A beautiful winter day, with snow coming the end of this week, makes me want to go camping even more! Today I’m going to talk about how to store food when camping, whether you’re tenting or in your RV. The most obvious way to store perishable food is with a cooler, but there are other hacks that really help, even with your other food items.
Keep Cold Stuff, Cold
If you really wanted to, you could buy a portable refrigerator if you’re tent camping, but they can be expensive and bulky.
A good sturdy cooler such as an RTIC cooler, with a couple of water jugs filled with water and frozen, will keep your cooler cold for a week or more. When you do this though, keep in mind that the more ice you put in the cooler, the less room you have for food.
If you are camping by yourself, make sure you have a cooler that you can handle yourself, or maybe even have 2 depending on how long you are camping for. If you have more than one person in your party, I’ve found that a bigger cooler that will hold more ice and more food, is a lot better than more, smaller coolers.
Even in my 5th Wheel, with the refrigerator that comes with it, as well as my mini fridge for beverages, I still have a cooler to keep the bigger things cold that won’t fit in either fridge.
But when you are tent camping, and you don’t have access to electrical or a refrigerator, a cooler is a must have. There are many to choose from, but I’ve found that my Yeti works the best out of all the coolers I’ve tried.
Don’t Break The Fragile Stuff
A plastic storage tub works great for storing non-perishable food items if you are tent camping. When we go camping in our camper, we usually will stock the kitchen with our food stuff before we leave, but will often use a plastic tub to take stuff from the kitchen to the camper.
When transporting non-perishable, but fragile foods such as bread, chips, crackers, etc. a lot of times there is a special carrier for them. A plastic egg carton is relatively inexpensive and will save you a lot of heartache over broken eggs and a Rubbermaid bread container works great to keep your bread from being crushed.
Nalgene jars are perfect for spreads or dips like peanut butter, jelly, butter, jam, or veggie dressing and hummus. And larger containers are great for cereal, oatmeal, cookies or crackers.
Don’t Feed The Animals
Whether you are tent camping and want to keep the animals out of your food, or you are camping in your RV, you still need to remember to take care of your trash at night, or else you’ll attract some unwanted visitors.
One of the animals most people forget about is ants. Make sure if you have any spills or anything, to clean it up immediately, or you will have an insect problem.
Another animal concern is bears. Be sure that if you are tent camping, especially in a remote area, lock your food up into a footlocker, a smell proof one preferably. If not, you can put it all in a bag and hang in up in a tree. They may still be attracted to the smell, so you’ll want to hang it somewhere away from your campsite, in case they do decide to show up and investigate more for themselves.
Food You Have Acquired On Your Trip
Do you plan on catching fish while you’re camping? If you do, and you want to eat it while you are on your trip, you’ll need to know how to properly take care of it. PennState has some great tips when it comes to fish processing.
Some items that you’ll want to bring with you if you plan to do any fishing:
- A sharp fillet knife
- A whetstone or steel for sharpening
- Clean cloths or paper towels
- Sealable storage bags
- Disposable plastic gloves
- A cooler full of ice or snow
- Clean drinking water
- A bucket, basket, stringer, or live box to keep fish alive
Before you go fishing, make sure you know all the local laws and regulation regarding fishing, or your trip could turn out to be more expensive than you planned, especially if you get an unexpected run in with local Fish & Game officials. But after you catch your fish, you’ll want to:
- Using a clean fillet knife, bleed the fish by cutting the throat, then remove the gills and entrails.
- Use clean water, pre-moistened wipes, or alcohol swabs to clean your knife frequently or between cuts to keep from dragging bacteria into the flesh.
- Wipe the fish surface clean with cloth or paper towels, keep the fish moist, but not wet, by wrapping it in clear plastic wrap, put the fish in a sealable storage bag, and place it on ice or snow.
- If making fillets, rinse the fish in cold, clean water to remove blood, bacteria, and digestive enzymes.
- Pesticides or other substances may concentrate in fatty parts of the fish, so remove skin and fat deposits when cleaning fish.
- To prevent bacterial growth, quickly cool fish to 35-40°F.
If you want to take your fish home with you and process it there, here are some helpful tips, along with freezing and smoking tips:
- Store any unfrozen fish in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within two days.
- Keep raw fish separated to prevent cross-contamination in the refrigerator.
- Marinate all fish in the refrigerator.
- Thaw all frozen fish in the refrigerator or under cold, running water, or microwave and use immediately.
- Cook all fish until it is flaky and reaches 145°F to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use a calibrated meat thermometer to ensure proper cooking.
- Do not can fish unless you have a calibrated or recently tested pressure canner. Proper pressure and time are critical to ensure safe canned fish.
- Glass like crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate sometimes form in canned salmon. While there is no way to prevent crystals from forming, they usually dissolve during heating and are safe to eat.
- Fat fish include mullet, mackerel, trout, tuna, and salmon. Dip fat fish for 20 seconds in acerbic acid (2 Tbsp to 1 qt water) to control rancidity and flavor change.
- Lean fish include flounder, cod, whiting, reddish, croaker, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, and most freshwater fish. Dip lean fish for 20 seconds in brine (¼ cup salt to 1 qt cold water) to firm fish and decrease drip loss on thawing.
Freezing and smoking tips:
- Use only fresh fish for freezing.
- Cut and package fish into meal-size portions.
- Use heavily waxed paper, freezer wrap, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or plastic freezer storage bags for fish storage.
- Wrap fish tightly. Remove all air from the bag before sealing.
- Fish can be placed in a shallow metal plan, covered with water, frozen, and re-wrapped in foil, paper, or plastic.
- Label packages with contents and dates.
- Space packages in freezer to allow proper air circulation for cooling and freezing.
- Once packages are solidly frozen (within 24 hours), you can re-stack them within the freezer.
- Properly wrapped fish will store in the freezer for 6 months if they are lean fish, and 2-3 months if they are fat fish.
- To avoid quality deterioration, do not refreeze thawed products.
- For smoking, salt the fish (1 cup salt to 7 cups water) for 1 hour. Smoke the fish until it reaches and holds and internal temperature of 160°F for at least 30 minutes during the smoking cycle.
- Smoked fish can be stored in the refrigerator. Use within a week. Freeze any unused smoked fish (see above).
Eat Like A King When You Go Camping
Food is a big part of our camping trips. Sometimes I feel like I eat better while I’m camping, just because of the atmosphere of it all. Having a plan in place for storing and preparing your food will go a long way in making your camping experience more enjoyable.
As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve offered up, or want to add your experiences, please leave a comment down below!