Whether you’re planning to take a day trip to the beach, a weekend excursion or a week-long trip, a cooler or ice chest is an essential piece of gear. You depend on it to keep your beverages ice cold and your other perishable foods at a safe temperature. Your health and comfort depend on the ice holding up, We’ve written this guide to show you how to keep ice longer in your cooler to avoid running into problems that can ruin your trip.
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Choose the right cooler
Not all coolers or ice chests are equal in value. Before you settle on a specific type, look for a cooler that will do the best job in keeping ice for longer. First, look for a brand that is highly reputable and has good product reviews. Some well-known brands are Yeti, Evakool, Dometic and Coleman. There are others, but it’s a good idea to check reviews before you buy.
Look for a cooler that is top rated for having good insulation on the inside. This will help to keep the cold inside and the heat on the outside. Also make sure that the lid closes tightly with no cracks or spaces for the cold to escape. In addition to this, the lid should also have a type of insulation. Also consider the amount of food and beverages you will need and choose a cooler size that will accommodate all these items plus plenty of ice to keep the contents chilled. Once you have the ideal cooler, here are the things you can do to keep the ice frozen for longer.
Prepare your cooler
Before you pack your cooler, chill all items in advance. If you’re taking items for a longer trip that can be frozen, then freeze them before packing. This will help keep everything else inside the chest cooler. Also cool your ice chest the night before the trip. You can do this by spreading a layer of crushed ice around it the evening before you leave on your trip. When you pre-cool the inside of the ice chests in advance, you’re setting yourself up for success.
The best type of ice
Crushed ice is great or spreading around and in between the items you pack in the chest, but a block of ice will take far longer to melt. Use block ice in your cooler. You can also use ice that has been frozen in clean milk or ice cream containers at home. The mass will keep its frozen state much longer than crushed ice. If you do make your own ice, add a little salt to the water because it lowers the freezing temperature of the water so it will be colder than frozen water without the salt, it just takes a little longer to freeze solidly.
Cool your drinks
The day before you pack your ice chest, make sure to cool your drinks just above freezing. The colder the better, but don’t freeze them because this will make the containers expand and cans and bottles have been known to explode. You can use some of the crushed ice that you used to cool the ice chest down if you don’t have room in your refrigerator for all the beverages.
Pack your chest properly
Place the heaviest items in the bottom of the ice chest. The ice block should sit on the bottom in the center. Arrange any frozen meats you have nearby because this will add to the icy mass so it will melt more slowly. Put the things you plan to use first near the top and the items you will be using last on the bottom. This will help you to find what you need more easily so you won’t keep the lid open as long.
Fill your cooler to the brim
An ice chest that is packed with ice and cooled foods and beverages will stay cooler for longer. Any air space that is left causes ice to melt more rapidly, so choose the size that you need, but make sure that it is completely filled when you leave on your trip.
Keep your cooler in the shade
When you reach your destination, find a cool and shady place to keep your ice chest. Keeping it out of the sun will help to slow the melting of the ice. In addition to keeping the cooler in the shade, place it in a spot where the cool breeze can provide good air circulation. Some campers use a rule of thumb that places the ideal location for an ice chest on the north facing side of a tree. This is the area that gets the least amount of sunlight and it’s a good plan if you’re going to be out of camp for several hours at a time. Doing this goes a long way in keeping the chest cooler.
When the outside of the ice chest gets hot, it warms the inside faster. Avoid storing the cooler in a vehicle or tent because the lack of airflow causes the inside temperatures in these spots to go up quickly. If you’re at the beach or another location where there is no natural shade, put up an umbrella, tarp or cover the chest with a towel or blanket to try to keep it out of direct sunlight.
Only open the lid when necessary
Every time you open the lid to your cooler, you’re letting cold air out and warm air in. Be mindful of this and only open the lid when you need to and close it again as quickly as possible. A good tip for cutting down on the number of times you need to open your main ice box is to carry a smaller one to hold beverages and other things you may need to get frequently. Soft-sided cooler bags or small 6-pack sized chests are the perfect solution, especially when you are out on an extended trip.