Wilderness Gourmet: Meal Planning Ideas for the River Adventurer

When meal planning for wilderness excursions, many backcountry activities coincide with simple, lightweight food that rehydrates well but lacks creativity or great taste. On the other hand, backcountry river trips don’t have to be mutually exclusive of gourmet nosh. There are many ways to enjoy a satisfying and memorable meal on the water, from fancy shoreline picnics to chef-inspired multi-course meals.

Plan a Five-Star Picnic

For self-guided river tours with fancy snacks, think of charcuterie on the go. Snackle Boxes, which combine gourmet snacks in tackle boxes, are trending on social media for foodie outdoor adventurers. Start the box with dried fruit like dates or figs.  Add cheese that travels well, such as aged cheddar, gruyere, or gouda. Next, combine crispy crackers, olives, and dried cured meats for salty treats. Finally, top off this tasty tackle box with something sweet and healthy, for example, grapes and apples. Then, when it’s time to nibble, wash it all down with a flavorful wine while you sit back and enjoy the view.

Utilize a Camp Dutch Oven

One-pot gourmet meals prepared in Dutch ovens are easily packed on multi-day river trips and are popular for their delicious simplicity. Camp Dutch ovens made entirely of cast iron with supported legs on the bottom are perfect for cooking over hot charcoal and wood. For this dining option, it’s easiest to prepare food in advance at home, freeze it, and then reheat it on the river. Lasagna, enchiladas, curries, and soups are fantastic make-ahead ideas to fuel paddling adventures, while cornbread brownies and yellow cake are sweeter, carb-loading options. Want a bigger wilderness culinary challenge? Outdoors with Bear Grylls provides 35 easy Dutch oven recipes made from scratch for camping. Whatever option you choose, remember to pack charcoal briquettes and a fire pan for cooking and reheating these meals. Discover tips for Dutch oven cooking methods in this post by Fresh Off the Grid.

Cook Over an Open Fire

If there are no fire restrictions on overnight river trips and a Dutch oven isn’t an option, try using the aluminum foil boat method for cooking backcountry meals. Foil packets are easy to make, taste amazing, and provide endless possibilities. These dishes usually contain a combination of cut vegetables and proteins mixed with butter and spices. Still, they could also include fancier recipes such as salsa verde chicken or Thai salmon. Explore Outsidenomad for  27 of the best foil packet recipes perfect for camping. To create these bountiful boats, roll combinations of veggies, seafood, meats, rice, or pasta in foil and seal them shut. Place them on a grill pan or under hot coals allowing them to steam to perfection. Amanda Outside offers step-by-step instructions on how to make foil packets for camping: the complete guide in her recent post.

Book a Guided Gourmet River Trip

On guided multi-day river rafting trips, hired crew members arrange and prepare all meals. These trips are unique because large rafts can carry tons of culinary gear and provisions. Some outfitters go the extra mile by providing multi-course dining experiences prepared by renowned chefs. Decadent farm-to-table dishes can be expected, and most meals are paired with craft cocktails and local wine. If this sounds like an unforgettable gastronomical experience, check out Sunset magazine’s best rafting trips for gourmet foodies and experience whitewater adventure with five-star service.

About the Author

KM Collins
Hailing from the Oregon Territory, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Five generations deep in PNW hydrology, her Grandmothers were daughters of the White Salmon, Clackamas, and Willamette Rivers. Though rowing is her favorite whitewater pastime, she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to paddle sports. Roller skating, snowboarding, and shuttling by bike rank among her favorite land-based activities.

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