Guide to Packing a Cooler Effectively

Are you the one who’s always groping through ice water hunting for lost cheese at your picnic or tailgate party? Have you ever had to stop for fast food because the lunch you thought you packed so carefully had become a soggy mess? Here are the tips you need to pack a perfect cooler…

Chill everything first ~
Whenever possible, cool down the items that will be going into your cooler. If the cooler only has to maintain the cold temperature, it won’t need as much cooling power (ice) as it does when it has to cool the items down and then maintain. You can save yourself from having to add ice by cooling everything down before you start loading your cooler.

Cans on bottom ~
Start by lining up your cans in a ring around the outer edges of your cooler. That means you’ll be leaving a hollow space in the center. Lots of people make the mistake of tossing the drinks in last, on top of the ice. Their theory is that drinks will be reached for the most often, so they should be on top where they’ll be accessible. But cold sinks, while heat rises. So drinks sitting on top will never get as frosty cold up there as they will on the bottom.

Lining them up along the edges puts the cans in the coldest part of your cooler, but still makes them easy to get to. Since you know they are on the edges, you can just slip your hand straight down against the sidewall of the cooler and grab one, without having to rummage through the whole cooler.

Bag all items ~
Put all of your food items into zipper baggies before you add them to the cooler. The cellophane wrapper that most food comes in is not waterproof. Food left in only its own original packaging is likely to get soggy in a hurry. Don’t pack any glass into your cooler. If you need mayonnaise, scoop some out into a plastic sealable container, and leave the glass jar at home.

Filling the center ~
Put an inch or two of ice inside your ring of cans, then lay all your bagged items on top of that ice. Then layer more ice, filling up all the empty space in the cooler. Don’t forget the leave room for the tray!

Use the tray ~
Items that you don’t want to get so cold that they actually freeze can be keep cool in the tray above the ice. Remember that tray? It came with your cooler, and its purpose is to hold things that should be cool, but should not actually be touching the ice.

Put cooler in trunk! ~
Leaving your cooler sitting in the hot sun will make all your careful planning worthless very quickly. A car left in the sun heats up just like an oven. There’s no reason to make your cooler try to work against that. Put your cooler in the trunk, where it will be shaded during the ride there. Once you arrive, try to keep the cooler under a tree, or some other shade source, and cover it with a blanket to keep it insulated.

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