Cheese can be one of the most delightful snacks to enjoy while out on a backpacking trip. Cheese is a great source of calcium, protein, and fat. All great nutrients for having long term energy and helping your body work efficiently. But, not all cheese is good to take out on a backpacking trip. The most ideal cheeses for a trip will be different depending upon the length of time you will be away from refrigeration.
Keep in mind, cheese making has been around for thousands of years. It was initially used to store excess milk for long periods while still being digestible by humans without refrigeration. Cheese itself is a bacteria that is edible so mold grown on cheese can essentially be cut away and the cheese will still be good.
Cheese that is good for backpacking typically has the following characteristics:
- It is a Firm or semi-firm cheese
- It has been aged
- It has a low moisture content
Cheeses that fit this description will ensure that the cheese you bring backpacking wont be going bad too quickly while intermixed with your other food items.
Use a properly sized Tupperware container to keep a few cheeses in your backpack while in the outdoors. You could even put a small long lasting ice pack in there to keep some of the cheese especially well kept if you don’t mind carrying the extra weight.
Tip: Never cut a big block of cheese to make it smaller and more portable. The more surface area the cheese has on it, the more area there is for mold to grow.
Types Of Cheese That Do Not Need Refrigeration
There are many types of cheeses that do not necessarily need to be refrigerated and will taste great on the trail. These cheeses are great for bringing backpacking and into the great outdoors.
Below I’ll detail some of the better cheese that you can bring on a backpacking trip that needs little to no refrigeration.
Hard cheese can be great for backpacking because this type of cheese will keep on longer trips and in semi-hot weather. If you are going to be hiking in temperatures over 90 degrees for multiple days, it is probably best to leave the cheese at home. But in temperatures less extreme, these cheeses can last for up to 2 weeks on a backpacking trip.
To store hard cheeses for backpacking, wrap the cheese in wax paper and then in loose plastic wrap. Store this with the rest of your dry goods. If you are really going on a much longer trip, continue to smell the cheese towards the end of your journey if you still have some. You should be able to tell by the smell or the oil when a cheese has finally been un-refrigerated for too long.
Keep in mind, there are many more cheeses similar to those listed below that can be taken backpacking and will last similarly as long. Ask at your local deli about the different cheeses they carry similar to those you like and special cheese paper which they have to keep it fresher for longer.
Cheddar cheese is a great hard cheese for backpacking and will keep very well throughout a trip. It can be added to many recipes, eaten plain, or with apples and crackers.
Cheddar cheese is also especially fatty which is good for long lasting energy. If taken for a long time in hotter temperatures, cheddar cheese will get oily but should be good to eat. Wrap it in a bandanna which will soak up the oil and keep the mold at bay.
Here’s a clever idea – cheese “chips”!
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Parmesan is also a great hard cheese for backpacking that will keep well, has lots of protein, and helps with body recovery after a long day on the trail. You can even cut the rind off of it to cut down some more weight in your pack. Make sure to bring enough if you are making pasta (another great backpacking food) and want enough for everyone to eat too!
Unfortunately you cannot take the waterlogged mozzarella that is savory on everything (unless you eat it the first day), however aged mozzarella that comes in hard chunks will keep well and tastes great. This cheese will begin to secrete oil sooner than the formally mentioned cheeses but will still be good to eat for quite some time.
This is a semi-soft cheese that will keep well for at least a week if not more. It will begin to release oil similar to cheddar so keep it somewhere safe in your bag to ensure that it does not get everywhere.
Soft cheese will not keep anywhere near as long as hard cheese because this cheese was made to be refrigerated. But during colder temperature this cheese is great to bring along. Because cheese is a bacteria, there are some select types of soft cheeses that will keep for around a week outside of refrigeration.
In warmer temperatures, these cheeses could spoil in as little as 2 days so be careful when bringing them on a trip. After opening cheeses like these, store them in an airtight container in a cool dark part of your backpack.
This is one of the best gourmet cheeses. It is high in salt and the rind is edible so you will have nothing to pack out. If you like cheese, bring a brie wheel to share around the fire with apples as an appetizer. You can even bake the brie in the fire wrapped in tinfoil to heat it up and melt the cheese.
This is a delicious soft cheese but can be very delicate. If you want to bring goat cheese on a backpacking trip, I would recommend eating it within the first few days of the trip.
Cream cheese is a great snack while out on the trail and keeps quite well for up to 2 weeks buried deep in a backpack. I would recommend buying the individual packets so that you can bring exactly as much as need for any trip. It can also be a substitute for milk or sour cream in certain recipes.
Single Serving Babybel Brand Cheese
Babybel and other single serving firm and semi-firm cheeses are great for backpacking. They can last for up to a week on the trail un-refrigerated so make sure to pack a few of those for snacks. You should pack just as many as are needed cutting down any extra weight in your backpack.
Backpacking With Cheese Spread – You should probably stay away from backpacking with a cheese spread unless you have a cooler and really want to bring cheese spread. It does not keep very well outside the refrigerator and will go bad in a matter of a couple hours depending on the temperature it is in.
There are plenty of other great cheeses you can bring with you so enjoy some cheese spread when you get off the trail.
Non-Refrigerated String Cheese – Non-refrigerated string cheese can be ok for up to a week but it may become unsafe after a week and a half or more. So, if you are going on a shorter trip, string cheese might be an option for you but for others it might not. I will mention though that string cheese typically should be refrigerated all the time so if you are bringing some, be careful. Pack it deep in your bag and eat it earlier if possible.
How Long Will Waxed Cheese Last?
Waxing cheese has been used as a storage method for nearly as long as cheese itself has been around.
Certain waxed cheese such as Cheddar and Parmesan can last for many years sealed and at room temperature. However, most waxed cheese today is not safe to be left out of the refrigerator for more than a couple of hours. Furthermore, this cheese may be at a significant risk for food born illnesses.
Do Romano and Pecorino Cheese Need To Be Refrigerated?
Both Romano and Pecorino cheese need to be kept refrigerated once they are opened. They will begin to grow mold once opened and unrefrigerated and could be unsafe to eat. If you are going to be backpacking in colder temperatures, you may be able to bring these cheeses but keep an eye on how they look and smell to ensure they don’t go bad.
Keep them the same way you would keep a cheddar cheese when you are backpacking.
Does Gouda Need To Be Refrigerated?
Gouda is an amazing cheese to bring backpacking and does not need to be refrigerated. It can be kept at room temperature and will keep its flavor well. If you like Gouda cheese and want to bring some backpacking, you should look to get one that has been aged a couple of years. This will ensure a lower moisture content in an already dried cheese and it will be more firm.
What Happens If You Don’t Refrigerate Cheese?
If you do not refrigerate cheese that typically needs refrigeration, it will begin to slowly grow mold on the outside over a period of time depending upon the cheese. Cheese will often still be ok to eat after being left out of the refrigerator overnight. If it has been left out longer, I would cautious.
Even with cheese in your refrigerator, it can grow mold over time but will generally still be good to eat. All you need to do is cut away the mold and the remaining cheese will still be edible.
Cheese is an amazing snack no matter what. But for some reason, cheese out on the trail tastes even better after a long day hiking to refuel your body. Bring some on a backpacking trip to enjoy along the way. It is even great for calcium, fats, and proteins. I hope you have learned a little more about cheese from this post and the best types of cheese for backpacking.
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Cameron is a freelance writer with a focus on hiking, fishing and photography. He studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado Boulder and now calls Chicago, Illinois home.