff Bloks
  • Alternates: Nutella, Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter


  • Night 1: Buitoni Tortellini + Ziploc w/ pesto
  • Night 2: ramen or rice noodle dinner + cured sausage
  • Joe Cruz

    Man, Skyler sounds like a big time nerd. Or, you know, a genius.

    (Excellent insights and experience in this post, all. Really good stuff.)

  • Gabriel Amadeus

    Great stuff guys!

  • Mike

    Skittles! Makes everything better. And IPA’s…

  • Logan

    IPAs definitely… not sure about Skittles ;)

  • Twisting Spokes

    Nice and complete write up all the best from us + on the skittles

  • Randy

    not a racer or a multi mile rider. Great info nonetheless for what works and why. not just a list of stuff. Thanks

  • Peter Spears Dean

    Nice article! Thought you should know the link to Off Route has the wrong address – has an R instead of a T.

  • Logan

    Thanks Peter… glad somebody caught this; it’s fixed now.

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