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How to Properly Pack a Cooler


Article by Kate Baxendale

Photography by Stock Images

Summer activities like camping, picnics, cookouts and road trips require planning ahead for food and drinks. This is when a cooler comes in handy—but do you know how to properly pack it so your supplies stay cold? Here are a few tips for efficiently packing a cooler.

Pre-Chill the Cooler

Loading a cooler that's been stored in a hot car trunk or garage will take a lot of ice to cool it down. The night before the event, rinse the cooler out and fill it with ice and water. Dump this water and ice into the yard (or use it to water your plants) before you pack the cooler.

Freeze Bottles of Water

While you're pre-chilling the cooler, pour some water out of the top of a few water bottles (to allow them to expand) and put them in the freezer. This will help keep other items cold and can be extra drinking water as it melts.

Load Frozen or Pre-Chilled Items

Freeze meat and chill canned and bottled drinks before loading them into the cooler. This will help conserve ice needed to keep the cooler's contents cold.

Prep Food

Transfer items in bulky packaging into waterproof containers like Zip-Loc bags. Slice fruits and vegetables and crack eggs into bags. This will save you lots of space in the cooler.

Pack in Layers + Avoid Air Gaps

Start with the frozen water bottles and other frozen items at the bottom. Sprinkle some ice, then add items in bags. The more ice you use, the better. Sometimes, two coolers are needed to properly store and transport the items. Top off the cooler with another layer of ice to fill in any gaps, which will melt the ice faster.

Don't Drain the Water

Refrain from draining the water throughout the day. The water is almost as cold as the ice and will help keep everything cold.

Keep the Cooler in the Shade

Avoid placing the cooler in direct sunlight. If shade isn't available, throw a towel over the cooler.

Keep it Closed

Frequently opening the cooler exposes the items to warm air. Ask if anyone needs a refill or a snack before opening the cooler, then grab it all at once. A full, closed cooler stays cold longer.

READ MORE: Here's the Best Way to Pack a Cooler

READ MORE: The Right Way to Pack a Cooler