When it comes to any backcountry trip on foot or by canoe, finding the right balance between nutrition, taste and weight are at the top of my list.
For a recent solo trip canoe trip, I was able to load up on food much more than when I am backpacking. If I were backpacking I would go as light as possible, trying to keep the weight down at a maximum of two pounds or less per day. This would allow me to be on the trail for seven days with not more than 14 pounds in my pack being food. Even at this weight, I would be looking to reduce my food load, which I normally do, but in the canoe I can carry more allowing me to take some luxury items.
With this in mind, I put together a rather large pantry providing enough food for seven days with an additional backup that would take me out to nine if an emergency took place. But even with this extra fare, I found that I was carrying 22-pounds of food which considering I was stocked for nine days, works out to just about 2.5-pounds per day.
Storing your foods when canoeing brings a concern backpackers do not have, keeping your food dry incase the canoe dumps and your gear ends up in the water. There are some great waterproof food barrels specifically for canoeing that are available but like everything else, they come with a price and for me it was a bit more than I wanted or really needed to spend.
What I did find and use was the Encore brand food grade 5-gallon bucket I purchased at Lowes for $4.48. Added to this is the matching Encore Gamma Seal food grade screw off lid at $7.28. The lid has a gasket where it locks onto the bucket and then there is a separate screw off lid with seal. All of this together makes the container water and air tight. There is a bail handle on the bucket, making it easy to carry and it can be used to hang the bucket from if the need arises to suspend food stores off the ground to keep it from hungry bears and other animals.
With this 5-gallon bucket I was able to store all of my food and condiments along with a small fry pan, lid and spatula, my single serving coffee maker, paper filters and coffee.
When storing in this or any container it is best to separate the foods into smaller plastic bags and then into each meal group. By having a separate bag for breakfast, lunch and dinner you don’t end up digging through the bucket each time you are looking for a meal.
The way I sorted my food out was as I said, a bag for each meal and on big bag for each meal group. In my breakfast bag were individual servings of oatmeal, two packages of OvaEasy eggs and four packages of single serving Spam, yes I like Spam. This is the only food bag that I did not separate into a single small bag for each meal. I take my time at breakfast and like to mix and match what I eat after I bang down a few cups of coffee and begin waking up. It takes me a while.
I had a separate “lunch” bag, but to be honest I never broke into it. I needed to make miles on my trip so I ate as I paddled, snacking on cheese crackers, raisins and mixed nuts. I stowed all this in a small bag hung on the thwart of my canoe and I could open the waterproof container, grabbing what I needed. Had I wanted to stop for lunch I had packaged instant soups with added dehydrated vegetables, tuna in light weight retort packages and crackers.
Dinner is where I really broke down my meals to single bags, each containing everything needed. Examples of this include dehydrated hamburger, mushrooms and peas along with a package of beef stroganoff flavored noodles. To prepare I begin soaking the dehydrated items in water as soon as I set up camp so they had time to come back to life. Then I use the left over liquid along with powdered milk and squeeze margarine to prepare the stroganoff package, add the rehydrated items to the pot and then put it on the stove.
I also had a meal of rice pilaf with mixed vegetables (the rice and vegetables dehydrated at home) and salmon in a retort package, the old standby of macaroni and cheese, there was dehydrated hamburger and homemade spaghetti sauce with pasta and a home dehydrated vegetable goulash. These are only a few of the nine days of dinners I had on hand.
The one area where I went heavier than I would backpacking was in two items, a complete pancake mix requiring only water and bannock bread mix. The pancake mix is store bought but the bannock bread is a recipe my wife and I have been using for years.
In camp, I prepare the bannock by adding the required amount to a small plastic bag, add water and then mix it by squeezing the bag until it is blended. While the mixture is resting I add some oil to my fry pan, heat it up and then squeeze the bannock mix out of the bag into the pan. All done without ever getting my hands dirty.
It takes a while for bannock to cook through and it needs to be turned more than once to make sure it does not burn, but it is well worth the effort. The mix I use is a bit sweet and there is nothing like warm bannock and a cup of coffee in the morning. Left over bannock is great with lunch or for a snack or whenever there is an empty spot in the stomach to be filled.
The only other items I carried were the condiments in a single bag and again, I went a bit heavier than normal because I was not carrying it on my back. I had small containers of canola and olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper, garlic powder, dried onions, pancake syrup, squeeze margarine, powdered milk and coffee creamer.
Even with the added items, I was able to stow it all in the 5-gallon bucket and it weighed in at just over 22-pounds and I could eat like a king while I was on the river.
Now if I had only caught a few fish, then I could have really had a meal.
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