How to Keep Food Cold for a Week Camping

how to keep food cold for a week camping
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Camping in the great outdoors is more fun when you plan it properly. You have to plan for the challenges you will be facing while camping. One of the major challenges you will face in your camping trip is food. Without a proper stock of food supply, your camping can become a disaster. In long camping trips, it is difficult to prevent perishable food from spoiling. So, you should know how to keep your food from spoiling.

If you want to learn how to keep food cold for a week camping, just go through this guide.

How to Keep Food Cold for a Week Camping

Camping trips that are longer like a week require good food handling so that it doesn’t spoil. One of the best ways to ensure your food doesn’t spoil is by keeping it cold or refrigerated. Eating unrefrigerated spoiled food on a camping trip is a recipe for disaster. The risk of food poisoning while camping becomes high due to lack of food refrigeration.

I have made a list of some tips and tricks below. They will help you keep your food and drinks nice and cold on your camping trip.

Getting a Good Cooler

The most important thing for keeping your food cold is to get a good cooler. Don’t even think about skimping on your cooler. A cheap cooler will not keep your food chilled during your trip, no matter how much ice you put in it.

Coolers come in all shapes and sizes. Spending a few extra dollars on a quality cooler is worth it. You will find coolers ranging from cheap Styrofoam ones to premium steel or fibreglass ones. You can also find electric coolers as well that power from your car batteries. Buy electric coolers only if you will have access to car or electricity. 

Expensive coolers have thicker walls and better insulation that prevent ice from melting. The longer the ice remains solid, the longer your food will remain chilled. Some of the more high-end coolers also come with nice features. Features like thermometers, shelves, handles, wheels and drainage plugs.

So, if you are planning a week-long trip, get steel or fibreglass coolers. These coolers are designed for keeping your food chilled for several days. Just remember that they are a bit on the heavier side and are difficult to carry for long distances.

Chilling your Cooler, a Night before Going 

Camping trips are all about being proactive. Before putting your food in the cooler on the trip day, chill the cooler first. If you have a big enough freezer, put your cooler in it a night before the trip. You can also fill the cooler with ice packs beforehand as well.

Just before leaving, you can empty the cooler and put your food in a pre-chilled environment. This trick lowers the temperature in the cooler before your camping trip. Your cooler doesn’t have to first lower the temperature; instead, it just has to maintain it.

Freezing your Food

The best way to keep your food chilled for as long as possible is to freeze it. A few days before your camping trip, put your camping food in the freezer. The frozen food will not only remain chilled for longer but also act as ice packs. Frozen food will keep other perishable foods cool as well. A good cooler and frozen food are the best combinations for keeping food cold for a week of camping.

Get Long-lasting Ice

You might be thinking that there is nothing much to think about ice. You can just go to the gas station and get as much party ice as you want. Don’t do this, as party ice has small pieces of ice with a lot of air. It will melt very quickly and is uneconomical. It fills the cooler after melting and makes your food soggy. Party ice is only good as a last resort or if you need to refill your cooler during your trip.

Always go for big solid blocks of ice. Place these blocks on the bottom of the cooler. Due to their large size, they take much longer to melt and will keep your food chilled for a longer time. You can make big blocks of ice yourself as well. Fill 2-litre containers with water and put in the freezer 3-4 days before your trip. Keeping the water container for longer in the freezer will ensure that the ice is rock solid. Such ice will melt very slowly. If you freeze water for only 24 hours, the ice made will melt very fast.

You can also use plastic water bottles and milk jugs to make ice as well. Also, the ice bottles will not make a mess of water after melting. Ice bottles can also be used for drinking water after melting.

Dry Ice

Another good choice for ice is dry ice. Depending on where you live, you can find dry ice from many grocery stores. Dry ice is the best option as it melts the slowest and keeps your food dry. The only downside is, it requires careful handling. If you don’t wrap dry ice with a newspaper or sheet, it can burn your skin and crack your cooler. Also, dry ice will freeze anything next to it. So, be careful about what you place next to the dry ice.

Buy or Make Ice Packs.

Ice packs are another good way of keeping your food cold. You can buy them from grocery stores or online. Ice packs are reusable and can stay cold for up to two days. You can also make ice packs yourself, by freezing water in ziplock freezer bags.

Another good thing about ice packs is, you can use them to reduce swelling in case of an injury while camping.

Proper Packing of Cooler

Just like packing your backpack, packing your cooler for camping is very important. You should pack the cooler in an organized way. Don’t just stuff everything in it blindly. You should find whatever food you are looking for quickly. Searching for food will waste cooling. The cooler should be opened as little as possible.

Follow the below guideline to pack your food

Start by placing a block of ice on the bottom. 

Place frozen or cold meat next, on the ice. Remember to put meat in sealed packaging so that it doesn’t contaminate other food as it defrosts.

Place another layer of ice on top of the meat, if you have space.

Place dairy products next, directly on ice.

Now place remaining food items that have their own sealed packaging.

For the topmost layer, place foods that will be eaten first. Foods such as drinks, sandwiches and snacks.

After organizing the food in the cooler, leave no air space empty. Stuff ice packs in every air pocket so that your cooler remains cold as long as possible.

Always Keep the Cooler Under the Shade

Try to keep your cooler away from direct sunlight. Once, you arrive at the campsite, place the cooler under a shady spot. Under the shade of a tree is a good option to put the cooler. Just remember, as the sun moves throughout the day, so does shade. Move the cooler along with the shade from time to time.

You can also place a tarp or blanket over the cooler as extra insulation. The more you keep the cooler under the shade, the longer it will remain cool.

Don’t Drain the Cooler

The ice will melt as the days pass, filling the cooler with water. Don’t drain the water as the water is still cold. The cold water will also help to keep everything cool. Only drain the water, if you need space or it is damaging your food.

Bring Two Coolers

If you can afford and have space, then bring two coolers. One cooler for the drinks and the other for food. Opening the cooler wastes precious cold air. The cooler with drinks may be opened from time to time while the food cooler remains close for most of the time. This way, you can be sure that the food remains refrigerated for as long as possible.


Keeping food cold for a week camping can be very challenging. You should make no compromise when it comes to food. You should know how to keep food cold for a week camping. Otherwise, your food will spoil and can cause food poisoning. Getting a quality cooler is key to keeping your food cold and consumable. Follow the tips I have told you, and you can keep your food cold while camping. 

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I am Steve Hudson. I write about Fishing, Climbing, Hiking, Backpacking and Camping here at Living Ambition.

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