Last Updated on October 19, 2020
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If you are planning a multi-day camping or hunting trip, you certainly have a lot of stuff to bring. One such item that nearly everyone takes, regardless of location, is a cooler. Especially if you are taking your own food or bringing game/fish back, the cooler you choose can make or break the excursion.
This article will go over how to make whatever cooler you have last the longest possible for your trip! For more tips and outdoor gear reviews, feel free to check out buyer benchmark.
Picking the Right Cooler
First off, all of these tips and tricks to keep your cooler cold won’t work if you have a crappy cooler! By crappy, I mean a cooler with thin walls and poor insulation. We have all seen the big, blue Walmart coolers. Those have thin plastic walls with a plastic lid and no gasket.
We need a cooler, such as a Yeti, that has been rotomolded and is packed with insulation. Most coolers we check out in our ice retention test had over 2-inch-thick walls and lid, full of insulation. Additionally, high quality coolers will also have a solid, rubber gasket that creates an air locking seal when closed to keep ice from melting over a long period of time. Make sure you know where the cooler is manufactured, for example, Yeti coolers are made in both America and Philippines, so you can be sure the build quality is up to snuff.
The bad part here is that Yetis are expensive! Recently, we did a huge test and evaluated multiple coolers that were cheaper than the Yeti and ended up having better performance. You don’t need to break the bank upgrading your cooler, but you do need to do some research to make sure you pick the right one. A few brands to look out for are Orca, Rtic, K2, and, of course, Yeti!
Pre-Chill Cooler and Food
Often, coolers get packed with food and drinks of all sorts. If these foods/drinks can be frozen, make sure you throw them in the freezer at least 24 hours prior to packing them up. This will make everything else in your cooler stay frozen much longer. It is essentially like adding more ice without taking up more space.
Cooler insulation works both ways. It tries to stay cold when cold, but it also tries to stay warm when already warm. Therefore, you want to be sure to pre-chill the cooler at least 24 hours before your trip. This is a weird trick that most folks don’t think about, but it makes a lot of sense. Fill up the cooler with a bag of ice and allow the entire cooler to become chilled. That way, you aren’t forced to try and chill the cooler with your food, as it will already be cold.
Recently, I went on a northern Michigan fishing trip where we were going to test our luck in the river for some salmon. Luckily, we timed the run perfectly and ended up keeping 23 salmon! That is over 200 lbs of salmon filets we cleaned and took home with us. It was an incredible experience; however, it required a ton of cooler space to bring all of that home.
Luckily, the camp ground we were at allowed folks to store their fillets, temporarily in freezers while out fishing. We were able to freeze most of the fillets prior to throwing them in the cooler, which allowed us to get a couple days of ice retention, rather than a couple hours we would have gotten if all the fillets were warm/room temperature. With a super nice cooler, we would have had no problem, but we were forced to use the cheap ones.
Arranging Your Food and Drink
Make sure you have all of your food and drinks strategically arranged in your cooler. When the lid is opened, warm air rushes in and cold air escapes. This means the ice will have to consume more energy to cool the air and melt quicker. Keeping the lid closed is extremely important and will help your cooler stay colder.
If you arrange your food properly, you can minimize the amount of time the lid stays open. For instance, if you wanted to grill up some brats for dinner, you would want to be sure your brats, buns, ketchup, mustard, relish, etc… were all packed together and on top. Otherwise, you will be forced to search and dig throughout the cooler. This is a simple trick but has been one of the more effective things to do during long camping trips.
Another trick we like to do is keep our drinks in a separate cooler. Think about it, 80% of the time you are diving into the cooler is to grab a bottle of water to hydrate or another beer. If you have all your drinks in a separate cooler, you can access that one frequently and keep your primary cooler sealed most of the time. Cold beer is nice and all, but not even close to requiring preserved and cold raw meat. Keep them separate and you can keep it colder!
Use Block Ice
The final tip that has saved us a time or two is using block ice, rather than a bunch of cubes. The reason for this goes back to the fundamentals of heat transfer but is simply because a block of ice has less surface area exposed to the elements than all the cubed ice. A 10 lb block of ice will last much longer than a 10 lb bag of ice cubes. Therefore, you should always try and purchase a big block from somewhere (like a fishery or sportsman shop).
A neat trick is freezing water bottles or, my favorite, a big jug of water. That way, you have a bunch of extra ice in a big block that, once melted, you can drink! This is a great technique for saving space and maximizing ice retention.
Overall, make sure you pick a high-quality cooler with plenty of insulation for your big camping or hunting trips. Additionally, ensure you keep it closed, use a ton of block ice, and chill both the cooler and food prior to packing her up! Feel free to stop on by if you have any questions – https://buyerbenchmark.com/
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