Remember, there isn’t any refrigeration besides what you bring. When the ice melts, there’s no more cooler. Don’t open a cooler unless you have to. Ice melts faster while you look. Try to open coolers in the shade, early morning or evening. Prep your cooler in the moring for that days lunch, that way you will know what you need for lunch and where it is. Some trips keep all the cooler stuff for each meal in one bag, then just grab the bag. Some people like a “vegetable cooler,” “dairy cooler,” etc. That means every cooler is opened every day. Some trips pack by “day 1—3,” “day 4—5,” etc. so that only one cooler is opened at a time. As a cooler is emptied of food, any ice left over goes into the next cooler. Boat rowers should drain coolers daily.
Dry food is perishable too if it gets wet. Many 'dry' boxes don't stay that way during a flip or even a serious splash. It is worthwhile packing everything in one or two layers of zip lock bags. This includes food already in airtight packets such as coffee - just put the whole package in a ziplock. One more layer helps. (also worthwhile for toilet paper...) Anything in paper packaging such as cereal, rice, cake mix etc should have the box thrown away before the trip starts and any instructions cut off and added inside the ziplock bag. They will take up way less space as trash too that way.
Lots of perishable fruit and vegetables can be kept in crates that are stored under the decks out of the sun, they don't mind getting wet it helps them keep cool. These include onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, avocados, oranges, apples, melons. Bananas too will last a day or too out of sight of the sun. If your deck covers are actually tables you will want to cover them additionally. You do need to think about critters when it comes to food in crates. Some people bring burlap sacks or rice bags to keep them covered. Ring tailed cats are quite adept at taking bites out of things in crates even if you are sleeping on the boat. As you empty the crates, you can fill them with recycled cans, plastic bottles etc.
Eggs will keep in a regular rocket box for four weeks. The box does not have to be kept out of the sun. It's worth filling any space at the top of the box as you use them up with something soft, perhaps bread.
To see a handout put together by Matt Walburger, National Park Service Public Health Program Officer, on food storage and management, check out the two page Public Health River Guide.
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