3 Easy Tips On How To Keep Food Cold When Camping

A camping trip can be a wholesome and fun activity. You get to stay outdoors with your friends and family, away from the busy city life, enjoy nature for all the beauty it offers, and embark on recreational adventures and activities. However, one inconvenience is being away from modern amenities: keeping your food cold without a freezer on hand. So this begs the question, How to Keep Food Cold When Camping?  

Another problem is that we can’t survive on packaged cold camping food like biscuits, candy, trail mix and the sorts for long bouts of time as humans. We get bored and crave something more refined, for example, a cooked item. 

However, most of the cooked food brought to camping is perishable, meaning it needs to be kept cold for long periods; otherwise, the frozen meals will go bad and stink. Luckily, there are various convenient and easy solutions to that.

With innovation, modern technological devices like small coolers (used as a compact freezer) have been incorporated into our daily use. 

Other than these technological advancements, there are other household hacks for keeping the most perishable food chilled on camping excursions with your friends and family out in the wilderness with no signs of a freezer nearby. As God Camping Gear, an adventure guide, puts it, “all it takes is some pre-planning and wits about your end.” 

Pre-chill your cooler 

One necessity to take for most camping trips is a food cooler: an electric one or just a normal ice cooler. For a normal ice cooler, keep in mind the maintenance attached to its temperature. The food cooler itself is not cold. 

It needs to be pre-chilled using loose ice, frozen water bottles, or homemade ice packs hours beforehand for it to be cold enough to store all your food and so it’s temperature remains super cold.

For convenience, it’s better to pre-chill your cooler cold the night before you leave for camping. Then, throw in a few pounds of ice, frozen water bottles, or just a few trusty chill packs inside and leave them there for a night. 

This way, the cooler will be chilled by the time you leave for camping, and you won’t have to worry about where to store your perishable food items. 

One important thing to keep in mind is that you have to pre-chill your cooler every time you take it camping; otherwise, you’d lose a lot of ice, and it won’t work as well as it would have if you pre-chilled it. 

The amount of ice you should use for pre-chilling also depends on the size of your electric cooler. According to Elite Cooler Company, “normally you’d throw in about 10-20 pounds of ice.”

Use ice packs

After pre-chilling your cooler with the icy packs, you can either replace them with new ones or keep using the same chiller packs and place your food above them. 

Using other types of dry ice packs is not recommended because it is not a durable option. The food to freezer pack ratio must also be considered according to how long you’re going camping. 

Using lose ice cubes from a local gas station is not a good option as ice cube tend to melt quickly, leaving behind a “puddle of cold water for your food to swim in,” as said by What’s Cooking America, a trusted culinary resource. 

To avoid getting your precious food soggy:

  1. Use an ice pack (old or new) and place them at the very bottom of your cooler.
  2. Place the food above it.
  3. Make a fortress of chill packs around your food to keep it well chilled. 

The amount of chill packs you put in also depends on your cooler’s performance. If it performs well and has a nice, consistently cold temperature, you’ll only have to put in a small number of freezer bags to keep your food cold. 

The usual ratio of ice pack to food should either be 1:1 or 2:1, depending on the performance of your cooler and the duration of your camping trip.

Looking for camping food idea’s read our article that features tasty recipes including firm cheeses and soft cheese asparagus cooked in aluminum foil. We also cover non perishable foods to the longest lasting foods to bring on camping trips here. If your a meat lover, we have a great article on beef jerky pemmican which goes into the origins of the homemade energy balls and bars.

Original Freezer Ice Pack By Healthy Packers
Slim, lightweight and long lasting set of four slim, reusable and versatile soft gel ice packs to keep your food cold while camping. Each homemade cooler pack measures approximately 7 by 4.8 by 0.6 inches. Keep your insulated coolers & food cold camping for longer, put them in the freezer first.

Two coolers are better than one 

Keeping two coolers is a better option, one designated for frozen food, fresh meat and raw meat and the other for frozen bottles and cold drinks. Since the cooler containing drinks is opened more often than the one containing food, this will make sure there’s no frequent air passage over the chilled food as they will both be in different coolers. It also makes it easy for you to take more drinks and food since 2 coolers have more space than one.

The very common phrase “the more, the merrier” holds true as taking 2 coolers makes it easy for you to take more food drinks and stay camped up for more days. 

However, this is only possible if you have the space in your car to take 2 coolers, as some of them might be too big. Buying another cooler also depends on your budgetary requirements.

Keeping food and drinks in 2 separate coolers eliminates one major problem: keeping them in 1 cooler; the food gets warm because of the number of times the cooler is opened to take out drinks. 

Separating them directs the traffic to their designated destination. It also keeps away the warm air, making sure the cold air stays cooped inside the cooler meant to keep food cold.

Follow our tips for keeping food cold so you avoid food poisoning. By using a separate cooler you will increase ice retention to keep foods like our favourite double wrap frozen meat, summer sausage and frozen food items fresher while saving money on buying loose ice cubes.


Keeping your cooked food cold while camping can be a problem if you don’t know the right materials, how many coolers to use, how to go about it, and what cooling substance you should use inside the cooler. 

Fortunately, with our help by now, you would’ve found out everything you need to know about 3 methods for How to Keep Food Cold When Camping; “pre-chilling your cooler, using ice packs, and keeping 2 coolers rather than one.” 

Out of these 3 ways, keeping 2 coolers for drinks and food separately is the best option. It eliminates the enormous problem of keeping drinks and food side by side in the same cooler and makes sure your most perishable foods stay cold and other foods and drinking water icy for as long as possible.