Packing food for a 3+ week canoe trip

I recently received a comment asking what we pack food-wise for a three-week Temagami canoe trip.

This isn’t an easy thing to plan for. It’s a long, hard slog. Everything needs to be relatively lightweight so you aren’t dying after carrying over your first portage. You’re also out there for nearly a month, so you don’t want to forget anything or suffer the consequences of running out of booze.

On our three-week Temagami canoe trip, we were triple-carrying for almost a full week because of the weight of the extra food. We also LOVE food, and we’re willing to carry things like cheese, butter, cured sausage and wine – because what’s the point of being miserable and eating packaged garbage when we’re sleeping in a tent for a month?! Little luxuries make the whole experience better. If you love cheese, bring a ton of it. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t skimp on the candy.

What *I* tend to do is make a whole bunch of dehydrated meals and repeat the favourites every week or so. Make sure to have at least three full days of extra food. My partner says to bring a full day of extra food for every week you’ll be out.

Some of the things we love:

Note: I have a mild egg allergy. The only eggs I’ll eat are from Tash Mathias’ free-range-hella-organic-raised-in-the-wilderness chickens. If you pass by the Mathias Family homestead at the headwaters of the Obabika river, buy some eggs. Best eggs ever. There’s a sign on the beach that says “Canoe Parking Only.” Tell them Tierney sent you and stop for a chat with Al Mathias, a Temagami First Nation elder who lives on his family’s traditional territory. Don’t worry. The Chihuahua is more bark than bite.

– Good ol’ Quaker Instant Oatmeal (add fruit if you want. I’m happy with just the maple/brown sugar version or with the low-sugar apple cinnamon. Sometimes we add fancy Bob’s Red Mill Paleo-style muesli to it, but that’s only because we get it for free. It’s not cheap, but it’s full of delicious coconut and nuts and protein and stuff)
– Rice pudding (cook and dehydrate rice, mix in with powdered milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, dried fruit. Can stick to pan when heated. You have been warned)
– Redi-Crisp bacon (we cut the portions in half and vacuum-seal them so they stay fresh)
– COFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (buy the good stuff. Suck up the weight)
– Bannock (for those lazy start days. Mix the ingredients ahead of time and add water to the bag slowly until you have a good mix)
– GORP (for when you can’t be bothered)
– Maple syrup (I don’t use refined sugar at all but I LOVE maple syrup. I’ll bring about 500mL for a 3-week trip. I use it in coffee, breakfasts, drink it straight…)
– Just-Add-Water pancake mix (we only make pancakes when we’ve got spare time and wild blueberries)

– Cured meats that don’t require refrigeration (check out farmers’ markets… a lot of Amish/Mennonite suppliers still cure their meats the old fashioned way. Find an Italian nonna who makes her own soppressata)
– Cheese (as horrible as it is, get something with preservatives. We’ve had good success with PC brand aged white cheddar – no food colouring – but we’ll wrap it in cheesecloth dabbed with vinegar and vacuum-seal it)
– Bean dip/hummus (make your own, dehydrate. Rehydrates in less than 5 min in a mug with regular lake water)
– Crackers/Pitas/Tortillas (store crackers in a container that won’t get squashed, or you’ll have nothing but crumbs)
– Dried soups (instant miso mugs are nice, lipton chicken noodle, your own dried soup, Knorr brands, etc)
– Giant bags of GORP (we make our own personal mixes following a very expensive trip to Bulk Barn. My GORP is my GORP. Hands off. Try adding chocolate-covered espresso beans, salted Virginia red-skinned peanuts, coconut flakes, baker’s chocolate, cashews, wasabi peas… it’s your mix. Make it count. Plan on at least 1/2 lb per person)
– WASABI PEAAAAAS (if nothing else, they’ll clear your sinuses if you’ve got allergies)
– Bits’n’Bites/Harvest Snaps/something similar
– Couple bags of jerky (buy what you like. If you’re vegetarian, bring extra dried veg like sweet potatoes instead)

– Pulled pork (dehydrated, served either as fajitas with dried veg, beans and cheese, or with jalapeño-cheddar biscuits)
– Pizza (on pitas, with pepperoni, dried veg that’s been rehydrated in a pot of water, dehydrated sauce, etc.)
– Sweet potato, corn and black bean soup (dehydrated… will send the recipe if you like it hot)
– Shepherd’s pie (dehydrate the filling as one dealie on parchment, use instant mash as topper)
– Chili (make your best and dehydrate it on parchment)
– Ratatouille (using the best summer veg, cook at home and dehydrate on parchment and serve with pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous or bread)

– Poutine (bag o’ curds from the grocery store in town, pack of gravy, parboiled new potatoes fried in lard over the fire)
– Halloumi cheese and veg skewers (halloumi is a delicious Greek cheese which holds its shape well while heated/can be fried and is sold in sealed packages… wash veggies at home and keep in soft-sided cooler bag. Peppers, zucchini and onions work well)
– Steak (marinate at home, freeze, wrap in newspaper and keep cold with frozen beer cooler packs)
– Loaf of bread/buns (nothing easier and more filling when you’re starving from carrying ~500lbs of food and gear over a portage, especially in the first few days)
– “Fancy” ramen (this is one of my favourites. Rehydrate dried corn, green onions and mushrooms in a pot with a lot of water, boil, add noodles and seasoning packet and top with nori seaweed, cooked bacon or a fried egg. Or all three. I don’t judge)
– Grilled sausages & bag of bean salad (I’ll make the salad at home and then at camp I’ll wash the bag for re-use. This is perfect if you have a late start on the first day. If you use smoked sausages and keep them in the pack, they’ll survive at least a week with no refrigeration)

– Mostly chocolate bars. I like Ritter Sport. We bring at least 8 bars because they are a valuable trade item and good calories if you’re hungry AF.
– Just-Add-Water cookie mix. Bake in reflector oven. Add Ritter Sport chunks.

– Hot chocolate mixes
– Apple cider mix
– A billion tea bags of both herbal and caffeinated varieties (ginger and mint teas are nice for upset tummies)
– Miso soup mix/bouillon cubes (sometimes a savoury hot beverage is a nice change and I effin’ love salt)

– Country Time lemonade mix
– Cherry Kool-Aid mix
– Dehydrated Clamato mix
– ‘MacroNutrients’ Green/Red drink mixes
– Emergen-C (electrolytes and vitamins, yo)
– Sun-Tea (stick tea bag in cold Nalgene, drink many hours later – or not, weak flavour don’t bother me none)
– Powdered milk (enough to add to muesli/biscuits/mashed taters)

– Small bottle Sriracha ??
– Two 250mL containers maple syrup
– Two 250mL containers butter (WE ARE FAT AND WE LOVE BUTTER)
– One 250mL container lard
– One 250mL container grapeseed oil
– Small tub salt & pepper (we have a teeny weeny pepper grinder, it is so cute!)
– Small tub herbes de provence/cajun/your fave home cooking spice
– Gravy mix/Swiss Chalet sauce mix
– One lemon, one lime (for sangria or for fish if you’re a better angler than I am, which is pretty much everyone. Bring extra Ziploc bags/reuse a bag to store what you don’t use)
– Bisquick mix (can be savoury or sweet, depending on what you add)
– Dried fruit (buy at Bulk Barn or make your own for adding to oatmeal, bannock or just straight snackin’)
– Dried veg (best to dry your own – try tomatoes, mushrooms, green onions, bell peppers, jalapeños, zucchini, canned corn, yadda yadda. Nori is fun to add to ramen and weighs nothing, and you can buy dried seaweed salad if you like that sort of thing (I do). You’ll use this stuff for pizza, burritos, ramen, scrambled eggs, savoury bannock, biscuits…)
– Instant mashed potatoes (good on their own or on top of Shepherd’s pie or as a side dish with fish or turned into a weird potato breakfast pancake)
– Cheese (one giant brick of regular aged cheddar plus one smaller brick of your favourite hard cheese should be enough – portion into weekly rations, wrap in cheesecloth and a bit of vinegar, cut off the mold that grows after two weeks)
– Salsa (dehydrate that shit. Use with pulled pork or crackers. Herdez brand dehydrates really well because it doesn’t have any added oil)
– Dehydrated pizza sauce (fine from the can)
– 1 250mL container peanut butter (add to oatmeal, spread on a pita/bannock, eat by the spoonful…)

We like a drinky-poo. That said, this isn’t enough for us to ever get drunk or even tipsy. Rationing is important. I’ve got a couple recipes for mixed drinks up on this site… def. check out Blueberry Bourbon Smash.

For three weeks, this is our supply:

– 2 750mL Platypus bottles red wine
– 2 750mL Platypus bottles Bailey’s or equivalent (we like cream in our morning coffee, and liquor sure takes the edge off the morning [okay, that statement confirms me as an alcoholic]. Nice in hot chocolate aprés dinner)
– 2 750mL Platypus bottles whiskey (or liquor of your choice. Ensure it’s mixable with your Country Time/Kool-Aid prior to trip)
– 1 750mL bottle fancy Scotch (it’s important to remain civilized and drink this from a cup and not the bottle)
– 6 frozen tall boys beer/cider (they’ll defrost by the second or third day. Bring others for the first day if you are a waster like me. Crush cans when finished. We burn the cans in the campfire and pick them out every morning. Eventually they will disintegrate, or they’ll just end up in your garbage bag for the whole trip which really is nothing compared to the weight of them when full)

1. Versatility is important. For example, pulled pork can be consumed on its own, with biscuits, in a tortilla with veg & cheese & beans or as a raw jerky if you’re super desperate. Same goes for dried fruit/veg. Make sure you bring the stuff you’ll want in your meals over and over again. Sauces, too… I fucking LOVE hot sauce so I make sure I won’t run out of Sriracha.
2. Repeat the winners. If you love instant noodles, bring a ton of them. Make sure you have enough duplicates of the things you know you like instead of bringing random packets of stuff you haven’t tried/are iffy about. Since you’re out for a long time, feel free to bring something you’re not sure about yet/want to experiment with and give it a whirl but don’t rely on food you’re not familiar with.
3. Do not underestimate the booze supply. If you have a drink or two a night, plan for at least one extra. There will be days you’re stuck under your tarp with nothing to do but sing the blues and you need moonshine in order to sing the blues. Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it could be considered unnecessary by those ultralight marathoner-types who only care about getting from A to B. No, you won’t regret it, even if it means an extra walk over the portage.
4. Chocolate is a valuable trade commodity. A few years ago I tried to dispose of and hide several bars of chocolate from my partner before our trip. He caught me in the act. It’s a good thing he did, because we used those to trade for a tent pad 8 days later. Without that chocolate, no one would have reason to offer to share a campsite.
5. Consider a food drop. Temagami Outfitting Co. and Smoothwater Outfitters are out there shuttling and organizing all season long. If you want to arrange a food drop and they’re planning on being nearby, it’s pretty simple to give them a call and get them to receive your mailed food-drop and leave it at a designated pick-up spot. This is what we’ll be doing this year. Carrying three weeks of food over Temagami’s portages is not a fun prospect – take it from someone who’s been there.

I hope this is helpful! If you want any specific recipes, let me know in the comments section.

3 thoughts on “Packing food for a 3+ week canoe trip

  1. Hi there Tierney,

    I was trying to find where you mentioned which food dehydrator you use but I gave up Ctrl + F’ing around your website. I think it was the Hamilton Beach one but I’m not sure.

    Thank you!
    Have a nice summer

    • Hi Anna,

      I have two dehydrators. Both are cheap. One is a Salton VitaPro and the other is an American Harvest SnackMaster. The VitaPro goes up to a hotter temp than the SnackMaster so it’s better for meats/sauces/stews. I line both with parchment paper.

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