I haven’t talked a lot about food except for my “emergency food” strategy and the need to carry utensils for cooking in camp. This is a much broader topic than I can deal with here. There are food handling and nutrition considerations that are beyond the scope of this article. Furthermore, your gender, age, size, etc., determine your specific caloric input requirements. I offer a brief and barely adequate summary.
My first choice is to rely on restaurants and other small shops for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the road. I always do a thorough search of the route to identify potential places to eat along the way. I always try to eat dinner before I arrive at the campground and breakfast just after I depart. Once I get to the campground, I don’t usually like to ride back out to eat dinner. If I do, the place to eat needs to be close to camp. If I’m not absolutely positive that I can get meals this way, I carry food and food preparation utensils.
Your needs and abilities will determine the specific types of foods that you will need to carry for breakfast and dinner in camp. For example, there are simple recipes that combine raw materials into nutritious meals. That can be a good approach if you find that you need to pull together a dinner or breakfast from a small grocery store along the way. You will need more equipment than a stove and a pot to boil water. That’s a lot more work than using dried food, although it is a flexible approach.
Dried food that is reconstituted using boiling water is much easier to prepare. Generally you boil the water, add it to the contents of a pouch, stir, and wait some period of time for the meal to be reconstituted. You follow the directions on the package. There is a large variety of dried meals available, including breakfast eggs, pasta, and meats. That’s my preference.
There are other things that you can carry to supplement the dried food, such as flatbread, tortillas, canned meat, and canned fish. You should select things that do not require refrigeration and that will hold up for a couple of days in a pannier. There are only a few things that meet those requirements.
After leaving camp in the morning and having breakfast, I like to make three eating stops during the day. In mid-morning and mid-afternoon, I stop for a snack that may include an energy bar and a drink of some kind. If I manage to come across a small market, I’ll buy a carton of milk or a sports drink to bring along. Lunch is a more important meal for me like breakfast or dinner. That meal can be something that I have in my panniers. If I happen to find a restaurant, deli, or sandwich shop, I’ll eat there. Sometimes I’ll stop more frequently. Ice cream stands are almost mandatory stops. I have never gained weight on a tour.
Water is critical and I top off my water bottles every chance that I get. I try to carry enough bottled water to get me to the next water source. It’s important to understand the availability of potable water along your planned route. If you determine that availability is a problem, then the next best thing is a water purifier so that you can make stream or river water safe to drink.