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I am going camping tomorrow and I was looking for campfire recipes. People use hot dogs, bacon, cheese and other stuff regularly for campfire cooking. But these ingredients must be kept cold.

How do you carry these kinds of items with you? I thought about one of those coolers where you put a block of ice and it keeps cool, but those things are only for a few hours. How do you keep stuff cool on a multi day trip?

EDIT: Just got back from the trip. I used a cooler. It was wonderful. Tilapia, chicken breasts and eggs stayed nicely in the cooler for 2 days.

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Where are/were you camping? Depending on relative temperature answers will vary I guess – NBenatar Oct 29 '11 at 10:49
While not keeping ingredients cold, dry ice can get ingredients cold on demand. – Shawn Nov 1 '11 at 0:18
up vote 24 down vote accepted

Here is my camping strategy. If I'm going for more than a few days, here's what I do.

  • Start with a good air tight cooler. (Big enough to hold everything perishable). Forget those "gel packs". Definitely don't get a bag of ice from the convenience store. They melt and mess stuff up. Get a 2 litre bottle, rinse it out, fill it with water and freeze it. (Do this a couple days in advance, if possible). The less air in the better. This won't leak and will stay cold a good time as long as you don't open it.
  • Take any raw meat that you're NOT planning on eating on the first day and freeze that too. Put the meat and all the frozen stuff at the bottom and to one side. My bottle of ice goes either directly on top of the meat or right beside it. This way, my meat has at least an extra day or two of grace and I don't need to waste extra space with an ice pack.
  • Then layer stuff that isn't frozen, but can handle a little freezing on the next layer. Then work your way up, to any produce being on the top layer. Plan for the coldest stuff to be at the bottom and/or near the ice packs. Depending on what's in there, sometimes I put a towel between the frozen stuff and the non frozen stuff to insulate it a bit better. And prevent produce that shouldn't be frozen from freezing.
  • Then on each day, I move the frozen meat for the next day meat away from the ice packs and upward to allow it to defrost (making sure, it's sealed, so I don't get any raw meat juice leaking out).
  • On the last day, the water in the bottle can be drank, but once you start emptying it, it'll start melting.

Obviously, minimize the time you keep it open if possible. I realize you said you're going camping tomorrow, so freezing a 2 litre bottle might not happen in time. In this case, I'd switch to multiple smaller bottles and failing that those gel packs. I hate bags of ice, as they melt and make a mess. Finding cheese in a pool of water is never fun. The rest of the stuff would still apply. This usually lasts me quite a few days.

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That the technique we use, work great. You can freeze milk too (in plastic bottles). Defrosts slowly, and you can pour off the defrosted part for use, and it add to you frozen thermal mass – TFD Oct 6 '11 at 22:10
+1: Nice and comprehensive! You might also get a bit of benefit from making your freezer colder a day before packing up. – Jefromi Oct 6 '11 at 22:44
And here is a good place for spam and other canned meats: they don't need to be refrigerated until they are opened, and if you eat it all, that solves that problem. I guess we're all assuming car-camping, not hauling this cooler by hand. – thursdaysgeek Oct 7 '11 at 0:36
Depending on where I camp I will try and buy a bag of ice every day or 2, just to top up. Otherwise nice answer! – NBenatar Oct 29 '11 at 10:50

Ice chests last way longer than just a few hours. Unless the weather is insanely hot, if you put a reasonable amount of ice in a good ice chest, and don't open it all the time, there'll still be ice in it a couple days later.

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eat the perishable food first. Keep perishable in the shade. Store your food under running water.

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WHat do you mean by running water? Water will cause stuff to warm up faster as it's a better conductor than air. – talon8 Oct 7 '11 at 3:13
By running water, are we talking something like a cold stream in the mountains? That would make some sense (natural refrigeration). However, many rivers and streams are going to be way too warm to help keep food cold... – BobMcGee Oct 7 '11 at 4:55

I like to cook up soups, stews, chili, spaghetti sauce, etc. ahead of time, portion into one-meal amounts in freezer bags, and freeze. I use these as the ice in my cooler. I do the same with meats. They don't keep stuff cold as long, but you can get insulated shopping bags now that do keep stuff somewhat cold, especially if you're filling them with frozen food. These are a lot easier to pack into a backpack between campsites. Wrap some blankets and towels around it to add extra insulation.

I also like to bring along as much non- and semi-perishable food as possible. Hard cheeses, dried sausages, dry beans, jerky, pilot bread, dried fruits, nuts, oatmeal, etc.

For fall/winter camping, I like to carry a small, wide-mouth thermos for soup. I heat it up in the morning before breaking camp, pre-heat the thermos with hot water before filling it with soup, and have hot soup for lunch. It's great after a cold morning of hiking.

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