Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Keep Cold Foods Cold While Camping

This week is camping week at Now Things Are Cookin'.  Monday I shared meal ideas to help you move beyond hotdogs and hamburgers on your camping trip.

One of my challenges on our trips is how to keep cold foods cold without getting them waterlogged by melting ice.  Many of my food storage containers aren't watertight, and the person in charge of purchasing a cooler *cough* didn't look for one with a valve at the bottom to drain off the water as the ice melts.  This resulted in coming home with leftover cheese, hamburgers, and sandwich fixings that were so water logged they weren't worth keeping.

Another one of our challenges was finding room for all of our water and juice we needed without taking a separate cooler just of our fluid intake.  The 8 year old doesn't mind so much drinking tepid juice, but I like my water as cold as I can get it.

Last year I decided to experiment with other options to resolve both issues.  About a week before our trip, I took standard bottles of water and began freezing them.  If you buy a lot of bottled water, you can save bottles for reuse and leave a couple inches head room for the water to expand.  If not you can try freezing the unsealed bottle.  We rarely buy bottled water so I froze unsealed bottles of water with no problem.

Because I had to stack the bottles of water in the freezer, they acted as an insulator to the bottles in the middle.  After a day or so, I rotated the bottles so the outside ones were on the inside of the stack.  That way they all got frozen solid.  I also froze a pack of juice boxes

Then on the day of packing, I placed a row of frozen water bottles on the bottom of my cooler.  I then loaded in my food, starting with the items, like dairy and mayo, that needed to stay the coldest.  Once I had everything packed, I positioned my leftover bottles and most of the juice boxes on the top and in open spaces.  This gave us some water and juice right away without having to dig to the bottom.

Last year this method lasted until the middle of our third day with external temperatures in the mid 80's.  This year our temperatures were a little higher and I ended up with not as many bottles of water, so we bought a bag of ice early on our third day to keep the last of our food and our water cold.

We always store our cooler in the shade outside a vehicle during the day, and to avoid raids from raccoons and bears, in the locked car at night.

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