What food should you pack for a day-long bicycle ride, and how much water do you need? My answer is that a little common sense goes a long way, especially for day-trips through U.S. military parks. The goal is to select healthy, hardy, and refreshing foods, and to pack plenty of water. In this post, I offer one bicyclist’s opinion about packing and carrying food to bicycle a battlefield park.
The Ultimate Guide for Packing and Carrying Food to Bicycle a U.S. Military Park
What to Pack?
Of course, your health is your responsibility, which means that you should vet anything that I suggest with your doctor and your own unique circumstances. For example, nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats, but not if you are allergic to them!
My intent is simply to share my opinions on what generally works for most people. In the end, packing and carrying food to bicycle a U.S. military park is a set of personal decisions that are based on health, fitness, and preferences.
Prefer Hardy and Healthy Foods
For day trips, I usually pack an assortment of fruits, vegetables, hard breads or crackers, nuts, and hard cheeses. The fruits not only offer extra hydration, but they are refreshingly sweet. The other foods offer substance for hungry bicyclists who need an energy boost:
- Grapes, apples, pears
- Carrots, celery
- Bagels with nut spread
- Crackers or maybe chips
- Peanuts, almonds, cashews
- Raisins, dried berries
- Dates, figs
- Hard cheeses (like cheddar)
Sometimes, I also pack junk food, like potato chips, but these are the exception rather than the rule. In the spring and fall, I also enjoy sweet peppers and cucumbers, but these tend not to hold-up too well in hot weather.
Avoid Fragile Foods
In the summer, I highly recommend that you avoid packing fragile foods like raspberries, blackberries, mayonnaise-based sandwich spreads, or chocolate. Those foods often “melt” in the heat; usually still edible, these foods are nonetheless not nearly as palatable as when you first packed them. I’ve learned that lesson the hard-way (on more than one occasion), so I guess I’m a slow-learner.
Bananas are my favorite fruit, but I have stopped packing them because they get bruised or turn brown while I ride. Your mileage may vary.
How to Pack?
You will need plenty of ziploc baggies and at least one plastic trash bag to hold your garbage. I find it very handy to load ziploc baggies with serving-size portions. Since you will always need to carry your trash out of the park, I recommend bringing a small, dedicated trash bag so that you can keep your garbage separate from your food.
How to Carry?
Once your food is in baggies, the next step is to figure out how to carry it. I prefer to use lightweight panniers, which are bags that you attach to your bicycle. If this is not an option for you — because, for example, you are renting a bicycle — a lightweight student backpack or fanny back is a workable solution.
For shorter tours, the pockets of a bicycling jersey or lightweight jacket might work well for you. It’s all a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to pack — just differing levels of convenience.
That’s it for food recommendations. As you can see, packing and carrying food to bicycle a U.S. military park does not require much effort, once you know the basics.
What about Water?
Remember, historical touring involves lots of breaks and opportunities to rest and study. That’s why I think that having enough water is far more important than having enough food.
But how much water? In the summer, I pack and carry five 16-ounce bottles of water per thirty miles of riding. I offer this number only as a reference point, as you must make this decision for yourself, perhaps by talking with a sports nutritionist or your doctor. In any case, I recommend that you have contingency plans for needing more water than you packed.
First, before starting your ride, research the location of all public restrooms and water faucets in the park. If you are riding off-season, please also research which facilities might be locked or turned-off. Second, carry a few crisp one-dollar bills in the event that you want to bicycle to a commercial area to use outdoor vending machines.
There are many more ways to carry water. You can do like I do, which is to pack it in the same way that you pack your food. Alternatively, you could use a backpack that contains a tube hydration system. I’ve never tried a hydration system, because it seems like too much effort, but I know people who like to be able to safely drink while bicycling.
With respect to food and water, planning a bicycle tour of U.S. national military is not complicated. Packing and carrying food to bicycle takes only a little forethought:
- Remember to pack hardy, healthy foods and plenty of water
- Know where you can get more water if you need it
- Carry a fully charged cell phone in case of emergency
Even when I have planned poorly, I could figure things out. So can you!