Shelf Life for Common Backpacking Foods

How many day's before you food becomes a bio hazard while hiking?
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How many day's before you food becomes a bio hazard while hiking?

Pack Life Support

Just how many days before your chunk of cheddar becomes a biohazard? It’s Claudia Pearson’s job to know. As NOLS Rocky Mountain Rations Manager, Pearson is in charge of supplying food for the program’s month-long expeditions. Here’s what she knows will go the distance—and what you’d better eat on day one. (Note: Pack life estimates are for typical summer alpine conditions with highs in the 70s; hotter weather or leaving food out in the sun can significantly speed spoilage.)

8-12 Hours: Frozen steak
Lettuce/spinach

1 Day:Eggs, broken into
water bottle
and frozen

2 - 3 Days:Goat cheese
Zucchini
Broccoli

3 - 4 Days:Avocados, unripe
Bell peppers

8 - 10 Days:Tortillas/bagels
Summer sausage (opened)
Margarine
Apples

20+ Days:Lemons/limes
Garlic cloves

30+ Days:Onions
Potatoes
Cheddar cheese
Parmesan cheese
String cheese
Jerky