Keeping Food Safe When Camping

Friday, July 12, 2013


By Suzanne Gerdes, MS, Guest Blogger

Getting out of your normal routine and camping out in the wilderness can be just what you need to reboot and refresh.  Smelling fresh grass, hearing the hum of nature (or the buzz of cicadas!) and sighting some wildlife are just some highlights. But a poorly planned menu can send you and your entire camp running for the closest latrine!  Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way after experiencing a few bellyaches in the woods.

Faucet, Well or Stream
Before you even leave the comfort of your home, find out where you’ll be able to find safe drinking water near the campsite.  Many places will have one bathroom on site, typically near the ranger’s office.  Other places have well water, where you’ll have to pump it yourself.  Avoid using water from the streams or other natural water sources as they may contain parasites and bacteria.  You can find this info at the USGS.  If safe water is hard to come by, bring water with you or invest in water purification tablets.

Rehydrate Your Dinner
Once you’ve found a source of safe water, you’ll have much more flexibility in your meal choices.  Dehydrated meals have come a long way since they were introduced to the military many years ago.  Warm up some water to add to your meal and you’ll have beef brisket or southwestern chicken stew in no time! For simpler options bring along oatmeal, dried pasta, powdered milk or powdered pancake mix.

Food Without A Fire
Some of us are not as skilled as others when it comes to starting a fire.  Despite my best efforts as a Girl Scout, fire starting always made me want to pull my hair out!  If you’re like me—don’t fret, you won’t starve.  Take along some canned goods.  Canned tuna, chicken, ham and beans are great protein options that keep you satiated.  Go for small cans that are easy to transport and can be consumed in one sitting.

Some Like it Hot, Some Like it Cold
Keeping food safe on a camping trip is all about controlling the time your food is out and the temperature food is kept since there’s no refrigeration.  If you choose foods that require refrigeration you’ll need a cooler.  Make sure it’s insulated, closed, out of the sun and covered for even more insulation.  Foods should be in watertight containers to prevent the melting ice water from contaminating your food.  Pack foods that are going to be used last at the bottom of the cooler and foods that will be used first toward the top, unless you have raw meat—put those at the bottom.  Freeze food before you leave so they stay cold longer and discard all food when the ice melts away.

Eat safe while you’re in the boondocks!  Fill up that baggie of trail mix and enjoy the fresh air without your grumbling tummy interrupting your peace and quiet.

Suzanne has a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology and will be completing her dietetic internship from Teachers College, Columbia University in July 2013.  As a former dancer and Pilates instructor, Suzanne plans to counsel active individuals on a path to wellness and healthy eating.

Filed under Food Safety  |  Comments: 1


One Comment on “Keeping Food Safe When Camping



Jemma Says:

Water is really one of the biggest concerns when camping. I also suggest carrying small water jugs if in case we get thirsty while hiking. I also find it useful, based on my experience, to bring fruits and nuts with me when camping. 🙂




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