Can You Take Meat Camping?


Meat: it’s a great source of all the vital nutrients that will keep you going while you’re out on the trail. It has fats for energy, protein to heal your muscles, and an array of other valuable substances that will keep you feeling good. But can you take meat camping? 

Raw meat can be taken camping if you have a cooler or another form of refrigeration to keep it cold and prevent it from spoiling. Dried, cured, and canned meats can be brought without the need for refrigeration.

There are, luckily, a few cases where you can get away with some good beef on a camping trip. This article will explore those cases and how you can keep meat fresh while camping.

Can You Take Meat Backpacking?

In general, no. You can’t take raw meat backpacking. There are only a few cases where you’ll be able to take meat on a backpacking trip, and you’ll find that they’re either costly or require lots of preparation. 

When we’re talking about raw meat, you usually have to observe around a two-hour time limit for unrefrigerated products. After this, the meat will start to spoil and cause illness if consumed.

This 2-hour rule goes for refrigerated as well as frozen meats. 

So, unless you’ll be eating your first meal within the first hour of your backpacking trip, you’re better to just leave the raw meat at home. 

There are, however, a couple of ways around this. Drying can keep your meat good for a much longer time. There are a couple of ways you can do this at home, or you could simply buy dried meat at the grocery store.  

Drying Meat

Drying your meat out is a relatively simple process. We only recommend home-drying for beef, so get out your chuck roast and get ready to dry!

It’ll take a while, but this is a good, cheap source of meat that will last you quite a while on the trail.

Drying meat creates an age-old favorite i.e. beef jerky!

Considering how much beef jerky will run you per-pound at the grocery store, this is an excellent alternative to buying it. So long as you do it right, dried beef jerky should last up to two weeks. 

The key is to get all the fat off the beef – leave nothing for all those nasty bacteria and bugs to get at. Fat has lots of liquids, which makes it an excellent place for bacteria to grow. Trimming off all fat leaves your meat fairly anti-microbial once dried.

Next, line a pan with aluminum foil. Make sure the beef is cut into thin strips, and space it out evenly across the foil. Set your oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, let preheat, and stick your meat in the oven for around 3-4 hours. 

This recipe comes from A Spicey Perspective and is a great way to keep your meat good for weeks. That’s long enough to get you through your trip and then some. You can also marinate your meat, but we won’t cover that here. Check out their website for more great tips.

If all else fails, you can simply make a trip to the store and buy beef jerky. True, it will be more costly, but you’ll have some guarantee that it won’t go bad while you’re out on the trail. People make mistakes, after all, and we’re willing to bet you’re people. 

green tent in the woods by campfire

Can You Take Meat to a Campsite?

It depends on how far you’re going and what you’re able to bring along. For example, if you’ve got a camper, you might have a mini-fridge. In this case, bring all the meat you want, so long as you keep it cool!

There are other circumstances that permit meat, but it all depends on your ability to keep raw meat refrigerated. 

Like we mentioned above, raw meat takes only two hours to go bad when you take it out of the refrigerator. This means that you’ll have to find ways to keep it cool. 

If you’re bringing your car along, you might try taking a cooler. When packed with ice, a cooler can keep meat good for up to a day.

Unless it’s already pretty cool outside, I wouldn’t try eating meat beyond one day that’s been inside a cooler. Most just aren’t able to maintain a cool enough temperature to prevent bacterial growth.

Some coolers are poorly made, especially cheap ones. Think of the styrofoam gas station variety – not the best at keeping things cold!

If you notice that the ice has melted inside your cooler or the temperature is high despite the ice, don’t eat the meat you’ve stored. It’s hard to throw meat out, but it’s harder to get over a stomach infection when you’re at a campsite. 

Also, keep in mind that some kinds of meat are made to stay good outside the refrigerator. Beef jerky is an excellent example of this, and we included a recipe in the previous section of this article. It can be expensive, but it’s a good source of protein on the trail!

Summer sausage is another excellent way to take meat camping. The chemicals in a summer sausage kill off bacteria without harming you, so a summer sausage can stay good for days while you’re out in the wilderness. 

My memory of Boy Scouts abounds with images of evenings spent cooking summer sausages around a fire. For a delicious recipe, try cooking your summer sausage in a pot with a good parmesan and basil sauce. Mix it with spaghetti for an Italian treat.

Is Meat Good for Camping?

When stored properly, Meat is a camping super-food with all the vital nutrients you need to keep pushing through your journey. Taking some well-dried meat can increase your energy by providing you with the nutrients required to keep your body functioning. 

Let’s take beef as an example.

Beef is a simple little food you’ll find in refrigerators across the United States. One notable nutrient it has in high supply is vitamin B-12, which is necessary for blood formation and the brain and nervous system’s proper functioning. 

Since you use your brain while you’re out on the trail just as much as you use your legs, this will be a great help. 

Summer sausage is another excellent camping food that’s just packed with nutrients. The proteins in meat help to heal your tired muscles, while the vitamins work to help regulate your blood and your nervous system. 

Meat is also often very fatty.

While some people think of the word ‘fat’ as a do-not-eat label, you’ll be thrilled to know that when you’re doing high-energy activities like climbing or hiking, fat can be beneficial for energy levels. 

Meat, however, does not usually contain the dietary fats your doctor would recommend. If you want to get healthy dietary fats, you’re better off packing nuts and nut butter. 

But while meat fat is not the best fat, the calories gained from it will likely be used up with lots of activity, and you could actually end up losing weight on a camping trip if you watch your consumption.

dried meat in rolls

A Few Good Dried Meats for Camping

If you’re hungry for meat and want to know what kinds of foods can be taken on a backpacking trip, this list will help you while you shop.

Beef Jerky

Like we said above, beef jerky will last weeks outside the refrigerator and can be taken on camping trips for a good boost of energy when fruits, veggies, and ramen fail you. Spicy jerky might pose a problem if you don’t have lots of water, but feel free to take flavored jerky to cure your homesick blues. 

Smoked Salmon

While it won’t last you nearly as long as beef jerky, smoked salmon is great for weekend camping trips or short jaunts in spring and summer. One slice of smoked salmon, unopened, will last you one or two days. Just make sure you eat it on your first night. 

Summer Sausage

Summer sausages are absolutely delicious. They come in an array of flavors and tastes and stay good for a few days outside the refrigerator. If you’re looking for meat for your shorter trips, this is the stuff. Buying summer sausage is easy since almost all grocery stores carry it. 

Can You Cook Rotten Meat to Sanitize It?

No. Under no circumstances should you ever cook and eat rotten meat!

If the meat has gone bad, it’s beyond repair. You’re better off disposing of it to be safe.

Cooking food only stops bacteria from colonizing for a short time. It won’t kill off bacteria entirely, and it certainly won’t turn back the clock on spoiled meat. 

Cooking and eating spoiled meat results in serious illness, which can get even more severe if you’re deep in the woods without access to medicine. 

Just make sure to not throwout bad meat anywhere near your campsite. Doing so will attract all kinds of creatures – possibly big and small!

All in All

All in all, you can take meat camping and backpacking, but it requires preparation. Cooling and drying meat are your best bets and will keep meat good for days or even weeks. 

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Hi, I'm Zach Reed and I'm a Colorado-based outdoor lover! For more information about me, take a look at my dedicated about me page.

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