Introduction: 4 Days Camping - No Cooler

Picture of 4 Days Camping - No Cooler

Me and my family of four went back country camping for four days and five nights. Backpacked and canoed to an island where we stayed for the entire time with no cooler.
We purchased no food that would spoil without a cooler. We pumped our water from the lake and lived cooler free. This saved so much weight and space in our packs and canoe we could take less trips and saved time and money.

I missed the camping food contest. Help me win something from the survival contest.

Please Vote!


Comments welcome.

Step 1: Dehydrate Vegetables Using 5 Tray Dehydrator - Day One

Picture of Dehydrate Vegetables Using 5 Tray Dehydrator - Day One

Tomatoes, onions, red peppers, green peppers and mushrooms.

TIP: Place a piece of parchment paper on tray for easy clean up.

Step 2: Dehydrate Fruit and Vegetables in a 5 Tray Dehydrator - Day 2

Picture of Dehydrate Fruit and Vegetables in a 5 Tray Dehydrator - Day 2

Red onions, garlic, caned potatoes, and celery

Frozen berry mix, strawberries, mango

Step 3: Dehydrate Fruit and Vegetables in a 5 Tray Dehydrator - Day 3

Not pictured

Fry a couple pounds of ground beef.
Place on parchment paper in dehydrator. Dehydrate until light and crispy.
This was one of the best surprises of the trip. The ground beef once placed in water came back to life very very well and tasted great.

TIP: crumble fry beef and rinse off fat prior to dehydrating, this will give you a better longer lasting product. Some people but bread crumbs in it as well.

Step 4: Diner Package One - Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Picture of Diner Package One - Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Dehydrated vegetables:
Tomatoes, peppers, opinions garlic, and mushrooms
Dehydrated cooked ground beef (TIP: crumble fry beef and rinse off fat prior to dehydrating, this will give you a better longer lasting product)
Spaghetti pasta
Sauce sold in a resealable soft package (found @ Walmart)

Step 5: Rice Paper Wraps - Asian Night

Picture of Rice Paper Wraps - Asian Night

Rice paper wraps travel well and come to life with just water.
Rice paper
Avocado - buy a little raw and they ripen while you travel.
Carrots - pre-sliced in a ziplock
Cilantro paste (found in a non-perishable tube from Walmart)
Mr. Noodles. Cook noodles and save soup mix for a hot drink in a rain storm.
Peanut butter satay sauce saved in a small plastic jar.

Sweet chilli stir fri
Soft package of sweet chilli sauce.

Trick - per cook chicken and freeze inside a large thermos. This will keep you chicken safe for days.

Once ready to cook soak dehydrated veg in water all day drain once ready to cook.

Step 6: Taco Night

Picture of Taco Night

Using flat bread wraps,
Re-fried beans

Dehydrated cooked ground beef (TIP: crumble fry beef and rinse off fat prior to dehydrating, this will give you a better longer lasting product)

Cheese form cheese strings.

Step 7: Pancakes

Picture of Pancakes

Just add water.

Step 8: Other Meals

Tuna casserole
Can mushrooms

Beef stroganoff
Dehydrated beef
Hamburger helper


Moravian (author)2017-04-11

THIS IS AWESOME! I have been looking for solutions for food on Motorcycle camping trips (no room for a heavy cooler) so this is perfect for making my own MREs. Any solutions for cheese? I know that is a vexing issue for anyone making cooler free food.

chadovision (author)Moravian2017-04-11

We use cheese strings, Gouda (wrapped in Wax) and baby bell cheese (wrapped in wax). These kind of cheese don't seem to mind being out of the fridge for a week or so.
You can then use the wax as fuel to help keep your fire going in bad weather.

ty520 (author)2016-05-10

beef jerky is always a good go-to for protein

Cat00x (author)2016-04-23

You can also cut cheese into chunks and wrap with cheesecloth then dip in melted parrafin wax. It will keep without refrigeration and you can make smaller portion sized chunks to make it last. Even leave a string hanging out for easy opening.

chadovision (author)Cat00x2016-04-25

Cool tip.

PrimevilKneivel (author)2016-04-21

Personally I find it easier to just amke the sauche at home and then dehydrate the whole thing at once. It'll come out like fruit leather, then just break it into pieces and add to some water and simmer in camp.

Thanks Evil - I plan on trying that this summer. thanks for the comment.

BlackSheep1 (author)2016-04-21

what is KD?

chadovision (author)BlackSheep12016-04-21

KD is macironi and cheese named Kraft Dinner in Canada

ToddT (author)2016-04-21

This came at the right time since I am planning on camping in the Rockies this summer and was planning on looking into how to go without a cooler. Great guide

chadovision (author)ToddT2016-04-21

Dream trip. Enjoy. I am glad I could help in some way.

BlackSheep1 (author)2016-04-21

what is KD?

bluetta (author)2016-04-21

you have my vote!

bluetta (author)2016-04-21

you have my vote!

bluetta (author)2016-04-21

you have my vote!

bluetta (author)2016-04-21

you have my vote!

bluetta (author)2016-04-21

you have my vote!

bluetta (author)2016-04-21

how cool is this... thats great thinking...

JohnW42 (author)2016-01-08

At home I use the air conditioner (air out) to dry root vegetables. They curl up in 24 hours.

AlQuaholic (author)2015-11-03

this is freakin' genius! thanks for this guide, it'll be nice to go camping without a heavy cooler for once

GrandmaCarolW (author)2015-09-25

I really like your ideas! I have tried dehydrating homemade chili - it took me darned near as long to rehydrate it as it did to cook the beans the first time! So now, I dehydrate everything except the beans and will use canned beans that I have emptied into a zip top bag complete with the liquid from the beans. The first time I rinsed the beans, but I discovered the liquid adds a little more flavor.

I find that can beans dehydrate and rehydrate well, but I've never had any luck with ones I cook myself

willr8 (author)2015-09-30

Nice Job! This is very creative, I am assuming that you are a cook. I dehydrate before camping trips as well, with the same dehydrator I think (is that a Nesco?). I am from the deep south, and have perfected dehydrating bases (gumbo, jambalaya, ettouffee, red beans). The amazing part is how well this stuff keeps; we have some packages of dried food all the time for just in case. Great stuff for preppers.

chadovision (author)willr82015-10-01

Thanks for the comments. I am going to start to work on bases next. This seams to be the next evolution of my meals.

gen81465 (author)chadovision2015-10-01

Excuse the pun, but to cover all your "bases" :-) try starting with some Herb-Ox Low Sodium Boullion. It comes in chicken or beef flavor (packets), and not only works well for a base, it can be added to water for a simple pick-me-up hot broth drink. On another note, a couple items that I like to use in my camp cooking are bacon bits, and summer sausage. Neither requires refrigeration.

chadovision (author)gen814652015-10-02

OK, Ya I use these and put them in my emergency "Survival Tins" I make. (future Instructable).

Thanks for the Pun!. Ha.

bikecommuter (author)2015-09-28

Well done! I voted for you.

If you have never come across, then it looks like you're ready for it. I used Chef Glenn's recipes to prep and plan our meals for a 57 mile High Sierra backpacking trip (see video link below). At 2:05 of the video you'll see what I think is the pineapple upside down cake. Each family brought their own food and everyone wanted to eat ours. Luckily I'd made plenty to share. The food was delicious. We were able to eat real food with real vegetables. And when you eat well you have more fun and you can stay out in the wilderness longer (although the post hike sandwiches were heavenly).

Hike video of the North Lake South Lake Loop:

chadovision (author)bikecommuter2015-09-28

This had been a great experience just posting this. I have had great feedback and awesome tips.

Thanks for the vote too.

Kiteman (author)2015-09-27

I've shared this with our Scout group, trying to shame them out of rucksacks full of dried noodles...

chadovision (author)Kiteman2015-09-28

Awesome! I just became a Scout leader myself.

Kiteman (author)chadovision2015-09-28

I'm Cubs myself, but one of my boys is an Explorer, the other has moved on to Network (UK system).

chadovision (author)2015-09-28

Good point queen.

Cat00x (author)2015-09-25

one thing I do (not a "heavy duty survive in the wild camper) is use boiling bags. Found a gizmo and bags at the hardware store. Make your beef stroganoff at home and seal in a boiling bag. All you have to do is boil the bag in water to heat the food. Then you have hot water to wash the dishes afterward. We also bag cooked noodles and rice. The bags are, of course, somewhat wasteful, the only down side. Freeze the food ahead of time and they help keep things cool and defrost slowly in a cooler.

chadovision (author)Cat00x2015-09-28

Cool, I will keep an eye out for them!

Cheese Queen (author)Cat00x2015-09-26

storing perishables in a boiling bag will not make them safe to keep without refrigeration. It might be okay for a day, but iffy after that.

Food poisoning is the wilderness is no joke.

judypalmer (author)2015-09-25

Hi - nice summary of possibilities, which are endless!!

Yogurt is another possibility -->

Another good resource is Sarah Svien Kirkconnell"s book -->

bethmwl (author)2015-09-24

Your pancake photo looks delicious. Can you explain further how it was made? Did you really cook pancakes and dehydrate them?

chadovision (author)bethmwl2015-09-25

I just used instant pancake mix. You mix it in teh ziplock bag then cut a small hole in one corner adn squezze out like they do decorating a cake.

gkowski (author)2015-09-24

Absolutely fabulous!!! My daughter and her family go camping a lot. Sent her this. i think she will love it.

borealboy (author)2015-09-24

Great post, we have been doing this for several years back country hiking with kids. We liked your trick of parchment paper. We have also had great luck with dehydrating chilli (low fat like ground beef technique) and pasta sauce.

chadovision (author)borealboy2015-09-24

It's key to keep the kids and spouse happy! We save so much weight this way it makes me happy too.
I'm going to try the sauce next. I never thought of chilli thanks for the tip.

bethmwl (author)2015-09-24

You got my vote.

chadovision (author)bethmwl2015-09-24

Thank you very much!

jtug69 (author)2015-09-24

Have to try this, hate having to keep buying ice

wesday (author)jtug69 2015-09-24

If you are going to a really cold climate, you can actually dehydrate your ice! Just put your dehydrated ice in a ziplock bag, then on your trip, just add water to the bag and let set overnight. The next morning you will have ice. I must stress, it has to be a really cold climate for this to work.

jwars (author)wesday2015-09-24

yes - just fill an empty bag with water and watch it freeze. dehyrdated ice - ha ha.

DeborahW7 (author)wesday2015-09-24

Sounds like a cool trick! But I would guess that in a really cold climate you would usually have ice to begin with :-)

wesday (author)DeborahW72015-09-24


DeborahW7 (author)2015-09-24

Awesome, thanks so much, will come back to this before the next camping trip!

I MP (author)2015-09-24

I teach a class on this topic titled "Your House, not Mountain House" so without in any way disparaging your Instructable I would like to add a few tips. I crumble fry ground beef, preferably 85/15, then place in a colander and rinse well with hot mater to reduce the residual fats. I do the same with homemade Italian sausage which I sometimes make with ground turkey. For spaghetti sauce I dehydrate homemade or canned pasta sauce and the crumble fried sausage or ground beef using a fruit leather insert in the dehydrator. For chili I use Bear Creek dry mix with dehydrated beef and chorizo added, To dehydrate chicken it needs to be cooked in a pressure cooker first in order to rehydrate properly or use canned.

Some staples I carry are items used to make up the
dishes or to add flavour..

selection of herbs and spices of your choice 2.Wondra
Quick Mixing Flour 3.Instant
Rice 4.Instant
Mashed Potatoes ( I prefer the different flavoured ones) 5.Baking
Mix 6.Instant
Nonfat Dried Milk 7.Extra
Virgin Olive Oil 9. Cheese powder 10. Dried onions 11. Dried garlic granules 12. Butter 13. Eggs The
last two items do not require refrigeration.

A good source for additional information is:

Trail Food: Drying and
Cooking Food for Backpacking and Paddling
Alan S Kesselheim, Ragged
Mountain Press The original title was: The Lightweight Gourmet

About This Instructable




Bio: Oh Canada!
More by chadovision:Apocalypse - Survival Prep: Bug-out bag - EDCLED Tape - Under Cabinet Lighting - No soldering!Back Country Prep: Tomato Sauce Leather
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