If you are not organised many things can go wrong. A cooler box no matter how expensive is only as good as the way it is packed. If you fail here you waste the value of all that great insulation. It’s worth noting that if correctly packed and used many coolers can keep stuff cold for days.
Your cooler box should be robust and well insulated – fibreglass and steel belted coolers tend to be the strongest yet there are newer models that are just as good that are made using roto-moulding technology.
A cold cooler keeps things cold much longer, so throw in a packet of ice the night before you go , you can always re-freeze the ice later when you pack.
Then freeze most of your food and drinks, they will contribute to the cooling factor and will thaw over time – pack the meals in sequence by putting what you will eat last at the bottom to the first meals on the top, it’s also good to freeze non-carbonated drinks and water as they keep everything much colder. They can thaw each day when you are at the campsite. Ice blocks made using Tupperware or other plastic containers last better than cubes and can still be used for drinks once you are at the campsite, you will just need to break them up with a hammer or ice pick.
Don’t drain water on short trips as it keeps stuff cold but on long trips drain the water as it can cause the ice to melt. Along with your ice cubes you can also throw in a few re-freezable ice packs.
Layer everything, put the ice blocks at the bottom and then separate them from everything else with a thick sheet of plastic. This keeps food from slipping between the ice and getting soggy. Even though you have frozen the food articles, I would suggest you take the food out of its original packaging and repack into plastic containers or Ziploc bags (you now even get re-usable versions that are washable). Nothing worse than finding that water has got into the original packaging and the contents are useless. If you add greens or salad ingredients to your top layer, wrap them in wet paper towel before putting them into the zip locks, it helps keep them fresh longer. I also try to keep the cooler out of the sun and often cover it with a wet towel for additional insulation. I use my cooler for shorter trips where I just need to get stuff to the final destination and for longer trips I will use a fridge.
It’s important to keep the cooler closed and only open it when you need to get something out, if you leave it open the contents will thaw quickly – take what you want and then close the cooler!
And then sections are important pack in layers of things like meat, vegetables, chicken etc. so you can access stuff quickly and close the lid
Keep Your Food Organized and Separated
If each food type has its own section—meat, vegetables, condiments, etc.— and you know where everything is, you’ll be able to rifle through everything much more quickly.
Bring a Separate Beer Cooler
Beer takes up a lot of space in a cooler, so give it some room to stretch out. Plus, campers reach into a cooler for beer more often than food, which can kill valuable ice for your chicken. Warm beer is better than salmonella.
Clean and Air-Dry Your Cooler After the Trip
It’s easy to throw your cooler in a dark corner and head inside for a shower after you get home. Resist. Hit that thing with soap and warm water, and maybe even some bleach. You don’t want bacteria festering inside. Once the cooler is clean, let it sit out to fully dry. Even a little water left inside can be the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of funk.
Store It Inside
Your cooler might be designed to withstand a falling tree, but it’s not designed to live in the sun, which can break down the plastic. Keep it in the garage and the thing will last forever.