12 of the Best Ways to Keep Food Cold While Camping

Updated: Nov. 17, 2023

Spending some time in the great outdoors? You'll need to know how to keep food cold while camping. These are our best tips and tricks.

Yeti Cooler
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Invest in the Cadillac of Coolers

When it comes to high-quality coolers, Yeti gets top marks all around. The Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler is certified bear-resistant, and its 3-inch thick insulated walls keep ice frozen. This is how to keep fold cold when you’re camping!

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two women carrying a cooler to the beach
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Or Keep an Old-School Cooler Handy

If you’re looking for a reliable budget-friendly cooler, try one from Coleman—which has been making camping gear for over a century. The Coleman X-Treme cooler has a 70-quart capacity, and its insulated walls will keep things cool for up to five days in 90°F temperatures.

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Four blue freezer packs in a cool bag
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Use Freeze Packs

Ice packs are great for keeping food cold while camping, without the mess of melted ice cubes. These large freeze packs are reusable, made from non-hazardous materials and stay cold for up to 48 hours.

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Get our ultimate guide to backyard camping.

refrigerator Cooler box
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Try a Portable Car Fridge

Keep items cold with help from your car or the campsite’s power source. This portable car fridge runs on 12/24 DC or 110V AC power. This car fridge will reach icy cold temps in about an hour, according to reviewers.

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Chairs and cool box with bottles of beer in mountains, view from tent
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Use a Separate Cooler for Drinks

Since drinks are accessed more often than food, the cooler holding ’em will warm up more quickly. Pack a separate beverage cooler that can be opened frequently without having to worry about spoiled food.

Frozen food in the freezer. Frozen vegetables, soup, ready meals
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Freeze Your Food in Advance

Freezing your food in advance will keep it colder for longer while you’re camping. You can even freeze cracked eggs in a freezer-safe container; they’ll thaw just in time for breakfast.

Follow these tips to get the best results when freezing food.

Photo Of Plastic Drink Tumblers Filled With Cold Water In The Chiller Tray Inside A Refrigerator.
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Use Frozen Bottles of Water

Though it may be tempting to grab ice from the gas station on your way to the campsite, a bag of ice will melt quickly and can contaminate your food. Instead, use frozen bottles of water. They stay cold much longer and will be more effective at keeping your food chilled. Plus, you’ll have plenty of water to drink once the bottles melt!

Cooler In The Shade under a yellow umbrella at the beach

Keep the Cooler in the Shade

It’s a simple tip, but it’s an easy one to forget—keep your cooler in the shade whenever possible.

Here are dozens of easy camping recipes for the campfire.

Chicken beef and pork Packed in plastic bags in the white freezer. Frozen raw meat.
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Double-Wrap Frozen Meat

To help prevent cross-contamination, double wrap frozen meat in aluminum foil and freezer bags. This will prevent any liquids from escaping into your cooler as the meat thaws. For food safety purposes, the interior of your cooler should not exceed 40°F. Use a hanging thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.

Top view of several ice cubes
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Chill Your Cooler Ahead of Time

Add ice to your coolers a few hours before you plan to pack your food in it. This will help prevent cold or frozen food going into a room-temperature cooler, which could lead to your food defrosting quicker.

Red cooler filled with beverage cans
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Open Your Cooler As Little As Possible

Try not to open your cooler too often. Opening it too many times will let all the cold air out and warm air in. Instead, make sure you’ve strategically packed your cooler so that non-perishable items, like camping snacks, aren’t inside and the things you’ll want to eat first are at the top of the cooler.

top view of a Packed Cooler for camping with apples, cheese and shredded carrots

Pack Your Cooler Tightly

Keep your camping food cold by packing it tightly in a cooler. Leaving open space in your cooler could lead to an increase in air circulation which will result in your food warming up quicker. Use these camping food containers to use your space wisely, then fill any remaining space with frozen water bottles or ice packs.