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Cooking & Eating: How to get started cooking on bike trips and the gear you need

Published August 29, 2021

With the rise in popularity of bikepacking and touring, many cyclists are finding themselves wondering about how to stay fed while riding. There’s only so many gas station meals and peanut butter tortillas you can put in your body. Eating properly before, during and after a ride is tantamount to good performance and overall health and safety.

However, the idea of cooking on a trip can be a bit intimidating for many cyclists. This guide and product list should get you started. Like anything, it takes a bit of practice and experimenting but once you get cooking, you’ll wonder how you rode so much distance without it.

The first step is to consider creating a meal plan. If you have an itinerary for your ride, adding an extra column to your spreadsheet is an easy idea. It also helps you understand what sort of meal requirements you might have against the distances you plan on travelling.

But What Should I Cook?

Freeze-dried Meals

There are many options that balance convenience, health and effort. A popular choice among bikepackers and touring cyclists is freeze-dried meals that you can find at any outdoor equipment store. Depending on your store, you can get pretty much any meal imaginable freeze-dried and are super easy to cook. Simply add boiling water, seal for a few minutes, give it a stir and you’re good to go. On the downside, they can be a bit pricey and can be a bit of a pain to pack effectively.

Pre-cooked Foods

Another easy option is precooked foods like pasta, rice, instant noodles and oatmeal. Like freeze-dried foods, all you need to do is boil water. However, these foods have room for some creativity in sauces and additions. Pasta and rice in particular are easy to pack for the road. Simply, put it in a large zip-lock bag and put them in the bottom of your food bag. Great to have as backup in any situation.

Fresh Foods

Once you get your cooking confidence up, consider carrying fresh food. Some fresh foods pack and store very well in bags and panniers. For instance, avocados can keep well in a bag for days and are a great way to replenish missing nutrients during and after rides. Keep your eyes open, chances are there is someone selling fresh food somewhere on your ride.

The meal at the end of a hard day in the saddle is a reward and something to look forward to. Get creative and have fun with it.

What Gear Do I Need To Cook On The Road?

Use this as a checklist before you head out.

  1. 1. Stove: Make fire. See the paragraph below for stove options.
  2. 2. Bowl: Collapsible silicone bowls are available at any outdoor equipment store.
  3. 3. Pot: A lightweight, small camping pot will do the trick.
  4. 4. Mug: Double walled titanium for soups and coffee. Accept no imitations ;)
  5. 5. Utensils: A spork with a knife edge is everything you need in one item. gels.
  6. 6. Scrubbie: Often overlooked and sorely missed - to clean bowls and pots.
  7. 7. Coffee Maker: A must have.
  8. 8. Water Purifier: Check out this list for ideas and products.

Types Of Cooking Stoves

The most important piece of gear is undoubtedly the stove you choose to bring with you. When deciding on a stove consider it’s packability (size and weight), the location and the weather you will be travelling in and the type of fuel the stove requires.

Canister Stoves

The most popular category of lightweight stoves is canister stoves. Canister stoves screw into the top of a pressurized can of isobutane and propane gases. Many of these stoves are small and efficient.

Liquid Fuel & Burner Stoves

Other stoves exist that allow you to burn other fuels like white gas, alcohol, solid fuel and even wood. These are a great option when biking in parts of the world where access to canister fuel is limited.

A Note On Cooking Outdoors

If you are cooking in wilderness areas you may need to consider animal life. If camping, the first rule of thumb is to keep nothing in your tent that puts off a scent - including toiletries like toothpaste. Also, cook your meals a decent distance from where you’ll be sleeping. And at night, hang everything in a tree at least 300-400m from camp.

Product List

Click each list item to learn more about that product. Some products in this list have been fully reviewed by us and labeled with an asterisk (*).

Barry Lachapelle
Barry Lachapelle

Barry has been cycling and creating digital products around the world for 20+ years. He was a design leader at IDEO, IDEO.org and Nike’s Innovation Lab.