The Beauty of Cold, Fast Touring Meals

Feb 8th, 2019

I’m just going to admit up front that I think hot camp food is overrated. It’s messy, time-intensive, and often less appetizing than most people are willing to admit. (Freeze-dried entrees are not tasty. They’re just not.)

Yes, if you have the time, it can be fun to cook up a big elaborate meal on the trail. And yes, hot food does warm the soul after a long day in the saddle (until it’s time to do the dishes.) But sometimes it’s also nice to leave the stove, fuel, and mess kit at home and save time, space and arguably weight by packing cold meals. Here are a few staples that can get you a long way.


They stay fresh longer than bread, hold up better than bread, and are just as wholesome and delicious whether whole or condensed (that is, smashed into a space-saving pancake.)


It’s like oatmeal, only less gooey and much easier to prepare. It also comes with tasty add-ins such as raisins and almonds, and can double as an on-the-go snack.

Dried Milk

Mix with water and add to the granola for a more “complete” breakfast. This requires a bowl and spoon so in my book straddles the line between quick food and cooking.


A quick and tasty form of condensed carbohydrates that can be turned into delicious wraps with the simple addition of a protein source such as tuna, some snack tidbits such as dried cranberries and almonds, and of course cheese.


Everything tastes better with cheese. Everything.

Goldfish Crackers

So delicious that they work any time of the day.

Peanut Butter

One of the most energy-efficient forms of quick food available. A jar of peanut butter contains more than 2,000 calories and can double as an emergency food source. Also, it’s delicious on tortillas.

Peanut butter is an excellent bicycle touring food.
Getting hungry yet?
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Purchase packets of tuna, not cans. Packets can be opened without a can opener and eaten right out of the bag, or spread on bagels or tortillas. For a more gourmet experience, sample flavorful varieties such as Starkist Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Smoked Salmon

A rich alternative for the discerning bikepacker, or at least one who is tired of tuna.

Dried Hummus

This is probably the lightest form of quick protein, but also requires bowls and a spoon to mix in water.

Cookie Dough

Leave out the eggs, add a few more cups of oats and chocolate chips, and you have an amazingly efficient energy source that doesn’t require refrigeration. Forty pounds of cookie dough sustained Eric Parsons and Dylan Kentch for much of their 19-day, 300-mile off-trail mountain bike adventure along Alaska’s Lost Coast.

Long bikepacking trips are one of the few times you can get away with eating cookie dough for dinner. You might as well put the stove away and enjoy.

This story has been updated and was originally published on November 24, 2010.

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