Considerations When Camping Without a Cooler

Introduction

Having gone to several week-long SCA events (2 Lilies Wars, and 1 Gulf Wars) without a cooler, there are a number of things that I've learned to think about when planning such a trip.

 

Menus

The first thing to think about is what food items you'd like to bring. Are there any particular dished you'd like to prepare? Can you mix-and-match different ingredients to make different meals?
These questions form the base of any extended food planning. As the majority of your food has an extended shelf life, there is an inherent level of flexibility. This holds doubly true for those with a knack of cooking on the fly.

 

Meal Times

The matter of timing meals is twofold. First is the matter of when meals are being taken. If cooking for others, be it for a single instance, or repeated over the course of an event, it's important to be coordinated with everyone. Otherwise, you would be free to take meals at your leisure. Once meal times are established, the second matter comes into play, cooking time. Generally speaking, preserved goods take much longer to cook than their fresh counterparts. This is especially true of meats, as a dried meats should be thoroughly boiled, sometimes even in several changes of water as with highly-salted meats.

 

Storage Requirements

While the goal is to go camping without the need for a cooler, and the regular ice refills required, there is still the need to have good storage solutions.

-Dried meats should be kept either packed in salt, or in a container that allows for some airflow. This will keep the goods in question dry, reducing the chance of accidental spoilage. Plastic zip-top bags can be used, but temperature swings can cause condensation to occur, introducing unwanted moisture.

-Dried goods that are not meat (biscuits, fruits, etc.) should also be kept in a container that allows for airflow. With sweet items, like fruits, it's also important to keep insects out. If going with store-bought goods, the packaged used is generally sufficient.

-Semi-dry meats/sausages can be kept in brine. Much like with the dry salt-packing, this helps keep the meat safe until needed for cooking. Alternatively, vinegar can be used, with a natural vinegar (wine or cider) being preferred over white distilled. If using vinegar as a medium for storage, it can be used on its own, or supplemented with salt or brine to form a sort of pickle.

When storing your food, it's also important to consider how often you'll be at your camp when you would be wanting food. Having portable options is important. Even if it's just a small stack of biscuits, some dried meat, and a drink syrup. Your stomach will thank you.

 

Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

With so many of your foods likely being dried or salted, your body may be starved for water. Drink plenty of water, and drink often. If plain water isn't your thing, there are a number of drink syrups common in the Middle Ages, including sekanjabin, a sweet and sour drink made from vinegar and a sweetener like honey. Sekanjabin also tends to include flavorings like mint or various herbs and spices, mix it up, and make it to suit your tastes. Because of its ingredients, and how it's a reduction, it has a substantial shelf life, with a little going a long way.

It is also important to be aware of how your body may interact with the foods you may bring. Does your body not appreciate high levels of fats or salts? Are you particularly susceptible to the stopping power of cheese? Does cheese not impede you?

 

Conclusion

While this isn't a comprehensive guide by any stretch of the imagination, as I'm almost always learning more and more, I've tried to cover the critical points. I hope it serves as a guide for those you wanting to try your hand at camping without a cooler. It can be a rewarding experience, and one that isn't so daunting once the proverbial curtain is pulled back on preparing food for such a trip.

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