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I have taken some hard cheeses onto backpacking trips quite successfully without spoilage, but I have not dared taking more than I can eat in about 3 days. Eggs I have not dared to take. I am interested in how long people have gone in arid climates before their cheese/eggs became inedible. I don't mind sweaty cheese or even some mold, but I do not care much about food poisoning in the backcountry.

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I've been told that european eggs aren't refrigerated because the natural wax on the egg is maintained, while it is washed off on North American eggs, which is why they require refrigeration. Can anyone shed some light on this? –  furtive Dec 19 '12 at 16:59
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Europeans don't refrigerate their eggs - I raise chickens, I collect eggs every day, and we put them on the kitchen counter. Once they go in the fridge, they can no longer be sold as "fresh," and they don't taste as good. Refrigeration makes them last longer, but once they are in the fridge, I'm told they need to stay that way. –  Affable Geek Dec 20 '12 at 13:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Cheese:

Long time. Especially hard cheeses. You can just cut any mold off the edge that might creep up. Cheeses sealed in cheese wax (gouda) are a good bet.

I've had extra-sharp cheddar un-refrigerated in the AZ desert for 8+ days, in the rocky mountains for 15+ days with no issues (aside from sweat.)

Blocks last longer than a pile of shredded cheese.

Be smart. Keep an eye on it. If it smells foul, don't eat it.

Eggs:

With shells intact, raw eggs last surprisingly long.

In the Borneo rain forest (just below the equator = hot) we would get pallets of 300+ raw eggs shipped up to camp that we would store, un-refrigerated in the shade, for 30 days at a time. (This was after however long un-refrigerated in the truck, the shop, and the supply boat...)

Sure, there was some spoilage - but a very small percentage. Just crack them into a separate container first before tossing them in your dish.

Or use an old farmers test: put your raw eggs in a bucket of water, "If they sink, they're safe. If they float, they fail."

Other people suggest cracking the eggs into a sterilized lexan bottle (rinse with bleach first) and then freezing (or not). These reportedly last for several days. (<-I have not tried this).

As a distant last option -- they are doing some pretty decent things with powdered eggs these days...


Caveat: These are my personal experiences. I am sure there are some official FDA guidelines and other related official paranoia. Possibly even tails of death and disease from eating day old cheese. Fine. Follow those if you choose. Or step outside of commercial convention and open a world of gourmet back-country dining.

Related: How long does mayonnaise last unrefrigerated in the back-country?

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As someone who raises chickens, I can tell you that we never put our eggs in the fridge. Technically, they can no longer be called 'fresh,' and they lose taste. Eggs will keep for 2 - 3 weeks, even outside of the fridge. –  Affable Geek Dec 20 '12 at 13:37
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And remember, the reason cheese was invented was because IT WAS A MEANS OF PERSERVING MILK! –  Affable Geek Dec 20 '12 at 13:38
    
I've carried raw eggs on many occasion. As long as you don't crack them along the way, you're usually okay. –  Russell Steen Dec 21 '12 at 13:05
    
I've read one trick to keep eggs cool is to put them in the bottom of your flour tin. –  furtive May 13 at 22:36
    
My relatives in northeast Brazil (3.5 degrees south of the equator) don't keep their eggs in the fridge, either. They don't have any problem with spoilage. –  ErikE Jul 24 at 2:29

Fresh Un-Refrigerated Egg Storage: On many wilderness excursions I've backpacked with store bought eggs (in crush-resistant container) for 7-10 days (or longer when coated with mineral oil) with no problem as long as the shell is intact. You can water-test the eggs - Sink’s is Good / floats it’s Bad.

More info can be found here: www.preparednesspro.com/safely-preserving-eggs

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The problem with raw eggs seems to be mainly that they dry out. As long as the shell is not cracked, no bacteria can get in

Some recipes from old books:

  1. Cover the shell with vaseline.
  2. Put them in a glass with a 10% solution of sodium silicate.
  3. Keep in a container with slaked lime solution.

The last two are said to preserve the eggs for many months. Luckily I was in no need to try. The slaked lime solution sounds best to me. The solution keeps the eggs moist and kills any bacteria

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If the eggs weren't commercially washed before being sold to you, you wouldn't have to treat them to keep bacteria out. Washing would be advisable before cracking open, though. –  ErikE Jul 24 at 2:30

Personal anecdotal experience:

hard cheese:
lasts about a week in cool climate

boiled eggs:
lasts 3 (maybe up to 5 days) before they start to get weird

unboiled eggs:
I have never even thought of taking them backpacking, but I know they are safe for two weeks unrefrigerated. (This might be a joke to try to carry with you though?)

hummus:
about a week, unrefrigerated

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I've never tried it myself, but I met people trekking (sorry, tramping) in New Zealand who had pre-scrambled eggs with them, on the 5 day Heaphy track. They were cooked quite hard, and so could be easily carried in a freezer bag without worrying about breaking them, and then warmed up, or eaten as is.

It was only day 2, so perhaps they didn't expect to keep them for long, but I remember them looking a lot nicer than all dried nonsense I was eating at the time! I guess their shelf life would be down to the weather at the time.

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I've gone 3 days with eggs in the backcountry but I live in the Rockies where it stays cool in the shade and night. I've been told if you keep a few eggs in a tin of flour that they'll keep for a week.

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