Efficient Cooler Packing

I’m prepping for a 3-night canoe trip that I do every year, and really trying to perfect my cooler/food packing.

I’m trying to think of as many things I can pre-prepare and freeze, to reduce the amount of ice I need and to extend the life of that ice in the hot summer.

I’m considering a layer of dry ice and freezing some “hobo packs.”

I’m also going to try making and freezing some smoothies and iced coffee for the mornings, and filling any gaps with frozen water bottles. Curious if anyone has suggestions for best “packable” options for frozen drinks. I’m thinking coconut water tetrapacks or Fiji water bottles (why are only the most expensive drinks put into squared containers???).

Any other suggestions or tips from experience?

Sounds like you have most of it under control. Not to mention the obvious of packing things in the order you will need them. To eliminate additional opening and moving things around. Obviously keep cooler in shade when can, and hopefully it’s not dark colored.

If you have foods (or meds) that are that sensitive, I have use the chemical ice packs too. Once the ice melts you can use them for critical items. (No food contact though as they’re not edible or food grade.)

I’ve also used additional coolers for days. I use bag coolers mostly and the day 3 cooler should not be opened at all until it’s needed on day 3. I’ve seen bag coolers inside plastic coolers too.

Evaporative cooling

– Last Updated: Jun-29-15 6:17 PM EST –

We do a lot of long distance road trips and a wet towel on top or around the cooler keeps the ice about five days.

Unless you are in a tropical environment, evaporative cooling by using a small soft sided cooler works for up to three week canoe trips.

I wrap meat and cheese in a damp terry dishtowel and put in the soft sided cooler and keep it out of the sun.

It keeps butter rock hard for up to six weeks even in 90 degree temps like you sometimes get in Canada. Meat and cheese are safe.

It wont work if the air is too damp to allow evaporation.

We have kept wine and sodas cold for ten days on canoe trips in canyon country. We dont carry alot of fresh food there.

No ice involved at all.

Google swamp cooler.

So the wet cotton towel idea will probably in conjunction with your ice keep your ice present during the entire duration of the trip.

Well, skip the luxuries: cool 4 plum tomatoes and 3 bell peppers, 2 qts OJ, one pack Gwvaltny chicken dogs, bottle Perrier Lime, then cooling outside temp Qts ice tea as the cooler melts….10 pounds water ice, packed cooler, …87 degrees……1.5+ days cold……2 days warming. With 2” foam insulation added 6 sides to quality 12”x16” double wall cooler covered with Walmart 40 degree sleeping bag. Cooler opened quickly 5-6 times during 10 hour shift. 3 sleeping bags would move cool into 2+ days.

A stationary example.

PITA ! $$$

Try dry ice. Use solid block water ice.

Try foam board over ice between ice and food.

Go figure:


Google search: closed container cooler heat loss water ice ( or dry ice) calculator.

Search NRS Raft for the real party equipment, live from Moscow. Watch the video’s on Utube !

Ice consideratins
My current method is to freeze all my beverages - water, sports drinks, coke (my indulgence), or anything liquid in a plastic bottle. As the liquid thaws the cold fluid stays in the container. Food items needing cooling are not contaminated by melting water. The imprisoned melted fluid is still provides cooling.

I’ve had a 1 gallon water container still have ice inside after 5 days, by minimizing openings and using another smaller cooler for loose ice and drinks.

Test any plastic bottles at home first to ensure freezing and then thawing leaves the vessel intact.

canoe paddler’s secret
I’m not a fan of Budweiser but you can freeze it and thaw it without the cans exploding. Some other beers might stand this but Bud is proven.

If you want to try this with a better tasting beer put it in a strong zip lock bag before you put it in the freezer.

My Variation on That

– Last Updated: Jul-01-15 7:40 AM EST –

A few day before the trip, I drink a bit from those bottles I'm going to freeze. Frozen drinks that stay cold longer and no fear of cracking a bottle. And I put one larger frozen bottle, usually gallon sized, in said cooler. I often have ice at the end of a trip a few days in duration even during sweltering Ozark summers.

Also, the wet towel method helps. I will have a towel on top of my cooler when I'm going to be out a few more days and need to extend my cooling.

What Do You Mean By Hot?1
Here that means 110° and higher.

Focus on eliminating your need for cold. Canned fruit followed by a healthy drink of water makes an adequate lunch. Jerky and sausages pack well and are tasty. Bring nuts to snack on.

There are many ways to have a satisfying meal without cooking too much.

Three days is a short trip. Try block ice or freeze water bottles. Freeze some of your meat. Minimize the amount of time you open the cooler. Keep in the shade, put a wet towel on it. Use the river to cool things. People on Grand Canyon trips go for 2-3 weeks. They take dry ice.

Burlap Coffee Sack Evaporative Method
I like to use a burlap coffee sack from a local coffee shop that roasts its own coffee. Let it sit in the river for a while until thoroughly soaked, then place it on top of the closed cooler. Re-soak it in the river before it completely dries out.

My local shop gives them to me for free (they usually just throw them out.) Matter of fact I need to get some new ones. Somehow they’ve all disappeared into the hands of some of my paddling buddies.

hadn’t searched for info but the fabric idea….is there a fabric designed for evaporative cooling…a Terramar t shirt or

Humidifier filters fabric ?

An example: http://hackaday.com/2014/08/11/an-evaporative-swamp-cooler-for-burning-man/

Grand Canyon Style Coolers
Crank up the credit card and don’t worry.