10 Camping Food Safety Tips You Need to Know

Before you head into the great outdoors, make sure you understand how to safely feed your family on a camping trip.

September 02, 2020
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Camping Food Safety 101

Camping has become a popular activity throughout the U.S. Being in the great outdoors helps clear your mind and allows for social distance and some exercise. Even if you’re taking a short camping trip, chances are you will need to prepare at least one meal. If the food isn’t handled correctly, it can lead to foodborne illness and ruin your outdoor experience. Here are 10 tips to keep your food safe during your next camping trip.

Find a Water Source

Before leaving for your campsite, do some research to determine where safe drinking water is available. It’s not a good idea to depend on fresh water from a lake or stream for drinking, no matter how clean you think it is. Some harmful microorganisms live in remote mountain lakes and streams. Your best set it to bring bottled or tap water for drinking. Start with a full bottle and refill your supply from tested public systems when possible. If there is no other source than streams, lakes and springs, be sure to boil the water or use water purification tablets, which can be found at a camping supply store.

Start With Cold Food

You always want to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. As you won’t have a heat source, your best bet is to bring chilled foods. Refrigerate or freeze the food overnight. To keep foods cold, bring frozen gel-packs or freeze some box drinks and water bottles. A few foods that are good for camping and can be kept cold include sandwiches, bread and cheese, or salads.

Opt for Nonperishable Food

If you don’t want to worry about keeping food cold, then there are many nonperishable options available including canned tuna, chicken and beans. You can also opt for nut butters in plastic jars, juice boxes, or jerky or biltong. Patagonia Provisions sells camping-friendly foods such as canned Lemon Caper Mackerel, canned Lemon Herb Mussels and Buffalo Jerky.

Choose Food That Can Cook Over a Flame

If you plan on building a fire, there are dishes that can be cooked with a little heat. Some brands have soups and rice that just need the addition of water and/or heat. You can also cook meat, chicken or pancakes over a flame.

Dehydrated Foods Don't Go Bad

These meals have come a long way since being heavily used in the military years ago. Use your heat source to warm up water and add it to your meal. Good To-Go and Backpackers Pantry sell lightweight meals for campers where all you need to do is add water. You can also use the hot water to make tea, coffee, pasta or rice.

Plan Your Menu in Advance

In order to plan your menu, check with the camping area if campfires are prohibited. As such, you will need to bring any cooking equipment you need such as a camping stove. Having your menu planned in advance can ensure you have the proper equipment to cook the food you bring.

Stash Leftovers Safely

If you don’t have any way to keep food cold, your safest bet is to burn any leftover food. If you do have a cooler, leftovers can be stashed there only if it still has ice in it. Otherwise leftover food should be discarded or burned.

Use a Food Thermometer

An important tool to carry when camping is a food thermometer. Looking at the color of burgers or chicken isn’t a reliable indicator of doneness and it can especially be tricky to tell the color of meat or poultry if you’re cooking in a wooded area in the evening. A meat thermometer should be used to determine if the proper minimum internal cooking temperature is reached, which will ensure the safety of your food.

Wash Hands and Dishes Properly

One of the most important ways to keep you and your family safe when camping is to wash your hands before and after handling food. Both soap and water are needed to wash your hands. If you are going somewhere that will not have running water, bring it with you. If you’re camping for several days, the dishes and pots will need to be washed properly. Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand washing and dishwashing.

Be Mindful of Trash

Trash should be tossed in designated trash cans, but you’re probably not going to find many deep in the wild. Any trash should be kept in a garbage bag and carried until you can properly discard it.

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