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Foods for camping... without a cooler

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, I'm new here, so please forgive me if I'm asking this in the wrong place.

My girlfriend and I are going on a road trip across Canada, and doing a lot of camping. Since we decided to bring our dog along, there is no room for a cooler in the car. So now we have the task of figuring out what kinds of foods we can bring. We have the basics covered (oatmeal, peanut butter, instant noodles, powdered milk, mac & cheese, beef jerky, etc.), but I'd like to do some more interesting things. Please keep in mind that space is a major concern (we're likely to not bring many fresh veggies/fruits, if any).

Anyone have any suggestions? I'm especially looking for any tips on what meats I can bring along sans-cooler.

Also, does anyone know if Miso paste can keep at room temperature? Thinking of doing a miso soup recipe that I got off of :lips:

Thanks everyone!
post #2 of 26



Actually Spam can be prepared 8 zillion ways. Just ask any Hawaiian.

I guess knowing how long your trip is would be useful (how many days worth of meals?) as well as time between re-stocking. You parking and packing or operating out of your vehicle? I mean, do you need light stuff to hike with? Hey, what about dehydrated water? :crazy:

Aside from that. You might want to look into those rehydratable dinners that you find in the camping section of Wally World. They've had tons of time to perfect them. You can jazz them up with various personal touches like spices and whatnot. You'd also get some vegetable matter. (I don't think I've had a TV dinner in decades that I didn't do something to.) I believe I saw a variety of dehydrated meats, like chops and burgers. I can't verify how they taste but like I said, I'd probably do something to them anyway. Like smother a burger in a good chili sauce and wrap it in a tortilla.

I've also seen packets of pre-cooked beef in various forms. I haven't really looked for them so I don't know if they still exist, but you can put them in soups, stews, taco's ...

You could also look into dried chipped beef. (yeah, SOS) Maybe experiment with some recipes using re-hydrated jerky. I know I've seen some of those also.

Dinty Moore has long shelf life dishes that are pretty good. No refrigeration needed. My trucker son told me about this one. Limited refrigeration space so he's always looking.

You mentioned a space limitation (um...not to pry, but what's the dog going to eat? dog food is bulky) and I don't know how critical weight is, but there's a nice variety of canned meats, chillis, good ol tuna and noodles is nice.

Some health food sections have a wide variety of dried vegetables.

If you are operating out of your vehicle you might want to invest in a clamshell. You can find reasonable ones and it gives you a lot more space in addition to your trunk.

Anyway, hope some of this makes sense.

post #3 of 26
Dried salted duck legs! Shelf stable and delicious. (Available at Cantonese markets.)

Steep in simmering water for 10 minutes. Discard water and refill and bring back to simmer, adding dried wild mushrooms and flavor packet from mushroom risotto mix. After 10 minutes, add sufficient water and the risotto mix. Cook per directions.

Viola! Duck Leg and Wild Mushroom Risotto. (My Boy Scout Troop picked up on this creation after I made it on a backpack trip for us adults, and it became their favorite pack meal.)

post #4 of 26
There's all kinds of canned meat product besides SPAM also :) Potted meat, err, spotted dick, liver pate, stuff like that.

You can do dried fruit, lox, dried mushrooms, pasta of course.
post #5 of 26
The freeze dried/dehydrated foods are not your best choices. They have their place-mostly for light weight compact purposes- but there are better car-based options IMHO. None of these are great eating, but they're not horrible and useful to have in your repetoire if you do car camping where ice can run out. Do buy some powdered eggs. The contemporary versions are pretty good as dried foods go. If you eat fast food or visit convenience stores, stock up on mayo and mustard/ pickle relish packs. Do ask though and do make a purchase of some sort. YOu can also get these at Costco or some restaurant supplies. Shelf stable and packaged per use. Just what you need.

The MRE technology has improved and foods in that style are in your grocer. Shelf stable, cooked foods of generally higher quality than canned. And some MRE's aren't bad. I think the noodle ones are awful, but the whole meat cutlets such as cubed steak, chicken breast, ham and such are worthwhile. I also have a soft spot for the lemon pound cake. Nothing like a real pound cake but I like the one they make.

You'll find lots of kinds of Tuna and a few Salmon. Some actual crab too and chicken in these sorts of metallized plastic pouches. . Better quality than canned. And more expensive.

Rice-a-Roni has a couple of different flavors of rice. Uncle's Bens does too. Zatarains has a Jambalaya, Dirty Rice and a Red Beans and Rice. Some stews are also available from My grocers don't have it but others may. Even the micrwavable mac and cheese cartons.

Mix and match ,some tuna or chicken in a rice pilaf for example.

All of these types of food heat up easily on a dash board of a parked car.

2 cans corned beef hash, 1 can julienned beets, well drained with a little chopped onion and some pepper makes a decent red flannel hash.

Canned beans, spicy tomatoes (Rotel) and some fresh ground beef or sausage plus some seasonings can make a quick chili.

A can of chili, a can of stew, some canned mixed vegies, drained,some onion/garlic and spicy seasonings can create a navajo taco topping. If you're hurting for the ability to make a biscuit based fry bread, a non-pocketed pita would be OK. A guick toast on a griddle would be in order.

Creamed chipped beef as chipped beef is shelf stable, though made from powdered milk, it could get ugly. Rather than powdered milk, buy some super pastureized milk. It's shelf stable for months and just use it all up in one evening when you open it.

With that sort of milk, you can do instant pudding too.

Most organic/health food stores have an aisle full of cup of soups and other instant type things They're usually lmore interesting and taste better than the liptons and such in most grocers.

Ramen can be used in many ways, augmented with the foil/canned meats, eggs and other such things. There's a whole site devoted to ramen alterations. Most are scary, but about 1/3 have some limited potential.

As to freeze dried foods, I think you're better off buying some dried basics and combining them into things as needed. sells #10 cans of freeze dried hamburger, refried beans and such. Prep them in meal based sizes and make some burritos. Flour tortillas keep a while. Combine some freeze dried vegies and make some soup with some cardboard steripacked or canned stock. I believe they have lentils too. All of these cook quickly so the flavors aren't as well developed, but they're cheaper and more flexible than buying a prepacked dried meal.

That will get you started.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #6 of 26
I would imagine you will 'topping up' here and there. I think April pretty well nailed it. Very good advice, but we expect that from April. If you are going to carry any weight, let it be water. One never knows how potable it is. And the dehydrated veg. sachets. Small ones, they grow in the pot. There is nothing to stop you buying a lettuce or cabbage on the way, Just divide the lettuce and eat it. Bit of bottled dressing if it takes your fancy. Iceburg is best. Just bash its bum on the counter, or hood and the stalk can be taken out easily. and break it in half. And cabbage, hahahaha, need a knife for that, you may come across a slug, but that is just protein. Tinned meats, Spam, and ham, tuna, sardines, even meat stews are available. You will not starve. I hope you have a wonderful journey. kindest regards. Diane.
post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi AprilB, thanks for the reply. Okay, here are more details about the trip...

The trip will last about 1.5 months, from Toronto (home) to Vancouver, and back. We'll be staying in a few major cities, but in between them we're camping in provincial parks. Accordingly, we'll have our own site where we can park our car (Volvo S70) and have access to a firepit, and sometimes electricity and water. Most of the parks also have a general store where they sell basic stuff, but nothing too substantial. Consequently, we'll go without a major restock until we stay at a major city, which can be as long as 9 days.

Our dog is on a special diet, so yes, we're going to have to bring his dog food (not to mention his crate :suprise:, which is thankfully foldable), and yes it is very bulky. He's basically the reason we're really tight on space (weight doesn't matter too much).

Thank you for all the excellent advice. It is VERY much appreciate! Good call on the clamshell.
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the replies everyone! Tons of great ideas that I'm going to have to look into!
post #9 of 26
duch oven, yellow cake mix, canned peaches(or your fruit of choice), water.

Place the peaches(drained) in the duch oven, top w/ prepared cake mix, cover, place in coals and cover top w/ coals...about 40 min, or so later, viola, campfire cobbler.

Just make sure the top is done. You can add a little cornstarch to the peaches to bind things up a little if you prefer.
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
post #10 of 26
Don't forget the Bisquick. Can be used for many different things. Pancakes, biscuits, cobbler topping, dumplings, etc. A million and one uses in just such a situation.
post #11 of 26
A can of sugared soda works well too instead of the water, especially gingerale or lemon/lime. Dr pepper with cherrie pie filling and a chocolate cake is popular. in that style.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #12 of 26
Good call! Once did the peaches w/ a can of sprite as improv(since the rest was all beer) worked great.
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
post #13 of 26
Now then, I think all you good people are genius's.
post #14 of 26

soy protein chunks

you can buy these soy protein chunks in the health food store. We make them in a caribbean pumpkin curry which can last unrefrigerated a few days as long as its not super hot.
sautee alot of garlc, a few onions and some curry paste or powder, green cardamon seeds (crushed or ground slightly) add water and soy chunks, simmer for an hour or so, add some dry vegetable or chicken bouillon cubes (great way to travel with stock so to speak) more water and then chunks of the pumpkin simmer and eat with rice which is a good thing to travel with and make in small batches as you go.


(new use for pumpkin Diane???)

also buy a few frozen items along the way to use to keep things cool temporarily and then eat as you defrost/
Chef Tigerwoman

Stop Tofu Abuse...Eat Foie Gras...
Chef Tigerwoman

Stop Tofu Abuse...Eat Foie Gras...
post #15 of 26
Fantastic Foods makes a variety of pretty good mixes-Vegetarian chili is always a stapel on our camping trips. Their instant refried beans ( add boiling water, stir, & roll up in a tortilla w/salsa) and black beans are tasty as well as veggie burger and tabouli.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #16 of 26

MREs and such

As a backpacker who heads off into the wilds for two weeks at a time, I rely on freeze-dried foods, but they are expensive and, as an earlier poster noted, you can do better when weight is not an issue.

The MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) retortable pouches are a bit harder to get these days because of military demand, but you can usually order them (along with a good discount) from (who also stock a lot of freeze-dried stuff). There is a wide variety. LDP also has freeze-dried chicken breasts and hamburger patties from Mountain House which work well as ingredients. Freeze-dried peas are superior to the canned variety.

Retortable pouches of prepared Indian foods are also available at many ethnic grocery stores. Personally I do not find retortable rice puches worth the convenience.

Backpacker magazine has a regular column of camping meals, many of which do not require refrigeration.

Taco-flavored TVP goes well with canned beans and cheese (which will keep for quite a while) to make burritos or tacos. Packaged pasta sauces with dried pasta and a touch of canned protein (tuna, chicken) work well
or make a simple pasta sauce with olive olive, parmesan, garlic, and maybe a touch of lemon. (A well-known Italian pasta dish is based on sardines and raisins--pretty good, actually.) A nice camping paella can be made using canned chicken and and seafood with those freeze-dried peas and onion and garlic, using chicken base and a bit of saffron. Canned or freeze-dried chicken, gravy mix, and FD peas over packaged stuffing mix is another option.
post #17 of 26
Thread Starter 
I didn't expect so many replies! Thanks everyone!

Does anyone know where I can find MREs in Canada? Most of these places don't seem to ship outside of the US.
post #18 of 26
spices/dried herbs can help alot of food, viniager, honey and oil.....basics that can help improvise cooking.
Melissa's has cryovac beets, carrots and lentils already cooked....
Trader Joe's has alot of freeze dried fruits/veg, various dried fruits and nuts...sauces/meals/condiments....
Rissotto was mentioned it's a natural with dried shrooms
I've been picking up shelf stable cooked brown rice.....makes a mean fried rice in very little time. many will tell you to not leave eggs out but I'd take a chance and pack fresh eggs....
tea breads/quick breads for breakfast/snacks have a decent life.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #19 of 26

MREs to Canada

I checked our usual suppliers plus did a quick search on the 'net and, alas, Kuno seems to be right. I couldn't find anyone who ships to Canada nor did I turn up any Canadian suppliers of MREs (there MUST be some!). When I phoned the person I know in the business, he said that they had too many packages turned back by Canadian customs with no clear explanation of why, leaving him stuck with the shipping.

The one site I did find in Canada is
but the internal link to the page for MREs didn't work. You might drop them an email to see if they're still selling them.

There are also sellers of MREs (I think the Canadian Army has a different name, IMPs? or something) on eBay Canada, but I can offer no advice in that department.
post #20 of 26 this much info I think ,,,

I'd sit down and make a plan. Take all of this wonderful information from everyone and decide on menus. It sounds obvious but sometimes it's the simple things that get overlooked.

I'm not much at sticking with my own at home menu scedules (as opposed to when I work) and I'm pretty good at making it up as I go along because of my little personality quirk. would be a bad thing to be out in the middle of whoop whoop and not have something that is crucial to what you intend to make.

And Yeah, the bulk weight and volume is going to be water if you're not in a campground.

However in general I'm assuming you'll have access to water (potable).

9 days isn't that bad a stretch between filling your stores. You'd have some flexibility in that week +. You could make menus for the week and decide that day 5 looks more interesting on day 2. Unfortunately nobody is clairvoyant and knows that buying rice at .50 cents a pound at home is going to be more or less than another city. (Plus you're not going to have the opportunity to shop around to know one way or another.) So in that instance you're going to have to just trust your instincts (and not look in a shop for rice to rub it in that you could have bought it for .39 cents somewhere down the track) <I SO HATE THAT>

Make your menus and just make sure you have the ingredients for them. Have the freshest things early after your re-stock. Like if you want a nice steak or salad...Some things last a lot longer than you think. (obviously not chook or seafood) Dried shrooms are a wonderful thing. I like shitake. They make a great Italian sauce.

Would save on space too. Just plan for each week. Take inventory (yeah it sounds boring, but it's not that big of a deal) and make up the deficit with things you get at your next big city for the next week and a half stint. (Hey...are you going to that mega mall in Edmonton...AAAAHHH!

The fast food condiment idea (mini-marts are great for that, but I don't know about Canadian Mini-marts) is something that we've used. Not intentionally, but we would invariably end up with extra packets of s&p, mustard, mayo, ketchup...) Grab a handful, stuff it in our bag. We'd keep them in individual zip locks. (actually individual zip locks work great for extra underwear, dirty stuff, like might want to grab some extra boxes of various sizes)

Hidden Valley makes individual packets (tiny tubs) of ranch dressing. I don't think I've seen that in other types of salad dressings/dips. So I would expect that a few carrots, celery sticks or brocolli isn't out of the question (that is if you like ranch)

I don't know if Canada has it, but being a Commonwealth Country and all it might be similar to Australia. They have long shelf life milk in pint containers (well, the Aussie equivalent of a pint). I don't remember seeing it in Vancouver, but I'm guessing they might have some pretty hip stuff to that effect. (Poutine...yeah...! Oops...sorry, I digress yet again...)

You're in much better shape weather wise than if you were going to camp the Mojave Desert. The heat factor. In Oz also we would leave fresh eggs out for up to a week or more with no problems. Even in winter, uh, summer). Just find a cool safe spot to keep them. Don't forget some sort of oil or butter. 'I can't believe it's not butter' has a no-fat spray that is really great for flavoring (not cooking).

If you camp next to a stream, you can use a nylon net bag in the water with things you want to keep chilled. (obviously not unwrapped/like securely sealed veggies) A temp fix, but it works.

I wouldn't use a clam shell to keep things cool. It's on the roof and absorbing whatever heat there is. The trunk would be better for more heat sensitive stuff and the clam would be good for everything else. I'd also divide my items with cardboard boxes. Really good insulation. Even better they're free. You can get all kinds of sizes from any variety of shops. I've found liquor/wine boxes or paper products, like diapers, to be the sturdiest and the best. Solid bottoms, most have full tops. (can you tell I've moved a lot) Just ask the shop. (No poultry or meat products OR fruit boxes, please) Cardboard boxes are really good for dividing and separating dry goods, or really anything. (and dog food bags). Nice square jenga shapes. <grin>

It sounds like so much fun.

Any q's just ask.

Hope I can answer them.

post #21 of 26
I agree with the Spam as well. You can make little spam musubis...basically sushi rice and pan fried Spam slices with some teriyaki sauce. You can eat it cold or warm and they are small so you can save some space that way. Another good snack to possibly take are some of those nutrition bars. Again, if you're concerned with space...they are excellent snacks/breakfast subs. Good luck!
post #22 of 26

I have your solution....

The red cross gave these out after hurricane charley, they are really good. The box contains the meal, plastic fork knife, a pack of "mrs. dash" & unless you are on a salt free diet you will need the mrs dash seasoning pack, it has a chemical pad which you add the pack of salt water to, it creates the heat, you close everything back in the box & when it is done you have a good hot tasty meal to enjoy & fill you up. They are called heater meals..........
post #23 of 26
Same tech as MREs, just commercialized.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #24 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hey everyone, sorry for not replying earlier. We've been really busy preparing for the trip (we're still scrambling as I type this!), and I'm still organizing the meal plan. Unfortunately, it appears a lot of the good non-refrigerated stuff is not available in Canada (I couldn't find them in Toronto anyway).

We're leaving this coming Monday, and I just wanted to thank all of you once again.
post #25 of 26
Ziplocs are great to store repackage things and the lie flat whenyour shot on space.
post #26 of 26

It's "voila", not "viola".  A viola is a musical instrument.

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