So you are going on a camping trip or to a rustic cabin in the hills. Maybe you have decided on a long fishing trip in the hot sun. Or you might be doing a tailgating party with your friends at a game or other place—in the sun. Maybe your boat or pontoon has an awning or cover to keep the cooler cool. Going to the beach? Have a big umbrella to keep the cooler cool. Planning on a winter hunt? The cold weather will keep your cooler very cold.
You’ve probably done this before and know the drill. For you newbies, here are a few tips to get you going. Don’t just shove stuff in the cooler—organize it and space things for the cooler to hold more stuff.
Before anything else, wash out the cooler being sure bugs, dust, link, and dirt are gone. Use a little bleach if it smells bad.
- Boost your chilling power by pre-chilling with a bag of ice before loading the food inside the cooler. It doesn’t matter the brand or size of your cooler. That way the ice doesn’t have to “work so hard” the day you leave. Freeze water in plastic bags is another tip if you’d rather not use loose ice. Crushed ice simply takes up space. Block ice in bags or milk cartons is the way to go and it doesn’t melt so quickly. Don’t fill the cartons or plastic bags too full of water because it expands as it freezes.
- When your trip is more than two days, definitely use blocked ice.
- Layer the ice whenever possible to keep all things cold.
- One day before your trip, freeze any food items that can be frozen. Seal in plastic bags and put into your cooler orderly for good space just before you leave. Keep cold foods frozen in the refrigerator and add to the top of the cooler the day you leave home.Keep your soda, beers, or bottled water in the fridge before packing.
- Fill the chest as full as possible for keeping it colder. The fuller it is packed, the more the food and drinks you have, and there is less air to keep cold.
- Keep the cooler in the coldest part of your truck or vehicle out of the light and sun. It is a good idea to put a heavy blanket, tarp, or sleeping bag over it to keep ambient heat out. This will provide valuable insulation.
- Do not put the cooler in a tent or your vehicle because the temperature in those places can raise 20-degrees in no time. Keep the cooler in a shady place if on land under trees if you can. Allow for air circulation.
- Make sure the lid is tightly closed at all times to maintain the cold inside. If you must get in the cooler, make it quick and grab everything at one time.
- Put raw meat, fish, and poultry in plastic bags or containers—whichever saves the most space. Keep it at the bottom of the chest where it is the coldest.
- When you get home, remove everything, drain the water, and wash the cooler thoroughly and let it dry. Keep the drain open to let the water leave and keep it open so that no mold or mildew forms.
Important: Do not overfill your ice chest. The lid on several models goes down inside the cooler a bit when closed and it can break the hinges and not allow the closure to work.