What’s In My Gluten Free Backpack

Gluten Free Bars

When I travel, I travel light. When I’m exploring weird and wonderful places I’d rather not be held back by my luggage. I want something sturdy and I want something flexible. I don’t want to have to take a cab or a bus just because my bag is too heavy. This is why I love my rucksack.

I bought my Black’s rucksack ten years ago when three friends and I decided to backpack around Europe for the summer and it’s been with me ever since. It came with me when I decided to move to Toronto for a year after University. It accompanied me to South Korea when I decided to try my hand at English teaching. It survived with me when our bus was hijacked in Guatemala. It was on my back when I reached the North Pole and the southern most tip of Argentina. It’s here with me now and it will come back home to Scotland with me for Christmas. It’s one bag and it’s not even very big but regardless, I always ensure that I pack the things which make gluten free travelling possible.


Gluten free cereal


In my backpack is..

  • My favourite bowl. Rather than a plate from which I would have difficulties eating my cereal and milk, a bowl is far more flexible. All I need is one bowl and I can eat anything, anywhere!
  • Cutlery. Having a small spoon, fork and knife with me whenever I travel saves me a lot of anxiety. If I decide to prepare a meal on the road I’m set or if I’m hungry and decide to pick up a yoghurt whilst out exploring I’m equipped.
  • Cutting Board. A little more bulky than cutlery but equally if not more important. When I’m cooking dinner in my hostel I don’t want to rely on finding a used one and having to scrub it clean. Cutting boards are an obvious culprit for cross contamination so by bringing my own I don’t need to worry.
  • Gluten Free Bars. I never leave home without checking there is at least one gluten free bar in my purse so it’s not surprising that I take a whole bunch of them whenever I go on a trip. I never know when I’m going to find myself a little peckish in between meals and finding a quick, safe snack on the go isn’t usually the easiest of tasks (other than fruit of course). Obviously if I’m going backpacking for 6 months I can’t fit 200 bars in my backpack but I always start off a trip with at least 5 or 6 and restock when possible as I go.
  • Gluten Free Cereal. Whether I’m off on a road trip, weekend break or backpacking, I always take a box of gluten free cereal. I don’t like the stress of having to locate something safe to eat as soon as I’ve woken up. I like to eat my breakfast and then get out and enjoy my day. Wherever I’m staying usually provides milk which keeps it simple.
  • Dried Fruit/ Nuts. These are pretty simple to find in most places, easy to pack and provide me with lots of goodness when I’m hungry for a snack on the go. Right now I’m all about a handful of peanuts and raisins because eating them together has a peanut butter and jelly taste.
  • Spices. I tend to cook simple meals when I travel as I don’t have the time or variety of ingredients like I would at home. This is why I always carry spices like cinnamon and chilli powder. They make simple meals better and I don’t have to rely on finding safe spices wherever I am as I already have some with me.
  • Notebook.  Before I travel somewhere I do my research to find out what gluten free products and restaurants await me. There is of course better information on some places than others but I almost always find something to look forward to trying when I get to my destination. These notes are only a start. I’ll find more when I get there but it’s nice to have somewhere to start.

What’s in your gluten free backpack?  Have I missed something important? Please share your thoughts…


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  • Thanks for sharing this. It can be frustrating at times, can’t it!

    I recently gave in at a wedding to the posh-looking chocolate cake. It had a majestic texture and was consistent throughout and nice to eat. Not to mention the fact that nearly 4 hours afterwards I was thinking I would need the hospital and could hardly walk due to severe joint pain. Sick for 2 weeks afterward (I’m coeliac)

    I found a mix from sun flour mills that I plan to order and try soon – their award winning chocolate cake mix. They’re based in Idaho in the USA and the product won first prize in two independent competitions.

    The Almost Bourdain blog recently featured a flourless chinese five spice cake recipe which really looked perfect in terms of texture – extremely cake for being flourless and looked fairly easy to make – just need to find the time…

  • I like the idea of always having a gluten-free breakfast option. I’m really not in the mood to be searching around come breakfast time! = )

  • Chelise

    May 28th, 2012

    I am going on a trip to California in 4 days! And I have just found out I am Celiac! Anyways, the trip is 12 hours long in a squished car! So I have no help with my gluten free diet and I have to pack meals! What kinds of food will stay fresh in the car?

  • Hi Chelise! Welcome to the gluten free community.

    For 12 hours in a car I’d suggest packing a meal or two in tupperware plus extra snacks incase you get hungry. Perhaps some kind of stir fry with potatoes or rice or make yourself a gluten free sandwich or sushi.

    Avocados are great for road trips because they fill you up with healthy calories and they stay fresh. Nuts and dried fruit are great too. You can find lots of gluten free crackers/rice cakes/corn cakes to eat with avocado or on their own. I would definitely take some gluten free bars too as they are easy to pack and don’t go bad. When I’m headed on a roadtrip like that I usually try to eat a big meal before I leave to fill me up.

    Where in California are you going? If you need tips/recommendations on where to eat when you get to your destination I have lots of info on CA. 😀

    Happy travels!

  • Chelise

    May 31st, 2012

    Thank you Laura! That was very helpful! I am so happy I descovered this website! I am stuck all by myself making meals and finding gluten free stores! I was also wondering if anyone might know anything about the free breakfasts at Marriott Hotels because I am not sure if the eggs are safe or the Sausages. It is kind of a hard question so if no one knows, I understand! I am going to Los Angeles, California on Friday.

  • Chelise

    May 31st, 2012

    Hi! I am also wondering if anyone knows any Gluten Free restaurants or fast food joints in LA, California.
    Thank you,

  • Check out my posts on travelling in Southern California. They might help you to find some safe places to try in the LA area: http://glutenfreetraveller.com/category/gluten-free-southern-california/

    As for the hotel breakfast, I would recommend calling the Marriott. Tell them you are celiac and ask whether they have any gluten free options. Generally you should be alright with eggs. If they are boiled eggs you will be ok but if fried or scrambled check with staff to make sure there are no cross contamination issues. I’d be wary of the sausages as they may contain hidden gluten.

    If it were me It’d take gluten free cereal with me as the hotel will definitely have milk.
    Other than that I usually eat the fresh fruit and any yoghurt if it’s natural. I hope this helps!

    Happy gluten free travels!

  • Chelise

    May 31st, 2012

    Sorry to bother you again Laura! I forgot to mention that I am also Lactose intolerant, therefore I cannot have milk or yogurt. I am so COMPLICATED!!! I thank you for your kind and generous help! 🙂 I bought some granola that was labeled gluten free by the “Enjoy Life” brand, and it seem to have made me ill. Would it be possible that it had cross contamination even though it was labeled gluten free?

  • Enjoy Life products are made in a 100% gluten free factory and certified gluten free so no cross contamination issues there. If they made you ill it could be the result of an additional intolerance or allergy.

    I’d recommend taking soy, almond or rice milk with you then. I drink almond milk every day now and I’m a big fan. 😀

  • Chelise

    May 31st, 2012

    Thank you! I will look into Almond Milk and Soy and Rice products! 🙂 I will gladly check into other possible allergies. I get nausea a few days after I eat gluten and let me tell you, it’s MISERABLE! I also have constipation. Is that from Celiac?

  • Chelise

    Jun 14th, 2012

    Hi Laura! Feel free to check out my blog about gluten free recipes and foods! Go to http://www.putdownthegluten.blogspot.com
    Thanks! Let me know what you think!

  • Can’t leave home without my mini Larabars!..They are everywhere,in my gym bag,work purse,work lunchbox & my flight bag… 🙂

  • Laura,

    Thank you for this! I wish I had found this a year ago when I was diagnosed. However, after a long year of adjusting to gf life and traveling a LOT (also, often with a backpack), I’d also recommend (if you are staying somewhere where you have access to a kitchen) a small collapsible collander, a light slotted spoon and turner, and my own sponge. These things help me to feel safe when I’m cooking. I’m in France now in a large shared kitchen, and I feel paranoid because every surface really IS covered in bread! But the things on your list, plus the couple I added help me to feel reasonably safe that the majority of my meals are purely gf.

    Thank you for your blog!


  • Hello!

    I’m heading on my first big trip since being diagnosed with Celiac disease. I’ll be in Italy for 2 weeks and I’m pretty nervous, but also very excited. Do you have any advice or restaurant suggestions? I’m pretty confident I can find G free meals, but I’m a little more concerned with the cross contanation issue. Thank you!!

  • Hi Tara,

    Italy in general is extremely celiac friendly so you shouldn’t have problems finding safe and cross contamination free food there. Which area/cities are you going to? I will ask my readers to see if anyone has specific restaurant suggestions for you. 🙂