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Using Dry Ice in Your Cooler

By July 3, 2010

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Diane sent me an email asking what I thought about using dry ice and/or freezing food before hand? My reply:

"Using dry ice in your cooler is a great idea, if you can get it. Here's another tip: wrap the dry ice in a few layers of newspaper and place it on top of the food. You can place regular ice below, and the dry ice will last longer, if you don't let it come in contact with any water. Freezing foods before a trip is also a great way to conserve ice in your cooler." ~ David

More about prolonging ice in your cooler

Tips for storing food at the campground
April 17, 2008 at 12:19 pm
(1) matt says:

I disagree. We tried this once. While it DOES keep your food cool longer, and melts much slower, it gives food items (especially fruits like apples and oranges) a chemical taste. We did not enjoy it at all.

April 18, 2008 at 12:22 am
(2) Elise Bush says:

I love using dry ice. It keeps things very cold. Then it evaporates rather than melts so there’s no messy water to drain from the cooler. I have a friend who claims it will even keep ice cream cold. Haven’t tried that yet.

April 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm
(3) Brigitte McDuffee says:

Dry ice,if it is put in direct contact with the cooler, will crack the plastic that most coolers are made of. This is speaking from experience on my part and also of a friend who did not believe this would happen.

If you use dry ice protect the plastic from direct contact with the extreme cold of the dry ice.

April 22, 2008 at 8:16 am
(4) Mary Rushton says:

Dry ice is good. Be sure to handle carefully. Also it can build up pressure as it releases gases. I know when making Rootbeer, it can cause the lid to come off. It isn’t always the best idea. I have camped a lot and if you just keep the coolers out of the sun, lots of ice and don’t open them too often, the contents stay good. I use a different cooler for drinks or other items where I know it will be opened and closed alot. Keep your meats separate and they will keep colder and if you don’t open it as often. Camping can be fun or a disaster, depending on your approach. Plan ahead.

July 2, 2008 at 11:00 am
(5) Randy says:

Here are some tips to increase the life of your ice:
• Pre-chill drinks and food prior to going into cooler.
• Pre-chill cooler itself (add ice several hours before use).
• Pre freeze drinking water.
• Load food/drinks in the order you’re going to use.
• If possible, use two coolers. One for drinks, one for food.
• Keep air space to a minimum.
• Load ice last, cold air travels down.
• Block ice lasts longer, crushed ice cools faster. It’s a good idea to use both.
• Leave melted ice water in cooler.
• Keep lid tightly closed.


September 27, 2008 at 3:08 pm
(6) RuSeFun says:

Nice idea!

April 4, 2009 at 1:43 pm
(7) Robert says:

We are planning a week-long camping trip and would like to use dry ice instead of water ice. Freezing is not wanted, extending the life of the dry ice is desired. How about wrapping the dry ice in newspaper to slow down it’s evaporation and prevent the cooler contents from freezing? (some freezing on the bottom OK) Is it possible to get 5-7 days of cooling with a large (8 cu. ft.) cooler with say 30 pounds of dry ice??

July 18, 2009 at 9:59 am
(8) TIM says:

For dry ice try using styfoam in bottom of cooler and a piece on top, use a grocery bag and keep dry ice in plastic, put meats in grocery bag and close, I use 30 lbs of dry ice and it keeps meats frozen for about 7 days

September 26, 2009 at 9:33 pm
(9) Emily says:

DOes dry ice keep icecream cold? Scouts r trying to do ice creams as a fundraiser but have no way of keepinig cold and were wondering if it works.

October 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm
(10) Sage Advice says:

Dry ice is extremely cold (-109.3°F or -78.5°C). It will definitly keep Ice Cream cold.

The trick is having the right amount of insulation between the Dry Ice and the ice cream (or other foods). To keep things frozen put the ice in a paper grocery sack on top of your food.

Since there are several variables you have to work with, you have to experiment and adjust. (put a thermometer on top of food in each cooler for food safety.)

1. Temperature of the enviroment (convection)

2. Heat hitting the cooler, in the sun, by a fire, etc.(Radiation)

3. Coolness lost by what the cooler is setting on or touching (conduction)

4. Cooler’s insulating ability

5. Size of cooler

6. Temperature of cooler

7. Amount of food in cooler

8. Temperature of food in cooler

9. Amount of dry ice

10. Amount of insulation around the dry ice.

11. Location of the dry ice in the cooler

Check out the links at bottom of page for more help

Good Experimenting!!

January 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm
(11) mike says:

We have successfully experimented with the two-cooler approach to using dry ice for camping and sailing excursions.
Here’s the formula. Start with eight 1-liter soft drink bottles filled with water and frozen at home. Put four of the bottles in your food-and-drink cooler. The other four go in a second cooler, with the rest of its volume entirely filled with dry ice. Then you simply switch the ice bottles, rotating the four thawed bottles to the dry ice cooler and the four frozen bottles to the food cooler.
In effect, you’re using the dry ice to “make ice” for your food cooler. We also keep an ice cube tray in the dry ice cooler for cocktails.
We haven’t had a plastic cooler crack. But a plastic cooler entirely filled with dry ice will make ice on the OUTSIDE just from condensation in the air. There’s really not much insulation in those plastic coolers.
Because of that I’m building a dry ice cooler with fiberglass and plywood — an inner box and an outer box, separated by 1.5 inches of high-tech solid insulation. I expect it to be capable of “making ice” for 8 to 12 days. And yes, it will be vented to deal with condensation when the dry ice sublimates (that’s the word that describes what happens when a solid converts to a gas).

April 14, 2010 at 10:23 am
(12) Ksenia says:

I built a cooler and found the following points useful, just to share:
-Use crushed melting ice(fast) and ice blocks(long-lasting)
-Add salt into the ice water(lower the melting point)
-Flat container(Larger surface area)
-Use two layers, the inner one metallic, the outer one insulating materials such as plastic
-Paint/spray the outer layer(prevent heat exchange)

April 14, 2010 at 12:13 pm
(13) Ksenia says:

Forgot to add one point: when putting a hot object into the cooler, use a lid to cover the cooler, but do not cover the metal (inner) container.

July 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm
(14) Lake Erie Dad says:

Being as dry ice is just frozen carbon dioxide, you might make a few people who still believe the global warming nonsense a bit irate. As I do not believe in man made global warming, I will continue to use and enjoy the benefits of it.

July 4, 2010 at 1:12 am
(15) Yolanda says:

It’s true if you put fresh vegetables and fruits in with dry ice it will make them carbonated. But, I have 2 coolers one with regular ice for fresh items and the other with dry ice for wrapped and frozen items. If I only need one cooler I will use the dry ice, but I will put fresh items in a container and I keep the ice still in its bag. You really can’t go wrong with dry ice it’s just how you use it. I went to the river with 20lbs of dry ice in 108 degree weather and it lasted for 3 days.

July 8, 2010 at 11:29 pm
(16) Tucker says:

Dry ice is great for keeping things cool. I agree, it is a great alternative to regular ice (if you don’t mind the carbonation).

Here is another comment on dry ice helping cause global warming. According to a dry ice website, in many cases dry ice is created from CO2 that is generate as a industrial byproduct. Dry ice is just another form of CO2 and not a destructive element.

October 31, 2010 at 1:31 pm
(17) G says:

Can I use dry ice in a soft cooler? Or should I get a plastic cooler?

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