Planning Meals



There are a lot of options available today when planning meals for your trip.  A lot of it is personnel preference, but you also need to consider the type of trip, as well as what equipment and cooking utensils you will have. 

 Base Camping

Since you plan to stay at one site, and do mostly day trips you might bring everything including the kitchen sink.  You have a large cooler to keep that food cold, a large multi-burner camp stoves and lots of cooking utensils which means home cooked meals that are easy to prepare.  You will probably even have a tablecloth, dishes and flatware.  Thereís not much more to be said other than enjoy. 

Multi-day Lakes and River Trips

This can be divided into two groups, the first being easy trips with very few, if any portages.  While you may not pack the table and chairs, you may still have room for a good size cooler and other utensils.  If your food is carefully selected and frozen ahead of time, you can plan for several days of meals before resorting to canned food.  Again weight is not a problem. Just make sure that your food is in bear-proof containers or hung high in a tree.

For real wilderness trips (lakes and/or rivers) with multiple portages, weight is much more of a concern. Remember that you will need to carry everything you bring on each portage.  You donít want the weight of multiple pots and pans. Also, you may not want to bring that heavy cooler, maybe a small soft-sided cooler will be enough. Your cooking may be limited to a single burner stove or a fire ring.  There may also be some sites where fires are not allowed or it may be forest fire hazard seasons, so a camp stove is the only option.

Utensils and stoves

One of the first things we want to consider is what can be shared and what personal items will be needed. Letís start with personal eating utensils.  Everyone should have some basic items for their own use.  This includes a cup (good for hot or cold drinks), a knife, fork and spoon.  Depending on the meals you may also want a mess kit or a plate for your food.   A couple of good size water bottle is also a necessity.

The group items are next and depend on your choice of meals.  If all the meals can be made in a single pot or pan than only one is needed.  If however, youíre planning multiple course or individual meals you may need more.  So if everyone agrees on the same meals and you keep it simple you can leave that extra pan at home. You can also save by doing Freeze Dried food.  With Freeze Dried, you just open the pouch; pour in water, stir, cool and serve. With individual meals you can eat out of the pouch and not even need a plate.

Camp stoves are the easiest and fastest way to prepare most meals.  You can use the larger multi burner stoves for heating multiple items or you can use several single burner stoves.  Make sure you have extra fuel for your stoves.


You should normally carry several large water bottles to start a trip and a water filter/pump. You will need to filter water for drinking and cooking once or twice a day.  I always start each day with a full supply that will last be at least until late afternoon when we stop to make camp.  On trips where you might find a small store along the way, you may be able to buy a gallon jug of water.


There are a number of books available on camp cooking.  Your best option is to find a good one, read it before the trip and use it to plan the meals.  If you are a gourmet cook and want to provide fancy meals, go right ahead, as long as you donít mind the extra weight.  If not, your best bet is to keep a few simple rules in mind.

         Donít experiment - This should be done at home, not in the wilderness.  If you ruin a meal and donít have extra food you may go hungry.

         Try foods at Home Ė Try preparing some of the meals at home prior to the trip. This includes items like freeze dried, canned foods, etc. 

         Donít count on the catch of the day Ė While you may do some fishing along the way, donít count on it for a meal. 

         Keep it simple Ė Something that is quick and easy is always better just in case youíre late getting to camp or it starts to rain.

         Fresh Meats Ė If you canít keep it cold (below 40 degrees), you shouldnít bring it.  You may want to consider something canned, dried or dehydrated. If you have a small cooler some meat might be OK for a day or two.

         Fresh Eggs Ė Need to be kept cold (below 40 degrees). If you have a cooler, you might try cracking them at home and putting them in a sealed plastic container. Use them the first or second day.  Freeze dry eggs will last the whole trip.

         Cereal Ė Dry cereal is OK, as are items like Instant Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat.

         Milk Ė Powdered milk that you just add water to is the lightest to carry.  You can also buy sterile milk the does not require refrigeration.

         Cold Beverages Ė Tang and Kool Aide are just 2 of many powders that you just add water to.

         Hot Beverages Ė Coffee bags and tea bags are both available.  Hot Chocolate mix or instant soups are also options.  These options donít require a coffee pot.

         Dry Foods Ė Items such as Macaroni & Cheese, Spaghetti and Rice are easy to fix.  Just boiling water.

         Fruits mixes Ė Dried fruit, nuts and trail mixes make great snacks along the river.

         Condiments Ė Donít forget the sugar (or sugar substitute), and creamer for the coffee or tea.  Most can be purchased in individual packages.  Salt, pepper, mustard and catsup also come in individual packages.  

         Canned Vegetables - While they do add some weight some vegetables would be nice to round out a meal.


Meals and Food List

Just like at home, you will need to start by planning your meals.  This can be done as a group or individually.  For groups, make sure you have enough for the whole group.  It may be easier to plan all your breakfasts at one time, then go back and plan lunch for each day.  Suppers can be the last thing to plan.  For each meal, count the number of days you will be eating on the river.  Day 1, we eat breakfast before starting out. Lunch would be included each day of the trip. The last day's supper would be after ending the trip.  Itís best to keep it very simple.  Hereís a sample menu used to plan my individual meals.


This is the simplest meal for me when in the wilderness. I have the same thing every day.

Oatmeal w/milk, Coffee w/cream & sweetener,

Tang w Metamucil Fiber supplement.

So for a 6 day trip, Iíd bring enough for 6 days (5 days plus 1  extra)


This has to be ready to eat whenever we take a break for lunch. Iíd pick a variety for this.

4 packages of Chicken spread with crackers (2 days) $1.00 per package @ the dollar store.

4 packages of Tuna spread with crackers (2 days) $1.00 per package @ the dollar store.

10 Cereal or power bars (4 days plus 2 extra)

So on a 6 day trip; Iíd have enough for 7 days, plus some extra snacks.



7 Mountain House Freeze Dry Meals for 1 person (variety of entrees) is enough for me.   Some of the guys buy the 2 serving pouches for each meal.

So for a 6 day trip, Iíd bring enough for 6 days (5 days plus 1 extra)


Some candy bars, nuts or other items for snacks along the way.

The total weight of my extra food items would be less than a pound. For both Breakfast and Dinner, the meals are prepared by adding water. The time to prepare most of these meals is about 5 minutes. The only utensils needed would be a fork and a spoon, a cup for the coffee or other drinks and a small bowl for the cereal.  The dinner can be eaten directly from the pouch or poured onto a plate or bowl.