When going camping, people usually bring meat, vegetables, fruits, and other foods that need to be stored at low temperatures. Therefore, it is very important to take a cooler with you that will keep the food at the desired temperature. In this article, find out how to keep food cold when camping and much more. So, let’s start!
How Do You Keep Food Cold When Camping?
Camping provides a special feeling. Each of us likes to relax in nature under the open sky. However, every camper who goes on a camping trip longer than 4 days is troubled by the same problem – how to eat healthily and safely in the middle of nowhere? Canned food is not bad, but no one likes to eat it for 10 days in a row!
On the other hand, if you are going on a camping trip with your RV and have a refrigerator at your disposal, good for you. However, if your camping trip includes staying in a tent or a smaller motorhome that does not offer this convenience, you should definitely get an ice cooler. But to keep the food fresh in the cooler, you must know how to store it.
In the next lines, we bring you 10 tips to keep food cold during a camping trip, a list of the best coolers for camping, and the top five tips that will keep you in good health while camping.
If you want to learn more about this topic, be sure to read How Long Does Ice Last In a Cooler? (Tips To Last Longer).
10 Tricks How To Keep Food Cold When Camping
Keeping your food cold during a camping trip is the most important thing. Therefore, to do this, you must know what to do. The first step is choosing the right cooler. However, this is not the only thing. Below, we’ll go through the ten most important things you need to do to keep your food fresh and cold.
1. Make Sure That Cooler Is Cooled
The cooler will keep food fresher and cold for a longer period if the cooler is already cold. Therefore, we advise you to cool the cooler in a larger freezer. If this is not possible, it is also a good option to fill the cooler with ice a couple of hours before the trip, which you will throw out when it is time to pack the food.
2. Pack the Cooler Right
To get the best results, it is necessary to pack the cooler in the correct order. The correct way of packing, which will prolong the cooling of the food, implies that you cover the bottom of the cooler with ice blocks. Next, place frozen meat on the ice block and then cover them with another layer of ice.
Vegetables should be placed on the second layer of ice, and sensitive food that cannot withstand high pressure or direct contact with ice should be placed on the very top of the cooler. Note the cooler will cool your food the best if the food does not occupy more than 60% of the total space inside the cooler.
It is ideal if you can ensure that the food occupies one-half of the total volume of the cooler interior and the ice occupies the other half. In that case, you can be sure that the food you store in the cooler will stay cool for at least three days.
Keeping the food well stored is very important to keep bears away during your camping trip.
3. Fill The Cooler Completely
The cooler will keep your food cold longer if it is fully packed, i.e., so that there are no air pockets between the food. Always fill the space left between the food packages with ice cubes to the maximum. This will keep your food cold for up to 12 hours longer in some cases.
4. Bring 2 Coolers
If you can bring two coolers with you camping, that will help your food stay cold longer. How? Store food in one cooler and drinks in the other! It is known that coolers, where drinks are stored, are used much more often than the ones where is food.
If the drinks and food are in separate coolers, you will protect the food from the warm air that enters the cooler every time you reach for a new can of coke.
5. Freeze Food Before the Trip
Freeze your food before you go on the trip. However, not all food can be frozen, so pay attention to that. The day before you go on camping, put the food in the freezer. That way, your food will stay frozen longer than if you put it right away in the cooler.
6. Use Frozen Water Bottles
Even if you bring a lot of food on the trip, try to find a place to put a few frozen water bottles in your cooler. Those frozen bottles of water will last much longer than normal ice. Also, you’ll have water to drink after they unfreeze.
7. Use Home Ice
We recommend that you make ice at home. The worst option is to buy ice at a gas station. That ice will melt much faster in the cooler than the one you make at home, especially if you put it in a cooler that is not already cooled. Also, you’ll save money at the same time.
8. Keep Cooler Out of the Sun
When camping, ensure your cooler is in a place that is not exposed to the sun. Exposure to the sun drastically reduces its ability to cool food. When the cooler heats up from the outside, the ice will start to melt very quickly.
9. Use Dry Ice
Dry ice melts much more slowly and keeps your food cold in the cooler for longer than water ice. However, you must know that you cannot handle dry ice without gloves or similar skin protection.
Also, dry ice releases carbon dioxide, which is why it is never recommended that a cooler containing dry ice travels with you in the cabin. If you plan to fill the cooler with dry ice, be sure to secure a place for it in the trunk, and protect the food by wrapping it with newspaper.
10. Do Not Leave the Cooler Open For a Long Time
Place the food in the cooler according to the meal plan. Arrange the meat packages so that the ones you will use first are at the top of the cooler and those that will be the last cooked are at the bottom. This way, you will avoid opening the cooler’s lid for too long.
If you want to learn more, be sure to watch this video:
Best Cooler Boxes For Camping
As we have already mentioned, regardless of all the tips we gave you, the time frame during which the food in the cooler will remain cold largely depends on the quality of the cooler.
Cheap Styrofoam cooler models certainly cannot do as good a job as hard-case coolers. Below we bring an overview of cooler models that we consider the best choice. Here is our list:
1. Coleman Extreme Cooler
- Cooler Capacity: 70 quarts
- Size: 23 x 17.5 x 17.5 inches
- Weight: 12.3 lbs (5.5 kg)
Coleman Extreme Cooler is a product that has a very good price-quality ratio. This is the cheapest model on our list. However, regardless of the price, this cooler can keep the food cold for approximately five days, which is not bad at all.
2. Igloo Yukon Cold Locker Cooler
- Cooler Capacity: 70 quarts
- Size: 36 x 20.5 x 20.1 inches
- Weight: 25.8 lbs (11.7 kg)
The Igloo cooler is so efficient and powerful that you don’t have to worry about anything happening to him. Thanks to the insulation system, the “cool riser”, it can keep food cool up to 7 days, although we have come across reviews from campers who claim that it kept their food cold even longer!
3. Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler
- Cooler Capacity: 65 quarts
- Size: 12 x 2 x 5 inches
- Weight: 35.1 lbs (15.9 kg)
Yeti Tundra is a premium cooler model loved by many campers because it can keep food cold for a long time due to its thick insulating layer and high-quality latches.
An additional bonus is that the insulating layer protects the cooler, even if it is filled with dry ice! This model is made of quality material that is almost impossible to break.
Also, this cooler is an excellent choice because its interior contains “dray racks” on which you can place food that you will eat already on the way to your destination, such as fruit, yogurt, or sandwiches.
4. Pelican Elite 70 Quart Cooler
- Cooler Capacity: 70 quarts
- Size: 36 x 20.3 x 21 inches
- Weight: 38 lbs (17.2 kg)
This cooler model is ideal for longer camping trips because it guarantees that the food in it will stay cold for at least seven days. In addition to being filled with excellent insulation, it also has compartments for food that needs to stay cold the most.
Food, once placed in them, remains separated into a space where warm air does not enter when, for example, someone opens the cooler to take strawberries from the top. In addition, with this model, you will get a lifetime replacement guarantee.
Whichever cooler you choose for your camping trip, we advise you to test its capabilities before using it for the first time so that you don’t find yourself in the middle of a camping trip with spoiled food. When you go on long camping trips in the wild, you must be sure that the food you take with you can serve you more than a day.
If you own a camper, be sure to read How To Heat a Camper Without Electricity?
Tips When Going On A Camping Trip
To avoid food poisoning on a camping trip, it is always recommended to follow some safety rules. Here are the most important ones:
- Make sure the temperature in the cooler is always below 40 degrees F. Make regular checks with a thermometer.
- Cook foods that need to be thermally processed carefully on fire. Do not eat food that is not cooked enough.
- Use different kitchen utensils for different foods. You don’t cut a tomato with the same knife you use to cut fresh meat. – Before consuming food, always check its expiration date on the package.
- Always wash your hands well before eating, but also before preparing food
Related article: How Fast Can A Bear Run? (NEVER Run From a Bear).
As much as campers love being in nature, everyone will admit that eating food from cans alone on such trips is not so good. It is much better to roast a delicious piece of meat on the campfire daily. That is why it is important to prepare food well for camping and have a quality cooler with you.
Coolers are the only option for cooling food when you don’t have a fridge available. They can do the job well, and how long the food will stay cool in them depends on the model you have. But whatever model you buy, if you use some of the tips for longer cooling of food while camping that we have explained, you can expect to be able to enjoy quality meals made from fresh ingredients for longer.