Food Planning For A Boundary Waters Canoe Area Trip

Food planning for a BWCA canoe trip. Don't bring too much!

Food planning for a BWCA canoe trip. Don’t bring too much, travel light!

Food planning for a boundary waters canoe area trip is no small thing.  My BWCA trip for May is coming fast, and recently I have been thinking about the food I should bring with me.  I plan on doing some fishing, mostly going after lake trout, with the intent to cook up a few for eating.  But I don’t plan on consuming only fish.  In fact I only plan on eating fish for a couple meals.

The plan is to spend four nights in the wilderness.  I will need to bring with me enough for four full days, plus half of another day.  While I do plan on catching fish to eat, it’s not a guarantee I will in fact catch anything (not likely, I have been fishing every year of my life since I was four).  So I plan on bringing enough food to cover all meals, just in case.

Food Planning For A Boundary Waters Canoe Area Trip

The way I see it, I have three solid options for my meals; bring along easy to carry freeze dried food such as a Mountain House brand, bring along fresher, bulkier and heavier meal prep items (bacon, bread, eggs, potatoes, peanut butter, summer sausage, etc… you get the idea) that I buy and pack and cook, or buy a food meal plan from the outfitters I plan on renting my canoe from.

As for the last that was mentioned, some outfitters will provide full meals.  You can usually choose between freeze dried meals or fresh food meals.  They will pack them for you and provide everything you need to prepare their meals, including a propane cook stove, dishes, and all the fixings!

Freeze dried meals pack smaller and lighter, which is nice.  But there is something to be said about eating fresh food even though it tends to be more of chore to haul such food items into the BWCA.

As mentioned in other posts I plan on base camping.  So packing in some extra items, such as fresh food, may not be that much of a hassle.  I only plan on portaging into the BWCA two lakes, and the portages are short.  So it might be nice to bring in some fresh food.  But do I want to haul in all fresh food for every meal, or just for a handful of meals?  I can easily split up my food between freeze dried and fresh if I so choose.

Freeze Dried Food Versus Dehydrated Food

You may have seen food packs at outdoor stores that say either freeze dried or dehydrated.  There is a difference between the two.

Dehydrated Food:  The dehydration process removes around 90-95% of the moisture content in the food.

Freeze Dried Food:  This process removes around 98-99% of the moisture content in the food.

The big difference between the two is the storage longevity between the two.  Freeze dried food has a longer shelf life of 25 to 30 years.  Dehydrated food will store for around 15 to 20 years.

Is Outfitter Supplied Food Expensive?

I guess it depends what outfitter you use.  The one I am looking at using, which I will name later after I make my canoe rental reservation for my May trip, is actually pretty affordable.  They have a menu selection process on their websites you can use to select what each and every meal will have, along with beverage types.

The food on the menu I checked out was fairly elaborate camp style foods and snacks.  Enough to keep you full and running on energy.

Breakfast items included bacon, eggs, oatmeal, granola, biscuits and gravy, hash-browns, and cereal with milk to name a few.

Lunch items consisted of wraps and sandwich type fare; summer sausage, P&J, tuna etc…, but included brats as well as Mac & Cheese choices.

Dinner selections included chili, steak, brats, beef stroganoff, spaghetti, various side dishes, as well as desserts.

On top of all that you get to select some beverage and snack choices through the day.  The outfitters would supply it all to me in a separate carry device, such as a food barrel pack.  The cost for food through the outfitters if I do the food with canoe rental would be around $100 for 5 days ($20 per day).

Freeze Dried Camp Food Costs

Boil up some water, add to dehydrated food pack, let it sit for several minutes, then eat right out of the pouch. Little cleanup, minimal trash.

Boil up some water, add to dehydrated food pack, let it sit for several minutes, then eat right out of the pouch. Little cleanup, minimal trash.

I checked online with Amazon for a variety of dehydrated and freeze dried camp foods.  I am familiar with Mountain House, as I have eaten their freeze dried food before, and like it.

Costs of supplying myself with only freeze dried meals through the day would be around $120 for five days ($24 per day).

The thing about dehydrated and freeze dried meals is that they pack super light.  You just need to boil water and add it to the food pouch for several minutes to re-hydrate the food.  I usually use my Solo Stove to boil up the water.

The cooking preparation is very easy.  The only item to get washed after such a meal is your eating utensil, and there is little trash left over to haul out – just an empty plastic food pouch.

While it costs a little more than fresh food, freeze dried food certainly has its advantages.  And like I said above, I like the taste of it.  I wouldn’t want to live on it for more than a handful of days, but it does get the job done of keeping a person fed and feeling full.

You can even get side dishes and deserts to go along with your main course entree.  Mountain House makes great freeze dried food, and has some great prices over on Amazon.

What Will I be Taking With Me For Food On My BWCA Trip?

I actually plan to bring some fresh food as well as freeze dried food.  On top of that, I plan to bring a few items I will need to cook a couple fish meals: A small 8″ camp fry pan, a small plastic container of cooking oil, and some shore-lunch mix.  I also plan to bring some tin foil and wrap a couple trout fillets with onion, butter, potatoes, and some spices and cook them on the fire hobo-style.

Aside from that, I plan on bringing in a steak to eat my first night in camp.  My first morning in camp I will have some bacon and eggs.  A morning meal of flapjacks is always a treat while camping as well.  Those items will be easy to pack in and will get eaten first.

My other meals will be Mountain House food pouches and some small snack items such as nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, and some jerky.

I’m not going to utilize the food supplied by the outfitter at all.  I can pack all the food I mentioned above into a single food pack that will fit inside my SealLine 115L pack.  The fresh food I will eat with 24 hours of being in the BWCA.  The fish, if I am lucky and skilled enough to catch some, and I should be, will supplement a few meals during my trip.  The freeze dried food will cover everything else, and I’ll bring one or two extra in case I don’t catch fish.

Of course I’ll also be bringing along some some pre-prepped ingredients for making bannock bread as well!

UPDATE: 5/8/19, check out my review of Keto friendly dehydrated food by Next Mile Meals when clicking here.


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