Here are tips for packing out fresh food and keeping it good:
(red meat — beef, pork, buffalo, venison — is less perishable than poultry).
Plan on bringing fresh meat just for the first night (or, at the most, two nights) and buy it several days in advance of your departure. Repackage the meat and discard the Styrofoam trays or cardboard boxes. Wrap steaks, chops and larger pieces in freezer paper (shiny side in) and seal with freezer tape; pack ground meat or loose cuts (chicken thighs or breasts) in plastic zipper bag and then overwrap in freezer paper. Freeze the meat for at least a day (or until solid). Wrap the frozen meat well in several layers of newspaper and tuck it into the center of your food pack just before you leave. Depending on the weather, the meat will be thawed by the first night. Cook and enjoy it right away. (Immediately discard any meat that looks or smells suspicious (has a green edge, turned gray, smells off.)
These keep better than fresh. Bacon, Canadian bacon and ham should be kept cold in a cooler and will keep up to three days on the trail.
Dry sausages such as pepperoni, sopressata and Genoa salami will keep about six weeks or even longer if kept cool.
Aged cheese tends to keep better on the trail than fresh, soft cheeses. Store cheese wrapped in butcher paper, parchment paper or waxed paper. (Do not store in plastic bags or wrapped in plastic; plastic holds in moisture and makes cheese slimy, expediting decay. Cheese needs to breathe.)
Cheeses that keep relatively well on trail without refrigeration: Parmesan, Cheddar, aged Gouda, Pecorino.
Cheeses that keep well if kept cool: mozzarella, havarti, muenster, chèvre.
Eggs can be tricky. They are safe if not cracked, but once exposed to air, they deteriorate quickly. Keep them in the egg carton and put them in a cool spot (next to the frozen meat) where they’ll keep from getting bumped.
Always buy produce as fresh as possible. Check to be sure that there are no dead spots. The farmers markets are a great source for just-picked produce.
Keep vegetables in a mesh or cloth bag. Plastic collects moisture and expedites decay. Find these bags in the produce sections of most grocery stores or online.
Vegetables that keep relatively well on the trail without refrigeration: onions, potatoes, beets, turnips, tomatoes (buy them not-so-ripe; they’ll ripen on trail).
Vegetables that keep in a cool place (i.e. the cooler): carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms (store in paper bags), cucumbers.
Fresh herbs that keep in a cool place: rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon.
Fruit that keeps well without refrigeration: oranges, apples, melons (cantaloupe and honeydew will ripen on trail), watermelons (the small, personal-sized variety), bananas (buy them green so they’ll ripen on trail), pears (buy them a little under ripe so they’ll ripen on trail), pineapple, lemons and limes.
Fruit that keeps in a cooler: grapes, cherries.