A Dietitian's Guide to Campfire Cooking

A Dietitian's Guide to Campfire Cooking

Camping Food Safety

"Keep cool foods cool and hot foods hot" can be much easier said than done when you're working with a campfire and a cooler instead of an oven, stove, microwave, freezer, and refrigerator.

Keep it Cool

It's important to keep foods at the correct temperature to prevent foodborne illnesses such as staphylococcus aureus. Keep food out of the "temperature danger zone" of 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit where bacteria is most likely to grow. Choose a cooler that is rated for at a maximum the number of hours that you plan to have the food away from the freezer or refrigeration. For example, if you plan to camp from Saturday check-in at 9:00 AM until check-out Sunday 5:00 PM you will be away for 36 hours. However, make sure to take into account the travel time to and from your destination. If your campsite is 2 hours away from home, add another 4 hours to your trip. Add another 1-2 hours for packing and unpacking the cooler. 36 hours (at campsite)+ 4 hours (travel time)+ 2 hours (packing and unpacking) = 42 hours. Choose a cooler that is rated for at least 42 hours.

Freeze a gallon of your drinking water a few days before your trip. This can be used as ice to keep the cooler cool and cold drinking water as it melts. Also line the exterior and top of the cooler with food grade ice packs. This will keep your foods cool and keep them from getting water logged.

Cook to Temp.

Because under-cooked meats such as under cooked poultry, beef, and fish can cause foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and campylobacter, and E. Coli 0157H7, I would recommend to bring with cooked meats. The last thing you want to ruin your camping trip is spending too much time the John or waking up to some unpleasant nausea after some under-cooked brats (true story). As a general rule of thumb, ground meats such as sausages and hamburger, need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It's not a bad idea to bring a small meat thermometer along.

Hand Hygiene

Remember to wash your hands before handling any food! Us humans are the number one carriers of preventable food borne illnesses. At a minimum, use hand sanitizer. Preferably, use some of your clean water and soap to wash your hands for 30 seconds before cooking to prevent the spread of Norovirus or Hepatitis A virus.


The average person needs at least 64 ounces of water per 24-hour day. When very active or the weather is extra hot (and let's face it, when isn't camping at least one of those?), plan for about 80- 100 ounces of water per 24-hour day. This averages to about 3.5 ounces water per hour. One gallon contains 128 fluid ounces of water. For two people for a 36-hour trip who were quite active with swimming, kayaking, and hiking, you can plan on 2 gallons of water.

(36 hours x 3.5 ounces per hour x2 people) ÷128 ounces per gallon = 1.97 gallons water

Meals & Snacks

Meals are generally spaced 4-6 hours apart. Aim for three meals per day to allow for sustained energy and keeping an even blood sugar for all of the adventure to be had. When planning on a cooked meal, allow for 45 minutes before the meal to get the campfire hot and large enough to cook on.

Typically, I advise against grazing because of the unnecessary mindless calories from snack foods. But when you're camping and being much more physically active than normal, you may need an extra 200 Calories for the day. Choose a trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. Trail mix has a high calorie content in a relatively small volume (1/4 cup trail mix contains ~140 Calories), so it's great for having in your backpack when you're out on a long hike, kayak or canoe trip, or swimming at the beach.

#water #summer

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Join the Party! 
To get a FREE download of the 45+ page PDF "How to Drink and Not Get Fat: The Ultimate Guide to Calories in Alcohol" subscribe to The Party RD newsletter