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How To Make Ice Last Longer In Your Cooler

Do you have a big camping trip coming up in the near future? Are you planning to visit the beach for a couple of days or maybe head to the park for a quiet and relaxing picnic?

If so, these are all occasions in which you will probably require a cooler or ice chest—a device designed to keep your drinks and snacks consistently cooled and ready to enjoy. However, the only way in which a cooler can perform at top capacity is if the ice in that cooler melts slowly and lasts longer.

To help you with this task, below we have compiled several tips, strategies and tricks for making your ice last longer in a cooler, with a brief explanation of each tip and some information on why each of these steps is crucial to the overall coolness of your ice chest.

Tips To Keep Your Ice Longer In The Cooler

picnic cooler at beach

In order to make ice last longer in a cooler you will need to perform a series of well-thought out measures—steps that begin before you even put a single drink or food item into your ice chest. Each of the steps we have outlined below, when performed in conjunction with each other, will help you increase the lifespan of your cooler ice and keep the inside contents fresh and ready to serve.

Here are the steps you will need to follow:

Keep Your Cooler Out of Direct Sunlight

Everything is going to be much, much hotter when it is sitting in the heat of direct sunlight. For that reason, if you want to preserve the ice in your cooler and prevent it from melting you will need to place it in the shade.

For best results, look for a very shady area in which to place the cooler. This could be under a large shade tree or beneath a picnic table or bench.

If there is no shade in your immediate area you will need to create some. This can be accomplished by using an awning or a tarp and keeping the ice chest under this shade structure at all times. These steps will go a long way towards preventing premature ice melt in your cooler.

Cool the Ice Chest Prior to Use

It only makes sense that the ice in your cooler is going to melt faster if the interior of that cooler is warm when you initially place the ice inside. Therefore, you will definitely need to take steps to cool the inside of the cooler before adding any ice.

There are many ways you can cool off the interior of your ice chest. These include prepping the ice chest with cold water, leaving the ice chest in the freezer overnight, or just storing it in a cool, dark environment where the temperatures remain below 68 degrees or so.

Only Place Pre-Cooled Food and Beverages in the Cooler

Just as you want the interior of your ice chest to be nice and cool prior to use, so too should you ensure the food and beverages items you place in the cooler are also cold. Adding food and beverages that are warm will make the ice in your cooler work harder to cool them.

And as the ice works harder, more and more pieces of that ice will melt. However, when you add only cold food and beverages to your cooler the ice does not have to work very hard to maintain its coolness, thus making it last significantly longer.

Keep the Cooler Closed as Much as Possible

One of the best ways to ensure rapidly melting ice and a cooler that fails to keep your food and beverages cold is to open the lid of that ice chest repeatedly. Each and every time you open your cooler you are not only allowing the cold air to escape, but you are also introducing warm air that will make your ice melt more quickly.

Therefore, instead of opening the ice chest repeatedly, think about taking out everything you need in one trip. If you are making bacon dogs, for example, take out the hot dogs, bacon and all of your condiments in one trip. This will prevent you from having to constantly open the lid of the cooler and thus help preserve your ice and the cold environment inside the ice chest.

Keep Melted Ice in Your Cooler

Many people assume that when the ice in the cooler begins to melt you should drain that ice water using the release plug on the bottom of the ice chest. This is not true. Melted ice—or ice cold water—in the bottom of the ice chest will still help keep your food cold and will slow the melting of the remaining ice in the cooler.

As long as your food is wrapped well and it is not in danger of getting ruined due to the water in the cooler, go ahead and leave this melted ice in—it will help keep food colder in the long run.

Place Large Chunks of Ice in the Cooler

While it may be more convenient and space-saving to use smaller cubes of ice in your cooler, you need to be aware that these smaller pieces of ice will melt much faster than larger chunks. When using smaller pieces of ice, the space between these pieces allows air to flow through—air that will gradually melt the ice.

However, when you use large chunks of ice instead, the mere size of those chunks prevents them from melting prematurely and thus raising the temperature of your cooler.

Stock Only What You Need in the Cooler

When stocking your cooler for your camping trip or picnic you should bring only the items you need. The more food and beverages you have in an ice chest the less ice you can actually fit into the cooler, which means that the ice is likely to melt much faster.

While it’s important to pack what you need, it’s also important that you actually give the ice a chance to work for you.  According to experts, you should try for a 2 to 1 ice-to-beverage/food ratio when packing your cooler. And if you can get even more ice entered into the ice chest, that is even better.

Keep Your Cooler Elevated

Although it may sound a bit silly, if you can keep your cooler elevated off the ground you can prevent the ice from melting prematurely. When a cooler is resting on the ground, the heat from that ground can actually penetrate into the interior of the cooler.

Therefore, if you elevate your cooler, you can prevent it from making contact with the warm surface of the ground, lessening the amount of heat energy that is allowed to transfer through the cooler. So how can you accomplish this type of elevation?

One way is to prop the cooler up on blocks or chairs. This way, it will be off the ground yet still accessible when you need to access it. Some coolers are even equipped with feet that prevent the cooler from resting on the warm ground. If that is the case with your cooler you can actually skip this step.

Insulate Your Cooler

One of the best ways to prevent premature ice melt in your cooler is to insulate it. In fact, the more insulation your cooler possesses, the more protected its interior will be from the heat of the sun and other surfaces.

There are several different methods for adding insulation to a cooler. One way is to place a wet towel on its lid. Another method is to literally bury the cooler in the ground so that only its lid is exposed.

Both methods will cool off the outside of the cooler, preventing heat from creeping inward.  Many of the coolers of today are already outfitted with this type of insulation.

Although these coolers will definitely perform better than some of the standard coolers on the market today, they could still benefit from some additional insulation as described above. Every extra layer of insulation contributes to longer-lasting ice and a cooler ice chest.

More Ice Is Always Better

Last but not least, if you want to make sure the food and beverages in your cooler stay as cold and frigid as possible you should definitely add as much ice as you possibly can. Quite simply, the more ice you put into a cooler, the longer the inside of that cooler—and the contents within—will remain cold.

Because of this, you should add as much ice to your cooler as is reasonable, without leaving out any crucial food and beverage items you may need. Stuffing your cooler with a LOT of ice has a couple of benefits. First, it cuts off the circulation of heat in your cooler. It also brings forth a uniform degree of coolness to the ice chest, ensuring that the ice contained within it melts at a much slower rate than it otherwise would.

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