Right about now, I’m probably sitting around a campfire or cooking up some awesome Pinterest recipes on a campfire! While we enjoy our family camping trip, the lovely Candess from Unsafe Foods is taking over for the day! She’s got an awesome post prepared for you about food safety while camping to prevent food poisoning. Yay! So if you’ve got a camping trip coming up, you’d better read this one!
Camping is a fun way to get away from it all. Foregoing electronics and the internet, sleeping outside, foraging for food helps us get back to our nomadic roots. Camping can truly be a wonderful way to relax and reconnect with the ones you love. Most of us do not think about illness while we are packing for vacation. Because let’s face it, nothing ruins a vacation faster than getting sick – especially food poisoning.
The good news is there are easy and simple ways to help prevent foodborne (and waterborne) illnesses while you are roughing it in the woods. Here are some ideas:
- Packing food the right way. It is a good idea to think about meals before you head out of civilization. Are you planning on packing perishables? Are you living off of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat)? If packing perishables is on the menu, the first day is really the only day they will be safe to eat if packed in a conventional cooler. If you have a refrigeration unit, that is a different story.
For trips longer than one day, shelf staples are your best bet to ensure the food you are eating is safe. Some recommendations for the perfect camping shelf staples are:
- peanut butter in plastic jars (no glass);
- juice boxes or other drinks in plastic bottles;
- canned tuna, ham, chicken, spam, or beef;
- dried noodles and soups;
- dried meats;
- dehydrated foods, like beef jerky;
- dried fruits;
- nuts; and
- powdered drinks.
- Keep Hot Foods Hot, and Cold Foods Cold. Food has a “danger zone” when it comes to dangerous bacteria – between 40°F and 140° This is when bacteria grow the fastest, and can make you sick. Odds are, you won’t be bringing a food thermometer with you on the camping trip. So, it is a good rule of thumb to not leave food out longer than 2 hours, or one hour if the outside temperature is above 90°F.
- Clean Drinking Water. E. coli in natural water sources has been a hot topic in the news as of late. No matter how “clean” the water of a river or a lake looks, it could still have bad bacteria. Packing fresh drinking water or water purification equipment is key to ensuring the water you are drinking won’t make you sick. If you find yourself without clean drinking water, boiling it is a must. Simply, bring water to a rolling boil, and then continue boiling for at least 1 minute. If you are camping in higher elevations, it will need a few more minutes of boiling before it is safe to drink.
- Cooking at the Campfire. Many believe that the color of meat will tell you if it is “done” and ready to eat. This is actually a myth. The only true way to tell if meat is done is by checking its internal temperature. Beef and chicken should be heated to at least 165°F to kill unwanted bacteria. As for those hotdogs, they too have the same heating temperature needs, so make sure they are piping hot before you eat them.
- Wash Those Hands! Last but certainly not least, keeping those hands clean is the surest way to stay healthy while camping. Remember, nature is dirty. No pun intended. Many bacteria that make us sick are found in soils, plants, on animals, and in freshwater sources. Although traditional soap and water are best, antibacterial sanitizers with an alcohol content of at least 60% are decent alternatives.
There you have it. Five simple ways to ensure you, and your travel companions, can prevent food poisoning while enjoying Mother Nature. Now get out there, pitch your tent, and enjoy your vacation – food poisoning free!
Candess Zona-Mendola is the Editor of UnsafeFoods.com. A mother of two, Candess lives in a suburb of Houston with her husband Tim. When she is not saving the world one deadline at a time, Candess can be found channeling her inner chef or with coffee and a book.
Huge thanks again to Candess for this perfectly timed article! Be sure to catch up with me next week to see how we managed our trip with two little boys! I’ll have a vaca wrap-up on Wednesday, maybe even with some awesome printables!! Be sure to sign up with your email so you can stay in the loop.