If you’re anything like me…. you freaking love cheese! Depending on the kind of cheese and how it’s stored, cheese can make a wonderful hiking snack or addition to your backpacking and camping meals.
Read on to find out the best kinds of cheese to take into the backcountry plus some ideas on how to best enjoy them.
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How Long Does Cheese Last Out Of Refrigeration?
Disclaimer: to a certain point, you have to use your best judgment here. If you really think the cheese has gone bad or is grossing you out – don’t eat it.
That being said, even the USDA admits that processed cheese and hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan, don’t need to be refrigerated for safety. Only that they will last longer in the fridge.
While some very hard cheeses may last longer than a week out of refrigeration, I haven’t ever kept cheese in my backpack for more than 4 days. I do believe there are backpackers out there who have pushed the limits longer than that but I have not.
To put your mind more at ease, remember that cheese is literally made from milk that’s been safely ‘spoiled’ in a controlled environment AND if there’s a little bit of mold growing on the outside of a hard cheese, it’s generally safe to cut that part off and still eat the rest.
If a soft cheese like cream cheese or cottage grows mold though, that’s another story and it should not be eaten!
Bricks of cheese or (commercially) individually wrapped servings of cheese also usually stay better longer than shredded cheese or pre-sliced cheese.
Best (Relatively) Shelf Stable Cheeses For Backpacking or Camping
Hard cheese has a lower moisture content than soft cheese, which helps it stay fresher a little longer out of refrigeration than soft cheese will. That being said, even hard cheeses can ‘sweat’ and release moisture over time, in your backpack. This is ok, it’s normal and it doesn’t mean it’s bad.
I find it best to pack either a small brick of cheese and slice off just what I’m going to eat at that time while on the trail, or I also like to pack the little individually wrapped chunks, slices, or cheese sticks you can get at most grocery stores.
Here are some of our favorite hard cheeses to take backpacking and camping:
- Mozzarella (okay, okay, this one is semi-soft, but it’s worth mentioning because the most available/accessible, individually wrapped cheese sticks are usually mozzarella and still make great hiking snacks.)
Soft cheeses won’t last as long as hard cheeses but will be fine for day hikes or even two or three day backpacking trips. Especially if you’re hiking in colder climates, but obviously, the warmer the weather, the quicker fresh food will spoil.
- Cream cheese (I love the small individual packs of cream cheese for backpacking.)
- Powdered (Powdered cheese like this can be added to pretty much anything from soup mixes, instant potatoes, eggs or mac and cheese.)
- Dried (Dried cheese products like shaky Parmesan, Whisps or Moon Cheese can also make yummy meal toppers, snacks or additions to trail mix.)
Favorite Ways To Eat Cheese On The Trail
On it’s own – either having a cheese stick or cut off a bit from a block of cheese as a snack. Bonus points for combining with crackers or Flackers.
I’ve eaten the small packs of cream cheese with bagels (in my pre-keto days) or now pair them with a container of Kalamata Olives-to-go. Cream cheese also goes well with a hard boiled egg – eggs should also either be eaten on a day hike or within the first couple days of a backpacking trip.
You can add sliced or powdered cheese to pretty much camping dinner you desire.
You could also make pita pizzas or bagel pizzas over the campfire. Or for more a simple snack or meal, stack up some of your favorite bread or crackers with your favorite cheese and melt by the fire.
I really do love Whisps and Moon Cheese – it’s not as weird as it sounds, I promise. They make a great snack on their own or great addition to your favorite nuts or trail mix. Or would also make an awesome crunchy topping to your backpacking chili, tacos or mashed potatoes.
Let us know your favorite way to carry or enjoy cheese while you’re camping or backpacking in the comments below!
For more backpacking and camping food ideas, check out these posts:
- Healthy Hiking Snacks
- 10 Backpacking Lunch Ideas
- Cheesy, Bacon Grits Backpacking Breakfast
- Backpacker’s Pad Thai Recipe