Off-roading works up an appetite, and let’s face it—when you’re that hungry, sometimes even cardboard starts to look appealing. Nine times out of ten, we’re not picky when it comes to filling up our bellies after a full day of riding. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get creative and treat yourself when you’re on the go! Even if your ride park of choice has food trucks or fully-stocked restaurants on site, sometimes fending for yourself is part of the fun. You can eat in a cushy, comfortable restaurant any time. It’s not every day that you’re able to rough it and make your own meals on the go!
Feeding yourself on the trail requires some pre-planning and background research. You’ve got to think ahead if you want to avoid over-packing, under-packing, or bringing along food that’s going to spoil or taste gross by the time you stop for lunch. Read on for some of our favorite and most handy off-the-grid meal tips.
PACK WATER! Lots and lots of water. The recommended amount is one gallon per person, per day, at the very minimum. And remember, you always want to pack as if you’re going to be gone for at least one full day.
Hand sanitizer is a great idea, and an obvious “must” when you’re spending lots of time in the great outdoors.
Always bring recyclable plates, utensils, and food containers. You want dishes that are easy to wash, store, and re-use. This also produces less waste.
Speaking of waste, don’t forget to bring a trash bag or two. Unless your ride park has plenty of trash receptacles along the trail, you’re going to need those bags. The “pack in, pack out” rule applies no matter where you ride.
Aluminum foil is your friend! It can withstand both hot and cold temperatures. It’s a great way to prep meals ahead of time—just wrap your food up in an aluminum foil packet and throw it over an open flame or portable grill when you’re ready to warm it up.
Opt for non-perishable food items. Also think about how well your food is going to pack and travel. A loaf of bread, for instance, seems like a “must have” but chances are, it’s going to get super squished by the time you stop for lunch. Tortillas are equally useful, won’t get squished, and also take up way less space.
Get creative with rubs and seasonings! Just because you’re cooking outdoors doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. The right mix of spices will have you feeling as if you were dining in a five-star restaurant (as long as you can forget that you’re sitting on dirt and surrounded by bugs).
If traveling as a group, split the meal duties to lighten your load. This is especially helpful if you’re planning for an entire weekend (or more) of riding. Plan so that each person/family is responsible for one meal a day, or make every meal a pitch-in. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Plan for emergencies! Always pack as if you’re going to be gone for longer than anticipated. Emergencies happen, and the last thing you want is to find yourself stranded, miles from home, with no food and very little water. Even if you’re just planning on a three-hour ride through the woods, make sure you have enough food and water on hand to hold you over through the night. Just in case.
Cooking on the Trail
There are plenty of ways to stay full and satisfied on the go, without having to heat anything up. But if you’re looking for a warm “trail-cooked” meal, there are plenty of easy and practical options for cooking in the great outdoors.
The most obvious means of heating up food on the go is to build a campfire, if your environment allows. Of course, this should only be done if open flames are permitted on the property where you’re riding.
Check out Walmart, Amazon, or your local camping store for portable stove options. There are so many styles available, from primitive to sophisticated. With prices ranging from $20 to hundreds of dollars, there’s something for every budget!
The Solavore Sport Solar Oven is a cool gadget to look into if you frequently camp or go on long rides. Admittedly, it is quite pricey (nearly $300) and, at 27” wide, it will take up a good chunk of your cargo space. But if your budget and space allow for it, this thing is pretty handy. No charcoal or fuel required—it uses sunlight to reach temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Granted, it takes a few hours to cook, but if you’re camping, you can set it up in the morning and return to a perfectly-cooked meal after several hours of riding.
Engine burrito, anyone? Tethering your food to your engine and riding around for a few hours is one of the more creative means of heating up your dinner. This method has been around for decades and was originally utilized by truckers, although it’s been adopted by off-road enthusiasts in recent years. Just wrap your food in several layers of aluminum foil, secure it to your engine, and take off. The foil acts as a conductor to heat your food evenly and also shields your food from any contaminates present under your hood. The phrase “engine burrito” is thrown around often, but this method works for just about anything that needs heated up, including vegetables, potatoes, hot dogs, and pre-cooked meat. Check out the book Manifold Destiny to learn more and master the art of gourmet cooking on the go.
What’s for Dinner?
Or breakfast, or lunch, or snack time? Here are some of our favorite grocery list must-haves for any time of the day.
Bagels with cream cheese
Oatmeal (just add boiling water!)
To all of the caffeine-aholics who can’t start the day without their morning cup o’ joe—you’re in luck! There are lots of ways to get your coffee fix on the trails. It’ll perk you up and make you feel right at home. And besides, doesn’t coffee always taste better when sipped in the great outdoors?
Primitive Method: Boil some water, toss coffee grounds into the pot, wait a couple of minutes, then transfer the liquid to your mug. Voila! It’s not the fanciest cup of coffee you’ll ever drink but it gets the job done.
DIY Coffee Bags: Bundle coffee grounds in a coffee filter and tie it off with dental floss. Steep your homemade coffee bag in a mug of hot water for a few minutes and then enjoy.
Instant Coffee: These can be found at just about any grocery store. Each serving of instant coffee comes in a little package the size of a stick of gum. This is super handy if you don’t want to rough it with the primitive methods mentioned above.
Feeling Fancy: Bring along your French press or pour-over coffee setup! Or, if you’re a real coffee snob, get yourself an AeroPress. It’s affordable, convenient, and one of the best ways to get your java on the go.
Lunch and Dinner
Sandwiches and wraps –> All you need is lunch meat, cheese, and tortillas.
Hobo dinner –> Meat, potatoes, and veggies wrapped in aluminum foil—super easy if you do all the prep work before leaving the house!
Canned baked beans –> Just heat over the campfire and eat straight out of the can.
Dehydrated/freeze-dried meals –> This is a great way to minimize bulk and waste! Just add boiling water to the package and you’re good to go.
Chips and salsa
Granola bars (avoid anything with chocolate—yes, they are delicious, but they’ll be a melted, sticky mess if you’re riding in the summer)
Banana chips and other dried fruit options
So there you have it—a quick and easy guide on how to keep your belly full and your taste buds happy while you’re tearing up the trails on the weekend. Did we leave anything out? Drop us a comment and share your own “must have” off-road eats!