Calling all campers! After you’ve planned out meals and snacks for your upcoming camping trip, the next step is ensuring you have the right kinds of camping food storage to keep everything safe and secure. Whether you’ll be pitching a tent at local campgrounds, at a national park, or somewhere deep in backcountry, read on for our sustainable food safety and storage tips that help reduce single-use plastic.
General camp kitchen food storage tips
Here are our do’s and don’ts for food storage while camping:
- Don’t leave food or trash unattended, even for just a minute. Unattended food is like the chipmunk’s and raccoon’s siren call — don’t tempt them!
- Don’t leave food or trash inside your tent (unless you want to wake up with all kinds of various critters as your new tent-mates)
- Don’t leave food in the car if you have access to metal food lockers at your campsite. While storing food in the car is certainly better than leaving it out in the open, bears have been known to break into cars even in broad daylight! (Don’t believe us? Search “bears in car” on TikTok and prepare to be amazed.)
- Don’t use single-use plastics or disposable foil packets when you can store your food and snacks in endlessly reusable, earth-loving Stasher bags!
- Do keep perishables cold in a cooler. Improper food storage doesn’t just mean leaving food out for the wild animals – it also has to do with improperly storing and packing perishable foods like meat and dairy.
Do pack raw meat in leak-proof Stasher bags to avoid it leaking into other foods. Even better, freeze your meat before the trip, and keep it at the very bottom of the cooler.
Food storage for backcountry camping
Bear canisters are hard-sided containers with locking lids that are ultra-tricky for bears to open. They’re ideal for securing food and scented items (like toiletries or trash) in bear country, and they’re more effective than some other bear-proofing methods, so they’re required at many national parks and trails. The downside of bear canisters is that they’re bulky, making them tricky to pack, but many parks offer rental options.
Bear bags are used to bag up your food, trash (which we recommend keeping to a minimum by avoiding throwaway materials), or other items that might interest a bear, and are then suspended from a tall tree branch. They’re a good choice in areas where bear canisters aren’t required , because they’re less bulky. But don’t just use any old bag – the key is to use a bag that’s made from indestructible material like Kevlar (what bulletproof vests are made from!) that’s specifically designed to withstand bear claws and teeth. But unlike bear canisters, bear bags aren’t usually waterproof, and your items can get squashed if a bear knocks it around, so many outdoors enthusiasts recommend bear canisters instead.
Food lockers, also called bear boxes, are metal containers permanently installed a safe distance from a campsite and intended for animal-proof food storage. They’re usually the best choice for keeping food away from prying bear paws and other wild animals, and they also keep you from having to pack bulky bear canisters or buy pricy bear bags.
Campground food storage
Having the right food storage and cooking gear is essential for a safe and efficient camp kitchen. Our go-to storage solutions are the Stasher Sandwich Bag and the Stand-Up Mid Bag because you’re perfectly sized to fit anything you need, can be easily washed and endlessly reused, and cut down on trash (which is a hassle to store even for the most seasoned of campers). During the day, keep your Stasher bags and non-bagged food items secured in a cooler or in your car (if the latter is allowed by the park). To secure your food at night, use the campground’s metal bear box. If a bear box isn’t available, then use a bear canister, which many campgrounds and parks require.
How to keep food cold while camping
Perishable foods like meat and dairy should be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to keep them from going bad. You’ll likely be bringing along a cooler if you’re camping at a campground, so be sure to use it! Before your trip, make your own ice packs by filling Stasher Sandwich Bags with water and freezing them. As they melt, you can drink the water or use it for cooking and cleanup. Another best practice of safe food storage is arranging the food in your cooler based on when you plan to use it. If you’re not going to eat something for a couple days, tuck it in the very bottom of the cooler, and keep foods you plan to eat soon near the top.
If you’re heading out into backcountry, consider a smaller, insulated fabric cooler that’s easy to transport and keeps your food nice and chilly. Along with your DIY Stasher bag ice cubes, be sure to also pack your cooler tightly (the more air flow, the quicker your cold foods will start to thaw!), pre-freeze all your food, and freeze your water bottles.
Food safety and hygiene while camping
- Wash your hands! You don’t need us to tell you to wash your hands before and after handling food (especially raw meat!) and after going to the bathroom, but we’re going to do it anyway. 😉 Skipping this crucial step might seem like it’s no big deal, but it can get you really sick – and ruin your trip! For ultimate convenience, keep your soap, hand wipes, and/or hand sanitizer in a Stasher Go Bag and clip it to your backpack or belt loops.
- When sharing snacks from a Stasher bag (like trail mix), pour out a fistful at a time into your hand so that there aren’t lots of (possibly unwashed) hands digging in. Or for ultimate food safety, portion snacks out into single-serving Pocket Bags so that everyone has their own.
Keeping food cold while camping – and keeping it away from wild animals – is foundational to having a great trip. So while planning out your food storage methods for your camp kitchen might be less exciting than charting out where you’ll camp and what you’ll see and do, it’s worth the extra effort!