Editor’s note: Powder Keg does not condone drinking in excess on the river, especially in situations where there are rapids to be navigated. Know the state laws concerning drinking and boating on the river you are traveling, and know your own limits. Always put safety first, and always have a sober guide.
There’s nothing like a tasty brew on a relaxing float trip or when you eddy out for a snack. It’s a bit of a science to head out on a multi-day rafting excursion and still have a cold beverage in your fist when you’re unrigging the boat a week later, but with careful preparation, you can be drinking your favorite frosty, hoppy number long after you’ve forgotten what a hot shower feels like.
A friend and longtime rafting guide who has run everything from Brown’s Canyon to the Grand Canyon was kind enough to share his strategy for packing beer for long trips on the river. Initial cooler space should be used for food and ice only, he said.
“Starting out a trip with beer in a cooler is the mark of an amateur,” he said. “Your daily beer intake should be cooled in the river with a drag bag. Spend some money here; don’t go cheap and use a mesh laundry bag. That’s a guaranteed recipe for shedding some serious tears.”
Coolers should be packed by the day, he said. For example, all food for Camp 1 through Camp 3 should be in the same cooler. By Day 3, you have a cooler only containing ice. Spread this ice to other coolers or use for cocktails — margarita night! Now you have an empty cooler to fill with beer and cold river water. Beer that hasn’t found a home in a cooler or drag bag can be tied up in sacks and loaded into every spare spot on the boat, my boating buddy said.
“Best thing in the world are woven poly pro sacks like you’d find full of grain in a tack store. Burlap sacks are great, too,” he said. “Best part is they are perfect to fill up with your crushed cans — that’s called presorted recycling, baby.”
What beer you pack for your trip is a matter of personal preference, but with all of the great microbrews that are now available in cans, be sure to supplement your stash of Busch Light and PBR with some Colorado flavor. My rafting cohorts suggested everything from Mama’s Little Yella Pils to Colorado Native. I like to hide a few microbrew cans here and there, diamonds in the rough. It’s like sending yourself flowers when you find them a few days later.
All of these beer-handling provisions will be for naught if you don’t have a way to protect your beer once it is open. Invest in a River Betty — a fancy doohickey that pulls a lid over your can when you set it inside to keep river water out — or rig your own beer-secure contraption. This can be anything from a heavy foam Koozie with a piece of rope taped to it to wear around your neck to improvising with the front gear pocket on your PFD or, for the ladies, your wonderful, can-holding cleavage.
Don’t forget your river knife and a fistful of limes. If the unthinkable occurs and you find yourself with a warm beer, a few minutes in a drag bag and a wedge of lime will make it palatable again.