One question that people ask us regularly is how to keep food fresh when camping. It is not so much of a problem in cold climates, but if you are camping in a warm area, keeping food fresh can be challenging.
Your choices depend on your budget and your camping location. At the top of the budget is using a camping fridge, but this needs a power supply. If you have an electrical supply on your campsite, then no problem otherwise you will need a generator.
The alternative is to use cool boxes and ice packs, and we will give you some tips on how to prepare before you leave and how to make your ice packs last longer. Keeping your tent cool while camping will also help, and our article on cooling a tent without electricity will give you some great tips.
Preparation is key
A little preparation before your trip will pay dividends.
- Ice packs or 2-liter water bottles are the best methods to keep your food fresh inside the cool box, but it really helps if you freeze them at least a week before your trip. In this way, they are solid right to the center and take a couple of days to defrost. You then have a supply of fresh, cool water if needed.
- Pre-chill your cool box with ice packs the night before you leave.
Pack Your Cooler Carefully
Any air circulating inside the cool box will increase the speed that temperature rises inside. Aim to pack the food and ice packs tightly together, and if you have any spaces, fill them with ice packs. Delicate and perishable items need to be at the top so you can eat them first.
The bottom of your cooler will be colder than the top, so place raw food items at the bottom and fruit and vegetables near the top.
Use Frozen Prepacked Meals
Ready-made meals that are frozen act as additional ice packs. Place them at the bottom of the cool box. Just make sure you have some way of heating the meals properly when you want to eat them. Food poisoning while camping is no fun!
Separate Food and Drink
It might seem a good idea to keep cold drinks in the same cooler as the food, as they help keep food cold. The problem is that you will constantly be opening the cool box for your drinks, introducing warm air. For this reason, it is far better to have at least two cool boxes—one for your drinks and another for your food.
Talking of drinks, it’s essential to keep hydrated while camping, and our article on portable water filters will give you the information you need.
Keep Your Cooler in a Cool Location
It might seem obvious, but people often forget to move their cooler out of the sun. Keeping your cooler in the shade or covering it with a blanket will significantly increase how long it stays cold.
What About Party Ice?
Grabbing a few bags of party ice on your way to the campsite might seem like the perfect solution. It’s quick, cheap and easy. The problem is that party ice is cubed, and thanks to air circulating between the cubes, it melts in just a few hours. As a last resort, or to top the ice in the cooler, it’s okay, but with a bit of planning, your food will stay fresher for longer.
Camping doesn’t mean having to go without fresh food. Just a little planning will mean you can have fresh food for several days, even if you don’t have an electrical supply for a fridge.
This article was last updated on May 5, 2021 .
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