We can’t pretend that storing your food while camping isn’t extremely important, but it doesn’t have to be scary! Advance planning and organization is key. Besides being economical, the payoffs include the satisfaction of bonding with friends over a meal you made outdoors.
Step 1: Prep It Up
You are going to want to become friends with your freezer a few days before you leave. Keep all your meat frozen until everything else is packed and you are about to leave. Freeze water bottles and gallons of water to keep your food cool and that you will eventually use to hydrate once they defrost. Freeze sheets of ice in freezer bags that will lay down flat in your cooler.
Create a meal plan and make sure your meat heavy dishes will be prepared in the first 2 days. Cook a few pounds of grains (rice, farro, quinoa) for grain salad/grain bowls and prepare a sauce or dressing separately. Don’t mix until you are ready to serve. Make sure all your knives are covered or properly wrapped so you don’t tear your hand open and bleed everywhere. If you do that, you are going to have a bad time.
Step 2: Ice Ice Baby
Plan on replenishing your ice once or twice a day depending on the quality of your cooler and the level of heat. Ice can be found at the Hub and at some of the smaller camp stores as well throughout the festival. There are several high end coolers out there, but by far the best for the money are plain old, thick walled styrofoam coolers. It’s not fancy, but they have a great insulating value for very little money.
Dry ice is another alternative. Dry ice is frozen Carbon Dioxide. Because it sublimates directly into a gas, it doesn’t leave a puddle when it melts. It’s also extremely cold, so it keeps your food colder longer. Don’t put food directly in dry ice as it will freeze. Instead, put a layer of dry ice at the bottom of your cooler covered with a thin towel. Then, put your regular ice on top. It’ll last longer. DON’T try to handle dry ice. It can give you frostbite. Dry ice can be found at some grocery stores, or Google “dry ice” and your zip code to find a supplier.
Step 3: Store It
Depending on the size of your crew, you might want to consider bringing three coolers: one for meat, one for clean ice and drinks, and one for all other perishable food. Keep your coolers in the shade of your tents/shade structures, and not in your hot car. Put egg cartons (and any other fragile items) into a harder plastic container to prevent crushing (or, you could pre-scramble eggs and keep in a mason jar). Also, put more fragile things (veggies etc.) towards the top of the cooler. You can use trays/cooling racks to divide things into shelves/layers in your cooler.
For storage outside of the coolers, bring large plastic totes for all other non-perishable items. Just because you are outside doesn’t mean you should sacrifice taste. Spices are key, pack them in old medicine bottles, Tic Tac containers, or days of the week pill containers.
Step 4: Keep it So Fresh and So Clean
Garbage bags are not something you are allowed to forget. Bring many, and separate your trash from your recycling as you go (do separate colored bags or use colored tape to mark which is which). Paper towels, sponges, a small container of soap, and kitchen wipes should also be kept handy. Consider purchasing biodegradable plates and silverware to make cleanup easier. Don’t leave any nasty food remnants out, unless you love bugs. You might want to think about organizing cooking supplies and utensils and paper towels by hanging up a shoe organizer and using the pockets.
Get a potable water container to bring back water to the campsite for cleanup of utensils. There are spigots at designated spots throughout the campsite.
Follow these suggestions, and you’ll have a tasty and safe food experience at the Woodlands. In the meantime, talk to me, what are your favorite food storage tips or really bad mistakes?
And for those of you saw all that text above & skipped right to the bottom
- Use a bigger cooler and put in 20lbs of dry ice on Wednesday morning before heading to the festival.
- We recommend blocks of dry ice rather than the pellets. We’ve noticed that the blocks last longer.
- Keep it protected!!! Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. IT DOES NOT MELT, IT EVAPORATES. The trick to getting it to last is keeping it from being exposed to air.
- A good 5 day cooler will suffice for music festivals in most cases. You don’t need to spend $400 on a Yeti cooler and honestly, would you want a $400 cooler laying around your campsite?
- Styrofoam coolers end up breaking and causing a giant mess and that’s bad for the environment. Just don’t.
- Keep coolers out of the sun. A dark-colored cooler will absorb the sun’s heat and your ice won’t last as long. Throw a light colored or white sheet over it or keep it under your canopy.
- Freeze or refrigerate any foods that will go into the cooler ahead of time. If you put warm food or beverages in, you’re relying on the ice to cool that stuff and it will make your ice work harder and melt faster.
- Some people like to freeze 2 liter soda bottles filled with water. It’s a good method, works well and provides you with cold drinking water over the weekend.
- Placing a towel over your ice inside the cooler is a good extra layer of protection too.
- Ice is also available for sale in the campgrounds, but go early in the morning, so you can avoid lines. They also drive around the campgrounds selling ice for $5 a bag.