Chillin’ with Your Cooler

1008p160-large-cooler-lWhen we’re camping, our cooler is our refrigerator, but unlike our refrigerator at home, our cooler has a limited ability to cool and keep foods cold. And, we’re not doing it any favors by constantly opening it or leaving it sitting in the blazing hot sun. And, the last thing we want is to be two days into our trip and have warm drinks and spoiled food.

These tips will help you help your cooler to do its job and make your trip a bit more worry-free and enjoyable, not to mention, healthy.

Pre-Trip Check
Regularly inspect your coolers for cracks, broken seals, broken latches or anything that might compromise their cooling ability.

Pre-Chill the Cooler
The night before you leave, drop a bag of ice in your cooler. This will drop the internal temperature of your cooler and help keep things cold. Also, make sure all the items that need refrigeration have chilled at least overnight in the refrigerator before you load them into the cooler. Also, freeze anything you won’t need right away. These items will act as ice and will most likely be thawed by the time you need them.

Avoid the Danger Zone
Don’t overload your cooler with food. Leave room for enough ice to do the job. For proper food handling, you want the temperature of your cooler and the food in it to stay at or below 40°F.

The More the Merrier
If you can, having more than one cooler is ideal. We designate one just for drinks that will be opened more often. We have one or more designated just for food that will stay closed most of the time. If we’re bringing a lot of items that need to stay cold, we’ll divide the food among multiple coolers by meal. This way, the Sunday morning breakfast cooler doesn’t get opened until Sunday morning. Doing this will help ensure the important stuff, food, stays cool and doesn’t spoil.

First in, Last Out
Try to pack things in such a way so that the food you use the soonest is on top. This will help keep you from spending more time with the cooler lid open digging around for what you need. We’ve also been known to label each cooler with its contents so, again, you’re not cooler diving looking for that one ingredient.

Block vs. Cubed
Block ice, though bulkier, melts slower. Cubed ice will cool items faster, but they melt faster. A mix of both is ideal to keep up your ice retention.

To Drain or Not to Drain
There is no question here. Do not drain the cold water. It will help the ice retention of your remaining ice because it will be close to the same temp as your ice.

The Sun is the Enemy
When in the shade, ice retention is almost twice as long as when your cooler is in the sun. Try to keep your cooler shaded or, when traveling, pack blankets or sleeping bags around and over the cooler to keep it insulated. When setting up your camp kitchen, know how the sun will track during the day and find or create a shaded spot to store your coolers.

Helping your cooler do its job better will make for a healthier and happier camping experience. Now, get outside and cook something! And, have some fun!

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Categories: Care & Maintenance, Cooking Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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