Tips for Packing Your Cooler

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June 24, 2009

Purchasing a good quality, well insulated cooler, is an excellent investment if you plan on spending any time in the great outdoors boating, camping, or just relaxing at the local beach.

The trick is packing your cooler so beverages stay cold, and food keeps from spoiling for the duration of your tip. Here are a few of my tips to ensuring your supply of ice lasts as long as your adventure!

Freeze Water in Milk Jugs: One of the most effective (and cheapest) methods for keeping the supplies in your cooler chilled is to freeze old milk jugs that have been cleaned and filled with water.

Not only does the ice last longer when it is one solid mass, but as it melts it is contained inside the jug and not sloshing around in the bottom of the cooler. If you’ve ever had luncheon meat, cheese, or hotdogs floating in your cooler’s bilge water you know what I’m talking about!

As an added benefit, you can drink the ice water collected inside the jugs as it melts (don’t have to limit yourself to water, you can use just about any noncarbonated beverage to freeze and keep the contents of your cooler chilled).

In Maine, stores usually charge between $2.50 and $3.00 for a block of a ice.  Using frozen water jugs is also a great way to save money on your next camping trip as well.

Tip: Water expands when it freezes so fill the milk jugs 3 inches from the top to ensure enough room for this expansion. I also leave the caps off the milk jugs when I freeze them to help prevent the jugs from deforming as the expansion takes place.

Use Blocks of Ice: If you’re unable to freeze jugs of water (or just plain forgot), the second best method for packing your cooler is to use blocks of ice. In my experience blocks of ice last 3 times longer than a similar sized bag of ice cubes.  Even still, blocks of ice only last

The trick is to drain your cooler frequently to prevent the melted water from rising in the bottom of your cooler and getting into your food supplies.

Ice Cubes: Bags of ice cubes are great for keeping beverages cold. The increased surface area of a 100 cubes of ice is much larger than a block of ice of the same weight and therefore more cold energy is released in a shorter period of time.

Your beverages will get cold in a hurry, but unfortunately the ice will not last very long. If you have loosely packaged food items in your cooler, make sure they are placed at the top of your cooler so they don’t get saturated with the nasty bilge water.

If you have any additional tips, comments, or suggestions, feel free to share them in the form provided below!

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Lake District Walks May 31, 2011 at 5:47 am

That is a great article and I love the piece about the ice cubes surface area being of greater benefit to the camper using a cooler box for camping, although you should have gone further and mentioned that these ideas are just great for the beach. I have used my cooler in the past to great effect on the beach for cooling drinks and you seem to get less sand in your cooler box than you do a bag and they are so easy to wash out.

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