These days the word “cooler” can mean a pre-mixed alcoholic beverage, but it’s also the name of an insulated box to keep your food and drinks cool.

Coolers come in various shapes, sizes and prices. A really large one seems like a good idea until you try to lift and carry it after it has been filled. Some come with wheels and a pull handle while others have smaller flip-open lids in the main lid. These smaller lids will probably leak and lead to your ice melting. Try to stay away from gimmicks. Get one with a tight fitting lid, preferably with a latch to keep it closed tightly.

Like many other purchases, the more money you spend to start with should guarantee a higher quality product. In a cooler, quality is important and keeping ice for a full week is possible with a top of the line unit.

I think it’s a good idea to buy three different sized coolers so you can carry a lot if you need to and if less space is needed, then one of the smaller units will do. Any cooler keeps the cold in better if it’s as full as it can be. Empty space in a cooler leads to the melting of your ice, the loss of cold and perhaps spoilage of your food.

It is always a good idea to pre-cool what will be placed in the cooler so your ice doesn’t have to cool it down, just maintain the cool.

If on a multi day adventure carry any frozen meat or other products in a separate cooler that will only be opened to remove some frozen food. The frequent opening of a cooler lid will seriously decrease the time that your ice will last. Label the frozen-food cooler so it isn’t opened by everyone just to see what’s in it. Items in the frozen-food cooler can also be individually wrapped to make them last longer.

Cooler Tips

  • Always keep the cooler out of the sun or at least cover it with a towel or tarp.
  • Various sized freezer packs keep longer than ice and there is no melt-water in your food.
  • If using ice, a block keeps longer than cubes, but in either case keep the plastic bag(s) of ice in a cloth grocery bag inside the cooler. This will add a day or two to the ice staying intact. Keep the bag folded down over the open ice-bag.
  • The freezer packs will also last a lot longer if kept in a cloth bag or even a small nylon drawstring bag.
  • Whether using ice or freezer packs, fill in the area at the top of the cooler with an old fleece garment if using ice (fleece does not soak up water) or an old beach towel if using freezer packs.
  • Meat that has now thawed will last many days if your cooler will keep it cool.
  • When your ice is gone, you can put items in Ziploc bags and put them in a nearby creek.