For long planned cycles, I'm able to plan to feed myself. But sometimes in the evenings I leave work and just decide to set out for an extra half an hour's cycling about for fun - then four hours later I'm up a hill in a strange tiny village wishing I had something to eat. But this situation only comes up once every few weeks. I've been trying to think of good ideas for 'emergency snacks' that I can just put in my cycling bag and forget about for weeks until I need them;

  • It should survive being knocked about a bit and sometimes having heavy stuff dumped on top of it (so not biscuits or bananas).
  • It shouldn't expire for at least a month or two.
  • Ideally it wouldn't add too much weight or take up too much space.

My best idea so far is a couple of those half-size tins of fruit (like peach slices) with ring-pull tops and a tea spoon.

  • 2
    community wiki? We're seeing lots of ideas, none of which are right or wrong, so it seems like a good match for CW.
    – Móż
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 21:46
  • I agree with @Mσᶎ.
    – Batman
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 0:37
  • 1
    @DanielRHicks down under karget seem to have started stocking "energy bars" that are mostly sugar but they slip in a bunch of fruit'n'nut bars as well and the occasional thing that looks like a powerbar knockoff. But I don't use enough of them to have needed to buy one recently (I think there are two of three powerbars in my stuff still, I found one when packing up to go touring recently).
    – Móż
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 1:24
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    @Mσᶎ - If "down under karget" means the stores called "Target" in Australia, they have no connection to the US Target brand. The main thing Target carried in the US was a "fruit and yogurt" bar which was very good -- not nearly as sickly sweet as normal fruit bars, not sticky on your hands (important!), and stable in high temperatures. There were also some fruit & rice crispy "bites" that had similar attributes. Plus Nabisco made some nice "fruit crisp" bars that are supposedly still made but no one seems to carry them anymore. Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 1:56
  • 1
    karget = kmart/target/walmart/whatever chain of junk shops you're in.
    – Móż
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 2:20

8 Answers 8


I like to carry PowerBars, because they taste sufficiently foul that I'm never tempted to eat them just because I'm bored or peckish. Which means they're there when I really need them. The expiry date printed on them seems to be imaginary, I've eaten them when the foil wrapper is intact but so worn that it's hard to make out what flavour the bar is supposed to be. One subtle advantage is that they're flexible, so you can wedge them into a corner of a bag and they'll conform to the space available. I often shove one in with the rain cover on my backpack and camera bag, so if you carry a rain jacket you could probably put one in that.

In my experience carrying sugar is a waste of time - it just causes insulin surges and makes the whole experience less pleasant. I go from hungry to hyper to hypo to wondering what I just did to myself.

Shopping hint: In response to Daniel R Hicks' comment above, if I'm shopping at a generic chain store that seems to have what I want, I'll buy one each of the more likely options and eat them over the next few days. Or open them, taste them, and bin them if they're not at all what I want. When I find one I like I'll buy 10 or more of them, ignoring the shelf life, and just eat one a ear or so later to make sure they're still edible.

They're manufactured as effectively sterile bar, and they're so energy-dense that anything growing in there will have a hard time unless the package opens and water gets in. Honey and jam work exactly this way - the high sugar content and low water content means anything that tries to grow has the water stripped out of it and it dies.

That's why I still have a stock of powerbars that are probably 10 years old, and I'm not sure how many I have because when I bought a bunch ten years ago I stashed them all through my camping/hiking/touring gear and they still turn up from time to time. It's easy to find an inconspicuous place to carry something, but that also makes it easy to forget when unpacking :)

  • Do check that they do not contain fat, I have had several different kinds of bar go off on me, tastes very nasty when they do.
    – Willeke
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 13:52
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    +1 for the grossness factor of PowerBars. That's why I always carried them when hiking/climbing, they were literally the food of last resort. Note that their size/consistency means they will conform to the most unlikely of places, which also makes them ideal as emergency food.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 14:05

Clif Bars do a good job for this. I keep some in my bag for exactly that purpose.


I really enjoy gummy type food (e.g. PowerBar Gel Blast or Cliff Blocks). They have multiple flavors and taste OK. It won't replace a full meal, but it does keep me fueled up for longer rides.

These gummies usually have an expiry of +1 year and can take the sun and heat without melting. Some of my packets did a 6h ride in full sun in my back pocket without melting and still being eatable.


Do what the cowboys did- carry beef jerky

  • 1
    Imho tastes bad and is mostly protein, which is a bad energy source.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 17:23
  • I tried beef jerky and sausage sticks a few times. Far too much salt and fat -- almost makes you heave. Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 11:50
  • Jerky is made with lean beef with any fat trimmed away. If the jerky you tried had too much fat, then it was poorly prepared or made with lesser quality meat. As far as salt goes, we do need it when temps are high and we are sweating. You can use a salt-free marinade if you have health issues with salt.
    – Steve H.
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 13:37

I usually buy a box of meal replacement bars and distribute them through my bags. They seem to have a decent mix of sugar, complex carbs, and protein. Often times I'll eat half one day and finish it the next day. I've got some that are probably past the date by a few months, but they always seem to taste fine. They don't always do the best in the sun though unless you get the cookie dough, or peanut butter something or other. Those are pretty much a block of mealy paste. Those ones don't taste super awesome, so they might last in your bag a bit longer ;)


Tinned fruit is not really very high energy density, or very satisfying. Amongst the tinned stuff, creamed rice might be a good one? There's some good chunky soups, and pre-flavoured beans around too, and while they're nicer hot, they're quite edible cold if needed.

Others have pointed out various bars. Even when they look like muesli, they're commonly 30% sugar, which is not bad for snacking while cycling, but not great if you're talking about an emergency evening meal.

If you look for it, some supermarkets have pumpernickel loaves, which are a very high density bread. It's commonly a european export product, so it's usually sterile-packaged such that if it's not too hot it'll last for months if the packaging isn't punctured. Probably better in a plastic container or something though, to stop it being knocked around. I like it with peanut butter.


I've never eaten one but I've seen military MRE's (meal ready to eat) for sale before now. Probably very long shelf life and designed for a soldiers backback so a pannier shouldn't be a problem. More substantial than a bar too.


Trail mix. But make sure it has few nuts and more fruits/sugar.

  • What's wrong with nuts? They have a huge amount of energy for their mass.
    – Holloway
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 9:34
  • Yes, but during excercise you need glycose (or other sugar/carbs) and after excercise you need further carbs to replenish glycogen storage in the muscles. Of course, if it’s easy excercise and you just want as much energy as possible, fat is best.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 9:58
  • Unless you have it in sealed packets, trail mix gets to taste pretty horrible after a few weeks.
    – mc0e
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 12:44
  • Of course, but sealed it lasts for several years. Here in Austria it’s sold everywhere in small, sealed packages between 150 and 250g.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 1, 2015 at 15:32
  • I guess I always think of it in terms of the stuff I mix up myself, a couple of kilos at a time, for long tramping trips.
    – mc0e
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 11:26

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