River Trip Meal Tips

A lot goes into planning a river trip: gear, shuttles, meeting spots, vehicles the list goes on and on. One of the most crucial decisions is what to eat on the river. Breakfast and lunch are no brainers, but what about dinner?

Piney River Camping 2010
Creative Commons License photo credit: NickDawson

Keep It simple (Stupid)

Some rafters enjoy pulling all the stops and go super-gourmet on their chosen dinner night. They’re stacking dutch ovens, they’re working two fire pans, they’re chopping and slicing, cubing and dicing for hours while everyone else is sitting around drinking gin and tonics relaxing.

You don’t need to go overboard, the simple stuff works great too. I’m not talking beanies and weenies here (although that would be fine) but simple meals that you can prep before the trip even begins.

Choose meals you can prepare in the comfort of your home rather than out on the river. Sure some work will have to be done at the river camp, but the more you can do at home the better.

Prep the Food at Home

For example how about a Mexican themed night. Burritos are simple and tasty and most of the prep work can be before the river trip.

At home, cook the proper amount of beef, add your special seasoning, drain the fat, let it cool and spoon it into a double bagged Ziploc storage baggie. Put it in the fridge, pull it out when you’re packing for the river trip and put it in a cooler on ice. Boom, your main ingredient is done. When it’s your night, throw it into a pan and heat it up.

Besides throwing away the Ziploc bags, there’s very little cleanup. You don’t have to figure out what to do with the meat fat (don’t want to dump it at camp and attract ants), and you don’t have to worry about having to cook all that meat on a flimsy camp stove.

You can also grate the cheese cut up the tomatoes, and do whatever cutting needs to be done at home. Just bag it, and take it downstream with you. Doing something special with the beans? Do it at home.

Some ingredients like lettuce, cilantro and avocados should be done the night of the dinner to keep things looking and tasting fresh, but for the most part all that’s left to do is put out the tortillas and call dinner…simple.

What About Grilling?

Grilling’s great but damned time-consuming. If you’re cooking steaks for a twenty person river trip you’re gonna be hunched over the fire-pan for half the night. If you must grill, grill something easy.

Grill fresh Salmon! A lot of the prep work can be done at home, especially if you’re cooking on the first night.

Salmon Zoom
mmmm…Salmon

Creative Commons License photo credit: DR000

The day before your put in, pull out the salmon fillets and place them in large Ziploc baggies.

Mix up a marinade, (my favorite is shredded ginger root, brown sugar, soy sauce and white wine) dump it into the baggie with the fish and store it in the cooler.

By the time you pull the fish out the following night it’ll be thoroughly marinated and the flavors will be popping.

Wrap the Salmon in foil, throw em onto a grill over even coal heat and in 10 minutes you’ll have a taste treat that’ll make the most jaded foodies crazy with desire. Hey…everything tastes better after a day on the river…you can’t go wrong unless you burn something.

That’s why you don’t need to go crazy gourmet. Whatever you serve on a river trip will be appreciated and consumed…guaranteed.

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