Preparing & planning for adventure – Part 8: Food and Cooking
It’s stands to reason that once you get your bike out of the city and off the main roads, you’re not going to find a supermarket or a restaurant on every corner. So if you’re planning on heading off the beaten track to do some adventure riding, you’ll need to think seriously not only about where you’re going to eat, but what you’re going to eat.
Our tips on food and cooking options, based on years of adventure touring, should help you plan your next adventure without going hungry.
What type of travel?
If you’re travelling where you’ve got decent sized population levels there’s always going to be a reasonable availability of food, whether you be in Australia or overseas. In those cases your planning can be a bit more relaxed and you can take single meals or snacks to get you through the day.
Those snacks can be anything from two-minute noodles to some breakfast foods that you can have on the road, and you can then have a big meal at the end of the day if you’re stopping at a pub or somewhere that there’s food options available.
One of your big considerations needs to be the energy levels that you are going to use throughout the day. If it’s low energy travel then your food intake can be a little bit more relaxed, but if it’s high energy, such as in heavy riding conditions (eg: outback Australia), then you need to have your hydration and your nutrition right on track.
Failing to do this can cause any number of problems that can escalate the further you travel. No mater how much you’re roughing it, you don’t want to be hungry or thirsty.
Another big consideration is the type of bike you’re travelling on and, in particular, what type of luggage you have. Naturally you’ll have more room to carry food and cooking equipment in hard panniers than if you have soft luggage.
MEALS ON WHEELS
Breakfasts can be made up of some muesli and some milk, right through to just a cup of coffee if that’s what you so desire.
Nothing will beat muesli for space, nutritional value and convenience. A nice muesli mix to suit your taste, and ideally with a high oat content, is a great start to the day. Just add some powdered milk and water and you have your meal.
Some people will simply eat muesli bars, breakfast bars or some of the breakfast drinks readily available in the supermarket, which are fine as well.
But when considering space for weight, muesli is your best bet. In fact, if you add the right ingredients to your muesli and have the right mix of nuts and fruits, it gives you a great mix of protein and carbohydrates and you could sustain yourself on this for three meals a day if you so desired.
You should always have some form of fruit at breakfast time as well, in order to keep your digestive system working properly. If you don’t have the space to carry small tins or containers of fruit, then dried fruits such as prunes or apricots will also do the job.
Nutritionists and outdoor adventurers recommend you have a trail mix to nibble on throughout the day to keep your energy levels stabilised and sustained.
Sweet, sugary treats are a quick fix, but will only boost your energy levels for a short period of time, whereas a trail mix featuring nuts, sultanas and dried fruits will give you more sustained energy, while also being great for you.
Nuts are high in protein and this will help to satisfy your appetite during the day and should ensure that you’re not continually hungry.
My favourite trail mix is made up before I leave home and will include a base of salted cashew nuts and sultanas (don’t use peanuts as they can become rancid). It should be a mix that tastes slightly sweet, which will mean more sultanas that what appears obvious.
Then add your favourites extras such as dried mango, paw paw, pineapple, apricot and apple. You can also include some seeds to add to the taste.
You can buy a trail mix off the supermarket shelf, but I always find them too sweet and they usually include lollies that you don’t really need as part of a balanced diet on your trip.
The salt and sugar content of the trail mix is also important, as it allows your body to absorb the water that you drink – the same way that sports drinks work.
A tasty trail mix can easily do as your lunch, as a handful here and there will help to sustain you over a long period of riding.
BREAKFAST: Muesli, fruit and breakfast drinks will get your day of to a healthy start.
FRUITS: Pre-packaged fruit is a great addition to breakfast, or for a quick snack on the run.
DINNER: There are plenty of options available to give you a tasty evening meal.
NOODLES: Quick cooking pasta varieties are popular with adventure riders on the go.
COFFEE & BISCUITS: Sachet coffee may not be your first choice, but on the road it’ll taste great.
SOUP: If you can boil water, soups and noodles are a quick and easy meal.
If you’re camping out, generally you’ll want to be self sufficient for your evening meal, and this gives you two choices for the types of evening meals you can have.
Your choice depends a bit on how much you enjoy your food. You might just like to have something quick and easy, like two minute noodles with a tin or a satchel of tuna added, a cup of soup or a tin of meat and vegie stew, which will do the job.
However, if you’re going to be doing that night after night for an extended period, then you’ll need to have more variety, as you would at home, meeting your nutritional requirements, as well as being tasty and satisfying.
You can get the nutritional aspects right, but if the food isn’t enjoyable, then you’ll get tired of your food pretty quickly.
If your trip is two nights or longer, then you’ll need to put more thought into your food so that you go to bed at night feeling satisfied and ready for the next day’s riding.
Ensure that you have the right balance of foods. You’ll need some protein in the form of some meats or beans, a vegetable of some sort, and a flat bread (or wrap) is always a great way of getting the right amount of carbohydrates into your diet. Pasta and a form of potato is another carbohydrate source.
Lay a wrap on your plate, then add your ingredients on top for a great meal, eating the wrap afterwards if you like. You can cook a decent meal and dish it up onto a plate if you’d prefer.
Weight is also a primary consideration, and when you’re away from regular supplies you’ll be using mainly dehydrated foods. You can buy pre-packed dehydrated meals that are generally between $10 and $15 each (and the photos on the packet usually exceed the eating experience), or you can achieve all the same nutritional value and exceed the taste of dehydrated meals with food from the supermarket.
Buy local fruits and vegetables from the areas you are travelling through is always a good idea too.
Dehydrated meals can be quite tasty though. Dehydrated mashed potato is not the greatest on its own, but if you buy it with added onion, then it is a tasty addition to your meal, particularly if you stir a tin of tuna into it.
The only thing you need for any of these options is heat and water, and with water being a consideration on many rides, check to see if you can use the juice from some of your canned foods to either drink, or to use in the cooking process. This is especially relevant in areas with little water available, such as in the outback.
At the end of your evening meal a hot drink is a great finisher. You can go with tea bags and instant coffee, but you can also now buy sachets of latte, mocha or cappuccino from the supermarket. You might not drink these at home, but when you’re sitting around a campfire under the stars, they taste so much nicer than you’d expect.
A good travel trick is to carry a can of beer in your gear as well. You’ll be surprised how many 4WDers you’ll come across at meal time, and many will be more than happy to swap your warm beer for one out of their cold fridge.
Fruit cake is another great snack that will keep well. Pre-cut it and wrap it tightly in cling wrap to remove any air, and it will last for several weeks and will compliment your cuppa well. Ginger Nut biscuits are also great – they’re hard and robust and travel well, and are great for dunking!
TRAIL MIX: A tasty trail mix and muesli bars will keep you sustained during the day.
WRAP: Adding some vegetables to a wrap to give you a meal that’s tasty and full of nutrition.
Unless you’re travelling into areas where there are barbecues and other cooking facilities available, you’ll be limited to a couple of options when it comes to preparing your food.
Firstly, you can cook on a campfire using a combination of saucepans and a fry pan to prepare your food. This cuts down on the amount of gear you need to carry with you, but doesn’t offer you the convenience of a camp stove, should the weather be a factor. Gathering dry wood or trying to keep a fire going in the rain is something that not everyone wants to deal with.
If you don’t want to rely on a campfire, then you’ll need to take a form of fuel. Nothing is as convenient as gas, but in remote locations gas is not always available. However, if you do have the option of taking little gas cylinders they are highly recommended. They are light, easy to use, heat up quickly and you have infinite control over the strength of the flame.
Another good option is a multi-fuel stove which can run on gas, unleaded petrol, white spirit, kerosene or diesel. While efficient, these stoves can be quite noisy, and sound like a little jet trying to get going.
If using a liquid fuel, white spirit is always the preferred option, with unleaded petrol the least preferred.
A Trangia stove is another option, being lightweight, durable and simple to use. The entire packaged stove, including pots, is not much larger than a standard camp cooking pot, and for this reason the Trangia has retained much of its popularity, despite the development of alternative stove fuels and designs.
The heat adjustability is not as convenient on the Trangia, but as the flame is shielded, it is great to use in all weather conditions, particularly if it’s windy.
If your meals only need hot water to heat, then one of the Jetboil models will do the job very well. They feature a neoprene-insulated pot (billycan), corrugated metal heat exchanger (burner) and burner adjustment valve are insulated from the wind and will boil water really quickly, usually in less than two and a half minutes.
Another option is the MSR Pocket Rocket, which weighs just 85 grams and folds down to fit in the palm of your hand. Connected to a gas canister, it is a popular item and one that I use frequently.
Most cooking systems will pack down compactly, including the pots and pans, which is a big help in ensuring that you don’t have too much bulk to carry with you, something that should be right near the top of your consideration list.
This overview on the food and cooking requirements you need to consider should make planning your next adventure motorcycle ride a little easier, and go a long way to ensuring that you eat well.
Like the Snickers ads to TV tell us, a hungry person is generally not a happy person. Prepare well, eat well, and enjoy your next great adventure.
TRANGIA: The Trangia cooking system is one of the most popular, and is ideal if cooking in wet or windy weather.
MSR COOKING/FUEL: Multi-fuel stoves are popular, but need to be protected from the wind.
World traveller, Sherri-Jo Wilkins, gives her food and cooking tips after spending three years and 128,000km on her bike, experiencing many countries.
“My cooking and eating habits changed several times in the world. I purchased and packed full cooking gear because I got a advice to do so. The cooker was an MSR dual fuel single stove, pot, utensils, etc. The whole kitchen took up quite a bit of space and was rarely used, so I sent it home.
Most of Russia and European countries had such good home cooked food that I didn’t need to cook myself. And experiencing their food and culture was what I was after, and I very much preferred to eat what the locals ate.
One of the best pieces of advice I heard was that there is no place in the world that you can’t find a cooked meal. Of course this depends on peoples’ budget and where they are in the world. So much of the world is made up of third world countries, and therefore meals are far cheaper to buy than make yourself, when you factor in food waste, cooking, cleaning and fuel.
Once I arrived America I purchased one of the little pocket single burners. This was my favorite. I also purchased a very compact tea kettle. If I need something warm, it’s tea.
And then there are several meal choices that can be purchased from grocery stores and need hot water only. As well as the packet food you can buy in camp stores, but these are crazy expensive too.
Food in Canada was horribly expensive. Eating out was not an option and even grocery food was very expensive. I mostly ate tin tuna and baked beans or corn, nutrition bars, etc. Easy food. In extremely cold weather I could have used the full camp stove in this country, but I only had my tea kettle as this stage.
Back to America I travelled with a couple of people, Adam from Israel, and James from the UK. Both had BMW 1200s, both had space for full cooking gear, and both had good taste in food! So we mostly did groceries and bought nice steaks, pasta, veggies, wine and chocolate and ate in some amazing camp spots around Yosemite and Death Valley.
Then from Mexico and beyond, everything was so cheap that I returned to no cooking, until we had several days in the Amazon without food or fuel stops.
I didn’t like the salty packet meals, so I mostly ate nuts, except for warm oats in the morning.
Brazil was my favorite place to eat, but it was only for lunch! They have ‘kilos’ everywhere. A small restaurant full with home baked dishes and salads on a very large table. You pick what you like and how much you like, and you only pay for the weight of the plate in kilos. We ate so much at lunch that we didn’t need anything at dinner, except maybe a snack.
The food was so good, you could never compare with making your own camp food. So once again I was glad that I wasn’t carrying all the cooking equipment.”
A SIMPLE DESSERT ON THE RUN
Cooking a beautiful desert, such as apple crumble, is a lot easier than you might think on the road.
With simple ingredients and an easy cooking process, it makes the perfect addition to your meal. Our apple crumble consists of:
120 grams of dried apples
2 tablespoons of sugar
A quarter of teaspoon of cinnamon
10 crushed Butternut Snap biscuits
(Google ‘Trangia desserts’ for the cooking process)