How To Keep Food From Freezing Winter Camping?

by Derrick | Last Updated: April 28, 2021

I have spent countless nights sleeping outdoors in the winter months.  One of the constant battles I had when I first started was keeping my food from freezing during winter weather.  Don’t worry taking a few simple steps can help you keep your food goods from freezing during a winter camp.

Wondering how to keep food from freezing winter camping?  Follow the suggestions and you will be successful in keeping your food from freezing:

  • Choose the right food for cold weather
  • Put food into a cooler without ice
  • Before bedtime boil water and put into a metal nalgene bottle and place within the cooler
  • During the day if the sun is out place the cooler in the sun to get some ambient warmth
  • Place small wrapped items such a granola bars in a jacket or pants pocket

Best Food For Winter Camping – Choosing the correct food is half the battle

The type of food you take winter camping is really dependent upon what type of camping you will be doing. For example, if you are hiking and camping in the winter you will need different food than if you are car camping in winter.

Freeze Dried Food

In the summer time a lot of people take dehydrated or freeze dried food because they handle the summertime heat better, the same can be said for winter camping.  Food that needs to be re-hydrated can be one of the best winter camping foods when you have limited resources to keep food from freezing.

With that said since you need to re-hydrate the food you have to have some method to keep your water from freezing and be able to heat up the water to use to re-hydrate the food.

Freeze dried food can also be known as dehydrated food, using this type of shelf stable food can be ideal in freezing temperature campouts.

If you do decide to take freeze dried food on your camping trip you can purchase pre-dried ready to use food or you can make your own dehydrated food which will have a very similar consistency and not be impacted by potential freezing weather.   Making your own food is surely cheaper and oftentimes healthier as well.

Overall, you should take some precautions with your free dried food to make sure it doesn’t have continuous temperature changes. For example, if the food gets hot, then cold, then hot moisture can form within the bag or container which over time can cause the food to mold over.  During a short camping trip this should be an issue but it is something to be aware of if you do not use all the food you brought.

My Favorite Freeze Dried or Dehydrated Foods For Winter Camping

When I am going on a winter camping trip I have a number of dehydrated foods I like to take with me.  My favorite somewhat hearty meal is a dehydrated turkey chili, the chili dehydrates well because turkey is fairly lean and the beans and tomatoes add a lot of flavor and a source of carbs, proteins and some fats which is helpful for winter meals.

I also like to take some dehydrated fruit such as banana chips, these can be eaten without having to re-hydrate them so they are a great snack when mixed with nutes.

Lastly, I like to take some freeze dried vegetables, these can be added with some type of frozen stock concentrate and mixed with water and some type of pasta to make a hearty yet easy to assemble soup that hits the spot with cold weather.

Already Frozen Meals – Already Frozen Won’t Freeze

Sometimes for the first night of winter camping I will bring already frozen meals in a vac seal bag, to thaw the meal I will boil water in a pot on a stove or over a fire depending what I have to work with. Simply drop the frozen meal into the water to thaw, warm up to eating temperature and enjoy.

I have done this with macaroni and cheese, chili and stew.  Put you could do it with pretty much any fully cooked meal that only needs warmed up.  I haven’t tried it but I imagine you could even do this with various soups.

Benefits Of Dry Food Goods

Lastly, you can also bring dry food goods to cook while in freezing conditions.  This could be pastas, beans, rice etc.. These goods can be cooked readily if you have a stove or campfire to bring water to a boil.  These will obviously be best if you combine them with other ingredients.

Using a Yeti (or other brand) Cooler To Keep Food From Freezing

Will a cooler keep food from freezing in the winter? Yes a cooler will keep food from freezing in the winter.  The same insulation that keeps your food cold in the summer will help insulate your food from the cold in the winter.

When I first started winter camping this is a question I often wondered.

The longer answer, depending how cold the outside temperatures are you can utilize a cooler to help keep foods from freezing.

I have had good experience with this especially if you can put snow around the cooler for extra insulative properties.

I have experimented with putting a warm Nalgene bottle into the cooler to help slightly raise the temps inside, but it doesn’t last very long so I wouldn’t recommend it overall.

Will a Yeti cooler keep things from freezing? Yes a Yeti cooler like any other cooler will help keep your items from freezing in the winter. Yeti makes some of the better coolers that have high quality insulative properties.  These properties will benefit you during the winter when you are trying to keep things from freezing.

Additional Questions

How to keep water from freezing while camping

Some of the methods I recommended rely on water, well if your food is freezing your water might as well.  To keep your water from freezing you can try a variety of ways to keep it from freezing. I always keep some water in metal nalgene bottles I can place near the fire to gently keep them warm so they avoid freezing.  If you have larger amounts of water you can bury the water jugs in snow to keep them insulated from the outside temperatures.

Lastly, if you are camping somewhere where electricity is available or you can use a large battery pack such as a Jackery, they make small heating coils that plug in and you can wrap around your water containers to help keep them from freezing.

During the daytime if you keep your water in darker color water jugs you can place them in a sunny spot to keep them from freezing, then bury them at night to keep them insulated.

In summary, no one method is perfect for all scenarios, you need to take into account how cold it is, what gear you have to work with and if ample amounts of snow are available on the ground to provide enough insulation from the outside temperatures.