How to Keep Food Frozen During Camping

How to Keep Food Frozen During Camping
Keeping food frozen while camping can help lengthen your stay in the woods while allowing you to enjoy fresh food at the campfire. A few tricks can keep meats and other food items frozen in a cooler while traveling. However, it's important to remember, especially when dealing with raw meat or fish, that the minute your food begins to thaw you need to get it on the grill before it spoils.

How to Keep Food Frozen When Camping: 2 Methods

Wondering how to keep frozen food while traveling? You can pack a cooler for camping using either dry ice or water-based ice. 

Method 1: Using Water-Based Ice

Step 1
Buying a good quality cooler is the first step to keeping things frozen in a cooler while traveling. Fiberglass or metal works much better than Styrofoam when you are using water-based ice.
Step 2
Use block ice rather than crushed or cubed. Block ice will melt more slowly.
Step 3
Wrap frozen food in Ziploc bags or keep stored in plastic containers. This will keep the food from getting soggy when the ice starts to melt and prevent it from thawing quickly.
Step 4
Change ice frequently. Don't wait for the block of ice to melt before getting a new block. Keeping your food frozen requires the temperature of the cooler to stay below 32 degrees F. Keeping as much solid ice in the cooler as possible will help.
Step 5
Wrap the cooler in a sleeping bag or woolen blanket. This will help insulate the cooler and keep your foods frozen longer.

Method 2: Using Dry Ice

Tip: Dry ice can be purchased at some ice cream shops or special ordered from your grocery store

Step 1
When packing a cooler of frozen food with dry ice, use separate coolers for frozen foods and other items that just need to stay cold
Step 2
Pack well-frozen and wrapped food into the cooler. The deeper you freeze the food, the longer it will take to thaw. Let food freeze for several days before packing it into the cooler.
Step 3
Place food into the cooler as tightly as possible. If you only have a small quantity of items that you want to keep frozen, consider a smaller cooler. Use newspaper or Styrofoam bubbles to fill in the extra space; this will help insulate the space and make your cooler more efficient.
Step 4
Place dry ice on top of food. Keep the ice in the paper it comes in or wrap it well with newspaper. This will protect your cooler liner and any plastic food packaging from cracking under the extreme cold of the dry ice. It also provides a safety layer for moving it around. Never touch dry ice with your bare hands. Always use thick, protective gloves, oven mitts or tongs to move dry ice. Dry ice is not water, but frozen carbon dioxide and it can cause serious burns with prolonged exposure.
Step 5
Close the lid on the cooler. If you are using a metal or fiberglass cooler, do not close the lid tightly. Allow for a little air to escape. Dry ice does not melt, it changes from a solid to a gas. If your cooler is airtight, the gas could build up to a bursting point. You can wrap a blanket around the cooler to help with insulation or use a Styrofoam cooler instead.
Step 6
Replace dry ice as needed. You may not be able to find a supplier once you get out of the city limits, although you may want to ask at RV parks if it is available. When your supply has been exhausted, you can switch back to regular ice. Twenty pounds of dry ice will keep your food frozen for approximately 24 hours.


Choosing the Best Camping Cooler

Cooler quality can impact how long you can reasonably expect food to stay frozen, regardless of whether you use water-based ice or dry ice. If you're thinking about investing in a new cooler prior to your next camping adventure, consider how various models perform when it comes to keeping ice frozen the longest. 


Transporting Frozen Food

Keeping food frozen while traveling can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Whether you are heading out camping for a week or longer, or if you'll just be on the road for a few days, it's a good idea to follow the steps detailed here, along with additional tips for keeping food frozen in a cooler. Doing so will help ensure that you and your travel companions will be able to enjoy delicious, freshly-prepared campfire meals during your next road trip. It's also important to know how to keep food cold while camping, as you'll likely take along some items that require refrigeration but don't need to be frozen. 

Article Written By Nikki Jardin

Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.

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