A cooler is a must- whether you are throwing an outdoor party or going for a camping trip. However, coolers don’t keep things cool by themselves- you need ice for that (loads of it). In most cases, making the ice last longer is the bigger concern.
Some may be clueless about how long ice ideally lasts in their coolers. Others might want to know how much ice to use. We are here to answer all your queries about using ice in a cooler and help make your camping time a huge hit.
How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler?
Unfortunately, ice tends to melt quickly if not stored properly. First of all, you can get the right kind of cooler to solve the problem (as far as possible). So, we’ve tested a few ice chests, ranging from hard to soft coolers, to answer this question.
How Long Does Ice Last in a Styrofoam Cooler?
How long your ice stays frozen in a Styrofoam Cooler also depends on the ice type. While dry ice stored in these coolers can last up to 18-24 hours, water ice ideally retains 12-24 hours.
Smaller styrofoam coolers cannot hold much ice and have low insulating capabilities. However, larger models can store more ice and make it last beyond a day, especially if you keep it under a shade. Whatever the case, they are one of the most affordable coolers out there when you need them for 1 – 1 ½ days at the most.
How Long Does Ice Last in a Soft Cooler?
Soft coolers that seem to perform well and keep ice intact for around three days. Their thick (above 1 inch) closed cell foam that makes it possible.
Sturdy soft-sided coolers can be expensive, but they can withstand extreme conditions. Cover up the empty pockets when packing dry ice to keep it frozen for longer.
How Long Does a Hard Cooler Keep Ice?
It is safe to say that a normal hard cooler can last you two days’ worth of ice, maximum. It would be a decent pick if you’re going on a weekend trip. The plastic outer-body makes it more durable. If you want ice to last for at least two and a half days, you could go for their steel belted cooler (54 QT).
Some high-end hard coolers can ideally hold your ice for 4 to 4 ½ days. If you’re slightly lower on the budget but want similar results, read on and learn about some extra steps to keep the ice longer
From our tests, we’ve gathered that if you don’t have access to ice every two days, a higher-end model would be a better choice. Otherwise, lower-priced coolers can efficiently get the job done.
Step 2 would be to find ways to maximize the performance of your coolers. For this, you must know the variable on which the ice retention time depends.
What ice are you using?
Knowing a little science can save your day. All kinds of ice do not melt at the same rate. It is better to use frozen plastic bottles or bigger ice chunks. Packaged ice melts faster. It is simple- less exposed surface means lesser heat transfer.
As mentioned above, while describing the products, ice chest construction matters in retaining ice. The insulation quality isn’t always the weakest part of a cooler.
For instance, the construction technique of a hard cooler differs from a simple Styrofoam icebox. While the former can keep your ice from melting for days, the latter keeps ice for 24 hours maximum.
Best storage spot
Remember, no cooler has perfect insulation, and one cannot be at odds with Mother Nature. Despite having a fancy cooler, the ice can melt fast if stored near fire or under direct sunlight. You can, however, prevent this by keeping the icebox somewhere cooler, like under a tree.
Keep ice from melting quicker than usual by tossing in pre-chilled things like food or drinks. Even better, you can also chill your ice chest a few hours before packing things for your trip.
You cannot be opening the lid of the icebox frequently. That would mean releasing the trapped cold air and letting the hot air inside the chest. The insulation can only work at its best when the chest is sealed tightly when not in use.
Steps to make the ice last longer
Here is what you can do to ensure an extended life for ice in your cooler:
- Dry ice tends to last longer than regular ice and, thus, is the preferred solution for camping. They are colder and turn into gas as they warm up. Fill the air pockets in the cooler with newspaper and place water ice below dry.
- Make sure you reduce the hot airflow into the cooler. Filling the dead spaces can also help in this case.
- Next, add more insulation to the chest. You can bury the icebox in the ground if that’s an option. Or else, wrap the cooler with a blanket- it will stop the cooler’s cold air from escaping.
- Pre-cool everything you carry to the site, including your icebox.
- You can either sprinkle salt on the ice that you put in the cooler or mix it in the water and freeze it to make ice. Salt lowers the freezing temperature, making ice colder than usual.
- Try using block ice as they melt slower than cube ice.
- Water keeps things cooler than air. Shut the draining plug even if the ice has melted. Packing the contents in waterproof bags can prevent them from becoming soggy.
- Choose the best cooler for your activity- take all the essential factors into account.
- Laying a wet towel over your icebox is also a great option.