How to Keep Food Cold When Camping

I love camping in remote locations and I try to camp as long as I can. But, you may be wondering how do I store food. The key is to keep food cool. In this blog, I will be sharing my top 11 tips on ‘how to keep food cold when camping.’

I have been camping since the age of ten and have made many mistakes in storing food. I had to either stop camping sooner or rely on ready to eat packaged food. Keep reading to avoid the pain I went through.

11 Tips to Keep Food Cold While Camping

How the food is stored determines how long it remains fresh and healthy while camping. There are many ways to extend the shelf life of food, including boiling, salting, and drying. My favorite method is to keep the food cold. There are many ways to keep food chilled while camping. 

You can choose to camp according to your needs, the materials you have and how many days you plan on staying. 

How to store food while camping

  • Ice
  • Ice packs are a great way to keep food cold when you don’t have access to a refrigerator. You can either buy them in a store or make your own using water, alcohol, sponge, or any other material that you have. Follow these steps: this Tutorial on WikiHow to learn how to make an icepack

    Ice packs can be made quickly and easily. Ice packs can be remade and used on multiple camping trips. They keep food and drinks cool and can be reused. They are only recommended for camping stays of less than two days. If you don’t seal the ice packs well, they can become quite messy.  

  • Dry Ice
  • When I first heard the term dry ice, it was my first time hearing it. I kept wondering how dry ice could be. Little did I know that dry ice is very popular! It is a form of solid carbon dioxide that acts as a cooling agent and can keep food cool without causing any mess.

    Dry ice can also freeze food, so it is important to properly use it. I prefer to buy a solid block and keep it at ground level. The food that I want to freeze is in the layer immediately to my left. The top layer contains the food that I want cold and not frozen. If you can’t find a block, dry ice pellets will do the same job too.

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    Dry ice can cause frostbite and other dangers. Read here Learn about the safety precautions you should take when handling dry ice.

  • Salt 
  • If you live in a region where snow is common, then salting the ice will make it melt faster. Make two sets of ice by using two containers. You can add salt to water to one container and freeze the other without ice.

    Saltwater ice is used to line the vessel where you will store food. Normal ice is used to cover the rest. Saltwater ice melts the first, drawing heat from normal ice. Normal ice remains frozen longer because of this.

    This is a very effective technique, but it is not my favorite. It requires a lot of work.

  • Freezing food
  • Frozing the food required is the best and most efficient way to keep food cold when camping for a short time.  

    You should buy all the fruits and vegetables that you will use within a day. Put them in a bag and wash them well. Keep all food items in the freezer. Just before you leave, take them out of the freezer. 

    It is best to transport frozen food in a thermocol box. 

  • Use a cooler
  • When people who love camping ask me, ‘how to keep food cold when camping?’ My immediate answer is- invest in a good quality cooler.

    Cooler is the best way for food and drinks to stay cool for longer periods of time. They also have many additional benefits. You don’t have to carry many ice packs or deal wit leaky bags. Coolers can also keep snacks fresh at the house.

    The type of cooler will determine how long food will stay frozen. You can choose between a hard or soft cooler depending on your needs. There are many things to consider when buying a cooler. The most important is the type of insulation and the material used.   

  • It’s better to have two than one!
  • The type of cooler and how it is used will determine how long food will stay frozen.

    My kids were young when we went camping. Even though we used the best coolers, our food wouldn’t stay cold as they would open the cooler to get juices. This caused insulation to be compromised by letting hot air in and cold air out. Of course, I could have yelled and stopped my kid from doing so, but we would go camping to relax and didn’t wish to bother my kids while having fun!

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    This is when I decided that two coolers were better than one. We kept water bottles, snacks, and fruits in one cooler, while vegetables, meat, and frozen foods were kept in another. We kept the more frequently used items, such as water bottles, fruits, and snacks in one cooler while other items like vegetables, meats and frozen food were kept in another. This ensured their durability. 

    You can also purchase two small coolers to get the same benefit. It is also possible to buy one soft and one hard cooler.

  • Plan your meals
  • This is related to the last point. This is in connection with the previous point.

    Arrange them in the cooler, with the one you are using immediately at the top and then the one you will use later at the bottom. This will allow you to get the products you need quickly and protect the cooling by not leaving the cooler open for longer periods. 

  • Placement of the cooling elements.
  • No matter what cooling device you use, make sure you cool down as soon as possible. If you can’t find shade, at least keep them away from direct sunlight under a damp towel.

    This is the best method to keep colder for longer periods of time without having to do much. It also helps keep the temperature outside of the cooler low.

    You might also like these: Food to Bring Camping

  • You can pack the cooler like a pro
  • You should ensure that your cooler is properly packed. First, add ice to the cooler. Next, add the items you will use the most. Then, add another layer of ice or frozen foods. 

    This allows the food between the layers to stay cooler for a longer time.

  • Cool the cooler
  • People often ask me how to keep food cool while camping. I then see them making the biggest error of dumping all their food in the cooler right before they leave. Before we go camping, it is important to prepare.

    It is important to pre-chill your cooler. Cool water or loads of Ice can be added to the cooler one night before you go camping. This saves coolness that would otherwise be used to lower the temperature of your cooler the next day. It is also a great way keep your cooler cold.    

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  • Temperature check! 
  • We went camping for a long time once, and we had properly layered the cooler. Everything was fine, except for one thing, which destroyed our whole camping experience: the cooler’s temperature.

    It is vital to check the temperature of any cooling device or cooler you use to ensure food remains fresher for longer periods. 

    The cooling device should be kept as cold as possible. However, it should not exceed 0 degrees celsius.


    What is the best way of keeping food cold while camping?

    Coolers are the best way to keep food cool while camping. They keep the food colder for longer periods of time without causing any mess.

    What can I do if I don’t have a cooler?

    You can keep your food cold by using a thermal bag if you don’t have a cooler. Before you add food to the bag, make sure you have ice packs.

    Can a cooler keep food ice-free?

    Although ice does make cooling more effective, the cooler can still work without it.

    How can you keep food cold without a cooling device?

    When you don’t have any cooling device and the camp stay is short, simply dig a hole in the ground, dampen the soil with water. You can pack the food in a waterproof bag, or damp cloth, and then cover it with another damp cloth. While this is not the best way, it’s messy yet fun to do!

    Final Thoughts

    Before we can understand how to keep food cool while camping, it is important to know how long the food should stay cold. There are many ways food can be stored. The easiest is to freeze it, but it has low durability. 

    If you camp frequently, a quality cooler is the best investment. If you do not have an ice pack, thermal bags or dry ice, then ice packs and dry ice will suffice. 

    We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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