Are you venturing outside to brave the heat this summer? We’re going to help you pack your cooler for optimum chill whether you’re going on a weeklong trip through the backcountry or enjoying an afternoon barbecue on your patio.
You may think that packing a cooler is a foolproof process that only requires adding ice to whatever you are trying to keep cool. Well, you’re not wrong; however, we have some pro tips on how to pack your cooler like an expert for optimum ice retention so you can stay out longer.
Before You Go
Just like you had to practice before you could ride a bike, becoming a “master packer” is a learned skill. Collect all of the items you’re going to bring on your trip and do a dry-run to make sure that everything fits. Remember that you will be adding ice so you don’t have the full capacity of the cooler at your disposal.
Pro tip: Organize your cooler into different meal sections so you always know where to find all of your ingredients quickly.
The best-kept secret of the outdoor cooking community is the idea of pre-chilling your cooler. Beginning your trip with a frosty cooler will greatly extend the life of your ice.
Fill your cooler up with a couple bags of ice the night before you head off for an adventure to trap as much cold air in the cooler’s insulation as possible. Dump the water and ice and you are ready to start packing your cooler for real.
Another method of pre-chilling is bribing your local grocer/restaurant/friend to allow you to store your cooler (with the lid open) in their professional grade freezer overnight.
It’s best practice to use larger ice-blocks rather than traditional cocktail ice cubes. Ice-blocks melt at a much slower rate than smaller traditional ice cubes and their block shape makes it easy to pack your cooler.
Prep The Food
Clean all of your ingredients prior to packing so they and ready to eat right out of the cooler. If you’re planning on taking a multi-day trip – freezing your meats will help keep your cooler cold without taking up additional space with ice.
While In Use
Keep it Closed Keep it Cool
We believe in the closed door policy (at least when referencing coolers.) We’re sure you’ve seen the Corona commercials that make relaxing next to an open cooler overflowing with ice and beer look amazing. You know what isn’t amazing? Warm beer.
Every time you open your cooler you are exposing it to warm air and shortening the lifespan of your ice. Make sure to only open your cooler with purpose. We recommend organizing your cooler to avoid leaving it open for prolonged periods of searching.
Draining the water at the bottom of your cooler will preserve the life of your ice and we recommend doing so if you are going on an extended trip.
If you’re taking a day trip and the majority of your cooler is filled with drinks, the direct contact with the cold water will actually keep your canned and bottled beverages colder than contact with the ice itself.
Post Adventure Cleanup
Scrub The Grub
As soon as you get home from your adventure, dump the ice and give your cooler a good clean. Store your cooler in a dry, safe place so it is ready for your next adventure.