Tips for Your River Trip Kitchen

Tips for Your River Trip Kitchen

Matt Gerhardt

1. Table

2. Hand Wash

3. Trash / Recycle

4. Dishes

5. Kitchen Items

Grand Canyon Rafting

So you want to rough it in the wild? You may be surprised to learn that even us river rats have a standard organization and cleanliness to meet, which helps keep both trip-goers and our outdoor stomping grounds healthy.

The kitchen is the heartbeat of your camp. How it’s set up and flows is important for ease for the kitchen crew. Also, a hygiene misstep here could lead to an uncomfortable trip for your whole group (not to mention wreak havoc on your groover—we’ll get to that later). This is how we set up camp, but obviously there are many options.


  • Grab your camp table that doubles as a seat on your boat to be the center of the kitchen. Use this table for the stove(s) for cooking. If you have multiple you can set up an L shape for feng shui.
  • Off the back side of the large camp table set up the dish drying rack and wash set up, more on that down stream!
  • Put the kitchen box under or near the table for easy access to cooking tools, plates, and utensils.
  • Roll-A-Table or something similar to host the cocktail and appetizers.

Hand Wash Set Up

  • A handwash station set up with two 5-gallon buckets is the easiest way to do this. The bottom bucket has “clean” water; I usually use river water to save on drinking water. The top is to catch the dirty used soapy water.
  • Suds up with biodegradable soap or before and after handling food, as well as, after visiting the groover!
  • If you are local to Durango, check out WeFill for awesome choices of biodegradable soap.

Trash/Recycle Set Up

  • Track down a collapsible trashcan or a gamma seal bucket to use at camp. Have one for trash and one for recycle.
  • Once it’s time to rig then move the trash into an old dry bag or ammo can while on the raft. Old burlap or potato bags work well for recycle.
  • Kitchen crew is also responsible for the trash/recycle for that day.

Dish Wash Set Up

  • Supplies: 3-4 Chicky Pails or Jack’s Water Bucket, biodegradable dish soap, sponge, bleach, Woodland Blaster Stove (to heat up the chicky pails)!
  • Set up buckets near the dish drying rack and we like to go “downstream”, meaning the last bucket downstream is the rinse.
  • 3 Bucket System: 1. Food rinse (river water), get all scraps off. 2. Suds and scrub up (hot river water) with biodegradable soap. 3. Bleach rinse (hot water, 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water).
  • 4 Bucket System: 1. Food rinse (river water), get all scraps off. 2. Suds and scrub up (hot river water) with biodegradable soap. 3. Bleach rinse (hot water, 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water). 4. CLEAN WATER RINSE to wash off bleach.
  • Air dry dishes before storing them. A drying rack is the easiest way to do this while keeping surfaces clear
  • Pour dirty dishwater into a flowing section of the river using a fine mesh strainer to catch the particles from each bucket.

Finish Off the Kitchen with…

Pro Hack: Leave all of your La Croix’s or Waterloo’s behind and bring a Soda Stream. You will save on space and the environment thanks you too!

Favorite Random Items for Kitchen Box

  • Old leather glove for the Blaster Stove
  • Can opener, spatula, and whisk
  • Zip locks and/or containers for leftovers
  • Chain Mail Scrubber for DO’s
  • A long lighter
  • Cutting board
  • Salt and pepper, or a small spices kit!


With an increase in idyllic adventure photos from IG’s outdoorsy influencers comes increased traffic to America’s previously lesser-known wilderness. Our riverbanks experience more and more traffic every year, increasing the importance of minimizing our impact when enjoying the natural world. Keep our wilderness wild by not including geotags in social media posts and observing the principles of Leave No Trace, a national standard for backcountry use:

  • Plan and prepare. Emergency situations often call for high impact solutions. When headed on a permitted stretch, read the info from the permitting agency which will highlight what requirements you’ll need to observe regarding waste management, cook methods, and so on.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces. Keep your hikes to the hiking trails and set up camp where there’s enough room for your group.
  • Dispose of waste properly. Pack it in, pack it out. Do a sweep every morning before push-off to collect any bits of microtrash such as small bits of paper or plastic, make sure your dogs have been cleaned up after, and leave each site cleaner than you found it.
  • Leave what you find. Whether it’s an antler, arrowhead, or a flower—allow others the sense of discovery by taking a photo instead of moving or taking objects of interest.
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire). Pay attention to fire regulations before leaving on your trip and use a fire pan to prevent a burn scar if open flame is allowed. Bring wood if the area might be scarce of firewood and pack out your ashes, mixing them with river water if needed to cool them before adding them to your trash bucket. Camp stoves are the way to go for the safest and lowest impact cook method.
  • Respect wildlife. Learn what animals you might encounter on your trip and come prepared accordingly, with a way to keep food and trash away from animals.
  • Be considerate of other visitors. Always in boating, do unto others as you would want done unto you. Discuss campsite selection with other parties, be aware of your noise level, and mind your pets.

Happy boating!

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