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I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend! The holiday is sort of the “unofficial” start of the camping season. That means lots of meals around the campfire. It also means there is a potential for food poisoning if you don’t treat the food you have in camp correctly.

Planning for meals at home and serving the meal in a more “controlled environment” is quite different than preparing and serving a meal in camp where cooking equipment or cold storage probably isn’t as good as it is at home.

When you are thinking about your camp meals, keep this basic principle in mind: Keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Keep in mind though that either task can be difficult in camp.

In general, bacteria that cause spoilage or food poisoning grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit (all temperature references in this column will be referred to in the Fahrenheit scale) and 140 degrees. The temperature range in between these two numbers is the "Danger Zone" when it comes to food.

Bacteria multiply rapidly in this temperature range and can reach dangerous levels in two hours…..as little as one hour if the ambient temperature in your camp is 90 degrees or above.

Another important thing to remember is keep everything clean. Bacteria present on raw meat and poultry products can be easily spread to other foods by juices dripping from packages, hands, or utensils. It is a very easy to do this kind of cross-contamination.

One simple tip is to pack drinks and food items that need to stay cold in separate coolers. Food items will stay cooler and safer if the lid to the cooler isn’t being opened and closed repeatedly.

Another practice I’ve adopted in my camps is to plan meals that use mainly canned or dried foods that don’t need special storage considerations. I simply open and use what I need at meal times.

I also pre-cook or repack and freeze many meals before I leave for camp. I pack my “frozen meals” in large zip-lock bags that stack neatly in my cooler. Being frozen, the packed meals also aid in cooling anything else in the cooler. The best part may be how easy it is to get a meal ready in camp when you only have to take it out of a baggie and heat it up.

Enjoy your camping season and eat well this summer!

Biting Bugs

Thermacell is a leading manufacturer of mosquito repellent products. I tested one of their devices last year abd was very impressed with it. For 2015 they are introducing a water-resistant camp lantern that provides bright light and repels mosquitoes. It has a heavy-duty rubberized base, 50 hours of light at its highest setting, and the ability to keep biting mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums away from you.

"The Thermacell Repellent Camp Lantern is a natural addition to our portfolio of outdoor camping products," said Allegra Lowitt, Thermacell chief marketing officer. "We married our patented mosquito repellent technology with the most desired features campers want in a rugged lantern, such as bright light, low battery indicator, emergency light settings, and a hanging hook."

This lantern has a weighted bottom so it can't easily be tipped over. The olive-colored base is accented with black rubber that protects the lantern if dropped or knocked over. Battery life indicator changes color showing remaining power.

With three light settings and SOS for emergency situations, the lantern globe can be detached to increase the intensity of the light for maximum brightness. The base hook also allows the lantern to be suspended in a tent or campsite from above for hands-free base camp operations.

DEET sprays and liquids can be sticky and smelly but Thermacell's technology creates a patented zone of protection where the repellent is dispersed into the air. The repellent is virtually odorless and silent, making protection from insects undetectable and unobtrusive at the campsite. Look for this lantern to begin showing up at major retailers soon. The price will be around $60.

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