What are the Best Meals for a Multi-Day Canoe Trip?
How light do you want to go? Unlike backpacking, which values economy above all else, multi-day canoe trips can bear more weight depending on the length of the journey and how badly you want filet mignon that first night. I go to the Boundary Waters each May with friends and we really, really want those steaks, which start the day hard as hockey pucks but are perfectly thawed by the time we reach our site (our other food splurge is five pounds of gummy worms, but I’d rather not talk about that).
Our meal plan for the rest of the week is significantly lighter, both in weight and calories, and involves a bit of calculated risk. We bank on catching fish for at least one dinner, a strategy that frequently pays off in the form of our signature BWCA meal: Triscuits topped with pan-fried lake trout and Gouda—a bite so delicious that all you can do is giggle like a child while eating it. Other times, our hubris angers the fish gods and we’re stuck eating granola bars at night.
If you want to go lighter (but more involved), follow the lead of Daniel Klein—a former cook at big-deal restaurants such as The Fat Duck and Bouchon and the creator of the James Beard Award-winning Web series The Perennial Plate, which looks at sustainable food practices around the world. I met Klein a few years ago and was struck by his simple, flavor-focused approach to eating in the BWCA. He starts by packing a few staples: salt, butter, a little cooking oil, dried fruit and mushrooms, wild rice, a couple spice mixes. And though he brings an emergency supply of dried food, he prefers to fish and forage for his supper, aided by an old spinning rod and his trusty Samuel Thayer field guides.
In the spring, he pairs wild ramps and morels with his bass, in late summer wild chanterelles and lotus root. Klein’s philosophy: Put a little effort into your meals and you can ditch that terrible dried soup for good (or at least until you’re skunked on the lake or in the woods).
Or just crowd-source your menu. BWCA.com’s messageboard is the finest spot online for all things Boundary Waters-related. The camping recipes forum is filled with discussions ranging from whether or not you can pan-fry chocolate chip cookies (you can and should), to DIY food dehydration tips.