How To Keep Food Cold When Camping

How To Keep Food Cold When Camping – 11 Easy Tips

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When it comes to how to keep food cold when camping, you may be wondering what the best way is. Even a cooler can only keep it cool for up to a few days. Food can be kept cool while making the most of the camping surroundings by using the right cooler.

A large size cooler and even a couple of coolers can keep food cold while camping. Read on for more tips on how to keep food cool on your camping adventure.

How To Keep Food Cold When Camping

1. Use a cooler

A cooler is the first point of call for a camper. Small coolers are ideal for single campers or couples. Family-sized coolers are ideal for small groups and more campers.

Using a cooler isn’t sufficient, however. Campers need to know how to use the cooler efficiently so that it keeps food cold. Only open the cooler for a short period. Frequent cooler opening allows all air to escape. The more you open a cooler the less efficient it becomes. This is why campers should open coolers for short periods only. This allows it to deliver the longest cooling capacity.

2. Store the cooler in a shaded place

Keeping the cooler out in the sun isn’t recommended. At the very least, campers need to store coolers in shaded areas. Good examples include the shade of a tree, behind a wall, or behind the car when car camping.

How To Keep Food Cold When Camping

3. Avoid having the cooler next to heat sources

Coolers out in the sun or next to heat sources aren’t efficient. A cooler that sits too close to a campfire is a cooler that faces higher temperatures and reduced chilling efficiency.

4. Consider submerging the cooler

Some coolers are waterproof. This means they can be submerged or at least placed in cold water streams which maintain a cooler temperature on the walls of a cooler.

5. Consider a larger cooler

A larger cooler, like a 150Qt one, will fit plenty of cold things for a group of 4, keeping things cool for up to 5 days. Or just using a second cooler are efficient methods of keeping food cold while camping. Larger coolers allow campers to add more ice inside.

A backup cooler can be an even better option. Campers can start only consuming food from the first cooler without opening the second cooler. When foods and drinks in the first cooler are finished campers can move on to the second cooler.

6. Use dry ice

Dry ice is an effective method of prolonging ice cooler efficiency. You can get multiple dry ice packs for coolers before you go camping cheaply.

7. Freeze drinking water

Freezing drinking water is one of the most practical methods of keeping food cold while camping when you already own an ice cooler. At this time, you need to consider frozen water as both drinking water and as ice for the cooler.

Campers need plenty of water while out in nature. But water can be frozen so that it keeps food cold as well. One bottle can be unfrozen at a time by removing it from the ice cooler and leaving it in the sun.

The benefit of freezing water bottles is the capacity to keep the cooler efficient for days. However, this method also saves cooler space. You don’t need ice packs or dry ice when you use frozen water bottles inside the cooler leaving more space for fresh food.

8. Use rivers and streams

Rivers and water streams are ideal places for keeping food cool when you don’t have a cooler. Some of the first campers and travelers used to submerge food in waterproof plastic bags to keep it cold.

Shallow rivers are ideal for this. But even streams where you can safely leave your food bag work great at keeping your food cold, especially during the hot summer days. While water naturally warms up during the day, it’s still colder than the air temperature.

This means food kept in water is always going to be colder than food otherwise left outside. This method can be as efficient as using an ice cooler if your camping spot has a place with cold water that gets little to no sun exposure.

9. Store food in the shade

If you don’t have an ice cooler or a nearby river you need to store food in a shaded place. Shade is the final line of defense against high heat.
Ideally, campers would find a shaded place that isn’t the tent. Storing food inside the tent isn’t recommended as tents tend to overheat during the day.

10. Dig a storage hole

You can alternatively dig a hole in the ground if you can’t find a shaded storage place. The deeper you dig the cooler the temperature becomes. This is an ideal food cooling method if you’re camping in sandy areas or places with soft soil that can easily be excavated with a small camping shovel.

This traditional method of keeping food cold while camping was used for hundreds of years by various cultures around the world. While not as efficient as other cooling methods, it’s a no-cost solution for keeping food out of the sun at a lower temperature.

11. Pack frozen food

Frozen food acts similarly to frozen water in the cooler. It makes it more efficient and it can be used as needed through the camping adventure.

Frozen food can be a great type of food to consume while camping. Frozen vegetables can be prepared on a camping stove. Frozen fruits can be consumed as dessert. Frozen food and frozen water bottles can expand the chilling capacity of a cooler up to a few days.

Mistakes on How to Keep Food Cold When Camping

New campers are prone to making a few simple mistakes when it comes to keeping food cold while camping.

Storing the cooler in the sun

Keeping the cooler out in the sun immediately negatively impacts its heat retention capacity. It’s best to keep it out of the sun as much as possible.

Keeping the cooler in the car

The car heats up during the day. It might not be the best idea to keep the cooler in the car, especially if it’s parked in the sun.

Placing the cooler in the tent

Tents attract heat. They are almost impossible to sit in during the day due to heat. Coolers can have almost no efficiency when exclusively kept inside of the tent.

Packing short shelf-life food

Another typical mistake new campers make is to only pack fresh food. While it tastes great, it has a short shelf life. It’s often worth packing long shelf-life or dry food such as rice and noodles instead of fruits and vegetables.

Opening the cooler for more than a few seconds

Coolers are rarely efficient when the lid is left open for more than a few seconds at a time. Campers should already know what they need from the cooler to avoid long open periods when cold air makes its way out.


Keeping food cold while camping is subject to limitations. Apart from a good cooler, campers can only make the most of their immediate surroundings such as keeping food in a shaded spot.

Alternatively, campers can consider storing the food in plastic bags and submerging it in cold water streams. All of these methods have their limits. Some of the best large coolers or even a second cooler can keep fresh foods cold for more than a day.

All methods can further be improved. For example, coolers can benefit from adding more ice. Freezing water bottles or soda bottles that are kept inside the cooler is another good method for how to keep food cold when camping.

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