How To Store Your Food When Bikepacking: The best options


For me, one of the most important parts of a bikepacking trip is the food. At the end of a long day of cycling, theses nothing better than setting up camp, pulling off your socks, and rehydrating your instant noodles. But, given it’s such an important part of any cycling tour, I couldn’t find any recourses on the best way to store your food on a bikepacking trip. I’ve collected the key strategies I use, along with the way that my friends store their food on a bikepacking trip. 

The best way to store food on a bikepacking or bike touring trip is to use Ziplock bags. These are cheap, lightweight, and easy to pack. Fragile foods require different options such as Tupperware boxes or vacuum sealing. It is important to check if you require a bear canister before your trip in areas such as the US.

So we’ve established that there are a few key options for storing your food, but how do you choose which one is best for the food you want to carry, and how are you going to store them all on your bike?

What are the best storage solutions for food on a bikepacking trip?

Ziplock or Freezer bags

My personal favorite way of storing food on a bikepacking trip is by using Ziplock bags.

Ziplock bags are lightweight, making them easy to take with you on a trip. They are also easily packable, allowing them to mold easily to the shape of the bag you plan to pack them into.

Not only this but this means that when you have eaten whatever food you stored in there, they can easily be compressed down into a much smaller space.

Apart from these advantages, zip lock bags are waterproof, meaning that whatever food you take with you won’t get wet, and are also see-through, allowing you to tell easily what is inside the bag and how much of it you have left.

Bags such as this are also able to be hung from a tree (something that I’ll go into more detail on later).

If your main meals will comprise of dehydrated foods such as cup noodles or freeze-dried style meals, it’s worth emptying these directly into the ziplock or freezer bag before your trip. This reduces the space that the food takes up.

Not only this but you can then cook the meal directly in the zip lock bag by adding boiling water directly to the dehydrated food, saving space and washing up.

Ziplock bags are great for carrying dry, lightweight foods that can be moved into different shapes, think oatmeal, pasta, couscous, etc.

Tupperware Boxes

When it comes to certain, more delicate foods such as fruit or liquids, it is important to use a more secure option. These more secure options are also good for foods that don’t do well when being “compressed” such as eggs or bread.

Tupperware boxes can be good at this, they are also lightweight and see-through, but if you plan to use them for liquids (maybe the milk for a coffee), then you’re going to have to make sure you get some good quality ones that won’t leak.

Food Vacuum Sealers

Another good option for food such as this are food vacuum sealers. These use plastic bags to create a vacuum around the food you want to pack, compressing them down to a much more compact level than would normally be possible.

Food Vacuum Sealers make great options for certain foods such as sausages, however, they can be expensive to buy. It’s also worth noting you’ll need to make sure you have a knife on hand to open the packet again.

Dehydrators

Dehydrators, while not an actual way of storing food, make a great addition to your “food storage options”. Dehydrators slowly dehydrate foods over hours at low temperatures.

This dehydrates the foods….duh, but also leaves them much smaller and more compact than before. It also makes certain foods such as fruit, much less fragile.

While I’ve not had it myself, I’ve been assured my friend makes a mean beef jerky for his longer bikepacking trips in his dehydrator.

It can also make foods much more lightweight and allows you to store more food in the trusty Ziplock bags that I need to stop raving about.

How and where to store food on your bike?

As with all bikepacking gear, it’s not only about what you’re storing it in, but where on the bike it is going.

First things first, we need to work out where the snacks are going. This is most likely going to be your top tube bag. This is a great spot to place foods you will frequently, such as nuts, chocolate, sweets, or energy gels.

If you have any of those “protective ways” to store your food, then you can fit these into any bag you have space in, be that your frame, saddle or handlebar bags along with your normal Ziplock bags carrying your more durable foods.

However, if you are having to use ziplock bags or original packing for most of your food, even the fragile piece you will have to plan more carefully. Some have suggested using a rucksack to store your fragile foods, as well as your raincoat and other light items.

Personally, I’m not sure if I like the idea of putting a very squishable piece of fruit next to my nice new rain jacket, but some consider it a good compromise. If you’re looking into this, take a look at our article on taking a backpack on your bikepacking trip.

When packing your bags, try to think in advance about the order in which you will be using your food and cooking. The food you will be using with your cooking pots and pans can be stored away with these in a bag you don’t have immediate access to, for example, your saddle bag.

What to do with your food overnight?

While this might seem like an odd question to some, those of you who have been bikepacking or camping in an area with bears know what this means.

In certain areas, it is very important to properly secure your food items overnight. This is because certain animals such as bears or other small critters will be attracted to the smell.

In fact, in certain areas, it is a requirement to take a special “bear bag” or “bear canister”. These are specifically designed to stop the smell from leaving the bag.

The most commonly suggested bag I’ve seen within bikepacking communities are those made by Ursack. So if you are traveling somewhere where bears could be a problem, make sure to take a look at them. The map below shows areas of the USA that are commonly affected by the different types of bears. Either way, consider calling a park Ranger in advance if you aren’t sure if a bear canister/bag is required.

https://www.freshoffthegrid.com/bear-canisters-backpacking/#where-bear-canisters-are-required

However, it’s not only bears that you need to worry about. In other secluded areas, there are other creatures that might be on the hunt for an easy meal, and in more urban environments you need to consider animals such as Racoons.

Whenever you are setting up camp, most backpackers or campers will hang the back containing their food off of a tree. It doesn’t have to be high, just enough so that animals on the ground can jump up at it.

Overall

As you can see, when it comes to storing food for a bikepacking trip there are many great options suited for different types of foods. But, the most important thing to remember, is that if in doubt, Ziplock bags.

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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