How to choose and pack a cooler 101

Hello fellow campers!

We Gourmet Girls have been camping for quite some time, and some of our trips have been a week or more long, especially to places like Yosemite, Big Sur and Wyoming. We tested many recipes for our book The Gourmet Girls Go Camping Cookbook on most of these trips, and we learned a lot about food storage and the value of prepping certain food items at home before you leave.

One of the most challenging issues while camping is keeping food fresh as well as safe from the many creatures in the woods that would just love to get their little paws on your grub. On one trip I made my marinated rack of lamb, and I made so much of it that we had leftovers. At the time I had one of those blue and white coolers with a flip up lid with no way to keep the lid closed except gravity. I stored the left over lamb in a re-sealable bag and placed it in the bottom of my cooler, dreaming about how good it would be for the lunch the next day. Well, that night while we slept a gang of raccoons decided to tip the cooler over and devour not only the lamb but several hunks of cheese too. All we found the next morning was a little pile of bones and debris scattered all over the camp site. So choose your cooler carefully, because if you don’t get one that has a locking lid it really doesn’t matter how you pack it, because there won’t be anything left to eat after your first night in the woods.

There are many super nice coolers on the market now that do lock, and do a much better job of keeping your food cold and fresh a lot longer than my blue and white one did. Here is a link to several that will do the trick-

Once you decide on which cooler you want, here is how to pack it so that you won’t open it too many times and let all the cold out. Before your trip, place burger patties and meats that you want to marinade in a re-sealable plastic bag or other leak proof container and freeze. These items will last the longest, so plan on eating them towards the end of your trip. That means put them in the cooler first, on the bottom. The next item to go in should be chicken. The first food item to be consumed should be fish, so store it at the top of your cooler. Vegetables next and then sandwich items that you will be needing on a daily basis at the top, preferably in their own container. Leafy greens are best kept in a separate insulated storage bag as they will be spoiled if they come into contact with ice and freeze.

So there you have it! Now head for the hills! And watch out for those critters!

Bon Appetit!
Gail, Denise and Lindsey
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