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Packing a cooler may seem pretty simple – just throw in ice, right? But it’s a science and an art, one that will help any camping trip go smoother and safer. With a little preparation, packing a cooler is quite simple. Here are a few tips:
The day before you jet off to the campground, prep your cooler. First, you’ll want to thoroughly clean it to take care of anything left over from the last trip. Wash the cooler down with disinfectant spray to rid the cooler of lingering smells and create a clean home for your food. After the cooler is squeaky clean, bring it inside and pre-chill the cooler with cold water or “sacrificial ice.” You want the core of the cooler at room temperature or colder for optimal performance, so bring it in from that hot garage early.
Save space and time at the campsite by prepping food ahead of time. Plan your meals, then chop veggies, mix marinades and measure out ingredients. Transfer it all into resealable containers and throw them in the fridge to cool. You want the cooler ice keeping things cool instead of working to cool food down.
Pick Your Ice
Yes, there are different types of ice for a cooler. Block ice, artificial ice packs and ice cubes work for most coolers. For dry ice, place it at the bottom of the cooler and completely cover it with a layer of cubed or crushed ice. This protects any of your food or drinks from freezing completely solid. Take care to avoid touching it with your skin--dry ice can cause frostbite. Make sure your dry ice is wrapped in paper.
Pack the Cooler
Layer the bottom of the cooler with block ice or ice cubes. Block ice is colder and tends to keep food colder for longer, but ice cubes can do the job as well. At the bottom of the cooler, put frozen goods and food you won’t use right away. Packing food for your last day toward the bottom, working up to first day, will keep food cold until you need it. Organize the cooler by separating breakfast food from dinner food. Finally, assume anything might leak, so place all drinks and containers right side up and put meat and other leak-able items in separate freezer bags, or bring a separate cooler for drinks. With each layer, add cubed or crushed ice to keep everything cool.
Map It Out
Save time and frustration by making a cooler map to remember where you packed everything, and get to that string cheese or beverage of choice faster.
With these steps your cooler will work smarter, not harder. For more tips on camping, check out our Iowa Camping board on Pinterest.