Whenever you go on a trip, you are likely to bring at least one cooler alongside. It is the perfect place to store not just drinks but also all sorts of food. Unfortunately, using it as food storage makes it an excellent target for all kinds of critters that may be living in the area you are visiting. One of the most significant ‘pests’ when it comes to food are raccoons – they have magnificent abilities when it comes to breaking into boxes, and critter-proofing your cooler is a must if the area you are visiting has raccoons. Of course, there are plenty of other critters to try to keep away from your food, but raccoons are widely known for their ability to steal the food of campers sneakily.
But how exactly do you critter-proof your cooler? Unless you have a lock on your cooler, there are not many ways to do this, but you might be surprised to hear how simple some of the solutions are. Each might be applicable in different situations – do not worry, we’ll talk about this more further down in the post.
Plenty of people who have gone camping in raccoon country have incredible stories to tell about the things raccoons did with their supplies. Raccoons in the wild rarely go on their own, so if they get access to your food, you can rest assured that there will be a whole raccoon family eating through bread, snacks, meat, cookies, vegetables, and more. Failing to secure your food can be a dire mistake because you certainly do not want to have to ration a few portions for the next couple of days. Another option is to restock at the nearby town, but this might not always be an option. So, what do you do?
Lock it in your Vehicle
Simple, isn’t it? It would take a bit more work to get stuff out of the cooler, but at least you will know that no critter can get access to it. However, you should be careful if you are spending time in an area where bears roam – they will smell the food through the cooler and car, and your vehicle may be damaged. I just experienced this in the Rocky Mountains, we woke up to paw prints and claw scratches all around our door handles. Thankfully the bear didn’t try to break our window! If you are in bear country, then I suggest hanging your food in a higher location, preferably away from your vehicles and camp.
If there are no bear sightings in your region, then the car, RV, or truck is by far one of the best choices to keep critters away from your stash. Of course, it makes sense not to leave it in the truck bed since this would not protect it from animals.
Bring it Inside
Coolers do not take that much space, and fitting them inside your tent or cabin will not be an issue. Why leave them outside where raccoons can spend the whole night playing around with the latches and locks, trying to eat your food? Believe us when we say that the typical cooler latches are not a match for raccoons – these pesky little critters are surprisingly good at breaking into all sorts of boxes. If you haven’t had your supplies eaten by raccoons before, then you also probably have no idea how little time these animals need to ravage your food.
If you really think that space will be an issue and you cannot bring the coolers inside with you, then there’s a workaround – simply bring a small, extra tent. Then use it to stash coolers and other supplies. Setting up additional shelter is a bit more tedious, but it should be enough of a deterrent to keep your food safe through the night. Just think of your coolers as an extra person you need to find shelter for – as long as they are not outside, critters will not be able to reach them. Leave them out, though, and they are fair game for critters.
The only time I’ve had trouble with this method, was with ground squirrels on the west coast, who worked their way into a tiny opening in our zipper and got a hold of some bread we had stored in a tent.
Ratchet Tie-Down Straps
Believe it or not, this is the best solution there is. These straps are incredibly sturdy, so it would be impossible for raccoons to eat through them under any circumstances. As for the ratchet mechanism, it is strong and complex enough to make it impossible for raccoons to figure out how to get through it. Bring enough ratchet tie-down straps to secure all your coolers if you plan to leave them outside. An added benefit of using this small accessory is that you can also use it to connect two or more coolers, making them easier to transport. We use this method with a dry cooler for pantry food, and one with ice for refrigerator food.
Using ratchet tie-down straps can also save money since you will need to invest in expensive coolers that come with all sorts of fancy lock mechanisms – use your classic, ordinary cooler and wrap it up properly for the night. Of course, if your cooler has a way to lock it, take advantage and do that.
Some Other Critter-Proofing Tips
Other general tips to keep critters and other animals away from your food can also be of help. For starters, clean up after yourself – do not leave food wraps, packaging, crumbs, or leftover food anywhere near your bags and coolers. This will make the storage a ten times tastier target for critters, and you will be in trouble if you have not taken the necessary precautions. General cleanliness around the campsite is a must if you want to minimize the chances of getting raided by raccoons and other critters – wash your plates, and throw the trash every night. Preferably, trash bags should be disposed of in a proper manner, or at least take them further away from your camp and collect them before you leave.