How avoid food poisioning on your backpacking trip
I must admit, I fear food poisoning more than any other threat when I am outdoors. I can control cold, heat or even an animal encounter but food is something I must put in my body and being miles or days away from a hospital or even a convenient store pharmacy does not sound very appealing to me. I do have a background in culinary arts and have always been hyper sensitive to food borne, but being on the trail requires a bit of common sense, preparedness and ingenuity.
I love a good pork chop, bbq salmon and yes even a hot dog or bratwurst when I am camping, and it’s a special treat when you are backpacking over a few days. I follow very specific rules when I am attempting this and will pack it out if I have doubts to the quality of meat before it goes on the grill (or skewered…).
- Pack the meat right before you take off on your trip, if you are driving to the trail head pack it in a cooler with lots of ice. The idea is once you hit the trail it is frozen solid.
- If the outdoor temperature is over 75 degrees, after a long day on the trail it’s probably about time to eat your Chop. Another day on the trail and you are risking that meat for dinner the next night.
- Spam does not go bad…
- Stay away from ground meat. Hamburger, chicken and even turkey thaw out very fast and are prone to bacteria in the way they are handled. Don’t even bring it with you.
- Pre-season your meats before you freeze it. Not only increases the flavor of the meat, it makes no preparation time when you are ready to cook. Just slide it out of the zip-lock bag onto the grill or pan.
- If you want a carnivorous dinner the second night you have 2 options: 1) The meat is still frozen in the morning of the second night (good job packing that!) or 2) cook a hotdog. Hotdogs are packed with preservatives and can last several days if it isn’t to hot.
- Cook your meats all the way through. Medium well is appropriate for being in the woods.
- Seal all bones, gristle and leftovers in your bear bag. Seal it up tight.
There are a ton of great books on foraging and eating outdoors, know what you are doing and don’t take any chances. Did you see the move “Into the Wild”?
Just like in a kitchen, keeping your hands, utensils AND ingredients clean are important food safety precautions.
- Get yourself a bottle of all natural soap, clean your hands before you start cooking, after you handle meat AND just before cooking. The hand sanitizer works great if you aren’t covered in chunks of pork fat.
- When working with food, use paper towels or some other disposal rag when you are wiping your hands and face. Using your camp towel, shirt or other fabric could transfer or result in bacteria growth. Store this in your bear bag.
- Use sand or a paper towels to clean your bowls & utensils. Don’t use your camp towel (the one you dry your face with). Be patient and leave them clean and dry.
Keeping your water safe to drink is essential. There are many different water filtering and purification devices on the market today, bring what makes sense to your pack size and adventure.
- MSR MIOX Purifier
- Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets – 30 pack
- Hydro Photon SteriPEN Adventurer
- MSR SweetWater Microfilter
- Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Microfilter
I guess it could happen to anyone. You don’t follow the rules and you wind up with either a bad case of cramps & diarrhea or worse. There are several things you can do to try and cure the crud but time is usually the only thing that works 100% of the time.
- Constantly drink water. If you have a natural source around treat some immediately and begin drinking. You can’t drink to much, at least a liter an hour. The organisms responsible for most food poisoning incidents tend to draw moisture from surrounding tissues into the intestines.
- Eat bread. It can help soak up the undigested poison and pass it through your body quicker.
- Take your multivitamin. Give your body a boost of energy, metabolism and vitamins to help you through this.
There are several foods that have been known to cure food poisoning. I am simply referencing other sources of information found on the internet and don’t condone or rely on these statements to cure your belly ache. You may or may not be carrying these items but you never know.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Grape Fruit Seed Extract
- Lemon Juice
- Herbal Tea, Chamomile, Mint
Obviously the best cure is the prevention. With all of this worry and remedy around food poisoning I still find it important to explore the most fun ways to cook my favorite meals on the trail. Just need to be careful!