Recipes & Food: Easy Eating

You're planning a bike overnight deep in the forest and you'd like to keep dinner simple? Instead of cooking and cleaning, would you rather spend your time biking, hiking, fishing, or exploring the land around you? When I have a busy weekend bicycle trip, I put ready-to-eat foods in a bear-proof canister and hit the road. It’s quick, easy, and tasty.

A bear-proof canister keeps your food safe from bears and other forest critters (e.g. mice, raccoons) without needing to hang your food from a tree each evening. Hanging food has always been a time-consuming hassle for me. It’s difficult to do well, especially after dark. With a bear canister, I just set my food down in the forest about 100 yards from my tent. In the morning I walk over and pick it up again. The canister I use is the popular BearVault BV-500. It’s 12 inches high and 9 inches in diameter, and easily holds enough food for two people for two nights, with room to spare for other animal attractants like toothpaste and sunscreen. I usually attach it to my front or rear rack with bungee cords (either on top or on the side). I put a stuff sack around the clear canister to keep the sun from overheating my food, and I wrap an old bike tube around it to protect it from scratches. I’ve also carried my canister in a trailer or large pannier.

Ready-to-eat foods save even more time. With nothing to cook and little to clean, there’s no need for a pot, stove, fuel, or dish soap. On a recent two-night trip with my six-year-old son, we took the following foods: bagel sandwiches, bagels + cream cheese, pasta salad, dried fruit mix, energy bars, granola bars, chocolate covered pretzels, cookies, candy, peanuts, and Kool-Aid packets. Ready-to-eat works best on summer overnights, when the weather is warm and there's lots of daylight for exploring. In spring, autumn, or winter the cold, dark evenings can leave you craving soup and hot cocoa.

Get more information about bike overnights.


10 responses so far ↓

Nat McIntyre - Dec 21, 2011 at 9:21 AM

I'm with you. I haven't cooked while camping for the last several years. It's just not worth the hassle. Sure, food cooked in a kitchen is better, but so is a bed and a/c. That's not the point of camping.

I like your bear canister idea. Is it all that heavy? I usually hang a bear bag even if there's no reason to do so. It's not to keep bears away from my food, but to keep me from lying awake listening to every night noise and wondering...

Michael McGrath - Dec 21, 2011 at 1:31 PM


The BV-100 is about 2 pounds. The rope that I would otherwise use to hang food weighs 1 pound, so choosing the bear-proof canister can add about a pound.

When I bungee the canister to my rack I might use one less pannier, and in that case choosing the canister doesn't add any weight (my panniers each weigh about 2 pounds.)

In the picture of my bicycle, the bear canister is inside the light blue stuff sack bungeed to the rear rack of my son's trailerbike.

Bob Coffin - Feb 8, 2012 at 7:41 PM

I'm 69 and am wanting to start touring with camping being the main objective. I have a BOB trailer. Done RAGBRAI and luv it, but am trying to get the courage to just head out. Looking for as much advice as possible and like the idea of one or two nights for training.

Jim Sayer - Feb 9, 2012 at 6:50 AM

Go Bob go! It is the best -- easy, affordable, often thrilling. There are dozens of inspirational stories and ideas on this site -- let us know if/where/when you decide to do your bike overnight!

Nick - Feb 22, 2012 at 2:14 PM

So I just read about the bearvault and also read about bucket panniers. Seems the two could be combined. Maybe a bucket pannier that has a more secure lid that serves as a bear vault. Doubling up uses for items helps reduce weight and stuff.

jim - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Bob iam 65 will be rideing sierra cascades yr with a burley nomad

Michael McGrath - Feb 25, 2012 at 8:03 PM

Nick, I've had a similar thought about the BearVault and bucket panniers. I wish that there was a super lightweight pannier custom-designed to carry a BearVault canister. It would be easier to use than my current method of attaching the canister to my bike with bungee cords. I've never mentioned this to the BearVault company, since I assume that their customer base is mostly backpackers.

Nick - Feb 25, 2012 at 9:19 PM

Michael, Maybe that orange mesh they put oranges in would be large enough to put the Bear Vault into. I've also seen something similar in black used for hams sold at Target. Then you'd have something secure to "grab" the vault for attaching to the bike. Did that make sense?

kate - Jun 9, 2012 at 7:14 AM

I use the vault also (am in Alaska) and use a "cargo net" to hold it onto the rack. I also cover it with a stuff sack to keep the heat off my food. The canister (in which I store all food, toiletries and smelly items overnight) allows me to sleep better knowing that a bear (and other critters) will not be checking out my sleeping area for that stuff.

Bob - Mar 17, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Always enjoy the info.

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