Preventing Food from Freezing | Winter Camping & Food Ideas

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To keep your foods unfrozen when you are camping in the cold is a lot easier than you may think. I had no idea how easy it was until I did some searching.

You would use a cooler to keep your food from freezing when camping in the winter. If there is snow, bury the cooler in the snow to add more insulation to help to prevent the food or drinks from freezing. Snow makes for great insulation.

How you pack your food in your cooler will matter with whatever you plan to bring.
People choose different types of foods and meals when camping in the winter. Some may pick foods that may not need cooking while others want those warm and hot foods. Packing the right way for these foods will matter.

Also if you don’t have a cooler, there are still ways to help prevent food from freezing.

Why a Cooler Keeps your Food from Freezing

A cooler acts as an insulator from the outside temperature. If it’s cold outside, it will keep food and drinks warm on the inside. If it’s warm outside, it will keep iced drinks cold on the inside. Think of your cooler as a thermos. It acts the same way.

How to Pack Your Cooler

How you pack your cooler for your camping trip will matter.

Something you may not think of is to pack your cooler in your house where it’s warm. Then you can move the cooler to the garage or your car. Packing it in the warm air compared to cold air is best, because the cooler will be filled with warmer air compared to cooler air, and thus will further help prevent the food from freezing. Also, before filling up your cooler, have the cooler in your house for a day or however long it takes to get to room temperature.

Ideally, it’s best to have a full cooler to have less airflow. When there is less airflow, there is more insulation. One way to think about is how your house is insulated. When the insulate the walls, it’s packed full of insulation, creating little airflow. Use towels if needed to fill the space in the cooler. Also, bring some towels with you to fill the gaps as you eat your food.

Using a Hot Stone

If you don’t have any snow to bury your cooler in for more insulation you can always add a hot stone or brick to the cooler. Use your fire to get the large rock or brick hot. Then add a towel to your cooler, to help to prevent the cooler from melting, and place the brick on top of the towel.

Wrap your food or water in towels as well, with the hot stone in the cooler. This will provide even more insulation and prevent it from getting too hot. Using this method is great for your water cooler as well.

What To Do if You Don’t Have a Cooler

If you don’t have a cooler to take winter camping with you, you can wrap up your food and water in towels, clothing, or even sleeping bags. Using these items will help insulate the food as well, which is what the cooler does. Pack your food in waterproof water bags or plastic containers, then wrap them up. Use the sleeping bag you are sleeping in or bring another along for your food and drinks.

Bring foods that don’t easily freeze well. These foods are low in moisture with very little water in them.

  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Crunchy Granola Bars
  • Instant Rice
  • Jerky
  • Dehydrated fruit
  • Freeze-Dried Food
  • Cereal
  • Dried Milk
  • Rice
  • Nuts
crackers, salami and bri on a tray in front of a camp fire

How to Keep Your Water from Freezing

Water is just as important as food. Actually, water is more important than food, so it’s important to understand ways to help prevent it from freezing.

When camping in cold weather dehydration is critical because it can cause you to get colder and more tired. Therefore, you want to make sure you pack enough water or have a plan to get water while camping.

Use a wide mouth bottle. If the water freezes, there may be some room to get a drink if there is some liquid left. Use a large water bottle, as a small bottle is easier to freeze compared to a larger one. Just like it’s harder for the ocean to freeze compared to a small lake. A larger bottle will stay liquid longer than a smaller bottle.

Use a thermos. Keep it in your sleeping bag or outside buried in the snow upside down. Placing the thermos upside down will cause any possible ice formation to be on the bottom. If you don’t have a thermos, you can also use insulators for your water bottles.

Vacuumed insulated water bottles keep the liquid hot for longer. After 6 plus hours or so the water won’t be as hot and will eventually freeze. Don’t use these if you think the liquid may freeze, as this would break the bottle.

Tossing a large log on the fire before bed is another great idea to help keep water bottles from freezing. Place your water bottles near the fire so they won’t melt but close enough that they will stay warm.

Sleep with your water bottles. This uses your body heat and the insulation of your sleeping bag to prevent the water from freezing. Just be sure that the bottle tops are on tight, so there is no leaking.

If for some reason your water does end up freezing, build a fire and place your water bottles close enough to help melt the water. If you have a large mouth bottle, you will only need to melt the ice enough to be able to pour the large ice chunk out and into a pot to melt it on the fire or stove.

Cold Weather Camping Meals & Snacks

If you don’t want to bother with having to cook in the cold, here are some foods you can enjoy.

  • Deli meat and cheese with crackers make a great snack or meal. Just remember to put parchment paper between each piece of meat and cheese, so you don’t have a solid block of food if it freezes. I like using hard salami the best. It has good fat content which will help keep you full.
  • Premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made at home.
  • Premade Bacon.
  • Crunchy Granola Bars
  • Trail Mix
  • Peanut Butter. Take your spoon and dig in!
  • Jerky
  • Nuts

Warm Camping Meals

When you are cold sometimes all you want is something hot to warm your body up. This is where these meals will come in handy. Some of these recipes you can prepare before you go camping if you want to.

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