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Food Safety for Camping

Keeping food safe on your next adventure is crucial to protecting yourself, your family, and your friends from foodborne illnesses.

Follow these easy food safety recommendations for properly carrying your food for your next camping adventure, as well as safely preparing and serving it after you’ve arrived.

Organize and Plan

Items Needed:

  • Airtight insulated cooler for storage.
  • Food thermometers to maintain and check food temperatures.
  • Freezable gel/ice packets for packing cooler.
  • Simple meal plan that reduces meal preparation and clean-up.
  • Clean produce, canned food goods.
  • Pre-seasoned meats (to save space from packing herbs and spices).
  • Clean utensils, tongs, can opener, pot, pan, cutting board, burner, and other cooking and heating tools needed for your specific meal plan.
  • Liquid hand sanitizer, disposable wipes, or biodegradable soap for hand and dishwashing.
  • Bottled or tap water for drinking (can boil water or use water purification tablets).
  • Trash bags for clean-up.
Clean utensils, tongs, can opener, pot, pan, cutting board, burner, and other cooking and heating tools needed for your specific meal plan.

Clean utensils, tongs, can opener, pot, pan, cutting board, burner, and other cooking and heating tools needed for your specific meal plan.
Faith Isreal, ©2022, Clemson Extension

Keep Cold Foods Cold and Hot Foods Hot

Bacteria multiply quickly in the “danger zone,” which is defined as a temperature range of 40 °F to 140 °F. Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold helps to keep them out of the temperature danger zone. This includes not only cooking and reheating foods to a safe internal temperature but also storing foods that require refrigeration properly.

Organize cooler contents based on required storage temperatures.

Perishable foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours or for more than one hour if the temperature outside is above 90 °F. The USDA has created four simple steps to follow to keep food safe.

Clean It

  • Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling food, as well as after using the restroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
  • Safely wash produce before packing cooler for travel.
  • Bring water with you if water is not available in your camping area, or pack liquid hand sanitizer.
  • Keep the cooking area clean before, during, and after cooking.

Separate It

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, shellfish, and eggs separate from other ready-to-eat foods.
  • Pack raw foods in plastic bags to prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Prevent cross-contamination. Use a separate cutting board or plate for fresh produce and another for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Cooked food should never be served on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs unless the plate has been thoroughly cleaned with hot, soapy water. This prevents the spread of bacteria from raw juices to cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Reusing marinades used on raw foods requires bringing them to a boil first.

Cook It

  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature to ensure the safety of cooked poultry, meat, egg products, and seafood.
  • Cooking food at the required temperatures helps to kill pathogens.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and egg white are firm.

Safe Internal Cooking Temperatures

Food Minimum Internal Cooking Temperature
Beef 145 °F (63 °C)
Poultry
(including whole or ground chicken, turkey, duck)
165 °F (74 °C)
Ground Meat
(including beef, pork)
160 °F (71 °C)
Pork 160 °F (71 °C)
Fish and Shellfish 145 °F (63 °C)
Leftovers 165 °F (74 °C)
Casseroles 165 °F (74 °C)

Chill It

  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for faster cooling in the cooler.
  • Chilled foods should be held at 40 °F or below and freezer temperatures at 0 °F or below.
  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. For outdoor temperatures above 90 °F, refrigerate food within 1 hour.

Food examples to bring Camping:

  • Canned tuna, ham, chicken, and beef
  • Canned soups
  • Dehydrated foods (fruits, vegetables)
  • Fresh fruit (if short lifespan, eat quickly before spoiling)
  • Bottled or tap water
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Granola/Energy bars
  • Whole-grain tortillas
  • Cereal, crackers, bagel
  • Nut butter in individual packets or plastic container
  • Beef jerky and other dried meats
  • Powdered mixes for biscuits or pancakes
  • Concentrated juice boxes
  • Dried noodles and soups
  • Powdered milk and fruit drinks
Food examples to bring Camping.

Food examples to bring Camping.
Faith Isreal, ©2022, Clemson Extension

Safe Water for Drinking

Do not consume or cook with water directly from a stream or lake. Pathogens may thrive in bodies of water. Bring a full bottle of filtered water and refresh your supply from public sources that have been thoroughly checked. If bringing enough water for the duration of the camping trip is not an option, cleanse any unknown water source.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one technique to make water safe is to boil it to kill bacteria. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then continue to boil for at least one minute. Allow dirty water to sit for a few minutes until the silt settles to the bottom. Then boil for three minutes. Finally, allow the water to cool for at least 30 minutes before storing it in clean, disinfected containers with lids.

If boiling water is not an option, use a water filter by following the manufacturer’s instructions along with another treatment method such as; disinfecting or purifying the water.

Additional Resources

Sources:

  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Handling food safely while eating outdoors. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved March 5, 2022
    https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/handling-food-safely-while-eating-outdoors
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 1). Water treatment options when hiking, camping or traveling. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 5, 2022
    https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/travel/index.html

Originally published 04/22

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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