Every fisherman should have a good cooler. They keep your drinks frosty, and they can even be used to store your catch. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to properly pack a cooler.
This means that when it comes time for your big fishing trip, you could find yourself out of ice fairly quickly. That means more trips to the store and more time away from nature, which is what we don’t want.
So, in today’s article, I’m going to tell you how to properly pack a cooler.
Step 1: Get a cooler that doesn’t suck
Okay, so some coolers are just awful. They have no insulation, they have poor seals, and they don’t keep stuff cold. If you’re using your cooler for a day at the beach, then this doesn’t matter much.
However, if you need a cooler for long camping and fishing trips that can make it for the long haul, then you should invest in a decent one. I think Yetis are the best (this article really sold me on them), but I understand if you want to go with something cheaper.
Step 2: Don’t put stuff in a warm cooler
If you put your food and drinks into a warm cooler, then you’re already fighting a losing battle. Coolers are good at retaining the cold, but they don’t produce cold like a fridge does. That means that if you don’t pre-chill your cooler, then you’re just sapping away your ice needlessly.
Bring your cooler inside the day before your trip, rather than leaving it in your steaming hot garage. Then use a “sacrificial” bag of ice to cool down the cooler for a few hours before you pack it. Then, dump out your sacrificial ice and begin packing your cooler. You can add as much as an entire day of ice retention doing only this.
Step 3: Don’t put warm drinks into a cooler
Your drinks and food should also be properly chilled. Store whatever it is that you want to take with you in the fridge the night before. Much like how a warm cooler starts sapping out the cold, so do the foods you put in there.
Cold drinks and food will retain their coldness much longer than warm ones. Plus, if you’re bringing a lot of meat for a long trip, you can freeze some of it to make your ice last even longer!
Step 4: Carefully examine your ice ratio
So, you actually need a lot more ice than people think to properly pack a cooler. You should have three times as much ice as you have food and drinks! That’s because the ice needs to surround the items you want to keep cool in order for the cooler to do its job.
You should also make sure that you’re properly layering everything. Ice goes on the bottom, followed by a layer of food, and then another layer of ice. I’d recommend putting your most perishable items towards the bottom, as the best ice retention will be there. Plus, you’ll want easy access to your drinks anyway!
Step 5: Pack everything down tight
Air circulation is the enemy, and a half-full cooler is bad news. Whatever space is leftover after your food is in there should be filled with ice, all the way to the top.
The air pockets which are formed inside the cooler require a lot of your “energy” to cool. Fridges work the same way but nobody cares because the fridge just makes more cold air, but keeping your home fridge packed reduces the strain on your appliances too.
Step 6: Be careful how often you’re opening your cooler
Every time you open your cooler, cold air escapes. For a fridge, this isn’t a big deal. It’s a machine, and it can just create more cold air to replace what was lost while you were standing there for 10 minutes hunting a snack.
Your cooler can’t do this though. It has a finite amount of energy for cooling, and every time you leave the cooler open, you’re stealing that energy away. So, keep the lid closed as much as you can.
Step 7: Store your cooler in a cool place
It’s best to keep your cooler someplace shady. Putting it into the sun is terrible for ice retention, and so is leaving it in a car. The car gets really hot, afterall.
Find a spot under some nice trees, or under a canopy if you’re bringing one along. This will maximize your ice retention, as your cooler will not also be fighting direct heat from the sun along with the ambient temperature of the outdoors.
Step 8: Use block ice for better performance
Block ice is, of course, more substantial than cubed ice. It takes longer to melt, and that means that your ice lasts longer. It doesn’t get stuff cold as fast as cubed ice, but you should be pre-chilling your cooler contents anyway.
If you can’t buy block ice where you are, then you can make your own. Just freeze some water bottles and layer them in the bottom of the cooler. They stay frozen for a long time, and when they melt, you can drink them as a bonus, giving you a nice two-fer on space saving and ice retention.
You can also use some cubed ice to fill in the gaps when you’re done layering your block ice and food if you want as well.