Choosing the Right Cooler
The biggest step in keeping your food safe from spoiling is choosing the appropriate cooler to fit your camping trip's specific needs. The longer the trip, the bigger the cooler you'll need. In an ideal situation, you'd like your food to take up no more than 65 percent of the inside cooler space. The extra space will allow for ice to be added. If your trip will be longer than several days, you'll want the cooler to maintain a cold temperature at all times, and the extra space for ice will allow this. It's also suggested to have two coolers--one to keep your drinks in and one to keep your food. The less often the food cooler's lid is opened, the longer it will remain cold.
Freeze Your Meat
Once you plan your menu, you'll know what types of meats you'll be cooking during the trip. Before you pack the cooler, freeze any type of meat that won't be used the first day of camp. If you have a steak or chicken you want to marinate, you can prepare it and place it in a plastic bag when you bring it home from the store. Toss the bag into the freezer. When you pack the cooler, your meat items will be frozen and your cooler will stay even colder. You have less chance of a piece of meat spoiling if it's frozen before you pack it. Regardless of how cold your cooler is, meat has a bigger chance of spoiling when it's living inside of a cooler.
Keep the Cooler Cold
Keeping your cooler as cold as possible during the camping trip is imperative to keeping your food safe. Freezing large plastic bottles that held juice or soda make great solid blocks of ice you can use. You can even freeze a bottle of drinking water. If for some reason you run out of water, you'll have some frozen in the cooler. By placing these frozen bottles on the bottom portion of the cooler and on the sides, your frozen food will stay frozen longer, and anything else perishable will stay cold. It will usually take 3 to 5 days for a large frozen bottle of water to melt. Once you filled the cooler with your food, place single-serving frozen water bottles around in the open spaces.
Watch Your Food
Keep an eye on your frozen food as it begins to thaw, especially if it's a meat that spoils easily. You can plan your nightly menu on what is thawing and needs to be cooked first. If you have to question whether something you brought is good to eat or not, don't eat it.
Pack cans of soup or some other canned item that you know won't go bad in the event your planned dinner has. Store any opened items such as cheese or lunch meat in a plastic bag after you've opened them, and quickly place them back inside the cooler. Don't leave food items that have a tendency to spoil lying around too long outside on the picnic table. Wash your hands before your prepare any meals or touch any food that you will be using again.