HuntStand Hunting App
Garbage bags as game bags
Contributors to this thread:
DonVathome 12-Oct-10
Mac 12-Oct-10
NvaGvUp 12-Oct-10
SteveC123 12-Oct-10
The Yode 12-Oct-10
pav 12-Oct-10
KHunter 12-Oct-10
icefishers 12-Oct-10
ForkWest 12-Oct-10
Ziek 12-Oct-10
ORARCHER 12-Oct-10
MntBiker 12-Oct-10
Mt. man 12-Oct-10
Beendare 12-Oct-10
WapitiBob 12-Oct-10
Bobmuley 12-Oct-10
TD 12-Oct-10
WapitiBob 12-Oct-10
Dirtman 12-Oct-10
bearstalker 12-Oct-10
Hogslayer 12-Oct-10
fuzzy 12-Oct-10
Matt 12-Oct-10
Dirty D 12-Oct-10
Jwillman6 12-Oct-10
>>>---WW----> 12-Oct-10
Raghorn 12-Oct-10
DonVathome 13-Oct-10
Gray Ghost 13-Oct-10
Frankie 2 Times 13-Oct-10
DonVathome 13-Oct-10
Beendare 13-Oct-10
Ermine 13-Oct-10
Matt 13-Oct-10
nwmontana 13-Oct-10
Davy C 13-Oct-10
BUGLELK 13-Oct-10
fuzzy 13-Oct-10
bcfishguy 13-Oct-10
From: DonVathome
This year I used garbage bags as game bags, partly because I had them with me at the time and partly because I put the meat into a creek to cool it off.

When the trip was done I gave them some thought. My pack was clean - no stinky elk smell to get rid of.

Other pros I found:

- much cleaner, less blood and less smell to attact critters big and small (a big plus in griz country) - no way for flies/bees to get to meat (game bags can tear etc) - ready to put into creeks to cool meat - meat kept very clean

Game bags breath but other then that, short term, I think the garbage bags were great? I used contractor bags which are very strong.

Anyone see any cons? I was very surprised at how well it went and how clean it kept me, my gear and the meat.

If sun was an issue I drapped a white garbage bag over the black to reflect sunlight.

I always carry 1 bag with me for emergency shelter/poncho carrying one more would be easy and I two can hold all the meat so it would save me doubling up and carrying garbage bags and game bags.


From: Mac
trash bags are treated with an anti-bactiria treatment and should NOT be used for storing any kind of food.

From: NvaGvUp
NO!! You need game bags that can breathe. Plastic can't. Once the meat's frozen, OK, but even then, I'd only use the plastic bag as a second covering over regular game bags.

From: SteveC123
Mac, I could be wrong, but I think they only put that treatment on the "no stink" kitchen bags. Don, I'd call the manufacturer of your contractor bagas and ask them if there is any kind of BPAs or chemical coating. I'd be interested to hear the answer. Other than Mac's point, I don't see too many "Cons."

From: The Yode
What Mac said!

From: pav
I've used plastic garbage bags as pack liners before...but you need to be very careful in warmer weather. If the meat is already cool and you keep the sun off of it, you should be fine for several hours. If the meat is still warm, it can spoil pretty rapidly in plastic.

From: KHunter
Garbage bags are for garbage. Which is what an elk will be in short order in many normal situations where you have an elk on the ground and have a lot of time and work before getting it into a freezer.

I do not hunt to keep things clean and odor free--quite the opposite, actually :-)

From: icefishers
I've used them as a pack liner in November but I wouldn't use them in September.

From: ForkWest
The problem with plastic, like others have said, is it doesnt't breath. What this means is that you create an anaerobic environment. Generally speaking with meat, anerobic conditions promote much faster bactiera growth and is also the condition to allow the really bad bacteria to flurish. Keeping the meat cool will slow the growth, but the condition still exists and could really cause some problems. For a short term pack liner, no problem, longer term storage will cause spoilage.

I have seen meat almost ruined by using plastic bags simply to carry the meat out. You could eat it...but it tasted worse than it should have. Very gamey.

From: Ziek
The meat needs air circulation while cooling and being stored. Except for a very short time (1 - 2 hours) while packing, plastic will cause spoilage.

HUH ?? NO WAY !!!!

From: MntBiker

MntBiker's embedded Photo
MntBiker's embedded Photo
I have used white plastic bags over the past 5 years hauling out 5 elk. I use the gutless method and put the meat straight into plastic bags then haul to a stream or pond to cool. Cooling the meat fast and away from the bone has had a positive effect on the taste of the meat. I think this works for me because I camp and hunt above 10,000 feet in elevation (cooler temps) and there are many water sources.

Because of the great experience I have had with plastic bags I don’t use game bags, I still carry them in my day pack but never use them.

I will include a picture of this year’s elk hunt of my friend removing meat from a high mountain pond. The last load of meat stayed there for 1 ½ days without any problems.

From: Mt. man
Not 4 Me! It needs to breathe.

From: Beendare
I use them to line my pack during transport or when cooling meat in a creek only, but not for long periods of time.

From: WapitiBob

Well, Don's alive and well it would appear. Didn't hear him say he pukes every time he eats last years elk meat. Garbage bags must not be all that bad.

From: Bobmuley
I would use them in a creek or if the meat and ambient temperature are freezing, but that's about it.

Cut a hole in a contractor bag and wear it like a poncho and tell me its just as good as a t-shirt after an hour in early September.

From: TD
Unless I was keeping meat underwater, no. That would be the only time I would use one. Even then you would want to drain and dry things off now and then so the meat wasn't sitting in a puddle of collected fluid in the bottom of the bag. I've never been in that situation, but a cold lake or stream would make a good option as a cooler. Great idea.

I don't care to use them in my pack. Actually the pack has a mesh panel to help air circulate, I don't want to defeat that.

If the meat has been hanging in a regular game bag for a little while most of the fluid has drained and dried. If it's still a mess I'll put my poncho on the bottom of the pack.

If it does get a bit of blood on it, well, I'm not too finicky, it's got a stain or two on it already. You should see what the outside looks like after a few days of living with it on.

From: WapitiBob
There's a difference between being alive and wearing the ponch or being dead and wearing it.

Don did say "short term".

Nice to see you posting over here Bob. It would be nice to see 5Miles over here adding to the mix also.

From: Dirtman
I use them short term for a pack liner, if the meat is already cooled and in game bags. I would use them them to submerge meat in the fashion others have indicated if the situation presented itself. I make sure to get heavy duty bags with no coatings for this purpose. They also come in handy for other uses (waders, ponco, pack cover, dry gear storage at spike camp)

From: bearstalker
I sew up game bags made from polyesther or real canvas. Get your own old sewing machine, not the wife's embroidery rig. These canvas sacks don't leak or fall apart. Ever hike through a Devil's club patch with a plastic bag full or meat? Forget itl I only use these canvas bags for getting the meat and hide out of the woods and maybe for keeping my boat or rig clean during an hour or so run. You definitely don't want meat you are going to eat in garbage bags. Hides spoil quick, too. A ripped plastic bag lets blood and salt out onto your equipmentl Ok for bait fish and so on, but anything else needs to breath and be chemical free. And what do you do if the store is closed or there isn't one? Naw, get or make good game bags and take care of them.

From: Hogslayer
Am in the food service business, we can't store food in trash bags. All food storage bags must be NFS approved, I have been told trash bags are made with recycled plastic and are not sanitary.

From: fuzzy
non-food-grade plastics can contaminate food

From: Matt
"Anyone see any cons?"

Other than potenital contamination of the meat from the anti-microbial treatments on some bags, the fact they hold in liquids which provides a better environment for bacteria to grow, and the lack of air circulation which can prevent cooling/drying and hasten bacteria growth, nothing at all.

Suffice it to say, there are myriad reasons to not put meat directly into trash bags. Cool, skinned, and in a game bag, yes. Otherwise, no.

I have seen it stated on a few occassions that the white bags are the only ones that can be considered "food grade" and that could be used (chemical treatments aside) for food.

From: Dirty D
Don, glad you're trying to "think outside the box."

This doesn't have anything to do with your post but I did find that soaking my Allen game bags in cold salt water followed up by a soak in a mild bleach solution cleaned them up good as new.

From: Jwillman6
I do not use garbage bads for meat! The game bags breath,

Nothing wrong with using them for the pack out. They keep all your other gear nice and clean. However, as soon as you reach your truck or your camp, place the meat in regular gamebags.

As far as that goes, you can place it in regular gamebags first and then in plastic to help keep you pack or panniers nice and clean. Just get the plastic off ASAP!

From: Raghorn
White, or translucent "garbage bags' are made from virgin resin, and are "food grade". White is best, as it is usually stronger.

Grey or black garbage bags are made from "re-cycled' plastic, and are NOT food grade, they can contaminate food.

From: DonVathome
I am shocked, my elk meat this was GREAT. I took a herd bull, in rut, shot in sunny weather with 70-80 degree highs. I had to get my elk out 2 miles, up 300 feet then down 1400 feet. Then I had to drive 1,600 miles homes. My elk meat went from the garbage bags directly into the cooler covered with ice (not drained). Some elk meat was in the garbage bags for 1 day.

I always heard all the “wet is bad rumors”. And I admit they are correct BUT I have hosed out every deer I have shot in Ohio, and hung them "wet" and never, ever had a problem.

I know lots of guys who have lost meat to flies, and heat (which my plan prevents) then not enough air or being ruined by a garbage bag.

And for the nonfood grade etc comments. Would the elk you butcher, and circumstances under which they are butchered EVER be acceptable under "food grade" requirements? If yes then you are hunting the high dollar ranches not the public land I hunt! Does your pack qualify as food grade?

Bags go into my pack so no chance to rip, not to mention 90% of game bags will rip easier then contractor garbage bags. I have thrown out an entire roofs worth of shingles in contractor garbage bags, 50 lbs each – none spilled.

I would bet I would loose more meat in game bags due to the following:

Game bag lost meat: 1. flies/bugs (I have had game bags tear or stretch so much flies can get eggs in) 2. dirt (ever had to trim all meat from dirt?) 3. predators (game bags release many times to odor to attract them) 4. Heat (bags allow you to use water to cool meat)

I have used my bags as a poncho, saved the day (light rain and wind breaker) hole for head and arms.

To those who said they have had meat lost or gamey because of plastic bags please elaborate, really. I am open for input and very curious as to the cons, I do not want to loose meat.

I am giving the recycled plastic thought, I am going to look into this some more. Very good info about white is virgin plastic. I am curious assuming I wash the meat at home if that much “stuff” can come of bags and onto meat, and stay, that ruins meat?

Dirty D great idea, mine are in the garage right now drying, I am going to give that a try.

Also as a side note I bought T.A.G.S. game bags (popular in AK) this year they are great, sturdy etc.

I checked and the contractor bags I have say “not recommended for food storage” I am going to email them and ask why. My white garbage bags also say the same thing.

I think the only thing that might be bad about garbage bags is the recycled plastic - this is making me think - and as I said I am going to look into this some more and post my results.

From: Gray Ghost
I'm curious, Don, do you also use latex gloves so you don't get blood on your hands?


I'm with Don... I bleive that if you are using a plastic bag to quickly cool meat in a stream/lake, that those benefits far outweigh any so called negative impacts, and I'm not convinced there are any at this time. Getting meat cooled as quickly as possible is the best option, period. Having said that, I wouldn't subscribe to putting meat into a plastic bag "fresh off a kill" then packing it without at least first cooling the meat. We had this very discussion yesterday in the office. I don't see any issue with using them, provided meat has been cooled.

I'd also add that I don't see any issue with meat getting wet, as long as its cool/cold and drinkable water. I wouldn't get it wet with untreated water, but sitting in ice water or rinsing/washing with potable water is acceptable. I've watched butchers rinse meat down prior to cutting. As long as the meat is not allowed to sit at warm temps which might promote bacteria growth, I think its fine.

From: DonVathome
No I wear shoulder length gloves of course! Butchering an elk likley will clean my hands, they are pretty rough after 11 days in spike camp!

Here is the reponse from Hefty:

"Dear Donald,

Because our bags are not regulated by the FDA, Food and Drug Administration, we have to tell people that they are not recommended for food storage. Thank you."

Really does not help out much.

From: Beendare
Anybody know if those white trash compactor bags have any chemical treatment?

These are what I use for lining pack etc due to them being far and away stronger than the green bags

From: Ermine
Plastic that doesnt breath scares me. I try not to use plastic bags. I use the caribou bags as well as a kifaru meat baggie for boned out meat.

From: Matt
As expected: question asked, answers given, answers argued/marginalized/ignored, respondants questioning why they bothered.

From: nwmontana

nwmontana's Link
I use the Ziploc xxl bags. Put the meat in a game bag and then into the ziploc bag to pack it out. Saves from having a bloody pack and dirty meat.

I have been doing this for the last few years and have never had any meat spoil.

From: Davy C
I get large food grade plastic bags from my local butcher. I use game bags to cool the meat but then put it in the plasitc bags when I put it in a cooler on ice.


A quality game bag will allow you to accomplish everything that needs accomplished when packing/transporting meat. Getting the meat in the shade, even in 75+ degree temps, will allow it to cool sufficiently. Game bags keep the flies off and the dirt out. There is too much risk in putting an elk into a garbage bag, and it is not necessary.

We've brought several elk home in coolers for 16+ hour drives and a block of dry ice in the cooler with the meat in game bags works excellent...just be sure the dry ice doesn't contact the meat or you'll get "freezer burn".

In my opinion, garbage bags are not a good option for meat storage, short-term or otherwise.


From: fuzzy
Matt, exactly.

In case you are interested, a food safety professional would advise a restaurant manager/owner or food supplier to discard or destroy meat that was stored in non food-grade plastics.

With valid quantifiable scientific reasons.

From: bcfishguy
we put our boned-out meat into pillow cases, then hang to cool if we can. Regardless, the bagged meat goes into into clear plastic bags for the pack out. Usually only a 3 or 4 hours in the plastic, but we leave the top open so it isn't fully sealed. As soon as the pack is over, we hang the pillow cases again. We've never had any problems.

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