How to Keep Food Cold While Camping

Part of the fun of camping is being away from the routine of normal life. The tradeoff, of course, is that you have to give up some luxuries along with it. One such luxury is the refrigerator. When you’re heading off the grid, you’ve got to eat and — if you’re like many modern campers — you want to eat well. The key to feasting (and drinking) like royalty in the woods is to develop a food-cooling strategy that keeps everything fresh.

The Cooler Matters

If you’ve got a camper or RV and are considering installing a fridge, there’s no need unless you intend to stay out in the wilderness for weeks on end. Today, a good-quality hard cooler has the ability to keep your food cold for up to 10 days. It’s essential that you choose a cooler with enough interior space for all your food and drinks for the entire trip. If you plan to park far from your site or take a multi-day backpacking trip, use a cooler backpack, a soft cooler with a strap or a rolling cooler.

Deciding which coolers to pack and settling on a chilling strategy should come down to a few important considerations. What do you want to bring? How many people will be pulling from the cooler? What’s the environment like? There’s a cooler for every kind of adventure, so be sure to spend the time strategizing a bit before you head out into the woods. Most people will benefit from bringing more than one cooler, especially on longer trips or outings with large groups.

keeping food cold camping

Proper Cooler Packing

The cooler itself matters a ton, but so does the packing strategy. An ill-packed cooler can leave your bread and egg cartons soggy, your beverages lukewarm and your cans floating in a pool of melted ice. Here are some quick tips on how to pack your cooler so it keeps your food cool for longer:

  • Start with a layer of bottles and cans on the bottom. The bottom of the cooler will be the coldest, which makes it ideal for beverages, and the cold drinks act as icepacks to keep the rest of the food thoroughly chilled.
  • Put all food in airtight plastic bags to protect the contents and packaging from getting soggy or spilling out into the rest of the cooler.
  • To ensure that your bread, eggs, butter and other perishables stay cool without being exposed to pools of water, pack them on the very top of the cooler. Better yet, use a cooler basket to keep them cold and dry.
  • Consider using dry ice in your cooler if you’re going on a trip longer than a few days. Dry ice is said to keep food colder up to three times as long as regular ice, and it doesn’t melt and leave all your cooler contents soaking wet.
  • Invest in some high-quality ice packs that you know will last longer than regular ice and, like dry ice, won’t leave your food all wet.

For more detailed information, reference our guide on how to pack a cooler with more essential tips and tricks for camping.

The Importance of Keeping Food Cold

When you’re away from home and civilization, you need to make sure you have a reliable supply of food on hand to keep you full and energized at all times. Poor or improper packing can translate to a number of issues out in the woods, from rotting produce to attracting curious animals. Taking the time to strategize a good cooling plan is worthwhile for your safety and enjoyment while taking in the fresh air.