What to eat on long paddles?

If one is going to be paddling all day long, what should you be eating during the paddle? I’m thinking you mainly want to replenish whatever gets depleted and at the same time don’t want to eat anything that requires much in the way of digestive effort as that draws resources away from your trunk and arms to support the activities of your digestive system. Are carbs (like bagels for example) good? Banana’s or other fruit, protein (like canned herring maybe)…some sort of combination. Should you stick to just a couple meals, or snack every hour or so, or both? What’s the consensus on water vs sports drinks (like Gatorade)?


I just bring water and some protein bars. I just go for day paddles mostly for exercise. Beach day in my 22’ tandem I may pack lunch like a picnic. It has plenty of room for soft coolers in the center hatch.

Expedition paddlers here will help you better.

1 Like

If I’m going for several hours, a PB&J and a banana or an orange. When I get off the water, it’s another story.
My stomach doesn’t appreciate a lot of food when I’m exercising.
I only drink water but like to have a cold Coke when done. The only time I drink the stuff.

I usually just pack a sandwich and grapes for a 6-hour paddle but need a big meal when I’m done; I enjoy the lunch break. Never noticed it stealing energy. Back when I was overweight that food might have caused some acid reflux.

1 Like

I pack a dried sausage, some string cheese ( don’t need to be reminded of what is in that. lol…) a granola bar and some dried fruit and water.

This goes for expeditions too for a mid day meal. I can snack as I go or eat all of it at once. I sometimes bring some nuts .

The best part is it packs in a thwart bag and does not require egress from the boat. Some Everglades days are long and without good disembarkation places.

Monkeyhead I love sardines but cannot imagine them dripping all over me and the boat when I open the tin.


I like really cold fruit on hot days, like black berries or oranges on ice. Nuts are awesome because they pack pretty easy. I like cured meat wrapped around cheese in a small container as well. I do river floats in Texas in the summer, so there’s a bunch of sweating. Hydration tablets like those from Nuun help a bunch, and I can keep some in my dry bag all the time.

Nothing but water if it is under 4 hours paddling,then just a bottle. Longer trips the platypus behind the back band. I made trail mix (raisins, m&m’s, peanuts) last night for a trip next week that is going to be chilly, so + calories. If its warm, maybe a granola bar and a apple for a snack. I like to nibble a little while floating, but not so much that I get full. For ex. wake up, coffee, oatmeal w/raisins and a little brown sugar pre prepped in a storage bag. Add 2c water, stir, set aside and stow gear, then eat. Be in the water about 0730 when things are quiet and calm. (best time IMHO) get munchies around 0930, stop for lunch around 1130. Pull out about 2p set camp, chill out and make dinner.
Lunch a bagel, cheese and salami/summer sausage will keep easy so that is lunch for a couple days. Bagels look pretty funky when you put them through a food saver. They come out a little more dense though.

I’m good with lunch for normal paddles (4 - 6 hours) but then I’m not usually going a anyway near max speed. Day trips, lunch will be maybe a wrap, cliff bar, and an apple. Long trips the wrap may be peanut butter on tortillas or other flat bread. Ofter I’ll have some form of trail mix for a quick snack and may have some Cliff or Luna bars along. The last time I did the full 50 miles of the Hugh Heward I would eat 1/4 or 1/3 of a Cliff Bar every 45 min. or so for the last quarter or third.

For long max output, page 8 has an AuSable marathon feeding schedule: https://ausablecanoemarathon.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Marathon-Guide-Book-ARCM.pdf

My usual practice is to eat a hearty breakfast at least an hour or more before putting on the water. During the day I might eat nothing but if I do it is typically snack type stuff such as trail mix, beef jerky, cheese sticks, and peanut butter or cheese snack crackers.

I don’t do marathon racing that lasts all day but I have done downriver races that last a couple of hours or so. I have not found it necessary to do anything but drink water on those. I used to do some fairly long bicycle rides and it became critical to have some type of caloric intake during those to avoid “the bonk”. I suspect marathon races that last many hours would require the same. Most of the long distance bike riders I knew went with various types of power bars and energy gels. I suppose those would work for long nonstop paddles.

1 Like

Gatorade and a Clif bar usually do the trick for me. If I am doing a very long paddle (more than 5 hours) I’ll bring a sandwich or something similar. I often stop for a snack and a cold drink on the way home if I’m local, and a more substantial meal if I have a long drive, but I find I often don’t have much appetite until I cool down.

I do always have extra food with me - if I think I’ll eat one Clif bar, I bring two (or sometimes three). You just don’t know when that 3 hour paddle might turn into 5 hours - either by accident or on purpose.

1 Like

Before any canoe race you’ll see people chowing down on PB&J and bananas. Many, many old guys agree this is a winning combo.

Personally I like RX Bars much more than other protien bars. They can be pricey but costco just had them on sale for less than $1/each which is a great price.

diluted sugar water is good to keep you going as mentioned (50/50 water and gatorade or similar sugary drink)

and I definitely agree, a hearty meal no less than 1 hour before the paddle greatly reduces the need for additional solid calories for up to a up to 4 hour paddle. If working hard (like a race), I found I needed to eat “dinner” no later than 3:30 for a 6:00 race, or else I would get stomach cramps or other abdominal discomfort when working really hard.

I have water and whatever’s handy. Don’t really over think it. Sometimes I have a bunch of apples I’ve dehydrated, sometimes a sandwich, sometimes whatever I grab at a mini mart on the way.

Going to try foot long SNICKERS BAR soon. LOL :laughing:

1 Like

Long paddles are great for taking a pizza out if the oven so you don’t burn yourself!


I take many of the things already mentioned like PB&J’s, nuts, a banana, individually wrapped cheese if we have it. I also like to have a protein shake and some fig newtons because they both seem quite fulfilling. Going upstream I get around one mile per fig newton. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

I pack a jar of peanut and a jar of jam, and a plastic spoon. Keep it in my day hatch. Easy peasy. Reach back, get the jars and spoon, take a couple of spoon fulls and don’t share either with anyone.


Thanks for admitting this Andy, I keep both jars next to each other in the frig. This is one suggestion I am taking. Easy Peasy!

Selfish ! Not that I’d want to use your spoon.

Lots of water and some grazing items with carbos and fats. cheese, sausage, bagels, crackers, fruit, canned fish
To me a long paddle starts at about a week. You are talking about a long day.

There is a difference in my food planning if I know that I will be home for dinner or stopping for a beer and burger at the end of the day VS being out for days or weeks at a time. For an extended trip I have a pretty strict diet that adheres to this equation: [Calories of Food Consumed = Calories of Energy Expended - Calories of Body Fat Consumed]. My daily meal plan can be found here: 3meterswell: Individual Daily Meal Plan.
It works for me and I burn body fat at a pretty consistent 5lbs/week.

Daily variations occur when expected conditions during the first 4 hours will make it difficult to safely stop for refueling so a large high-calorie-“fatty” breakfast such as Mountain House Breakfast Skillet will be consumed instead of Oatmeal, Probar and tortilla with meat and cheese during that period. A critical component in making this work is the Hammer Gel for timely top ups while still coasting at the crest of my energy curve. It works great in maintaining me when taken before I pass that crest. I find the Montana Huckleberry the most passable for my pallet.

If I am going out for a potentially strenuous day paddle with friends I skip the oatmeal in favor of a Sausage MacMuffin with Egg. I find the taste fine and it sticks with me. On my way out the door now so I think I’ll stop at Mickey D’s.