Wildlife and any kinds of animals can get into your food in just a blink of an eye while camping. That’s why carelessly placing food everywhere is a thing that you should avoid.
As campers, it’s our responsibility to keep our foods away from wild animals. Feeding them with such will make them dependent on us and will disrupt their natural diet. Not only that, but our adventure enjoyment also relies on how we properly handle our food. Following the guidelines listed down below will make you learn a thing or two about food storage.
General Tips About Food Storage
- It’s important to keep away human food and any other things out of reach from animals while camping. Here are some general tips that you should follow:
- Keep food and any other scented products away from your tent. Put them in a bag elsewhere out of sight from critters.
- Never leave food unattended. Chipmunks, squirrels, and rodents can easily snatch these foods both day and night time.
Storing Food Day and Night
- Day: Store all your food inside a cooler even if you’re just sitting nearby your campsite. Keep the cooler locked at all times especially if you go out for a hike.
- Night: Place your cooler inside a metal box put it inside your vehicle. You will be surprised that some bears and raccoons know how to open coolers. Although cooler manufacturers claim that some of their models are bear-proof, a padlock is still needed.
Food Storage Tips for Camping in the Backcountry
- If ever you’re camping at a bear-inhabited backcountry, there are some rules and regulations that you need to follow to safely store your food carefully. However, if you’re in an area with no special regulations to follow, you can choose at the following three methods:
- Storing food inside a metal food locker
- Using a bear canister/bear bag
- Hanging your food way high up out of reach from bears and any other wildlife animals
Metal Food Lockers
- Selected backcountry campsites provide metal food lockers for you to use at your disposal. Not only that, but you can also store other things as well such as clothes and toiletries. However, you must secure the latch properly to prevent bears from opening it.
- Bear canisters are hard-shell plastic cylinders that have lids secured by screwing it on and off. They come in different sizes and are designed to fit into a backpack with ease. It’s better to opt for a smaller one if you’re traveling by yourself.
- Should you be traveling on an area with canisters required then it’s ideal to bring one. However, you will be charged with a fine for bringing one. But that’s not the case on national parks, as some rangers will offer you to loan one in exchange for a good amount of price. If you’re traveling on summer weekends, it’s better to arrive early or you’ll run out of canisters due to high demand. Not only bears, these canisters also work best with raccoons from getting into your food.
- If bear canisters aren’t your thing, then you should opt for bear bags instead. These bags are made from a polyethylene material that is hard for bears to open. An aluminum liner is available for purchase separately that can fit inside the smaller model to keep bears from crushing or puncturing the contents.
- There are also odor-proof plastic bags that are then again, available separately where you can store your food or garbage away from bears.
- Although a lot of models are designed to deter rodents such as mice and marmots, if you’re camping at a bear-filled country, then choose one that’s designed for bears.
- When it comes to food hanging, you must scout for a sturdy tree branch to hang your foods. Some backcountry campsites, however, have bear poles, which is an alternative to tree branches. These poles have large metal hooks at the very top where you can hang your foods, or even your entire backpack if that is the case. You will be provided with a long metal lifter pole that you can use to hoist your food bag up into the hooks.
The Basics of Food Handling
- Lastly, improper food handling can lead to a contest who gets to the latrine first. Here are three ways how you can become sick from improper hygiene and food handling while camping:
- Pathogen transmission from your hands to your mouth (usually happens when you don’t wash your hands after pooing)
- Eating spoiled food from the cooler
- Improper cooking of raw meat
Avoiding Fecal-Oral Germ Transmission
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom.
- Use a separate towel for drying your hands, not the ones you use for drying dishes.
- If running water is out of sight, use a hand sanitizer or alcohol to clean your hands.
- Before and after every meal, always make a habit to wash your hands.
- If you want to share your trail mix with others, pour the contents to their hands instead of them putting their hands inside the bag to grab the food.
Keeping the Cooler Stay Cold
- Put ice or large blocks of ice inside the cooler and leave it for an hour before putting any food inside.
- Fill all water bottles with water, juice, or milk and freeze. Place them inside the cooler to make it last longer.
- Put any raw meat inside bags and double it so that it won’t leak onto other foods.
- Any food that you’ll eat first must be put at the top, while the frozen raw meat must be put at the bottom.
- Use a thermometer to check how cold it is inside the cooler.
Handling Raw Meat in Camp
- While still at home, it’s better to cut up meat into bite-size pieces and put them inside a ziplock bag thereafter. It’s easier to handle them this way so you won’t have to cut them while it camp. Here are a few extra tips that you should follow:
- After cutting meat, immediately wash the cutting board and any other kitchen materials. Once done, wash your hands with soap and hot water before you touch anything else.
- Avoid cutting veggies or cheese on the cutting board that still has raw meat residue on it.
- Raw meats should be put on plastic bags (as mentioned earlier) and must be stored inside the color until you get home.