UACES Facebook Keep Your Campers Happy by Practicing Food Safety When Camping
skip to main content

Keep Your Campers Happy by Practicing Food Safety When Camping

grilled chicken with vegetables packet meal in foil
Try this packet meal for your next campout. The foil packets make clean up easy plus it's loaded with vegetables for nutrition.


Everything says fall is here: football games, pumpkins, mums and cooler weather. With the arrival of cooler weather, you may be looking forward to airing out the pop-ups and tents and getting back to nature with a slower pace, fresh air, exercise, and old-fashioned outdoor cooking. 

Unfortunately, foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly in warm outdoor temperatures, and food poisoning is the last thing a happy camper needs.

Keeping food cold when you are camping is a big issue. If you let foods get in the temperature danger zone, you are asking for a food borne illness to visit.

When preparing your shopping list, you will need to plan your meals. Think about what foods you plan to bring and if whether they need refrigeration prior to eating. Your cooler has to accommodate all food items that must be kept cold. If you only have one cooler for food and drinks, then you need to plan some meals that do not require the ingredients be kept cold.

Ice down your cooler in advance, so the core is cool when you are ready to pack it. Use ice packs, frozen water bottles, and block ice, or even cubed ice, although cubed ice will melt faster. Then, the next day when food goes into a cold cooler as opposed to a warm one, your food will stay safe longer.

Pack as many ice packs as you can fit into the ice chest and around the food. Too many ice packs/bottles is never a bad thing. If you have space, add more ice packs. The less air that circulates around the items, the more beneficial it is for keeping food cold.

When traveling, keep the ice chest in the passenger section, not in the back or trunk where temperatures soar. Keep the chest out of the sun at all times. In warmer weather, put a tarp or blanket over it as well. You may need to move it several times during the day to keep it out of the sun.

If you have room, take two chests – one for drinks and one for food. This keeps the ice chest from being opened all the time to get drinks out, especially with children who seem to always want a drink.

Pack your ice chest in reverse order with frozen food and raw meats (packaged in leak proof containers) at the bottom and near the ice packs. Then layer the food so items needing less refrigeration such as fresh fruit and vegetables are at the top. Pack the smallest size of foods needed.

Access to water could be a problem. If running water is available at or near your campsite or tailgate, wash hands before handling food and anytime they touch something that is not clean. Utensils and dishes used with raw meat, fish, and poultry must be washed before being used with cooked foods or foods that will be eaten without cooking. 

If you are camping and not sure about the availability of water, pack bottled water for drinking or mixing with food. Always assume that stream and river waters are not safe to drink. 

If no safe water supply is available, or your bottled water supply is limited, use disposable wipes to clean your hands when working with food. 

Take as few pots as possible. Carry items that fit inside each other. You can use aluminum foil wrap and pans for cooking, but take garbage bags to carry these items back to appropriate disposal sites.

Leftover food should be burned, not dumped, if allowed by camping site. Some National Parks forbid open fires. If burning is not allowed, pack leftover food back out with you and dispose of later. If using soap to clean pots, wash the pots at camp, not at the water’s edge.  Dump dirty water on dry ground, away from fresh water.

 Now that you are prepared for camping, try this packet meal for your next campout. The foil packets make for easy clean up and it’s loaded with vegetables.

Grilled Chicken with Vegetables Packet Meal

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat, cubed into 1 inch pieces

3/4 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and halved

1/2 pound red potatoes, quartered

1 large onion, sliced

1 each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

1 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

1/3 cup water

Preheat grill for high heat. On large sheet of heavy-duty foil, place chicken and all vegetables. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with oil and toss. Tightly seal foil around the ingredients, leaving only a small opening. Pour water into the opening and seal. Place foil packet on grill. Cook 20 minutes, turn, and then cook about 20 minutes more, until chicken is done and vegetables are tender. Carefully open packet due to steam.

For more information contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609

Related Links


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.