When trying to store food and drinks in a cooler, which would be the best way to stop the ice from melting for as long as possible in order to keep the food good and the drinks cold?
There's an art to packing a cooler efficiently, but anyone can master the technique with a little practice. So, to begin, let's say the family is going camping for a few days, and there's no camp store nearby, so you'll be taking most all the food you'll need for the duration of the trip and you need to keep it cold so that it doesn't spoil. How can you fill your ice cooler(s) so that the ice will last and you won't have to drive down the road to find more?
Most importantly, you need a quality ice chest for storage of perishables. Ideally, this should be a larger cooler with good insulation, including the lid, a drain plug, and an inside bin for those items you don't want sitting in melted ice. My wife and I have a 150 quart Coleman marine cooler, it has a deep bin and two lids, with panel inserts to create compartments inside the cooler. We've had block ice last in this "refrigerator" for over two weeks in 80º weather. Also, we take along a second, smaller cooler just for drinks, which keeps us from frequently opening the storage cooler. Basically, that's the main trick: avoid opening the cooler as much as possible, particularly during the heat of the day, because that let's in warm air, which melts the ice.
Here's some other tips to help prolong the ice:
- pre-chill, or freeze, food and drinks
- put food in first, then cover with ice
- keep the cooler out of the sun
- make sure you close the lid tight
- don't drain all the cold water
- keep meats/perishables directly on ice
- avoid opening frequently