Coolers for Canoes

I am looking at various 5 Day Coolers for a week long canoe trip. Anyone have any experience with Coleman, Igloo or Rubber Maid 5 Day Extreme Coolers?

Thanks in advance,


The only one I’ve used is the Coleman Extreme 5-Day, and it worked as advertised or better. We freeze our meat first though (except maybe the first day’s meal), and open the cooler as little as possible, so that definitely helps. We also pack 1L frozen juice cartons instead of blocks of ice - makes a nice slushy treat at the end of the trip rather than melting block ice that you wouldn’t consume.

I have both
Coleman and Igloo and they are both fine provided everything is frozen in advance or you use the proscribed quantity of ice (27lbs in a 40qt Coleman 5 day) Rubbermaid bought Gott a few years back and they look pretty cheaply made. I used to sell Gott back in the 80’s and 90’s and at that time they were superior to both Coleman and Igloo’s plastic models. I doubt that is still true today.

Free ones
I have a wonderful old Coleman I found in the Dump.

Last year when we packed it we filled all the voids with saw dust and had frozen food 5 days out and could have been a lot longer.

Cooler cover
Another trick we use is to go to Home Depot/Lowes/etc and pick up a roll of reflectix insulation. It is by all the other insulation material and looks like bubble wrap with foil on one side. It comes in 2ft and 4ft wide rolls. If you are only going to make a cooler wrapper out of it you would only need the 2ft wide roll.

You can make a cooler wrapper out of it by cutting it with sissors and tape it up with duct tape or the alumninum tape they sell for it (but that’s more expensive). Cut it so it will wrap around your cooler and then cut another piece for the top. You can tape it up so that the top will open and give access to the cooler or tape it up so you have to remove it by lifting off the cooler to get to the cooler. Or however you want to do it.

The point of this ramble is to say you cover your cooler with this stuff and it makes an awesome improvement… did I mention it was an awesom improvement? Even the Colman Extreme that works great as is works better with the cover. If your cooler is in the sun (aka in a canoe under the wide open sky, at the beach, etc) this works great. If it’s in the shade, then maybe not quite the improvement but still better.

I use it when we boat and also when we go camping. I highly recommend it as a DIY cooler mod.

coleman extreme
We pulled out the frozen chicken on day 5. I had a dozen cans of beer frozen on top, had to thaw them out to drink them. But the cooler only got opened once a day.

Different Issue
Doesn’t answer your question, but more about packing. I put ice from my freezer in a plastic grocery bag and knot it closed on the bottom of the chest. I put store bought ice on top if I have to, because I also use those blue ice packs. I feel it’s easier to keep things dry by not letting the ice go loose between the food and it just ends up falling to the bottom the the ice chest if you open the bag to spread the ice cubes around.


boundary waters journal packs
Have you checked out Boundary Waters Journal packs? They are made to portage, maybe not what you had in mind. The owner, Stu, is very helpful.

Anyone cover the ice in cooler with
some type of insulating material? I was thinking that would cut down on the amount of air space for the ice to cool and maybe make the ice last longer.

Cooler Cover
do you cover the bottom of the cooler also or just the sides and top? i was planning on using a wet towel on my next big trip in may but i like this idea a whole lot better. Rick

that is true
the less air space you leave inside, the better off you are. Usually though, I have the opposite problem, not enough space.

I did buy one of those 3" vinyl covered foam seat cushions that strap to the top of my Coleman extreme. Don’t know if it will help keep things cold, but it is very confortable.


– Last Updated: Apr-03-08 1:09 PM EST –

I like to use old half gallon or gallon milk jugs full of frozen water with pre-frozen larder. As you go along and the water melts use it for drinking or cooking. Remember to leave a space above the water before freezing, as water expands while becoming ice.

I was on a trip where a cooler full of pre-frozen items packed in crushed ice was topped off with crushed ice, then sprinkled with a good bit of rock salt to help prevent melting. It was thought, the more the better. Only problem was it created an impenetrable block of solid ice and nothing in the ice chest could be accessed. I mean, an ice pick was useless. It was finally left open so the ice could melt enough to get stuff out. So much for that idea! ;0) Have fun