How to Keep Food Fresh on Summer Camping Trips

Tent and Cooler

Summer camping can be a lot of fun but taking along fresh food with you can be a bit of a challenge as the summer heat rolls in. Having your fresh food spoiled on your camping trip can not only ruin the mood but it can cost you a lot of money having to buy new food locally or worse put your family at risk of getting sick. These ideas will help you keep your fresh food cool and safe on your summer camping trip.

Of course, if you are RV camping and have access to electric hookups, you most likely have a refrigerator and/or freezer to help with food storage. However tent campers or boondocking RV campers with no generator will need to put some extra thought into food safety.

Food in Cooler

Keeping Food Fresh While Camping in the Summer

Bring more than one cooler – When you pack a single cooler for both foods and drinks you open that cooler over and over again for drinks letting the heat in. This will lead to your food thawing and spoiling faster. By bringing more than one cooler you can protect your food and still enjoy cold drinks as often as you need to help keep cool and stay hydrated in the summer heat. If you have kids, consider a cooler for adult drinks and one for kid drinks and add a box or bag of snacks for the kids to grab so everything is sorted.  This way each cooler will be opened a bit less often, helping your food to last longer.

Freeze drinks before placing in a cooler – By tossing your bottled non-carbonated drinks into the freezer (or better yet deep freezer) you allow them to act as ice packs for other drinks like sodas. This is a great way to keep water, Gatorade, juice boxes, even a small container of milk cold longer so you can enjoy your whole camping trip without having to refill your ice several times over. These frozen bottles can also make great ice packs for cold foods.

Freeze food first – Before packing up for your camping trip, freeze food in the portions you will need for your trip. A vacuum sealer is a great way to portion food into meal-sized servings. This eliminates the need to open an entire package of food to make a meal only to not be able to put it back in the cooler without it getting soggy. Toss these sorted and sealed packs into the freezer allowing them to freeze solid before packing up your cooler for your camping trip. This will keep your food frozen and cold longer, helping it survive the summer heat.

Use blocks of ice – Instead of using bags of ice that will run loose around your cooler and melt quickly, opt to use blocks of ice. You can make these at home by freezing water in clean ice cream containers. The result is a convenient ice block that can be placed inside your cooler to help keep your ice frozen longer. Another option is to check local stores for a block of dry ice. Note: dry ice requires safe handling and you might not even want to risk mishandling if you are camping with kids.

Place a Mylar blanket over coolers –  Freezers are designed to trap the cold in and keep the heat out. You can mimic this feature by adding a bit of insulation to your coolers. Place a Mylar
emergency blanket over your cooler to direct the cold back at your cooler. The blanket will also reflect the sun’s heat up and away from your cooler which prevents the cooler’s exterior from heating up.

With a little bit of pre-planning, and putting one or all of our suggestions above into place, you can extend the cooler-life of perishable foods by a good bit, even when camping in the middle of a hot summer!

Do you have any additional tips for storing cold foods on summer camping trips? Drop us a comment and tell us about it! 


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