Camping trips offer an amazing vacation for those of us who love spending time in the wilderness. Mostly, a trip like this will include adrenaline rushing activities kayaking, hiking, hunting, swimming, and game drives.
As your muscles are constantly working, there is a huge appetite all around and you will have more frequent calls for snacks and food in general. However, a good picnic can turn sour in a blink if you don’t have a means of storing your food properly.
Proper camping food storage is not only good for you but the wildlife around you as well. It works both ways – you don’t get hungry and those scavenging animals don’t get an easy meal.
Feeding wild animals with human food is usually not the best idea. If they get used to crawling to your tent at night and eating the leftovers, they will soon become pests and forget their hunting skills. And what will happen when there are no more humans camping in the area? The animal may be forced to relocate or worst-case scenario it will die of hunger.
Tips For Storing Food When Camping
1. Don’t Leave Your Food Behind
If you are on a backpacking trip, carry your food wherever you go. It doesn’t matter whether you will be setting a camp for weeks or are here for a day’s hike. Just make sure to bring a food bag with you.
Do you see these small rodents that love sneaking into your camping kitchens while you sleep? If you leave your chicken wings and snacks unattended and go mountain climbing, these creepy creatures will chew through your tent to find their way to your food source.
This ruins not only your expensive camping gear pieces but also your delicious meals. The only way to prevent this is by stashing your food into a backpack and taking it with you.
2. Treat Strongly Scented Items Like Food
Your toothpaste, tanning oil, bug spray, insect repellent, and other strongly scented items could attract animals to your shelter too. Don’t leave them in your tent when you go out hiking. Pack them in your backpack and bring them with you.
3. Open The Pack Zippers
Whenever you leave the food pack outside, keep the zippers open so that the gnawing animals can see there is no food inside. Some of these small critters may still creep into your bag hoping to find something they can feast on, even when there is no food left.
4. Sleep Away From Your Food
When you go to sleep, consider keeping your food away from your sleeping bag. That way, even when animals try to reach the food, they won’t disturb your sleep. 100 feet could be a good distance to get started.
Sometimes, larger animals like deer or bear will visit your tent for food but these are easy to deal with because you will hear them trying to reach the food and scare them away. But these small rodents like squirrels, chipmunks, and mice are very stubborn and are the ones you need to deter. Even when you scare them away, they will keep coming back until they get what they want.
Storing Your Food At Night
You want to have a good night’s sleep, not spend the best part of it looking after your food and fighting rodents. Hence, you need to find a way to keep your food protected and still enjoy your slumber.
There are three main methods that campers and backpackers have used over the years for safe nighttime camping food storage. Let’s dig into these a little bit:
1. Bear Canisters
A bear canister is a hard-shelled plastic cylinder with a lid that can be screwed on and off. These pieces of backpacking food storage gear come in different sizes but are designed to snug in almost all backpacks. Depending on the number of people you will be taking on the trip, you can choose either a medium or large bear canister. If you will be an alone camper, a smaller one will work just fine.
Bear canisters keep raccoons away from your food. So far, we haven’t heard of a bear or any wild animal that has succeeded in opening one, so this might be just what you need to keep your delicacies safe.
Don’t have enough space in your car to put your camping chair? Don’t worry, a bear canister can also be used as a camp seat. Just put the lid on and whoa! You got something to sit on!
The best part? When shopping for a canister, you can decide to pick a clear one. This will work to your advantage because you will be able to see what you have put inside and what you haven’t.
There is a reason why this canister was named a “bear canister” not a “monkey canister” or “squirrel canister”. You see, over the years, bears have been known to be the biggest “thieves” for campers’ food. With the improvement of this gear, they have learned that cracking it is not worth their effort. Don’t be surprised to see a bear moving swiftly to the next camp once it sees you have a canister!
If you are going to use one though, we advise that you put a reflective tape around it so that even when some animal tries to move it at night, you will see what is going on more easily.
2. Bear Bagging
Some campers find a bear canister being too heavy so they prefer getting something lighter to keep their food safe – a bear bag. This one works exactly like a canister but it is made of different material and resembles a small bag.
The high-density polyethylene from which a bear bag is made is lightweight and compact and will keep the bears, mice, marmots, and other rodents away from your food. To reap maximum benefits from this food storage gear, make sure to tighten the drawstring and tie the knot according to the instructions given by the manufacturer.
One disadvantage a bear bag has over the canister, however, is that it is much easier to carry away. Well, a bear will not be able to tear it apart and get what is put inside but if it decides to disappear with it, you might never see your food again.
Therefore, if you are looking to keep your food safe, better go for a bear canister than its bag counterpart. You can use the latter to store garbage and other less important items. You may choose to leave the bag on the ground like a canister but it is much safer when hanged on a pole or tied to a tree.
If you didn’t pack up a bear canister or bag, you can still manage to keep your food safe by hanging it on a sturdy tree limb. Nowadays, there are bear poles too, which are way better than tree branches.
A bear pole is a tall metal rod that has large hooks from which you can suspend your backpack or all your food bags. It comes with an additional metal pole for hoisting the bags onto the hooks.
One advantage of this camping food storage method over canisters is that you don’t require any special gear to get the job done. All you need is a rope, a string bag, and a tree branch and you are good to go. Just make sure your food bag is high enough such that even a standing bear can’t get to it.
Keeping Your Food Clean
If you are not careful, it is very easy to catch diseases at a campsite. When camping, you don’t have access to all the amenities you are used to having at home like plenty of clean water, toilets, or trash bins. This can make it almost impossible to follow proper hygiene, which is vital for our health.
Camp diseases can be as a result of eating spoiled food from your canister or lunch cooler, fecal-oral transmission (germs transmission to your mouth from your hands after doing your business somewhere in the bush), or consumption of raw meat.
Here are tips to keep your food clean and hygienic:
1. Avoid Fecal-Oral Pathogen Transmission
Once you have answered your call of nature, make sure to clean your hands thoroughly. Do this away from your freshwater source and several feet from your tent. Use soap and warm water to kill germs.
Dry your hands completely. Do not use your kitchen towels or one used for drying your camping utensils. If you don’t have enough water, use a hand sanitizer instead.
Ensure that your hands are clean before prepping or serving your meals. If you have a bag of popcorns you would like to share with other campers, shake the popcorns from the packet into their hands but don’t let anyone dip dirty hands into the bag.
2. Prevent Food From Spoiling
If you are camping for days, chances are good that you will be bringing some food in a cooler. But keeping that yogurt in a soft cooler or raw meat, eggs, and cheese in your regular backpack cooler for a long time without proper care isn’t right. Things like these go bad pretty easily, so if you don’t want to go back homesick, you need to make sure that they don’t spoil.
Put ice blocks into the cooler to pre-chill it before storing any food in it. If you have large polycarbonate water bottles, fill them with water, milk, or juice and freeze them. Even when the ice melts, these will still keep your cooler cold for a longer period.
Frozen raw meat and other foodstuffs that you will not need sooner should be stashed at the bottom while those that will be eaten first should come near the top. Don’t forget to bring your outdoor thermometer to check how cold the cooler is staying.
3. Handle Raw Meat Properly
Even before you leave for the trip, cut your raw meat into small pieces, and put it in zip-top bags so that there will be less washing once you are at the camp. If you are going to cut the raw meat in the campsite, wash the knife, cutting board, and your hands with hot water and soap after you are done. Store any wraps from raw meat in a trash bag and dispose of them off once you get back home.
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Keeping your food safe when camping is important because it helps you avoid problems with animals and keeps you healthy. These camping food storage tips are all you need to prevent animals from getting to your food on your next trip.
Besides, handle your food with as much care as possible. This will keep disease-causing bacteria away and keep you fit to enjoy your outdoor adventure.
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