No cooler, camping with vegetables

Not talking about uncool paddlers with no brains and plain personalities, but the vegetables you’d eat for dinner, if they don’t go rotten.

I don’t plan to take a cooler, and my question is how long will fresh vegetables last with day time high around 80, and low around 50 overnight. I know, some vegetables do better than others.

Spinach. I’ll use this the first night out.

Green beans, sealed in a zip lock, I’m thinking will go to day 3. Carrots probably hold well

How long do you think a green pepper will last?

How long for zucchini?

Please suggest anything that you think will last a long time in an open canoe.

TIA, Chip

Let the produce section be your guide
If your supermarket keeps a veggie in a cooler/mister then it needs to be kept cool.

Things that are kept on the tables in the middle get on ok without being cold.

Taters will last a long time. So will hard squash like acorn, butternut or spaghetti.

Dried fruits and vegetables for
anything that needs refrigeration if kept past one day in that kind of heat. You can have a makeshift cooler by using a canvas bag you keep wet and in the shade as much as possible.

travels well/last a while.

Grocery isle placement is certainly a helpful indicator, but not really an answer.

Long ago, there were no refrigerators and people bought, stored, and consumed food without regard to where it is sold in modern-day grocery stores. They must have had iron stomcachs, and they did get sick and die young. I don’t want to live in the middle ages and think refigerators are wonderful (“cool”, even), but also that we get a little carried away with it in the US.

There are farmers markets and roadside stands where one can purchase vegetables from an unrefrigerated shelfing system. At the grocery store, those same items may be found in a refigerated section, but the shelf-life of the item is going to be the same once you leave the store. And that’s what I’m asking about–which veggies last longer than others.

I’ll be bringing dehydrated and canned or pouch foods for later in the trip, but why not eat fresh for the first x days? So the question is, what is the value of x?

This’ll be a leave-no-trace trip. I could just pack extra canned food in case the fresh stuff gets to slimey to eat, but I’d still have to pack out the slime. I’d rather not and that’s why I’m asking.


Keep your cool!
Depending on the water temps where you paddle, some vegetable and other food will benefit from being carried in the bottom of your hull, where the water will keep it cooler, esp. if insulated on top by sleeping bags or other gear. I know Great Lakes guides who carry frozen steaks in the bottoms of their boats–they thaw in a couple of days and are ready for grilling.

Likewise, many veggies can be frozen. Take a look at your grocer’s freezer for reference. Generally, veggies with a low water content work best: carrots, snap peas, etc… Not lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, etc.

Many of these veggies need NO freezing or refrigeration until they are sliced and diced, so if you have the room, carry them intact and prepare in camp.

Good Luck!


Yes, I met a Canadian ranger once who told me he could take two weeks worth of steak on an average trip. He just stacked up the steaks and froze them in a solid block. The block went in the very bottom of the pack, and every day another steak was peeled of the stack.

I presume the same could be done with vegetables.

Another solution
You might consider dried vegetables. They taste good and keep well. I dry many of my own and the rest I buy from Walton Feed.

Just a thought…

why not research what the indigenous people ate in the area in which you plan to paddle. Is it not possible they ate well without grocery stores or fast foods? I believe there could be quite a feast one could enjoy on a journey such as yours. Let us know what you come up with.

2nd cabbage suggestion
I’ve had cabbage last a week (or more if you scrape away the browned edges) on many hot environment trips in Everglades & S Utah. It’s crunch adds that mouth appeal that’s lacking from 1 pot boiled meals. Add a sweet onion (&/or apple) that’ll also last even in heat for an awesome slaw. Soft veggies like Zucchini can turn overnight. Although heavy, winter squash, potatoes & other root veggies will stand up well.

Carrying out slimmed veggies is hard core. Why not bury them in your cat hole or are your bringing a groover ? Many portages on your trip ?

Onions, carrots, cabbage, potatoes
YOu can also picle a lot of veggies and carry them with you but its a heavy way to go. Dried tomatoes are good too.

Most of my trips are less than 5 days so I rely on dried fruit, nuts, carrots and oatmeal for my fiber. I take along a daily vitamin and extra vitamin C. If there are eatable greens along the trip I eat them and I drink a lot of tea. Other than that I don’t worry a lot about nutrition, because as long as I get enough easily digestible calories, I’ll be able to paddle hard until I get back home.

I’d worry more about bringing along enough chocolate and Honey. In the warmer months Chocolate travels better inside a good cookie.

root vegetables
Root vegetables generally do well. Onions, carrots, yams, potatos, etc. These are often the ones that are not refrigerated in the stores, so kind of matches that thought.

On carrots - get whole carrots (not those peeled baby carrots). They last much longer.

If the water of cooler than the air, the thought mentioned about keeping these items closer to the bottom of the boat does also work.

You can also freeze meat and use this as your ice for the first few days. Put it all inside a soft sided cooler, or even just inside a dry bag (which provides some thermal protection benefits).

Why not just bring a little soft-sided cooler?

If you really don’t want to, here’s how long they last (if kept in the shade):

one week+: whole cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, winter squash, turnips, rutabagas, jicama

3 days: green beans, green pepper, zuchinni, corn on the cob (in its husk), tomatoes (Never put them in the fridge! Cold ruins their flavor)

Once you slice any of these, they’ll go bad much more quickly.

Partly, I’m lazy
Time and availability prompted my question. I’m way into dehydrating my own meals, but on this trip I start off on an airplane and was looking to lighten up the baggage. If I bring all my food on the plane with me, that’s more to pack and carry. Whereas, if I hit a grocery store before I put on, I can load up at that point, and good as the dehydrated stuff is, fresh is, well, fresh. The problem in loading up at the grocery store is I’m picky about what I eat, so most prepared stuff is out, don’t plan on taking a cooler, and even if I ate meat wouldn’t have time or capability to use some of the innovative freezer techniques described by the posters above.

In my meat-eating past I made some trips where we’d make up a froozen cooler ahead of time, keep it under a space blanket, only open it once a day, and eat gourmet meals for ten days at a time. That can work, but takes prep time I won’t have prior to put-in.

I guess I’ll just figure on fresh stuff for two days. I know broccoli and green beans can make two days.

Trip is down Utah’s Green River. Apparently they take their leave no trace seriously out there. Arid, cryptobiotic soil, etc. So, no cat holes. What’s a groover?


Good one!
Corn on the cob! Hadn’t thought of that–comes in its own wrapper. Beauty.

Thanks, I wondered about green pepper. I’m having some on day two! Great info.


"Groover" is a throwback to the older days when folks used military surplus rocket boxes as portable toilets.

When you sat on them they left grooves.

I hate to answer this in a thread about what food to eat, but since you asked, “What’s a Groover?” Quick answer is it’s a portable toilet that leaves a groove in your butt if you sit on it. I’m told some folks in the past have used old ammo cans as … uh … the “can” on leave-no-trace trips.

Green /Colorado
Wife & I have done the Green R inc paddling upstream on Colorado to Potash. You’re gonna love it. An awesome float & worthy of be called “Best flatwater trip in Lower 48”

Can e you a TR if interested ?

How about canned vegetables?

Best bet is to rent one from an outfitter. When we went last year our outfitter, who was not fond of a certain Utah Senator, called their groover the Orin Hatch