You may think packing a cooler is as easy as filling it up with ice and throwing in your items, but if you’ve ever dealt with lukewarm drinks, spoiled food and melted ice you know that a little cooler-packing strategy goes a long way. To make sure you’re winning the Tetris game that is cooler packing, here are some helpful tips and tricks.
Pick the Right Cooler(s)
To ensure you’re getting the most out of your cooler, choose one that has thick, insulated walls and a lid that securely shuts. If you can, get two separate coolers, one for drinks and snacks you can enjoy immediately, and one with foods you’ll enjoy later on. The more you open your cooler, the more cold air will escape, so make sure you keep the food you want to last the longest in a cooler you don’t open too often.
Cool Your Cooler
It may sound obvious, but try to store your cooler somewhere cool! A cool cooler will keep things cold longer. You can even pre-cool your cooler by packing it with ice packs the night before. Once you’re ready to pack up, layer the bottom of your cooler with fresh ice packs and start loading in items you’ll need last at the bottom.
Food & Drink Tips
If you can, pre-cook all the food you’ll need for your trip — that way you can just reheat and eat when you’re ready. For cool drinks that will last your entire trip, freeze a couple the night before. Once placed in the cooler they’ll begin to thaw and by the time you’re ready to drink them, they’ll still be cool and will even act as extra ice packs for the food and drinks around them.
To keep things extra cool, make sure there are no gaps between your items. Place as many ice packs as you can around your food and drinks and fill in the remaining gaps with loose ice. The bigger the ice cube, the longer it will take to melt, so try and grab ice bags that contain the largest chunks. Placing aluminum foil between layers and a towel on top will make sure you can fit all your items in your cooler and fill up space right up to the lid without spilling anything when you open it up.
You may want to drain your cooler as soon as the ice starts to melt, but don’t! That cold water is still helping cool down your items, and draining before your cooler is empty could cause your cooler to warm up faster.
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