Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Don’t make these 9 cooler packing mistakes

By Cheri Sicard
Do you make these 9 cooler packing mistakes? Many of us do. But the team from Playing with Sticks [230K subscribers, 36M views] is here to help, with the video below.

These tips will work regardless if you are packing a high-end cooler, such as a Yeti, or your ordinary run-of-the-mill cooler. Using these tips and techniques can significantly extend the life of your ice. At least a day longer and probably longer than that. The video promises an end to ice runs, soggy foods, and unorganized coolers.

OK, let’s count down the top 9 cooler packing mistakes

#9 Not precooling your cooler: The night before your trip take a little “sacrificial ice,” put it in your cooler along with water, and let it sit overnight. The ice water will cool the cooler before you put your food in.

#8 Not using a 2-to-1 ratio: Most people buy a cooler that is too small for their needs. For optimal performance, you need a cooler large enough to carry two parts ice to one part food and drink. Any less and you’re sacrificing your insulation and your ice. Watch the video to see an example of what this should look like.

#7 Not keeping your ice melt: The video advises not to drain the water from the melted ice unless needed. Water has a higher thermal density than ice, which means that it will hold the cold longer.

#6 Opening the cooler too often: The less you need to open and go into the cooler, the longer your ice will last. Our host uses a two-cooler system to avoid this, one for drinks, and the other for food.

#5 Not prepping food before it goes in the cooler: This will keep you from going in too often, and properly prepping and wrapping your food will keep it from getting soggy as ice melts.

#4 Underestimating the power of frozen foods: Frozen food counts as ice in your 2-to-1 ratio and can help keep everything cold without the need for extra ice. Watch the video for how to pack and freeze foods for optimal space saving. And make sure everything you pack is refrigerated or frozen before it goes in. No room-temperature foods.

#3: Not using block ice and cubes: Whether you buy blocks or freeze them yourself, block ice simply lasts far longer than cubes. However, once the block ice is in, the video recommends filling the space around it with ice cubes for maximum cooling.

#2 Not making a barrier layer: Once everything is packed, the video recommends covering the top layer of your cooler with frozen reusable ice packs. No ice packs? No problem. Once the cooler is filled and before closing the lid, cover the top with a wet towel.

#1 Not packing properly: The order you pack your cooler is important. Here’s how: Place block ice and frozen food at the bottom, then refrigerated food, then a layer of ice, then more food, more ice, then the top barrier layer. Watch the video to see how it is done. And of course, if possible, place the cooler in the shade or transport it inside your vehicle.



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Neal Davis
29 days ago

Good stuff, and nothing that I already knew. Thank you, Cheri!

1 month ago

A layer of foil or the reflective sheets on top is a swell cooling help.

1 month ago

One thing to remember, cold air settles lower (descends). Ice on the bottom will keep the bottom of the cooler chilled. Ice above food will keep the food cold.

Lexi's mom
1 month ago

If its really hot, I pre-freeze a milkjug or something similar w/water & a “little” salt. Seems to last for days. Just be sure to mark jug to show contains “salt” so no one gets it mixed up and think it can be used for drinking water or to put on plants, etc.
Great idea for putting towel on top!

1 month ago

There are occasions when you need to drain the water from your cooler. When we are in our Jeep off roading that water is sloshing around & the ice seems to melt faster! Actually in our old CJ5 I had a drain hose permanently attached to the drain hole for that purpose. I like really-really cold beer, so one of my coolers had crushed ice in it, just for the beer, more like a 3 to 1 ratio so to last a couple of days! Different folks different strokes!

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

In the old days when we carried a HUGE Costco sized cooler, we kept three five gallon buckets of frozen water in the bottom of our garage freezer. We packed the cooler sitting in the truck bed because it was SO heavy there was no way to lift it once it was loaded. This would easily last the week we would be on vacation. We also emptied the ice holder in our house fridge into the cooler.

1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Still the old days for me , exactly what I’ve been doing & currently doing. Easy to get 10-14 days. I do violate #7 as my dogs get the ice cold cooler water( your going to have to prove #7) Been using a 150 quart igloo 7day cooler since 2008 ( Sams) home made blocks

1 month ago

Excellent and very helpful advice!

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