This applies to an extent to all LARP events. It is intended to be advice to new LARPers/campers. It is likely to be slightly patronising (sorry), long and rambling, and edited repeatedly. Please suggest any good ideas I have not thought of, there will be loads…
There are several broad options for those gamers not wanting to spend too much at the caterers, and I’ll look at them in rising cost and complexity. Of course, it depends on what resources (storage, shopping trips, friends) are available to you as well.
Just bringing along some snacks is the simplest thing you can do. There’s a few things that will keep all weekend, keep you going, and not cost too much. Cereal bars, fruit (apples are good), bread rolls, a large pack of crisps (and dip), dried meat (jerky, pepperami, etc) will all survive fine in your tent, as will any canned drinks. Remember some bottles of/for water.
A coolbag such as this:
can be a good investment, to hold anything you want reasonably chilled over the weekend, including large bars of chocolate, cold meats such as scotch eggs or pies, and other things that might not survive a summer tent/oven.
Pros: Cheap, needing no equipment. With packaging removed, can be entirely in-game.
Cons: somewhat limiting, no hot drinks etc, and few options for large meals.
While you can get hot drinks from the caterers reasonably easily, it’s cheaper and often quicker if you can make your own. A small cooker, preferably fairly stable, such as:
combined with a kettle such as:
gives you the options of hot drinks, and other things with boiling water.
BRING LARGER BOTTLE OF WATER FOR ACCIDENTS, SCALDS AND FIRES.
This is not the fingerfood option above, so you’ll also need a mug or two, and maybe some cutlery. If you don’t trust your cool bag to keep milk fresh over a weekend, then sachets of hot chocolate work as a tea replacement. Tea, coffee, hot cordial or whatever is great when you wake up early on a cold morning and the caterers aren’t open yet… Heating mulled wine in your kettle is probably unwise…
Additionally, there’s a LOT of options for meals-in-a-hurry that work well camping, just add boiling water. Tubs of instant porridge. Pot noodle variations (some are pretty good). Instant meals with cous-cous and a tin of something. Good for lunches and hefty snacks.
Pros: A good range of hot food and drinks, derived mostly from the kettle. Which won’t use much gas on it’s own.
Cons: More expensive, bulky equipment, and nowhere near IC. So if used on the IC field, keep out of sight where possible.
The Camping Cook
At this point, you basically add a few more utensils to the equipment above. I can reccomend the sort of casserole dish that you can cook out of (I can’t find a picture at the moment), as something to cook in, and then eat out of. You may also want a couple of bowls, or even a frying pan. You may also need a larger cool bag with plenty of ice packs.
What this does is open up the options to pretty much anything. If you want to cook something up in the field from scratch, then go for it. A few things I’ve gone for in previous years:
Instant rice meals and a little tin of something. John West do tiny tins of enhanced tuna, for example.
Heinz Big soups, accompanied by those bread rolls you ought for breakfast.
Super noodles + chopped pepperami + mini-tin of sweetcorn. A meal that if you don’t make, you can take it to the next event. And the next…
Leftovers. I make a lot of meals at home and stick a portion in the freezer. A frozen chunk of whatever will do well as an extra ice-pack for the first day, and then be ready to warm up and eat later. Beef stew over noodles, for example.
You can cook up some large and tasty meals this way, but bear in mind your fuel reserves and cooking time. If using gaz, cooking, say pasta will take a lot longer than heating up soup, or boiling water for cous-cous. Note also that a lot of things in the “snacks” category work nicely added in here. Cocktail sausages added to soup. Salsa dip spicing up noodles. A slug of that IC wine in the stew…
You could also bring along a portable BBQ, for a bit of cooking on site. In this case, you can go wild with sausages, burgers, marinaded meats or whatever. Check site rules on this, and remember the safety hazards of using BBQs, including fires, burns, and carbon monoxide.
Pros: Eat pretty much anything. Bring food from home and cook it on site. Possible to make larger meals for multiple people.
Cons: Lots more equipment. Easy to buy/bring much more than you’re going to eat. You have also brought washing up to your LARP event. Takes up a lot more space. Looks even less IC.
The Whole Hog
This is for the ambitious/organised people who can do their cooking entirely IC. Often needing some specialised kit (fireboxes for BBQs, spitroasts, hanging kettles over open fires), although a certain amount can be cheaply sourced (wooden bowls and choppingboards, and most utensils). I’ve never managed this myself, but it gets done a lot. Can result in full IC banquets, up to and including a hog roast.
Given the usually slower cooking time, you may need someone working on dinner for hours, which can cut into LARPing. Ingrediant storage will probably also still need coolbags etc.
Pros: OMG it looks awesome. Does not break immersion at all (invite your IC friends to dinner!), admired by your friends, and is usually delicous, if a little burnt round the edges (joke).
Cons: Expensive specialised kit. Often takes up a lot of space in camp and in terms of shipping it to/from site. Can take ages, and then you still have washing up.