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The Ultimate Guide To Healthy Food Storage And Usage For Campers And Backpackers

You need proper food storage measures when you go camping to ensure you eat and stay healthy. Suitable food storage and handling while camping will prevent animals from gaining access to your food and infesting them. A number of rodents like mice and other animals like bears will bite straight through your camping porch or backpack to eat your left over scraps of food or your food supply inside.
It is your duty as a camper to keep your food store safe and protected from the invasion of wild animals not only because they can infest your food but also to avoid disrupting their normal dieting. Feeding on human foods will make them rely on campers for their meals and a threat to safety. Bears who become familiar with people and those who become a source of irritation get killed and eliminated eventually.
Another reason you need to store your food properly while camping is to ensure your health is maintained and to make your exploration a pleasurable experience and a memorable one.
If you want to empty your bowels and urinate on the trail instead of using the latrine, ensure you follow the stipulated guidelines provided in the subsequent section of this guide.

General tips on how to ensure proper food Storage

Whether you are camping in a campground or staying in a backcountry campsite, the rules to healthy storage of food items and scented materials such as toiletries are the same. Follow the general tips below to ensure proper storage and safe food handling:
  • Avoid storing your food, garbage or other fragrance materials inside your tent
  • By no means leave your food uncovered. You need to properly secure your foods to prevent jays, squirrels, and chipmunks from feasting out of them during the day or other animals devouring your food at night.

How to ensure proper and safe Food Storage in a Campground

  • While in the campground during the daylight hours, store all your food in a secure cooler or in your car, whether you’re staying close by or out on a short stroll to the outhouse. You must keep your food secure particularly if you are going hiking.
  • At nighttime, gather all food crumbs together with your coolers and store them away in your vehicle. You can alternatively store them away in a metal bear container if you have one. Raccoons and bears are skillful at opening a number of different types of coolers.
  • A number of producers of cooler make specific models bear-proof.  However, you may require padlocks to ensure that they are properly secured. You can as well suspend a bag of food on a branch of a very tall tree or use a bear canister if your campground has a history of havoc, caused by bears.

How to ensure proper Food Storage in the Backcountry

If you are camping in a backcountry of a national park or a national forest, or on a national scenic trail populated by bears like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, you need to cautiously keep to its rules and regulations of suitable food storage.

If you’re backpacking in a location that has no specific regulations, you may decide to use any of the three forms of food storage below:

  • Store your food away with a supplied metal food locker or with;
  • The use of a bear canister or bear bag;
  • Alternatively, you can store your food suspended on a tree or pole

Before deciding on which storage method to use in the backcountry, you’d be better off if you considered what the pros and cons of the different bear-proof food-storage methods are. We have provided the pros and cons of the three methods of food storage below to guide your choice:

1. Metal Food Lockers

Food storage locker in Big Pine Creek Campground to prevent raids on campers’ food by American Black Bears (Ursus americanus), Inyo National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California, USA, October, Bear_Box-21

A number of campgrounds together with selected backcountry campsites supply campers with big metal bear-proof containers to help them store away their food, scrap, and toiletries. These are occasionally shared, thus, it is possible that you may not have enough room for your things. In addition, you need to adequately secure the latch to make it difficult for bears to have access to it. If not; you’d be disappointed to find that they can find their way in.

2. Bear Canisters

Bear canisters are rock-hard plastic cylinders that come with lids which you can screw on and off as required. A number of bear canisters need a coin or screwdriver to help you to fasten and unfasten them. They are structured to easily be accommodated in the majorities of backpacks and features different sizes. Thus, if you’re roving alone, you can select one with a smaller size.

If you’re backpacking in a region where the regulation requires you to use one, make sure you get one. If a park steward in such a locality stops you on the trail and found that you don’t have one, you may be in for a heavy fine. In a number of national parks, you can get bear canisters loaned or rented to you by the rangers.

Nevertheless, if you are backpacking during summer weekends with a lot of visitors, you may be unable to find an available bear canister to hire. They get quickly used up during those periods.  It is thus better to make provision for a backup plan. Bear canisters are as well very essential because they help you to prevent raccoons from having access to your food and trash.

Pros of food preservation with Bear Canisters:

  • Bears canisters are very difficult for bears to open.
  • You don’t need to suspend a bear canister on top of a tree; it can safely be left on the ground.
  • When they are properly covered, they can make a good great camp seat.
  • A number of bear canisters are transparent and let you easily see if what you have inside, what you left behind and what you need to bring.
  • A number of bears have discovered that they can’t be able to open bear canisters. Thus, they get your camps passed by as soon as they discover that you are making use of bear canisters.

Cons of food preservation with bear canisters:

  • Bear canisters are heavy and bulky. The commonly weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

Proper usage Tip for a bear canister:

  • Put reflective tape over your canister. This will help you to easily discover if any animal visits at night to meddle with your food and stuff.

Recommended: Bearvault BV450

3. Bear Bags

If a bear canister is not particularly needed in the area you a

re backpacking but you want to make use of it to make bears stay away from your food, you may wish to use a bear bag as a great alternative. Bear bags are made of high-density polyethylenes that are very hard for a bear to split open.  There is distinctly available aluminum liners that you can get and fit into a smaller bear bag prevent possible crushing or perforation of your stuff inside.

You can as well get available odor-proof plastic and waterproof bags as opposed to the bear bag which you can first of all, put your food and trash inside distinctly before you stick them into the bear bag to make it additionally difficult for bears to have access to your food and stuff.

A few models of these bags are structured to act as deterrents to marmots, pests, and other rodents, but if you’re camping in the neighborhood inhabited by bears, you need to go for models of bags that are particularly structured for bears which must have passed the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) test.

Pros of Bear bags:

  • They are less heavy, portable and compact.

Cons of bear bags: 

  • A number of national parks don’t recognize bear bags as a bear-proof food-storage system.
  • If you make use of a bear bag without the aluminum liner, a bear could squash the bag and its contents. If the bear cannot gain access into the bag, it could carry the bag to a different location away from your reach.

Safety Tips for proper use of bear bags:

  • You need to make sure you push over the drawstring taut and you must secure the knot precisely as instructed by the producers of the bear bag.
  • Although you can as well leave the bear bag on the ground as you would with a bear canister, you are safer if you tie the bag to a tree branch or suspend it from a bear pole.
  • Bear bags are commonly solid white. To differentiate your bag from that of others, consider writing your name on it with an indelible marker. Alternatively, you can draw a particular design of choice to enable you to easily identify yours.

Recommended: Ursack S29.3 Bear Resistant Sack Bag

Food storage by Hanging when you go camping or backpacking

There are a few ways you can hang or suspend your food when you go camping:

  • You can hang your food from a strong and elevated enough tree branch.
  • At a number of backcountry campsites, you’ll discover bear poles, which are more improved than the tree branches. This hanging procedure consists of a very tall metal pole with great hooks at the top from where you can suspend your food bag or the whole of your backpack. An elevated metal lifter pole is supplied for elevating your food bag up on top of one of the hooks.
  • Alternatively, you may see a high horizontal metal cable strung between two poles that commonly make it much easier to suspend your food bag or backpacks.

Pros of food hanging on a campground:

  • You don’t need to buy specialized equipment. Some rope and a sturdy bag are all you’ll need.

Cons of hanging your food during camping:

  • If you’re backpacking beyond tree line or in desert regions with low shrubs, you may not consider hanging from a branch as an option.
  • Food hanging on top of a tree is tasking and time-consuming. Struggling to suspend a food bag with an awkward pole on top of a hook above a tall pole requires a good deal of effort.
  • A number of bears have mastered how to pull the ropes down to get at those bags. You may be unlucky to fall a victim.

Safety tips for hanging food from a tree or cable:

  • Secure a 50 to 100-foot rope to a weight. You can make use of a hand-sized rock or get your tent-stake bag and fill it with local rocks and toss it above the tree branch or cable. It may take a lot of trial and errors to get it done.
  • As soon as they are over and back on the ground, unfasten the rock or tent-stake bag, and fasten your food bag.
  • Elevate your bag 10 to 15 feet high to ensure that a standing bear can’t get to it. Also, try to ensure that it’s at least four feet from the trunk or pole.
  • Fasten the other end of the rope to a tree trunk or pole to make it safe.


The basics of Food Handling

The last thing you want to do while camping is moving to and fro to the latrine. There are three regular ways you may fall sick from poor hygiene and food handling while you are out on the camp ground:

  • Through fecal or oral transmission of pathogens. The disease causing organisms can get into your hands and mouth after visiting the bathroom.
  • You can also get sick by eating spoiled food from a cooler or through
  • Poor handling of raw meat

How to avoid fecal-oral transmission of disease causing organism during camping:

  • After using the bathroom, wash your hands carefully with soap and warm water. Ensure you do this far away from your camp and a fresh-water source.
  • Wipe your hands dry with a towel not used for drying dishes.
  • If you are unable to wash, make use of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes.
  • Make sure you wash or sanitize your hands before preparing a meal.
  • If you arrange to use a bag of trail with others, shake the food from the bag into their hand. Do not allow them to put unwashed hands into the bag of food.

How to prevent the food you have in your cooler from spoiling

If you are going for car camping, you probably have a cooler.  You may want to store away your perishables, like meat particularly raw meat, cheese, eggs, and milk, at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder to prevent them from getting spoiled.

  • Before you put the food materials into the cooler, chill it with ice or ice blocks for an hour before you put in any food inside.
  • Fill up large polycarbonate water bottles with water, juice or milk and freeze. Remember to allow enough room at the top of the bottle for expansion. These will help to keep your cooler colder longer than fast-melting ice cubes, and you can also drink the liquid when you have finished making use of the ice.
  • Double-bag any raw meat to prevent it from leaking onto other foods; freeze anything that you will be eating after your first day.
  • Keep the food you’ll eat first close to the top and leave the frozen raw meat on the bottom in the location where the cooler is coldest.
  • Make use of the thermometer inside the cooler to estimate how cold it would be.

Proper handling of raw meat in the camp

To remain safe and avoid contamination of other food products by your raw meat, chop your raw meat into table sizes and store them away in a plastic bag with zip-top for easy access when you need them. This will minimize the number of things you need to wash while in the camp.

See supplementary food handling tips below:

Just like you would at home, you need to be very cautious careful about how you use and manage raw meat. While in the camp, put the chopped meat into your cooking pan as soon as you finish cutting them into bite-size and ensure you keep the cutting board and knife sanitary by washing them off immediately. You should also wash your hands with soap and warm water to keep them sanitary before touching any other thing after touching raw meat.

The chopping board you use for chopping vegetables or cheese must be free from deposits of raw meat to avoid contamination.

Any plastic wrap removed from raw meat ought to be double-bagged and stored in your cooler or trash bag and be discarded when you return home. Alternatively, you can throw it away in a campground that has an available trash bin.

Additional food handling tips when you go camping

Try to do away with odors

Odors from food can attract animals towards your tent. To avoid this, cook your food, wash your hands and dishes far away from your sleeping area. Avoid using scented soap, only a wee drop of unscented liquid soup will do.


Destroy any bits and pieces of food leftovers and discard them away in your garbage bag or bin provided by the camp. If there is a rock around your camp, scatter your rinse water over the rocky area. Ensure you do it away from your camping ground.


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