If you’re planning a camping trip? You’ll want to know how to keep food cold while camping. So much of this is because it makes a difference whether you have a great time or your anticipated camp cooking time is ruined.
Because you have limited ways to keep food safe, eating food that’s above 4 °C (40 °F) or lower poses risks of food poisoning. Besides just including tips for keeping food cold while camping, you can find safety tips about why you should keep food safe while on a camping trip.
In our guide, you can learn all the best ways to keep food cold while camping using methods such as styrofoam coolers, loose ice cubes, or frozen bottles. By the end, you’ll have enough information on how to ensure you are keeping food cold camping. (Learn How To Keep Snakes Away When Camping)
How Do You Keep Meat Fresh When Camping?
Place the ice blocks in your cooler first, and then add some meat, which will already be frozen.
Add more layers of ice on top to seal and pack the cold air around the meat. If you still have space, you can add more items on top.
However, there is much more to know about keeping food chilled, especially when in and out of your cooler.
Freeze Food Before Leaving
Cook your meals ahead of time if you want to reduce stress on your camping trip. This can ease anxiety, mainly if your food involves meat.
Food and drinks should then be frozen or cooled before leaving since this will keep the cooler cool for a longer period. You can also save time by purchasing already frozen meals from your local grocery shop or gas station.
All of your food should be packed in freezer bags. You don’t want the food to defrost and contaminate the rest of the cooler’s contents. In addition, raw meat should be sealed with extra caution because contamination can be hazardous.
Use Ice Packs
Not all ice is created equal, and you’ll need the correct ice for your camping trip.
While it’s handy to chill your cooler with a bag of loose ice cubes, this form of ice isn’t optimal for keeping food cold, and it will melt quickly.
Because the cubes are small, a lot of air gets through, and the ice melts quickly. A ripped bag or strewn ice might cause water to leak everywhere.
Instead of cubes, a huge ice block should be used. Block ice is a much better option because it stays cold for an extended period.
This is where a thermal ice pack comes in handy, as it can be frozen and reused multiple times. The ice is packed to keep the food in the cooler from getting wet. Non-toxic packs should be used only in the event of spills.
If you wish to make your own ice blocks, fill a freezer bag halfway with cold water and a pinch of salt. Once mixed with salt, the melting point of water is lowered, which speeds up the process.
When melting water mixes with salt, the resulting water can be colder than the ice. So please remove all of the air from your own ice packs and place them in the freezer. Just ensure it doesn’t puncture the bag, or you could have wet salty food.
If you plan on bringing perishable food with you, bringing a cooler is necessary.
However, you don’t want your room-temperature cooler to thaw all of your chilled and frozen foods.
If you’re unsure how to keep a cooler cold, put some ice in it a few hours before you pack the food. Basic ice cubes from your local gas station would do for this purpose, albeit they should not be used for packing food. (Learn How To Wash Clothes While Camping)
Pack Cooler Food Properly
When packing a cooler for a camping trip, a straightforward guideline should be followed: the food that needs to keep the coldest should be placed closest to the cooler’s bottom.
This means that any meat or frozen foods should be placed at the bottom of the cooler, while perishable foods should be placed at the top.
Double-pack meats or other foods where cross-contamination is a genuine concern should make the freezer bag tear. Last, wrap the freezer bags in aluminum foil.
Besides this, keep certain foods away from each other. For example, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Pack Cooler Tightly For Extra Cooling
The less space in the cooler, the longer the food stays cold.
If you end up with extra space, try filling this with more ice cubes, food, or ice packs.
Don’t Open Your Cooler Unless You Need To
Keeping the cold environment inside the cooler undisturbed is essential to keep food cold. Whenever the lid is pulled back, warm air gushes in as cold pushes out.
Keep The Cooler Away from Sun
Keep coolers away from the sun. Areas you can find shade are under trees, by rocks, under cars close to tents.
Use Two Coolers
It is possible to use an electric cooler, yet not every campsite can be suited for it.
Avoiding opening the cooler as much as possible is an essential part of keeping it chilled.
Drinks are the main reason for ice melting and food warming. This is because cold air escapes every time you open the cooler for a drink.
If you have the space, use two coolers: one for food and one for drinks.
Freezing Water Bottles
Are you planning on bringing a lot of drinking water on your camping trip? Consider putting a large amount of it in the freezer and keep your drink cooler filled with frozen water bottles.
The ice bottles can act like large ice blocks, thus allowing coolers to stay cold for more extended periods.
How Long Can You Keep Meat In A Cooler Camping?
There are limits to how long you can keep fresh meat or perishable food cold in a cooler before it spoils. Much of this is because of the number of times you open your cooler and the ice retention period your cooler has to keep meat at the desired temperatures.
Here are more tips and tricks on picking the suitable cooler or ensuring the internal temperature stays as it should. You can also find tips on how to get around relying on keeping frozen food frozen.
- Don’t take perishable food camping.
- Invest in a quality cooler with thicker walls
- Use two coolers rather than opening one cooler unnecessarily
- Freeze meals before you go
- Freeze 90% of the drinking water you’re taking
- Organize the cooler properly
- Pack Some Dry Ice or homemade ice packs
- Pack other foods and non-perishable snacks that don’t need freezing in your camping gear. (Beef jerky, summer sausage, and foods that need water such as Freeze-Dried Dinners)
Basic Food Safety Tips
When you’re cooking outside, it’s easy to overlook some of the fundamental food safety precautions we take at home. Cold camping food does not ensure your and your loved ones’ safety. There are a few helpful hints to keep in mind for your trip.
Before and after handling food, it’s critical to remember to wash your hands. Then, if the water is safe, you can use bottled water or a nearby stream.
Cross-contamination must be avoided at all costs. Nothing you use for meat should be used for anything else. Chopping boards, utensils, and other items fall under this category.
The food should be thoroughly prepared. This is especially difficult to determine when camping because you will not use your normal cooking appliance.
For determining when food is safe to consume, a food thermometer comes in handy. For example, ground beef and poultry should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, make sure the cooler temperature remains below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to keep bacterial development minimum. Check inside your well-insulated cooler with a non-food thermometer to keep food cold, or you need to add more ice.
Food That Doesn’t Need Cooling
Consider non-perishable camping food such as jerky, ramen noodles, dried fruit, trail mix, and nuts. For cheese, avoid any soft cheese like mozzarella. Instead, bring firm cheeses like cheddar. (Learn How To Pack A Tent In A Backpack)
Organize Your Cooler
Pack your food cooler tight. The less space, the longer it will keep food cool.
Use Dry Ice Packs
If traditional methods aren’t keeping your food cold longer, you can try dry ice packs. The frozen carbon dioxide of dry ice keeps frozen food items cold for several days at -109°F.
- Wrap dry ice in newspaper and set it on the bottom of your cooler.
- Place a layer of cardboard on top of the dry ice, followed by a layer of cubed ice.
- Load your cooler with food items.
Dry ice should be used as a last resort to keep food cold, and all the safety requirements need following.