7 essential camping cooler tricks to keep your stuff chilled for longer when on a trip

Want your stuff to stay frosty for longer? Check out these seven cool box hacks/tips

Person lifting a can out of a Yeti cool box
(Image credit: Yeti)

Summer is just around the corner, and with the weather warming up, many of us will start entertaining the idea of getting a cool box to keep our beers food and drinks cold when we're out on a camping trip. And while you can just have a look at T3's best cool box guide and pick one you like the look of, we'd recommend also following the below cool box tips to ensure your perishables stay consumable for as long as humanely possible.

Although we can all agree it's great to have chilled beverages at hand when camping, there is a more essential reason why you want to keep your produce chilled: you don't want to get sick when you're in the middle of the forest in a tent. The US Department of Agriculture says, "Spoilage bacteria [...] do not generally make you sick." However, "pathogenic bacteria do, and food that is left too long at unsafe temperatures could be dangerous to eat but smell and look just fine."

1. Buy a good quality cooler

It should be a hard-sided box with a tight lid seal and thick insulation.

2. Pre-chill your cooler

Place extra ice in the box a few hours before filling it up with food/drinks/etc. you're taking on the trip. The pre-chilling ice might get wasted, but it'll help you not throw away food later, which, admittedly, is more important than wasting some cold water.

3. Prep and organise at home

You can use a sheet to plan out the meals you will have on the trip. It's best to wash/pre-cut the vegetables you want to use, too, so they are ready to go in the box when needed. Another way to ensure that wasted space in the compartment is kept to a minimum is to use reusable bags instead of rigid plastic containers.

4. Use the right cooler material

Ice is excellent, but many reusable cooling pouches these days can chill quicker and stay cool for longer than tap water. Plus, when pouches thaw, they don't turn into water, making all your stuff soggy and wet. A good ice-to-food ratio is around 2:1. You also want to minimise air in the bag.

5. Minimise the time you open/close the box

You compromise the environment inside the cool box every time to open/close it. By organising the contents in advance and knowing what you want to get out before you lift the lid, you can ensure only a little cold air escapes and little warm air gets in the box.

6. Consider multiple coolers

One for drinks and one for food, and if you want to go crazy, you can even have a third one just for cooling pouches/ice. This is especially handy if you travel with a group, as the drinks cool box will be used way more than the food chiller.

7. Keep the cooler out of the sun

Keeping the cool box in the shade will help the box stay frosty for longer. No matter how thick the insulated walls are, direct sunlight will warm the cool box up eventually, so if you can, always store it in the shade/tent/etc.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.