How to keep food cold when camping: top 6 tips

Tips & tricks

Preparing for your next family summer trip? Read this article to learn the best methods for keeping your food cold and fresh while enjoying the great outdoors.

There’s no better way to make memories that last for a lifetime than on a camping trip. Packing just the essentials, going to a place with wonderful nature, and spending nights listening to cicadas under the stars makes the entire experience worth it (even if it does include some sweaty foreheads during hotter days & nights). 

The summer sun might affect you, but that doesn’t mean it should affect the way you eat! Fresh food is a cornerstone of nutrition, and you’re probably always wondering how to keep your food cold when camping in high temperatures. If you’re warming up to the idea of taking a camping trip in the near future, get ready with our tips for how to keep food cold outside.

1. Store food in a cool and dry place

If you want your food to stay cold and fresh, you should have a travel cooler. It’s the perfect place to store fresh food, fruits, vegetables, and even frozen drinks that turn into delicious, refreshing beverages under the sun. Of course, you can also have food that can be ok to consume even if it’s just in the shade — just remember it needs to stay away from sun and humidity.

2. Invest in a good cooler

Cheap coolers are alright, but can only do so much to keep your food chilled, no matter how much ice you put. That’s why you should consider buying a quality one you can count on to serve its purpose. Of course, the type depends on your budget and camping needs. Steel and fiberglass, even electrical ones keep cold longer, but styrofoam coolers are much lighter and easier to carry. There are various options to choose from, so just make sure your choice is insulated well and knows how to keep food cold even when camping for a week or more.

3. Take time to pre-chill

If you usually just put some ice packs in your cooler a couple of hours before going on the road, take your organizing to the next level with one simple tip: cool your cooler the night before. You can do so by putting bags of ice or ice packs in it, or even better, putting your whole cooler in the fridge if it fits. If you do this the day before your trip, the ice that you put in when it’s time to take off won’t be used to lower the temperature, but to preserve it.

4. Ice packs are your friend

When choosing ice, don’t just go for the easiest option and put a bunch of loose ice cubes or bags of ice in the cooler. This won’t last long, and will create puddles of water in the cooler you can hardly use. 

Instead, use manufactured ice packs found in regular grocery or camping stores. You can reuse them over and over again, and they stay cold much longer. Other than that, you can also freeze water in plastic bottles. Then, after melting, you’ll have a nice refreshing drink just in time when you run out of the cold water in your backpack!

5. Freeze pre-made meals

Dehydrated food and canned goods are indeed your friend, but consider this: preparing some dishes and freezing them in advance. For example, you can freeze stew, goulash, or tortilla stuffing. This is especially useful if you’re wondering how to keep food cold when tent camping. Trailers provide more practical cooking options, but with pre-made meals you basically have everything done and ready, even if all you have is a tent and some basic utensils!

6. Have a thermometer

A thermometer comes in handy in all sorts of situations and should be a part of your first-aid kit. However, you can also use it to check the temperature in your cooler. Get a type intended for refrigerators and coolers and test if the inside is below 4ºC — if yes, you’re safe to eat the food inside, even if it isn’t as cold as it was before. This will leave out the work out of guessing if your food is still okay or not!

Other tips to prevent your food from going bad during summer camping

All of this ensures your food stays cold and fresh, but there is still other advice that can help you pack food for camping trips:

Pack food that won’t spoil easily

As we mentioned before, dehydrated and canned goods are your friends. Mix them with fresh ingredients from your cooler, have some pre-made healthy snacks, and voilà! Your camping diet is versatile and packed with nutrients needed for all the fun activities you have on your schedule.

Don’t let your food sit out in the sun

You and your food have one thing in common — both shouldn’t be out in the sun for too long. Pitch your tent in the shade so you can cool down during hot summer trips, but also provide your groceries a hiding place from the sun.

Keep an eye on expiration dates

If transferring a couple of cans and nut bars from the pantry to your backpack is your go-to food prep move — fine, but still remember to check the expiration date on them. We are used to relying on the pantry items so much that we forget that they, too, at one point expire, and such a simple mistake is a heavy one when you’re out in the wild.

Maybe you will remember this advice when packing for longer camping trips to far away destinations. Or use it to plan a beach picnic where you can indulge in some cool wine and excellent Pag cheese. Whatever you choose, Camping Village Šimuni is waiting for you. Book your stay on the wonderful island of Pag — and don’t worry, even if you don’t pack food, our restaurants got you covered!

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