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Need menu ideas for a rafting trip

We go on an annual white-water rafting trip with a group of friends where each team (4-5 people) cook one dinner for everyone. I have done various pastas, steaks, chili, jambalaya (that was a good one), fruit cobblers (dutch ovens), fresh bread... I need a new killer idea and Chowhound is the place to go. I really don't want to be like that one guy who brought frozen pizzas (I can't remember his name because he wasn't invited back!)

Here are the parameters:
1. 25 people
2. Wilderness camping, everything in on a raft.
3. Could be as long as 6 days from home before it gets cooked
4. As much prep as possible at home
5. Pre-freezing the components works the best
6. Pre-dinner cocktail and appetizer suggestions greatly appreciated
We have propane and charcoal, no open fires allowed.

Thank you in advance for your time.

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  1. christ on a bike. good luck!

    1. I'd plan on shrimp kebabs. They cook quick and can be marinated before put on the fire. Probably a rice salad side. That can be pre-cooked and served cold. That is a LOT of people and a LOT of meals. I've never done anything to that magnitude, except cooking at home. I'm sure other CHers will chime in.

      1. I did a 7 day, 105 mile raft trip with 12 others on 3 rafts, on the Middle Fork in Idaho, "the river of no return" and there is no opportunity to reprovision in the wilderness area. The memorable good eats that held up the best were salmon my BIL smoked in a contraption he made where the smoke box was a discarded refrigerator. Our ice lasted 3 days, the salmon were quite good through day 5.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Veggo

          We finally (after many years in the lottery) pulled a permit for the main Salmon - the river of no return. So excited. Smoked salmon would be a great idea.

          1. re: pchapman

            My niece is a professional guide on the Salmon, this is her third year. You are doing a private trip, her mom (my sister) has run the river many times and she quipped "keeping food fresh will be the least of their problems". The frozen items will last the duration, she recommended against large whole roasts that take a lot of time to thaw. Divide food coolers, cooking equipment, and essential gear among as many rafts as possible. We had only one overturn and we did lose a lot of gear. There are a few sections where one can catch and keep trout caught on barbless hooks, I caught a dolly varden and a cutthroat legally and we shared a nice appetizer. Wear 1/4 inch neoprene booties, I didn't and I used my second cup of morning coffee to pour into my sneakers. At the Flying Bee Ranch half way down you will be able to buy a six pack of beer, and by then you will want it. It's a great trip, and the water level this season looks promising.

        2. Pulled pork freezes well. You can slow smoke the sucker, but a simpler method is a long braise in aromatics, shred the meat (include fat and skin for flavor), mix in your favorite BBQ sauce, freeze in containers. Good on bread or on its own.
          Along the same lines as chili, baked beans also freeze well. Good as a side, or again, on its own.
          Re-reading your post, you would like a new killer idea...don't know if pulled pork or beans would be considered "killer" or "new"...
          Just an idear, but a pricy one. You could de-bone a prime rib, season with montreal steak spice, tie the ribs back onto the roast. Keep in fridge overnight. Next day sear in hot 500F oven for 1 hour. Let come to room temp, wrap and toss in deep-freeze. It'll take 3-4 days to defrost in cooler on the way there (longer if you keep it iced). Day of use, remove ribs, slice prime rib (its raw in the middle) and finish on the grill. Grill the ribs as well and serve individually.

          1 Reply
          1. re: porker

            Good idea, I'll put that on the list.

          2. for 25, big pots meals are your friend. I would use tetra pack tofus and put them in curries along with some durable veggies (thai eggplant, carrots etc.) Prep your curry paste ahead of time.

            cooking rice over a campstove for 25 would be sketchy, you can try quiona, couscous or even noodles.

            app. can be duck confit pieces over some bagged taro chips and a bit of condiment in a squeeze bottle.

            1. I take it your "raft" is actually the Queen Mary.

              1. When we RV, I prep chicken fajitas, hamburgers and steaks ahead and freeze, some in marinade, and use the ziplocs as ice packs in the cooler.

                Definitely a chili would work. You can do baked stuffed potatoes ahead an freeze individually. And a tri tip roast, if you can get it, just season before freezing. A big roast will take a few days to thaw completely anyway. Have fun!

                1. I have done this for a river trip. Great idea to spread it around it is tough for one person to do most of the meals. At some point people should share their menus so you can plan sequence, avoid dupes, packing order etc. Some things we put together were old standbys like stews but with a small twist - a Mexican style with smoked chiptles, potatoes and pork. Chili made Cincinati style and served with (pre) boiled noodles reheated, shredded cheese, beans and chopped onions. Raw bulgolgi frozen in the marinade, used as ice packs until thawed then grilled and served with instant rice. Prebaked meatloaf, sliced thick and reheated in a tomato sauce. A great option is things that can be served over toasted slabs of good bread like bean and vegetable stews, grilled sausages, peppers and onions etc. Desserts that were popular were made ahead fruit fillings either baked in simple bisquick cobblers or over toasted slices of premade pound cake. Thick things or ones that take a long time are hard - baked potatoes buried in the coals sound like a good idea, takes forever. Same with grilled corn on the cob. Squishy things like fresh tomatoes or bananas should either be avoided or eaten in the first few days. Soups are great for breakfast, those instant miso soup packs are a nice day starter or a communal pot of good quality condensed with a bag of frozen vegetables or leftover rice stirred in. For appetizers, if you are packing pita bread for sandwiches, split them and toast over a fire, serve with hummus, salsas and the old quick app of a can of rotel tomatoes (you could freeze that in a baggie), a brick of frozen chili and a big chunk of cubed velveeta all heat and stirred together make a easy hot queso. Have a great time!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tomatoaday

                    We do the bul gogi thing also. Really easy and yummy. Can also do carne asada the same way as described above.

                  2. Boy, I read this when first posted and have been mulling it over. I work summers as licensed Registered Maine Guide for ocean kayaking trips of 3-5 days. I'm intimidated and stymied by both the number of people (I'm limited to 12) and the length. I prefreeze many items and use the fish first, then chops. The smoked prime rib, salmon and pulled pork are all excellent. If you can get ahold of some form of dried beef, save it til the end, just in case, and make chili. Use the most perishable veggies first and take lots of cabbages, radishes, onions, carrots, garlic, jalapenos and spuds; lots of good cookin' combinations there. Bacardi 151 and Tang is a basic survival ration, especially for the cook! Have fun. And don't paddle like my brother.

                    1. Last time we went camping, a friend made tom yam soup. It was a great change of pace from the typical fare. If you use a jar of commercial tom yam paste and boxed or frozen stock, it couldn't be easier.

                      On the same note, a Thai curry might work well. Again, using a commercial paste (I like Mae Ploy) makes it incredibly easy.