Overlanding Food Storage Guide

Have you always wanted to get into overlanding? If so, there’s no better time to begin than right now. Whatever your interest stems from, self-reliant travel to distant places is exciting, rewarding, and, of course, challenging. Of the difficulties you’ll face, food storage is perhaps the most critical. Our guide to overlanding food storage addresses some of the concerns you might have and offers valuable information.

Why Food Storage Is Important 

Having a plan and the ability to store food is essential for your overlanding journey. Eating a can of beans by the fire might call back the best of the American West, but if that’s your only source of nutrition, you’ll rapidly find yourself low on crucial vitamins and minerals. 

The right overlanding food storage gear helps keep food from spoiling, so you’ll be able to enjoy fresh food items for longer. It also enables you to organize the vehicle you’re using. Your living space is limited when you’re overlanding, and not having to dig through a mess to find what you need saves time.

Another benefit to proper food storage is that it can help keep animals away from your campsite. Squirrels, marmots, and raccoons aren’t typically dangerous, although they can make quite the mess if they get into your food. Bears, on the other hand, can be hazardous. It’s best to take any preventative measures you can to discourage them. 

Most RVs and truck campers have pre-built food storage options and water tanks. In this guide, we will focus on vehicles that don’t have either of these features. 

Perishable Foods vs. Non-Perishable Foods

A mix of perishable and non-perishable foods can add variety to your diet while you’re traveling, but having both will complicate your overland food storage situation. Non-perishables such as canned goods are OK when left out, but perishable foods are more complicated.

Some, such as vegetables, are alright when left out for a limited time. Others, such as milk, require refrigeration to avoid spoiling. Like backpackers, many overlanders avoid foods that need refrigeration by using dried or freeze-dried alternatives. 

Meal planning can eliminate some of the stress that comes with packing perishable foods for your trip. When you have a plan for how and when to use perishable items before they go bad, you can enjoy an expanded diet without worrying about food waste. 

Dry Food Storage

Dry foods don’t require refrigeration or any special storage methods beyond keeping them dry, but dry food storage boxes still come in handy. There are several different types of these storage containers you might encounter while shopping. 

Regular storage totes are used by overlanders relatively frequently. They’re easy to acquire and affordable, which makes them popular. Depending on the brand, you might be able to find nesting boxes for added organization. You might also encounter trunks or cargo cases, which differ primarily in how the lids attach and open. 

When weighing your options for dry food storage, consider durability, how waterproof the container is, and how you’re going to carry it. 

Refrigeration

When it comes to refrigeration while overlanding, you have two options. The first is to invest in a portable fridge, and the second is to make do with coolers. Each choice has benefits and drawbacks.

When you have access to a fridge, you can bring meat and dairy products along with you on your trip. You’ll have something closer to what you’re used to at home in your overland kitchen, and being able to enjoy a cold drink after a long day of traveling is a definite plus. A portable fridge might be more expensive than you’d like, in addition to taking up space and power you could devote to something else. 

Coolers are more straightforward, and they don’t require electricity. Unfortunately, they don’t keep food or beverages cool indefinitely. Some coolers work better than others, with Yeti, in particular, having a reputation for excellence. Yeti coolers have a rubber gasket that seals the lid more securely, keeping items cool for longer. Consider your needs and the construction of the coolers you’re looking at when shopping. 

If you decide to use a cooler to keep your perishable foods safe or your drinks cold, the next question you face is whether to use dry ice or regular ice. Regular ice:

  • Is easy to acquire.
  • Can be handled relatively safely.
  • Melts quickly even in a cooler. 

On the other hand, dry ice lasts longer, but it:

  • Can cause frostbite.
  • Might damage foods if they’re directly exposed to it. 
  • Might damage foods directly exposed to it.

Both options work, but it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. 

Food Containers

In addition to larger food storage containers such as refrigerators or coolers, you’re also going to need containers for storing the food directly. Your overland galley or kitchen won’t be complete without some way to store and organize food on a smaller scale. Luckily, these containers are likely to be more familiar to you.

You can use anything from Tupperware to grocery bags to fabric pouches if you’re looking for a reusable option when it comes to food storage. Tupperware containers should be relatively airtight, so they can help delay mold growth on perishable items. For food that isn’t delicate or perishable, a soft-sided container helps maximize your space. 

How To Prepare Food for Storage

Once you have the necessary supplies for storing food, your next step is to prepare the food itself for storage. Remember that you will be on the road, which means items might shift or get jostled. Don’t put delicate items at the bottom of containers, and cushion any glassware to keep it from breaking.

Make a note of where you’re storing every item. The last thing you want is to discover something perishable long after it spoils. Your food storage containers do most of the work for you, so it’s not as complicated as you might fear. It might involve some trial and error on your part, but eventually, you’ll develop a food planning process that works for you.

If you found our guide to overland food storage helpful, check out the rest of our blog for more great information on overlanding, camping, and other outdoor adventures.