Camping trips are among the most popular holiday ideas out there, but they do require some pre-planning.
Knowing how to keep food cold when camping should be the top of your priority list to make sure that spoiled or soaking wet food doesn’t ruin your holiday.
In this guide, we will walk you through nine of the best ways to keep your food fresher for longer!
1. Choose the Right Cooler
We’re starting with this tip because it’s easily the most important.
When it comes to how to keep food cold when camping, the quality of your cooler underpins the efficiency of every other tactic we can recommend.
There are numerous variations of coolers on the market.
Knowing where to begin can sometimes be a challenge in itself.
The first thing you need to consider is your budget and how much use you expect to get out of your cooler.
There is no point in purchasing a fibreglass, premium-level cooler if you’re only going to use it once during a weekend away.
When making your selection, consider the following items:
- Your budget
- The length of your camping trip
- The amount you want to store
2. Make the Most of Long-Lasting Ice
It may come as a surprise, but not all ice stays cold for the same duration.
The loose ice you can purchase in the store melts far quicker.
The difference in ice melting is because of surface area. Ice cubes have more exposed surface area, meaning each piece is more vulnerable to the warm air.
For longer-lasting ice, freeze larger blocks within bottles of water or closed-top jugs.
They won’t melt nearly as quickly.
Better yet: the bottle or jug containers will prevent water from accumulating at the bottom of the cooler.
It’s a win-win!
3. Pre-Chill Your Cooler
This is an easily forgotten tip, but it can make all the difference.
If you chill your cooler the night before your journey, or even just a few hours before you embark, it will retain cold air for longer.
All you have to do to pre-chill is place ice packs or bags of loose ice within the container.
Better yet, if you have the room, put your cooler in the freezer.
It will cause the air in the cooler to be cold before you put anything inside it, so it gets a head start on keeping your food fresh.
4. Freeze Your Food before Placing It in Your Cooler
It’s best not only to chill your cooler but your food, too!
A lot of knowing how to keep food cold when camping is all about preparation, and this is a crucial step.
If you freeze your food before placing it within your cooler, the container doesn’t have to work as hard to keep it cold.
It means better results for you and far less strain for your cooler.
Plus, it is better for food safety, as chilling food reduces the likelihood of bacterial growth.
The frozen food items also can serve as additional ice blocks for the rest of your food.
5. Strengthen Your Cooler with Ice Packs
Speaking of additional ice blocks, ice packs can reinforce the strength of your cooler.
It can be a great way to upgrade the quality of your container without having to break your budget.
You can purchase specifically manufactured ice packs at most camping stores.
If you want to drive your costs down even further, make your own ice packs.
While they may not be as effective, they can prove to be a great, budget-friendly solution.
Simply fill up some zip-lock bags with water and freeze them overnight.
In the morning, you will have your very own homemade ice packs!
6. Pack Your Cooler Strategically
Simply throwing your food into your cooler at random isn’t going to give you the best results.
The best way to approach it is like a game of Tetris.
Try to pack your food as closely and as tightly together, and don’t be afraid to pack it in — a full cooler will stay cold longer than one filled halfway.
When it’s full, warm air can’t circulate as much, and your food will stay colder for longer.
The best way to pack your cooler is as follows:
- Layer One: Ice packed at the bottom, preferably in packs, bags, or bottles
- Layer Two: Your frozen meat
- Layer Three: Another layer of ice similar to that on the bottom
- Layer Four: All of your packaged goods
The less space left empty, the longer your food will stay cold.
Additionally, your food-to-ice ratio should be equal.
Otherwise, you will find that your container loses its cool far quicker.
7. Don't Let Your Cooler Sunbathe
We all like to sunbathe on holiday, but maybe leave your cooler out of it.
Even though coolers keep their interiors cold, direct sunlight will significantly impact their efficiency.
Keep your cooler in a shaded, cool location whenever possible.
Be especially wary of leaving it in a hot vehicle as this can cause the ice within to melt far quicker.
The easiest way to keep your cooler cold is by covering it in a thin blanket or tarp to keep it out of the direct sun.
Remember, the sun will move throughout the day, so keep an eye out for your cooler!
It sounds obvious, but when you’re having fun, it is easy to forget to move your container.
8. Try Dry Ice Instead of Conventional
If you a robust solution for those heavy-duty camping trips, dry ice could be your new best friend.
It lasts for far longer than conventional ice and will keep your food as cold as can be.
Be careful when handling dry ice, however.
It is freezing and will lead to ice burn if you aren’t careful.
Keep the dry ice wrapped in a newspaper or a similar protective layer to prevent injury.
Additionally, don’t place it directly next to your food as it will freeze it entirely.
9. Separate Your Food and Drink into Two Coolers
If at all possible, it is a good idea to bring two coolers with you.
This way, you can separate all of your food from your drinks.
It is more likely that you and your family will be reaching for drinks far more often than food.
Every time you open your cooler, it lowers the overall temperature.
Cold air escapes, replaced with the warm air outside.
By separating food and drink, you can minimise how many times everyone opens the container.
This simple hack will keep your items colder for longer.
Staying Cool whilst Camping Doesn't Have to be Hard!
With the best cooler and our tips on how to keep food cold when camping, you’re all set for a chilled trip.
We tried to offer various recommendations from the budget variety to the premium standard.
The perfect cooler for you depends on your intentions and expectations.
Don’t fork out on something you don’t need, but don’t skimp either, as you might regret it!
Whatever you do, remember that camping trips are all about fun.
It isn’t just the food that should stay chilled!