Provisioning for a Long Trip

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What boggles the mind when confronting the task of provisioning for a long trip is the lack of a mental picture. How much food are we talking about? How many of us know how much we eat? When trying to lose weight, I can tell you about how many calories I consume in a day. When penny pinching, I can tell you how much money I have to spend on food each week. People who shop once a week for the household groceries have a good idea of how high the grocery cart will be heaped and how many bags they will carry to the car. But how much food does it take to feed four people for a week, or two people for a month? Most of us draw a blank.

Provisioning starts with what you DO know—about how much you usually eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For planning purposes, initially assume you are going to eat the same amount as you do on a typical day at home. We will do some rounding upward and add extra to accommodate the heartier appetite most people develop with all of that fresh air and exercise. (Trust me; no one with whom I have ever traveled has gone hungry, and I have always come back with food to spare.)

Provisioning also starts with what you like to eat. If you do not like instant oatmeal at home, you are not going to like it out there. You will eat the oatmeal if that is all there is to eat, but why put yourself in that position when there is so much to choose from that you DO like? This trip is supposed to be a pleasant experience; enjoyable food is part of it.

To avoid last minute hassles and to let food gathering fall comfortably into the rest of the trip preparations, I allow as much lead time as the duration of the trip. For a two week trip, I start bringing home the groceries two weeks in advance. Earlier than that, I decide what I want to eat and how much of it I will need. During the off season doldrums, I like to browse through cookbooks and collect ideas about good things to take paddling. Ingredients that are foreign to me or combinations that sound a little strange I would rather sample at home in advance. I make semi-organized master lists of ideas for things to eat. Then when a trip moves beyond the fantasizing to the planning stage, I take out the lists and have at hand a wealth of ideas for meals.

Next, take out a calendar and look at the dates of your trip. On each of those dates, write B, L, and D (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Now consult your itinerary. Let us say that you and your traveling companions are planning to meet after work Friday, drive to the town where you catch a ferry, stay there overnight, then board the ferry early the next morning for a two hour ride and several hours' drive to the put in point. Eating during that time is likely to be a combination of stops at McDonald's, a leisurely meal in the ferry's cafeteria, and munching in the car. Circle the letter for each meal you will be buying along the way. If you are going to stop at a farmers' market to buy picnic food just before lunch, circle that meal, too. In this way, follow your itinerary through the entire trip. When you are done you will have identified, by circling, each meal for which you will take money instead of food.

On month long trips in Alaska and on the British Columbia coast, I often have been away from towns for a couple of weeks. When I get to a town, I am craving tortilla chips, cold beer, and a cheeseburger with lots of lettuce and tomatoes. I will want to eat nothing but fresh food in town, and take some along for the next day. Doing so varies the menu so I do not get bored with the traveling provisions.

Count all of the uncircled numbers you have left. You have just found out how many of each—breakfasts, lunches, and dinners—you will need to purchase in advance and pack. If more than one person will be bringing food, this is the point at which it is most convenient to divide responsibility for meals. For instance, each person in a group of four might bring the makings of two breakfasts, three lunches, and two dinners (or whatever combination adds up to the total you have figured you will need). This is starting to look manageable, right? And this is the point when it gets to be fun. Get out those lists of good things to eat and see how many of them you can include on this trip. (Of course you can have something more than once if you like!) I usually include at least two breakfasts and two dinners that are very quick to fix and a couple of new things we have never tried. The rest are favorite camp foods that range from"production numbers" to very simple fare. Include plenty of variety.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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