5 Tips to Keep Food Cold When Camping

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Hey there fellow campers and welcome to my post where we will check out my 5 tips to keep food cold when camping this year.  Keeping food cold when you are camping can be one of life’s big missions.  I know from experience that many a trip has been spent dealing with food that has gone warm or digging the cheese out of 5 inches of water.

In recent times, portable ridge/freezer units have taken some if these stresses away however should this not be an option, then there are still some good ways to keep things nice and cold. So let’s check them out… 

Keep Food Cold When Camping - Cooler next to tent

5 Tips to Keep Food Cold

Ok, so in an effort to ensure you are keeping everything as cold as it should be, let’s have a look at my 5 tips below:

1. Invest in a reliable cooler

There is a saying when it comes to most things in that you get what you pay for.  And when it comes to a cooler, this factor could be the single most important decision you can make to keep your food cold. There are numerous types of coolers on the market, ranging from low-cost styrofoam to high-end steel or fiberglass option.

And although  styrofoam coolers are much lighter and far cheaper, investing in a decent fiberglass or steel cooler will allow you to  keep food cold for several days. Some models also include valuable features such as thermometers, shelves, handles, wheels and drainage plugs as well.

At the end of the day, the better the cooler you have (or can afford), the more chance you have of keeping your food nice and cold. 

Check out these: Camping Coolers

2. Use long-lasting ice

Let’s just be clear here, if you want ice to stay as ice for longer, buy it in blocks as they will take much longer to melt, keeping your food cool for longer.  By all means get some cubes or shards for your drinks, but if you use it for your food, it will quickly melt leaving you with a cooler full of water and wet food items.  

Should however you not want to spend a lot of money on ice blocks, another terrific idea is to make your ice blocks four days before your trip by freezing water in plastic bottles or milk jugs.   The benefit of this approach is as the ice melts, it will not leave your food floating in the water. Furthermore, once the ice melts in the bottles or jugs, you have safe drinking water, which is ideal in an emergency.  

3. Pack your cooler/s properly

One of the biggest risks to keeping food cold is when the cooler is constantly opened and closed so if you can, bring two coolers – one for food and one for drinks – that way you can open the drinks cooler (with your cubed ice in it) as much as you like and it will not affect your food.

Additionally, when dealing with your food esky (which is what we call a cooler here down under) whether you have one or two with you, here are some good packing tips:   

  • Start with your blocked ice and layer it in the bottom of the cooler.  
  • After that, place your frozen (see below) or cold food on the ice. Make sure it’s in sealed packages, so it doesn’t contaminate other foods as it defrosts.
  • Add another layer of ice to the meat if you have room.
  • Following that add are other food items sealed in their container or ziplock bag.
  • Foods that will be consumed first or most frequently, such as drinks, condiments, sandwiches, and snacks, should be placed on the top layer.
  • Once you’ve finished packing your food in the cooler, ensure that every air pocket is filled with an ice (this is where you can add your crushed ice) to keep warmer air from getting to the bottom.
Keep Food Cold When Camping - food in Cooler

4. Freeze your food

We discussed above the advantages of packing your food properly by placing food straight onto the block ice.  This process can also be greatly improved by freezing relevant foods first.  Meal items such as meat, pasta dishes and the like will  freeze very well and add an extra layer of cold to your cooler.

And again as mentioned above, if you freeze your drinking water into clean bottles before you leave, it will not only work as a good block ice option, but also provide for some extra drinking water as well.

Check out these: Camping Fridge Freezers

5. Keep your cooler in the shade

This last tip is to do with campsite management of your cooler once you get to your campsite.  The trick here is to keep the outside of the cooler cool so that the inside can stay cold so my advice here is to put your cooler in a shady spot out of direct sunlight.

As the sun moves across the sky, you may need to move the cooler in different locations throughout the day.   To improve insulation, you may sometimes need to cover the cooler with a tarp or thermal blanket as well.  

Keep Food Cold When Camping - camper sitting on Cooler


So there you have it, my 5 tips for keeping food cold when camping this year. I hope it has been of assistance but as usual, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out by commenting below.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your food cold when camping? If so, please comment below.

Until next time

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.