How long does food last on a camping trip?

One of the trickier parts of planning a camping trip is planning the food. For quick trips where you can store large coolers this isn’t so bad, but when you’re going to be out for days at a time it gets a little more complicated. One of the first steps necessary in planning your food is knowing how long each item can last without refrigeration. Here are some common camping trip food items, along with their outdoor lifespans.

Food Length - 1.png

Meat: Meet should be eaten on the first day, as it rots quick and can make you sick once it does. If you have a cooler with some freezer packs or blocks of ice, you may get an extra day out of it, but no more than that. Always remember to look for signs of rottenness like colour and smell before eating.

Fish: Similar to meat, fish can last until the first night, or to the second if properly kept cool. A great alternative is to leave the fish in the water (alive) until you’re ready to eat it. Some fish can last up to several years in this state. Just make sure you have a license and know how to fish.

Soft fruit: Soft fruit like peaches, plums, and berries can technically last over a week without refrigeration, but this is not the problem. The issue with soft fruit is that it will undoubtedly get smushed by other food items, creating a nasty paste in your food barrel or cooler. Even when you put these items in their own containers, Murphy’s Law states that they will get smushed, and often they will do so while staining one of your favorite shirts.

Hard fruit: Hard fruit is usually fine for longer trips, up to a couple of weeks, but you still have the issue of bruising and breaking, creating a mess in your cooler. The other issue is that these fruits can get dirty when left next to other food items. Barrels can really get nasty after a few days.

Skinned fruit: Fruit like oranges and grapefruits are much easier to handle on longer trips, although like any fruit, they weigh a lot. Since the skin insulates the fruit, they can handle a bumpier ride, and can get dirty without compromising the fruit. I did a 9-day trip last summer and ate orange and grapefruit every day!

Cheese: If you’ve tried to take cheese on a trip, you may have noticed it start to soften and sweat after a day or so. Cheese will do this when exposed to heat, but not all cheeses react the same way. The trick is to buy the harder cheeses, as these hold up much better to the elements. Not all cheddar is created equal, so buy the hardest one you can find. Sadly, this sometimes costs more.

Canned Goods: These will last a few years, maybe longer. If you’re going to be camping for this long, be sure to eat your canned good within the first decade.

Dried Pasta: See canned goods. Just make sure it doesn’t get wet.

Frozen vegetables: Frozen food is great because it takes a while to defrost, and it keeps other items in the cooler cold for a longer time. These foods will last a couple of days before they are defrosted, and maybe another day before they start to go, depending on the vegetables. Be aware that once defrosted, frozen vegetables lose their structural integrity. They still taste great, but they leak juices, and they won’t be crispy.