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Accommodating Dietary Restrictions on Rafting Trips

Traveling with dietary restrictions can be stressful–especially while on a backcountry rafting trip where someone else is preparing your food. At the end of the day, we don’t think that “meal anxiety” should stop anyone from joining river trips!

For years, we have accommodated vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free (GF) diets as well as a variety of food-based allergies. Meals take time to plan and shop for, and our guides do their very best to accommodate preferences and restrictions.

Still, we do need a little pre-trip help from our guests to make sure everyone feels full and satisfied! To help set yourself up for success–and to help our staff accommodate your dietary needs–check out the guide below!

Kids love fajita nights on the river
Fajita nights are a staple menu item on the river

How to Inform Us of Your Dietary Needs

To start, you’ll need to let us know about your dietary needs. The best way to help your crew is to inform our office staff about your diet well in advance of your trip. This can be achieved through your personal registration forms under the “Dietary” section.

When typing out your notes, do not skimp on the details! If you follow a gluten free diet, but dislike GF breads, let us know! If you are vegan but despise mushrooms, jot it down. While we cannot promise every single request, it’s better for us to know these details early so we can plan. We would hate to grill up some portobello mushrooms just to find out you can’t stand them!

“I don’t know how they do it but they manage to cook phenomenal gourmet meals and desserts that are to die for in their camp kitchens on the river.”

Our office staff will relay any dietary notes to our guides. Keep in mind that we shop for food at small, local markets. These markets may not have the same variety of options as larger chain-grocery stores. If there are any specific requests (ie. a specific brand of GF bread, your favorite veggie burgers) or diets that we cannot accommodate, we may ask you to bring some of your own food. We will make space for any foods you’d like to bring! Just let us know in advance in case we need to pack an extra cooler.

If you have more detailed notes that you would like to discuss with staff, call or email our office. We will probably have some questions for you as well, so we’re more than happy to chat!

Allergies and Intolerances

“An exceptional experience for our group! Food allergies handled with excellence and can’t wait to return!”

The most frequent dietary restrictions we find on our trips are related to food allergies and intolerances. Since there is a pretty wide spectrum of allergic reactions a person can have, it is hard for guides to plan meals if they don’t have all allergen details.

Breakfasts on the river are hearty meals that help provide energy for active rafters

For those with food allergies, you should fill out your dietary notes by addressing questions such as:

  • What are you allergic to?
  • How severe are your reactions, and do you require an EpiPen?
  • Can you pick around the foods you are sensitive to, or will cross-contamination lead to a reaction?
  • What symptoms do you experience if you consume an allergen?

For example, instead of writing “nut allergy,” write something similar to this:

“Allergic to peanuts, but all other nuts are fine. I break out in hives whenever I eat them, but I’m okay if other people eat peanut products near me. I will bring an Epi-Pen and nut-free granola bars.”

The more detail you give us, the better prepared we will be when planning out meals! Though we are extremely careful when preparing food for those with allergies, it’s good practice to provide your symptoms. Our guides will be better prepared to help in the field if they know what symptoms to look out for in case of an allergic reaction.

Gluten Free

Whether you are gluten intolerant or celiac, we are usually able to accommodate guests who need Gluten Free meals. Just be honest about your diet being a preference vs due to a more serious underlying condition. Our guides will take extra precautions to prevent cross-contamination for someone who is celiac versus someone who just prefers GF items.

“As a family with two celiacs, we have never experienced this level of care and attention to our safety and enjoyment of our food options.”

Since our meals are based on fresh proteins, fruits, and veggies, finding GF substitutes is relatively easy. GF English muffins make for delicious breakfast sandwiches while other GF breads go perfect with deli lunches. If you prefer to avoid GF alternatives, we are happy to supply lettuce wraps at lunch or extra veggies for dips. Just let us know in your registration forms!

Deli Meals
By using lettuce wraps or GF bread, deli lunches make for a great meal that anyone can enjoy

Vegetarian & Vegan

From veggie burgers to tofu scrambles, vegetarian and vegan meals are often requested on our river trips. We even have guides that follow these diets as well!

“Normally when you leave the backcountry you crave some kind of food. I was so well fed and so many vegetables I was left with no cravings.”

For breakfast, we will always have items such as coffee, fruits and cereals for everyone to enjoy in the morning. Hot breakfasts may include tofu scrambles for vegans or French toast for vegetarians. Black bean fajitas, veggie burgers, and grilled portobello mushrooms make excellent lunches and dinners that will satisfy anyone!

Bruschetta appetizers make a great vegetarian-friendly snack before dinner

In general, we assume that a vegetarian will not eat meat, but can eat animal byproducts (ie. eggs, dairy, honey). We also assume that a vegan will not consume any food derived from an animal (ie. meats, eggs, dairy, honey).

If you are mostly vegetarian or mostly vegan, but sometimes consume items that don’t traditionally fit your diet, let us know! We often have vegetarians who enjoy eating fish while camping. We have also had vegans who like to eat eggs every now and again. Whatever notes you’d like to give us, please let us know!

Final Thoughts

When accommodating diets on our river trips, the mantra is “all details matter.”

Guests are sometimes worried about coming off as “too excessive” with food notes. If eating certain foods goes against your ideals or may make you sick,  there is no such thing as excessive detail!

We would much rather know everything about your diet now as opposed to during the trip. The sooner we know about your restrictions, the better. We work hard to satisfy all palates on our trips. If there is anything you need us to know, please write it in your dietary notes so we have a written record of your dietary restrictions!

Originally Published: | Updated on | Categorized under: Food & Recipes

Post Author

Madison Montgomery

With a background in ecology and conservation, Maddy has spent the last several years working in various fieldwork roles across the US. Though she is an Indiana native, she is thrilled to be living in the Pacific Northwest where she can hike, camp, and spend time exploring the outdoors with her dog, Kelly.