Camping & Hiking

How To Keep Food Cold While Camping: 10 Simple Tips

If you’re planning a camping trip and you want to know how to keep your food cold while camping, you are in the right place.

In this article, I am going to reveal to you the 10 best ways to keep food cold so that you can have an all-round great camping trip with delicious unspoilt food.

The reason it’s important to be able to keep food cold while camping is because bacteria grows on certain foods that are stored above 4°C (40°F), meat and fish, for example. This can pose a serious health risk and lead to food poisoning. It is, therefore, very important that you are able to keep certain foods chilled until you’re ready to prepare and cook them.

Without further ado, here are 10 simple tips that will help you keep your food chilled for longer while you’re on a camping trip!

1. Remember, It’s All About The Cooler

A good cooler box is essential if you want to keep food cold. There are a range of different cooler types available ranging from the small and inexpensive to the large and costly.

The more you pay, the better quality cooler you are likely to get. At the budget-end of the market, there are the cheap styrofoam-based coolers. At the higher end, you have stainless steel and fiberglass coolers. Some high-end coolers are even powered and able to hook up to your car battery to re-cool as and when required.

As a general rule of thumb, high-end coolers tend to be better insulated and have thicker walls. This helps prevent the ice from melting too quickly.

Another feature on some high-end coolers is built-in temperature gauges which help you ensure that the temperature remains below 4°C (40°F). If a high-end cooler with such features is a little out of your price range, however, you can always simply place a thermometer in whatever cooler you do have.

2. Only Open The Cooler When Absolutely Necessary

It may sound like a case of stating the obvious but the more you open your cooler, the quicker the ice will melt. Every time you open your cooler cold air escapes whilst warm air floods in. By limiting the amount of times you open the cooler, you are ensuring that you get the maximum efficiency out of your cooler.

3. Think About Taking Two Coolers

Having two coolers, whilst not essential, is definitely more efficient. A lot of campers realize the value of doing this and use one cooler for their food and the other for their drinks. That, however, is not the only benefit of having two coolers. It will also mean you having to open each cooler less and thereby maximizing each cooler’s efficiency.

keeping drinks cold

4. Use Ice Packs Or Dry Ice Where Possible

There is nothing authentic about using real ice as opposed to manufactured ice packs or dry ice. In fact, if you use real ice, it is likely to melt far quicker than either manufactured ice packs or dry ice and risk your cooler becoming saturated and your food getting soggy.

The great thing about manufactured ice packs is that they can be used over and over again and they typically stay frozen longer than homemade ice packs.

A word of caution, if you use dry ice remember that you should first wrap it in newspaper or it can burn your skin. Also, dry ice freezes whatever comes into contact with it so don’t put any foods next to dry ice that you don’t want frozen.

5. Keep Your Cooler Out Of The Sun

Again, it may sound a little bit obvious, but it is an easy mistake to make when camping. You are trying to get everything organized and you accidentally leave your cooler in the sun.

After just a few hours in the sun, your cooler will have lost a large percentage of efficiency. One way around this is to leave the cooler in your car until you have set up camp and can put the cooler in your tent. Another way is to use the shade of a tree.

6. Plan Your Meals

You should always try to consider how you are packing food into a cooler. Try to pack your food and meals into the cooler in the reverse order that you will be eating them. This will stop you from having to rummage through the cooler every time you open it to find the right meal for any given day.

One exception is frozen foods. If you want the food to stay frozen for longer it is best to store it at the bottom of the cooler regardless of what day it is for.

7. Try To Avoid Perishable Foods

Where possible it is a good idea to avoid perishable foods like uncooked meat, raw fish, and dairy products. Perishable foods get their name from turning bad rapidly when not stored at the right temperatures. Precooked meats are fine stored in a cooler, and canned fish makes a good and safer alternative to raw fish when camping.

8. Freeze the Foods That You Are Planning On Eating Last

If you have planned your meals, you will have a fair idea of what you are going to eat on which days. By freezing the foods that you are not planning to eat until the latter part of your trip you will also be maximizing the efficiency of your cooler. Not only will the foods themselves last longer but they will also act as additional ice packs.

9. Pre-Chill Your Cooler

If you simply put your ice packs in a cooler that has been stored at room temperature, they are going to be less efficient than if you pre-chill the cooler. The way to do this is simple: a couple of hours before you are ready to pack your cooler and go camping fill it with either ice packs or bags of ice.

Now, when you’re ready to go, remove the ice packs that have been chilling your cooler, pack your food, and put fresh ice packs in. This will really maximize your cooler’s efficiency.

10. Have a Contingency Plan In Place

You should always make sure that you have a contingency plan in place if your cooler fails for any reason and your food spoils. Always take a few non-perishable snacks with you just in case of an emergency. Likewise, always ensure that you have plenty of fresh and clean drinking water.

Bonus Tip – Freeze Bottles Of Water

This is probably one of the easiest and cost-effective methods. Just grab yourself some 2l or 600ml bottles, and fill them with water and freeze them. The joy of this is you don’t have to worry about food getting wet when the ice melts, and it also takes a lot longer for the ice to melt due to the blocks being so large.

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!