Canoe camping, also known as backcountry camping, is an adventure where you travel by canoe to a remote destination to find your campsite.
Unlike car camping, canoe camping involves being out in the wild with limited resources. There is no running water or electricity, meaning you must bring everything you need to make your canoe trip meals, including all cooking gear.
It is critical to plan your canoe camping meals to ensure you pack enough food to last your whole trip without carrying too much weight.
For all my camping trips over the years, I planned the menus according to the trip duration, dietary requirements within the group, and the resources available.
For example, while yurt camping trip in Tobermory, we could use a BBQ and cooler. However, on backcountry camping trips in Algonquin Park, we had no equipment except for the fire we made and a camping stove.
Therefore, this article will take a look into the necessary preparation required for canoe trip meals.
If you are looking for other backcountry camping guides, you can find all my other camping articles here.
Important Considerations for Planning Your Canoe Trip Menu
You need to keep your body nourished during a canoe trip so you have enough energy to paddle and hike throughout your camping adventure.
It is important to bring foods that are high in energy, but also non-perishable. You also want to stay fuelled on your canoe trip, but still be able to carry the weight.
There are several important considerations to help you choose your backpacking foods. These include the trip duration, the equipment available, the amount of food you want to consume, and any dietary restrictions.
Trip duration is important to consider when preparing your canoe camping menu because it determines the amount and type of food you need to bring. The longer the trip, the more food you will need to pack.
However, if your backcountry camping trip exceeds three days, you should bring dehydrated meals and non-perishable snacks. This type of camping food is the lightest and will not spoil.
If you are going backcountry camping, bring a camping stove that is fully operable in the wilderness.
At some campsites, you can use the fire pit to cook some food. However, it is not always possible to use a fire pit due to fire restrictions or wet weather conditions. Therefore, you need to be prepared for all occasions.
Read about what else to pack for a backcountry camping trip in this article.
Amount of Food
The amount of food you need to bring depends on how many people are in your group, the number of meals and snacks you plan to eat each day, how much you can carry, plus the duration of your trip (as previously discussed).
On all my camping trips, we eat three full meals a day, plus snacks, and sometimes a dessert. Our food barrel is heavy at the start of the camping trip, and it reduces in weight over the days as eat the food.
However, our trips rarely last longer than three days; therefore, we can get away with using fresh food at the start.
For the latter part of the trip, we rely on foods that do not require chilling, such as cured meats and dried vegetables.
While it may be tempting to bring a light menu for your camping trip, you should consider the amount of physical activity you will be doing. You will likely be expending a lot of energy while paddling and need extra food to keep your energy levels up.
Before planning your canoe trip meals, check with all group members if they have any dietary restrictions. It is usually easier for all members to eat the same diet, rather than packing separate meals.
For example, if you have a group member who needs a gluten-free diet, bring gluten-free pasta for the whole group, or opt for a naturally gluten-free alternative, such as rice or quinoa.
Otherwise, you can bring dehydrated foods that each member has chosen to suit their requirements.
Picking the Right Food for Canoe Trips
As explained previously, the best foods for camping are non-perishable, lightweight, and high-energy foods.
When camping menu planning, remember that space and weight are limited.
Packing compact and nutrient-dense foods is critical, so consider foods that are easy to prepare, such as dehydrated or freeze-dried meals, and snacks like trail mix and energy bars.
Carbohydrates are particularly important because they provide the body with energy for physical activity. Good sources of carbohydrates include pasta and rice.
Finally, consider the perishability of the food you bring.
Foods prone to spoilage, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, may not be suitable for long canoe trips. Instead, consider dried fruits and vegetables. Additionally, bread is a good carbohydrate, but it is bulkier and will expire quicker than rice or pasta.
Non-Perishable Camping Meals
Non-perishable food items are those that can be stored at room temperature for an extended period without spoiling. This is important because you will not have access to refrigeration on a backcountry camping trip.
Suggestions for Non-Perishable Canoe Food
- Peanut butter and jam/jelly wraps
- Instant oatmeal packets – good canoe trip breakfast option
- Packaged pasta kits (e.g. just add water mac & cheese)
- Instant noodles
- Granola bars
- Energy bars
- Trail mix
Dehydrated Meals for Camping Trip
Dehydrated meals are a great option for canoe camping due to their convenience, ease of preparation, and portability. They are cooked using boiling water, which is suitable for those who want a hot meal without too much preparation time.
Dehydrated meals also have a long shelf life and are non-perishable, making them ideal for longer canoe trips where fresh food is not a viable option.
You can also purchase freeze-dried meals.
Recommended Brands for Dehydrated Meals
I have tested and recommend the following brands of dehydrated meals:
• Peak Refuel
• Mountain House
• Backpacker’s Pantry
• Good To Go
• Alpine Aire
Dehydrated Meal Recommendations
If you are looking for specific canoe camping food ideas, here are some of my favourite dehydrated meals.
|Firepot||Posh Baked Beans||REI USA|
|Alpine Aire||Three Berry Crumble||Amazon USA |
|GOOD TO-GO||Kale & White Bean Stew||Amazon USA|
|Mountain House||Creamy Macaroni & Cheese||Amazon USA|
|PEAK REFUEL||Three Bean Chili Mac||Amazon USA|
|Backpacker’s Pantry||Pad Thai||REI USA|
Dairy-Free Camping Meals
If you are lactose-intolerant, it is a good idea to take this seriously while backcountry camping, given the lack of facilities.
It is possible to bring lactose-enzyme products (such as Lactaid), but it is easier to plan a canoe trip menu that lacks dairy.
A dairy-free camping menu is also beneficial to avoid any bloating or discomfort.
You can swap out cheese with nutritional yeast to give a similar flavour in foods like homemade pesto that would normally include parmesan (as shown in the adjacent image).
Suggested Dairy Free Camping Meals and Snack Ideas
- Oatmeal, dried fruit, and nuts (great breakfast option)
- Hummus and veggie wraps
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Beef stir-fry or fajitas (for the first day of camping)
Suggested Canoe Camping Recipe
Below is one of my favourite canoe trip recipes that makes a great dinner choice.
Given the non-perishable ingredients used, it is a good option for the latter part of your canoe trip if you plan to cook all your meals from scratch. Alternatively, it is a good choice for your first day of camping if you eat dehydrated meals later in the camping trip to travel light.
Sun-Dried Tomato and Chorizo Orzo
For two people
- 3/4 cup orzo (uncooked) – use quinoa for a gluten-free substitution
- 100g of cured chorizo – (or between ½ to 1/3 of the package and use the rest for wraps/sandwiches/eggs)
- 6 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes – (not in oil)
- 1 stock cube – one is good for 2 to 4 people (chicken is my favourite)
- Splash of olive oil (bring a small portion in a portable container)
You can scale the recipe up for additional people.
- Gently heat a splash of oil in a pot or saucepan.
- Add diced chorizo to the pan and allow it to sweat.
- Add the dried orzo and stir until the orzo is coated in the oil from the chorizo.
- Add in chopped sun-dried tomato.
- Add purified drinking water along with the stock cube (use double the water to orzo). Stir until the stock cube dissolves.
- Let it cook for around 10 minutes. Turn off the burner once the water is soaked up and the orzo is soft.
Equipment Required for Recipe
- Saucepan (stove and cookware bundle available here)
- Folding stirring spoon/spatula (camping utensil set available here)
- Chopping board
- Insulated mug/jug
- Camping stove
- Camping plates/bowls
- Small oil container
Preparing Your Canoe Camping Meals
Your canoe camping menu should be based on the equipment you will be bringing with you.
Do not pack food that requires chilling unless you have a cooler, which is not recommended when backcountry camping.
Alternatively, you can freeze some of your protein, such as chicken or beef, so it stays chilled and will slowly defrost during day one of the trip. With this, you can eat some fresh food on your first night of camping.
Typical equipment for a backpacking camping trip includes a portable stove, fuel, saucepan, frying pan, utensils (forks, knives, spoons), and a sharper knife for cutting.
You should also pack the following items: biodegradable dish soap, a sponge, and trash bags. These items will assist with proper cleaning and waste disposal.
Check out this stove and cookware bundle (including Sauce Pan, Deep Dish Bowls, two Insulated Mugs, Strainer Lid, and two Folding Sporks) and this camping utensil set (including Folding Spoon, Spatula, Ultralight Cutting Board, Salt & Pepper Shaker, Squeeze Bottle and Dish Towel).
Read this article on packing for a backcountry camping trip to guarantee you pack all the essentials.You can also download and print this camping checklist to ensure you do not forget any items.
No Cooler Camping Meals
One of the biggest challenges of planning meals without a cooler is that you should select foods that will not spoil without refrigeration. Many fresh foods, such as meats, dairy products, and some vegetables, are not recommended for camping.
Without the ability to store meats and dairy products, you may need to rely on canned or dried proteins like beans or cured meats.
Pack some meal and snack options that do not require refrigeration, such as:
- Instant ramen noodles
- Canned soups and stews
- Pasta with chorizo and sun-dried tomatoes (see the above recipe)
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Dried fruit and nut mix
- Dehydrated meals
- Crackers or rice cakes
What are Good Snacks for Camping?
- Trail Mix (including nuts and seeds)
- Granola Bars
- Fresh Fruit, such as apples
- Dried Fruit, such as apricots
- Energy chews or bars (Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews or Clif Bloks Energy Chews)
- Beef jerky
Staying Hydrated While Canoe Camping
It is important to replace the fluids lost while sweating from physically demanding camping activities.
Adding electrolyte tablets to your water bottle will help you replenish electrolytes and other fluid requirements to ensure hydration.
Nuun Electrolyte Tablets are my favourite brand and are available in Canada and the United States. I like grape and lemon-lime flavours.
Make sure you use treated, potable water. See the methods below for how to accomplish this while camping.
Water Treatment Methods for Canoe Camping
During most backcountry camping trips, you need to find water to drink, meaning you will collect water from natural water sources, such as lakes or rivers.
You cannot drink the water directly from a lake because you can get beaver fever; therefore, you must treat the water first.
The two most common ways of treating water are by water gravity bag or water purification tablets.
Water Gravity Bag
A water gravity bag works by using gravity to filter water through a filter cartridge, removing bacteria and other contaminants.
This method is easy to use; however, it is the more expensive option.
Water Purification Tablets
Water filtration tablets use a chlorine solution to kill bacteria in the water. This method is cheaper and easy to carry but can make the water taste “off”.
Storing and Transporting Food
There are numerous methods for storing food that to keep yourself safe while camping. The following tips will help you avoid attracting wildlife while camping and efficiently pack your food.
1. Use Bear-Safe Storage Containers
Firstly, store your food products in bear-resistant containers.
You can use a food barrel, a bear bag, or a bear canister.
Certain containers can be hung from a tree, which makes it more difficult for a bear to get hold of its contents.
Otherwise, store your canister at least 30 metres (100 feet) from your campsite. The containers are designed to be difficult for bears to open.
Canoe Camping Food Storage Options
• Food Barrel
• Bear Bag
• Bear Canister
2. Pack Fewer, Larger Bags
Pack your items in as few storage containers as possible to help with transporting your food.
If you need to portage (carry your canoe and camping belongings to the next stretch of water), it will be easier with fewer, big items to carry. Plus, it can help when distributing the weight of items within the canoe.
3. Keep Odours Contained
Within the containers, it is good practice to keep individual food items and toiletries that are scented in sealed bags to minimise smells.
For example, once you have opened a package of cured meats, reseal it in a Ziplock bag.
4. Keep Your Campsite Clean
Ensure your campsite remains clean by securing waste in a plastic bag and placing that in your bear-proof container. You also need to wash your cooking and eating utensils straight after mealtimes.
Do your dishes away from your main camping area and dispose of the water in a hole away from water sources. You do not want to contaminate lakes or rivers with your dirty dishwater.
You can do this using a collapsible sink.
Conclusion – Canoe Trip Food
In conclusion, meal planning for canoe camping can be challenging, but you will be glad you put in the preparation.
Dehydrated meals, along with other non-perishable and no-cook options, are convenient choices for backcountry trips. The main benefits of dehydrated meals are that they help to keep your bags light and feed you nutritious, warm meals no matter how long your camping trip is.
It is important to pack out all your trash and food waste to keep the campsite clean and preserve the wilderness. Adhering to the Leave No Trace principles is essential for responsible camping, which ensures minimal environmental.
So, be mindful of what you pack, respect the environment, and enjoy the canoe camping with delicious meals.