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Camping Food Storage: Tips to Prevent Good Food from Going Bad

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Imagine a perfect camping day with your family. You start early and hike in the nearby hills, followed by a swim in the lake. The weather is sunny and you are looking forward to a hearty meal. When you reach your tent, you find that the food you had brought along has been spoiled. What a heart-breaking moment! Camping food storage is important so that a situation like we just mentioned doesn’t happen.

When you go on a camping trip, you make sure that you carry enough food for everyone. However, unless you also make efforts to ensure that the food doesn’t rot or get rampaged by small animals, carrying food is futile. Therefore, we have put together the most helpful ways for camping food storage what will be very useful for your next camping trip. Let us get started with these life-saving tips to prevent food spoilage when camping.

9 Tips for Camping Food Storage

If you want to know how to pack food for camping, the following tips points will be immensely helpful for you.

Tip 1:

Firstly, you should not forget to carry the cooler to the grocery store when you start shopping for the camping trip. Sunshine is an enemy of frozen food. This is because frozen food items might already thaw before you reach home. Re-freezing thawed items are not recommended at all. Thus, as soon as you purchase food items for camping, stack them up with ice in the cooler. This step is often forgotten by many and is a common reason for food spoilage.

Tip 2:

Prepare your own ice packs. This can be easily done. You may use freezing bags or containers like milk jugs, soda bottles etc. for this purpose. Remember not to fill them fully, otherwise, they will explode. Leave about 1/4th container empty. Remember that ice cubes melt way faster than solid ice blocks, and are therefore not recommended for storing food for a long time. However, you can carry ice cubes in a separate freezer bag in the cooler and use them for putting them in your drinks. Please take care not to leave it loose in the cooler because it will melt quickly or get contaminated.

Tip 3:

Another very good way to ensure proper camping food storage is to keep all the food items in the refrigerator overnight before packing them. Freeze whatever item can be frozen, for example, hot dogs, juice cartons, burger patties etc. Frozen juice cartons and boxes have a lot of advantages over ice. They are easier to pack, don't make puddles in your cooler and when they thaw, you have the perfect cold juice to drink!

Tip 4:

Other items like cheese, eggs, fruits, soda, butter, jam etc. should be cooled in the fridge. This very simple method will make your food for camping stay fresh throughout your trip. Once you reach the camping site, look for shade and then place the cooler!

Tip 5: 

For items that need to be pre-cooked before storing, for example, pasta; it is recommended that you chill them overnight after cooking them. These food items will only require slight heating on the campsite before consumption. 

Tip 6:

As you start packing food for your camping trip, segregate fresh food items like fruits, cheese, eggs etc. from frozen food like meat. Segregation is an important prerequisite to storing food for camping. Make sure that fresh food items and frozen food items go in separate coolers. Dry food items need to be carried separately.

Tip 7:

When packing food in coolers, make sure that distribute ice packs and food items evenly. Camp food needs to be uniformly cooled in order to stay fresh. It is advisable to check the weights and quantity of different foods for camping. Put a layer of ice at the bottom of the cooler and then put the heavier items on it.

Tip 8:

If carrying raw meat, make sure that you use waterproof freezer bags or watertight containers to store it. Always put ice bags next to each food item you keep in the cooler. If in full contact with ice, foods for camping will stay fresh much longer. Remember to fill the cooler with ice packs all the way to the top. Food items stored in coolers that are only half-filled with ice are more likely to get spoiled.

Tip 9:

If you don't have a fridge, carry a separate cooler filled with ice cubes and keep all the beverages in it. Make sure that the contents of this box are consumed sooner than others because the ice cubes will not stay frozen for very long.

If you take care to chill your food items overnight before packing them and use enough ice packs when stacking food items in the cooler, you will be able to keep the food cold for a longer time. 

Are you confused about which cookware to carry? 

Know more about How to Choose the Right Backpacking Cookware

How to Store Food for Camping

Proper storage is the only way to ensure that the food you carry along remains fresh and edible. You will need proper camping food storage containers for this purpose. You should also stock up on plenty of ice packs, cooling gels or dry ice. Finally, at least two coolers of very good quality will be needed to keep food cold while camping. Carrying adequate storage bags and containers will allow you to pack food properly and avoid repeated opening and closing of your cooler.

Know all about Packing, Storing and Organization Tips for a Camping Kitchen

Even if you know how to store food properly when you go camping, things can take a wrong turn. Many outdoor campsites are regularly visited by animals like ferrets, raccoons, and bears. Therefore, even the best foods for camping can be spoiled if these animals find open food containers. A wise thing is to invest in animal-proof storage containers.

How to check if the food is properly cooked?

An appliance thermometer is a good investment. It will allow you to check the temperature of the food item you wish to consume. This will keep the guesswork away.

Livingit Tip-
Food bacteria grow rapidly between 40- 140 degrees Fahrenheit The food in between this range is in danger!

coolers for food storage
Get two coolers of cooked food and dry food (source)

Once you have arranged all the equipment necessary for food storage for camping, the next step is to pack the food items properly.

How to Store Non-Perishable Food Items

Non-perishable food items like canned fruits and vegetables, cheese crackers, bread, cookies, and biscuits are generally the best foods for camping. This is because they can be easily carried in animal proof, airtight boxes. No other special care is required to store them. It is advisable that these items be carried in a separate bag. In case you are wondering how to store food while backpacking, consider these non-perishable food items.

If the campsite has no provision for potable water, you should carry water in big jugs or bottles. CamelBak packs, that allow storage of water in a plastic container with a hose, are also great options for carrying water on your back, especially while hiking.In any case, you must keep portable water filter tubes and water purification tablets that can be used in an emergency.

Learn all about Water Filtration for Hiking: Learn the Survival Techniques

best hydration backpack
Camelbak for storing water

Camping Food Storage: Eating Packed Food

There is no hard and fast rule about eating the food that you have so meticulously packed. However, a few things should be kept in mind, otherwise, there are higher chances of food items going bad.

  1. It is better to eat raw meat and chicken within the first two days of your camping trip. It will serve two purposes- firstly, it will ensure that the meat is fresh when you consume it. Secondly, it will circumvent the need for replenishing ice in your cooler.
  2. Dairy and eggs are also on the list of items that should be consumed earlier than others. An excellent way to ensure safe camping food storage for easily perishable items is to pack them in small portions. This way, you will only need to take out one or two portions at a time, and other portions can stay in the cooler.
  3. Next, you should consume the pre-cooked recipes that you brought with you. Since they are already cooked, all they need is a little re-heating. You won’t require any fancy cookware to savour a tasty meal. 
  4. Finally, processed food items and canned stuff should be consumed. These have the longest shelf life among all the food items that you have packed. Fruits can also stay fresh for long periods of time if stored properly.

Now that you know the order of consuming packed food items on your camping trip, you should make it a point to pack these items in the order that you will consume them. This will prevent unnecessary opening and closing of your cooler, and thus, let the ice stay frozen for a longer period of time.

It is very important to carry only that much food that will be consumed. If you carry food in excess, you will find it difficult to store it after thawing. This will accelerate food spoilage. If at all you want to carry extra food, think about non-perishable items.

Sunshine is the Enemy - Avoid Exposing Food to Sunlight

Regardless of how much you enjoy soaking the sun, remember that food items do not like it. Unnecessary exposure of food to the sun is detrimental to all the steps you took for camping food storage. You should always keep the packed food coolers and containers in the shade.

When at the beach, you might consider partially burying the coolers in the sand, covering them with blankets and keeping them in shade. The sand and blankets provide extra insulation layers to the cooler and prevent the ice from melting.

Recommended Read: Hiking Food Ideas (Not Knowing These Can Make You Regret!)

How to Prevent Animals from Rampaging Food

Despite their impeccable packing, many people experience the horror of witnessing their food destroyed by animals. This can be avoided by taking care that the food is never left in the open.

Even covered food items are prone to attacks by crows, chipmunks, raccoons, and skunks. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you buy animal proof storage containers and refrain from keeping them in the open, unattended.

Another vital consideration in camping food storage is that waste disposal should be your priority. Make sure that the campsite remains neat and clean at all times. Any perishable garbage might attract an animal that is passing by. Make a habit of disposing of garbage as soon as possible. 

Use locks on your cooler and if you have access to bear canisters and metal food lockers, do use them!

Protect your food from insects too! Especially ants (They can spoil the food completely)

how to prevent food from animals
Invest in animal-proof containers (source)


Even the most exciting and awaited camping trips can turn sour if the food you brought along gets spoiled. It is very easy to prevent food spoilage by meticulous camping food storage. If you store and pack your camping food correctly, you will be able to enjoy gourmet meals at the campsite. Conversely, ill-planned food storage almost always leads to food poisoning.

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