How to Pack Food in your Panniers on a Bicycle Tour

What is the best way to pack food in your panniers for bike touring? Here's a few ideas on how to carry food on your next bike tour.

Bicycle Touring Food Packing

When you’re planning a bicycle tour, there are a lot of things to think about. You have to plan your route, figure out where you’re going to sleep each night, and make sure you have all the gear you need.

One of the most important things you need to do is figure out how you’re going to carry all your food. After all, you’re going to need to eat – food is fuel!

Bike Touring Food

If you prefer to cook your own meals while on tour, you’ll need to bring along a camp stove, cook pot, eating utensils and other items. This of course adds to the weight of your load, but it’s worth it if you enjoy cooking and eating fresh, hot meals.

If you’d rather not carry a camp stove and cookware, there are other options. You can eat cold foods like sandwiches, wraps, fruits, and vegetables. You might just choose to carry snacks and pick up meals along the way. There's no one right way to do it. It's all about what works for you!

When packing your food in cycle panniers, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Plan Your Meals in Advance

The first step in packing food for your bicycle tour is to plan your meals in advance. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually really important. Not only will it help you figure out how much food you need to pack, but it will also help you save money. When you know what meals you’re going to be eating on your tour, you know how much space you'll need in your bicycle panniers. I tend to find that carrying food for 3 or 4 days at a time on a bike trip is about the right amount – any more than that and food starts to take up too much space.

2. Pack Non-Perishable Foods

The second step is to focus on packing non-perishable foods. These are foods that don’t need to be refrigerated and have a long shelf life. Some examples of non-perishable foods include rice, pasta, lentils, granola bars, peanuts, dried fruit, and tortillas. Not only are these types of foods easy to store, but they’re also easy to eat while riding your bike. 

3. Choose Lightweight Foods

The third step is to choose lightweight foods that won’t weigh down your panniers. This is especially important if you’re planning a long bike tour. Some examples of lightweight foods include instant oatmeal, ramen noodles, and trail mix. These types of foods are easy to carry and won’t add too much weight to your bike. 

How to pack food in panniers

Over the years, I have come up with a few bicycle touring tips on how to pack food in your panniers on a bicycle tour, and here are a couple which I hope you might find useful on a cycling adventure of your own.

Generally speaking, I use one of my front panniers for keeping my pan, stove and food in, as I like to have it all in one place.

As I usually have a camp stove such as the MSR, the fuel canister is kept outside the pannier in one of my bottle cages on the frame of the bike to prevent contamination.

Ways to Pack Food in Panniers on a Bicycle Tour

Storing dry food

How to pack food in your panniers
How to pack food in your panniers on a bicycle tour – Storing dry foods.

Cyclists on any sort of self-supported long distance tour will soon have several regular staples of dry food they rely on, such as pasta, rice, and oats.

These foods are perfect for the touring cyclist, as they provide a great nutrition to weight ratio, and are also pretty economical.

Most of these products start life in a sealed bag which is bought from the shop, and after they are opened, are then placed in further bags to stop food falling into the panniers.

Using Water bottles for dry food

There are a couple of reasons cyclists do this – We are lazy, cheap, and like to cut down on weight! It's all a bit of a false economy though, so instead, I got into the habit of using spare drinks bottles to store my dry food in.

They are already waterproof, don't weigh too much, and in the event that they are dropped, don't open up and spill the contents everywhere.

Rice and oats are the best things to store in drinks bottles, followed by spaghetti and pasta. Give it a try – You will wonder why you hadn't done it before!

How to carry eggs on a bike tour

This might seem blindingly obvious, but as soon as you buy fresh eggs, boil them! I normally buy eggs only when I can take them back to my camp or hostel and boil them straight away, and they last several days like this.

In some, but not all countries, you can buy half a dozen eggs in a cardboard container, which is the ideal way to keep the hard-boiled eggs safe when cycling. Failing that, wrap them up in some newspaper, and keep them in your camp stove.

Ziploc Bags for storing camping food

These are a great thing to have when thinking how to pack food in your panniers on a bicycle tour. I keep coffee, sugar, and powdered milk in separate ziploc bags, along with various other items from time to time such as red lentils.

I will say though, that you do have to be careful when using them, as it only take a small tear in the side, and you suddenly have coffee all over the inside of the pannier!

Standard practice would see me wrap up my ziploc bags in another carrier bag, or put them inside another form of lightweight container such as a powdered milk tub with lid.

Whilst you may not be able to buy them in every country in the world, stocking up on ziploc bags before departing on a long distance bicycle tour is a sensible idea, as they weigh virtually nothing and can be kept at the bottom of a pannier until needed.

There are all sorts of tips on how to pack food in your panniers on a bicycle tour out there, but these are the main ones which have served me well. If you have any more, then please leave a comment below!

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3 thoughts on “How to Pack Food in your Panniers on a Bicycle Tour”

  1. Great suggestions Dave. One great idea I used when crossing Canada was to buy a packet of small Ziplock bags from the dollar store. I then made up a mixture of coffee, powdered milk and sugar for a one cup of coffee. With about 30 of these packets made up I was well set.

    Another crazy idea is it use the plastic bags that milk is sold in here in Canada. They are tough and just the right size for storing bike tools and spares in. Having a dozen spare ones with you is great for subdividing food or keeping toothpaste and brush in.

    Keeping the cost down is a priority for long distance cyclists. Wasting food is a no-no.

    Enjoy your blogs. Keep it up.
    Paul Fowler

  2. Nice post! I also use reusable bags that most of the time I get for free when I buy spare parts for my bike or sometimes in the supermarket. I find them useful to have food inside, specially because I have ortlieb panniers which don’t have compartments, so having things inside this kind of bags helps maintain the order inside the pannier, also having the ziplocs inside the reusable bags protects them from any pointy element you may have inside the pannier that may damage the plastic and perfect sealing.

    Cheers man!


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