My Favorite Way to Pack Food While Tent Camping

June 15, 2020

I've made some mistakes over the years y'all. 

Even though I'd read every post I could find about packing for camping I ran into one of two problems - they were either geared towards RV campers or Primitive Campers. Those worlds live on either side of "bougie tent camping" and my desire to eat real food and actually be able to keep it cold without a mini fridge. 

So after almost 5 years of tent camping I'm sharing with y'all what I've finally "perfected" for our food storage method! 

Let's start with my mistakes... 

There was the time raccoons stole everything but my kombucha... two days in a row. 

The second time we were raided even though we tied down our coolers better. But the coolers weren't well insulated and needed more ice every single time. 

There was also the times I didn't pack cheese or meat well and it became water logged. 

So all that to say... 

Tips for Keeping the Cold Food Cold & the Dry Food Dry

Cold Food Storage Tips:

1. Buy items in containers that won't take on water - for instance the baby needed milk so I bought a smaller milk jug that was all plastic. Usually the brand I buy is a carton so that wouldn't fly in the cooler. 

2. Precook as much food as you can and store in double bagged Ziplocs. Don't buy the cheap ones either, they grab water! I had one gallon bag with all of my ground beef/sausage/bacon in individual quart bags inside. The cheese was also in its own gallon bag. Hotdogs... inside a gallon bag too! 

3. Store eggs in a different container, already cracked! I usually buy a small egg carton, but that just takes on so much water. This year I began saving screw top fruit jars and such to use when camping. I cracked the eggs I would need for each breakfast, each day had a jar, and stored it in the cooler. Only one yolk had been broken in both jars after all that traveling & they were water tight! 

4. You'll notice the basket in our cooler, it came with it but I've also seen campers do this with a basket they personally added. This is where I will keep fruit or fresh veggies I don't want touching the ice directly. I also premade sandwiches, wrapped in foil, then stuffed in a gallon bag, and stored in the basket. The sandwiches stayed air tight! 

5. If you have a cooler with a divider than can be taken in and out, use it! keep meat on one side and veggies on the other. I've kept food and drinks seperate in the past but this year opted to bring a few gallons of water and not put them in the cooler at all. Instead the only drinks in the cooler were 4 kombucha and 4 ginger bears (we like to drink fun sodas and eat candy by the fire after the kids are down.). Taking the majority of our drinks out of the cooler saved a ton of room. 

Dry Food Storage Tips: 

1. Have a specific basket that will hold it all! We've got this basket that is similar to one of those big stand alone 31 Bags totes and it holds all of our dry food. 

2. Pack only what you need. I had a bag within the big bag of kid snacks, exactly what they munch on daily, each in a small snack bag so I didn't have to bring big open bags. I also buy individual chip bags, we've bought big ones in the past but if you are in a high humidity area the chips will go stale quickly. 

3. Take any sugar you need for coffee and put enough for that week of camping in small snack bags! I also bought some Mini Moos half and half for coffee this year, much better than cold storing a half and half carton. We were almost out of coffee so we took the whole bag this time, otherwise I would ration out what is needed and again... shove it in a Ziploc. My only issue with a screw top or Tupperware is that it takes up more room. 

4. Try to pack snacks that won't melt easy. Some parks will prefer that you keep food in a locked car to avoid the lovely smell inviting in the critters. Other times the heat can pose a problem. We have had trouble keeping the tent cold during the day and this can effect your food. No one likes sweaty bread. For instance, we camped in the Smokies this month, it was cooler... our chocolate bars for s'mores still melted. 

5. Last but not least, only pack what you need! Try and buy a 4 pack of hamburger buns if you won't go through 8. Or do what we did this trip and use 4 for sandwiches and bring the others for dinner one night. Try to use everything you take with you or plan to only take what you need. Sometimes it's nice to plan for just in case, but with tent camping and fitting it all into a car it is down to the inches as to what can go and what stays home. 

For instance, my absolute favorite way to pack clothing had to be nixed after having Elliot because of space. But I think I've divised a solution to getting my Sterilite 3 drawer back! 

Most importantly INVEST IN A GOOD COOLER! We didn't guy a Yeti but have the Magellan version and we have zero regrets. The locking system keeps the critters out and it holds ice so well we don't have to restock it daily.