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How to Keep a Cooler Cold for 3 days

Obviously, if you are out on a picnic, camping or boat trip, you want to keep your food and drinks cold for a time. On a normal day with some mild heat, you won't have cold drinks last all day.

This is when a good cooler comes in handy to keep your ice colder for a much longer period of time. The problem is that not all coolers are made equal, so sometimes you need to improvise while you are on a camping trip.

In this article, we will take a quick look at how to keep a cooler cold the longest so you can preserve your food and drinks when out and about. So let's get right down to it, shall we?

Choose a high quality cooler

 Invest in a high-quality cooler with thick insulation and a tight-fitting lid. Coolers with thicker walls can retain ice and keep food cold for longer.  There are many great options to choose from here.  Yeti Tundra is a great but expensive option. Pelican Coolers compare very favorably to Yeti at a lower cost.  The Igloo Yukon Cooler is another great option along with Frosted frog and Coho Coolers

Pre Chill your Cooler

The first thing you do not want to do is put all your cold food and drinks inside a hot cooler. You can start by putting the cooler inside the freezer. If you are lucky enough to have a walk-in cooler, that is even better.

Another way to pre chill the cooler is to put a block of ice inside the cooler the night before. This will give you quite a cold head start the following day when you start packing things inside the cooler.

If the cooler is pre-cooled, it will also prevent the ice you add in the morning from melting as quickly. You will have food cold for much longer during the day while you are out fishing or hiking.

If you use ice blocks or cubes to pre chill the cooler, you should keep it in a cold place during the night. Also, try to fill all the spaces inside the cooler with ice to prevent the ice from melting too quickly.

Use the Right Ice

Different types of ice have varying cooling durations and melt rates. Here are some options:

  • Cubed Ice: Regular cubed ice is versatile and readily available. They are suitable for short trips or when you need ice quickly, but they tend to melt faster.
  • Crushed Ice: Crushed ice provides more surface area, which helps it cool faster. However, it also melts quicker than larger ice forms.
  • Block Ice: Blocks of ice take longer to melt compared to smaller ice forms. You can purchase block ice or make your own by freezing cold water in containers, such as milk jugs or Tupperware.
  • Dry Ice: Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and has an extremely low temp. It can keep your cooler very cold for an extended period, but it requires careful handling. Make sure to follow safety guidelines when using dry ice, as it can be harmful if mishandled.

Should you use Dry ice to keep your cooler cold longer?

Using dry ice can be an effective way to keep a cooler cold for an extended period, especially when compared to traditional ice packs or ice cubes. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, and it has a significantly lower temperature than regular ice. Here are some reasons why using dry ice can be advantageous:

  1. Extreme Cold Temperature: Dry ice can reach extremely low temps, typically around -78.5 degrees Celsius (-109.3 degrees Fahrenheit). This makes it much colder than regular ice, allowing it to provide a more intense and prolonged cooling effect inside the cooler.
  2. Longer Duration: Due to its extremely lower temperature, dry ice has a slower melting rate compared to regular ice. It can last significantly longer, keeping your cooler colder for an extended period without needing frequent replacement.
  3. Reduced Water Accumulation: Unlike regular ice that melts into liquid water, dry ice undergoes a process called sublimation, where it transitions directly from a solid to a gas. This means there is no water accumulation in the cooler, eliminating the risk of food getting wet or soggy.
  4. Enhanced Freezing Capability: Dry ice can also act as a freezer within your cooler. Its extreme cold temperature allows you to freeze items that need to be kept at a frozen state, such as meats, ice cream, or other perishable food that require deep freezing.

It's important to handle dry ice with care. Dry ice should never be touched with bare hands, as it can cause severe frostbite. It should be handled using gloves or tongs and stored in a well-ventilated area to prevent the buildup of carbon dioxide gas.

Additionally, dry ice may not be suitable for all situations. Its intense cold can potentially damage certain delicate items or affect the quality of certain foods. Therefore, it's important to consider the specific needs of your food and ensure that they can safely withstand the extreme coldness of dry ice.

In summary, using dry ice in your cooler can be an effective method for maintaining a colder temperature inside for a longer duration. Its extreme coldness and slow melting rate make it a valuable option, especially for situations where prolonged cooling or freezing capability is required. Just be sure to handle dry ice safely and consider the specific needs of your food items before using it.

Best Dry Ice Packs

lulna ice gel packs

Luna dry ice

Do Ice Packs keep a cooler cold longer?

Yes, using ice packs can help keep a cooler cold for a longer duration. They are specifically designed to provide a longer-lasting cooling effect compared to regular ice cubes. They are typically filled with a gel-like substance that stays frozen for an extended period.

Prolonged Cooling

They are made to have a slower melting rate than traditional ice cubes. This means they can maintain a cold temperature inside the cooler for a longer duration, keeping your items chilled for an extended period.

Reduced Water Accumulation

 Traditional ice results in significant ice melt which leads to water. As they warm, they produce less water compared to melting ice. This reduces the amount of water buildup inside the cooler and helps prevent potential mess and leakage.

Improved Organization

 Ice packs are often compact and can be easily placed and positioned within the cooler. They provide a more structured and organized layout, allowing you to maximize space and arrange items efficiently.


 Many ice packs are reusable, which makes them a convenient and cost-effective option. You can refreeze them after each use, ensuring that you always have a cold pack ready for your next outing.

However, it's worth noting that ice packs alone may not be sufficient for extended periods, especially in very hot environments or for extended trips. Combining ice packs with regular ice cubes or block ice can help provide additional cooling power.

Top Rated Ice Packs

cooler shock ice packs

Cooler Shock Ice Pack


.75 lbs


2 Quarts


10 x 1 10

yeti ice pack

yeti ice pack


2 lbs


2 liters


8 x 5 x 1.7

Pre Chill the Food and Drinks

Pre-chilling food and drinks before placing them in a cooler is an effective practice to help maintain lower temperatures and extend the freshness of your items. When you pre-chill these items, you are essentially starting with lower, which reduces the amount of heat they transfer to the cooler when placed inside. This helps to minimize the warming effect inside the cooler.

By pre-chilling beverages and perishable foods, such as fruits, vegetables, or cooked meals, you ensure that they are already cold before being added to the cooler. This is especially important for items that need to be kept extract cold to remain safe and fresh. Pre-chilling also enables you to take advantage of the cooler's cooling capacity more efficiently.

Additionally, pre chilled foods help to maintain the internal cold inside of the cooler by counteracting the initial warming caused by introducing warmer foods. If you were to  room temperature food directly into the cooler, it would require the cooler to work harder and expend more energy to bring it down, which can result in faster melting and reduced overall cooling performance.

In summary, pre-chilling your food and drinks before placing them in the cooler allows you to start with colder items, minimizing the warming effect on the cooler's coldness. This helps to optimize the cooler's cooling capacity and extend the freshness of your items while reducing melting of ice and maintaining a colder environment inside the cooler for a longer duration.

Frozen Water Bottles

You can also fill a couple of small or medium-sized water bottles with cold water and freeze them overnight for a better effect. Putting them in the fridge for a few hours should do the trick. You should do that with all the cold water you are going to drink the next day while on the trip.

If your drinking water is frozen, it will stay like that for a very long time, and it will actually help keep the cooler cold. With this method, you have already added a few hours to keep your drinks cold. Frozen water bottles is a nice trick for your food cooler.

Pack the Cooler Properly

Packing the cooler the right way will help keep it colder inside for longer during the day. We all know that heat rises and cold air sinks, so you need to use that knowledge to your advantage.

When you pack the cooler, it is best to put the solid frozen food on the bottom layer of the cooler. This first layer can contain some solid ice blocks to enhance the cooling capability of the cooler even further.

With that layer completed, you can pack the food that is frozen solid on top of the ice at the bottom. This is the food that you are going to use later in the day or even the next day.

This is the food that you want to keep ice cold as long as possible, and at the same time, it will help keep the cooler cold. The bottom layer of ice in the cooler will take longer to melt than the top layer of ice.

All the food that is packed at the bottom of the cooler should be stored inside waterproof plastic bags. The third layer in your cooler, if possible, should be some water bottles that were frozen during the night.

You can now put down a layer of ice cubes, either loose or in bags, on top of everything that is packed inside the cooler. Do not worry if this ice melts, because the bottom layer of food should be sealed in waterproof bags.

Now, on top of everything else, you can pack the foods that you are going to use the most during the day. This will include the ketchup and mustard, as well as all the other foods, like cheese, vegetables, and butter.

Finally, to top it all off, you can use some sort of insulation cover that will help keep the ice under it cold. Just a small rubber mat that is about the size of the cooler box will do the trick.

Some people use a foil blanket to reflect the heat away from the cold food inside the cooler. It is up to you what you want to use, though. Whenever you need something, just lift the corner of the cover.

Now you can close the lid of the cooler to keep ice cold for a longer period of time during the day.

Keep the Cooler Closed

Keeping the cooler closed is crucial for maintaining coldness inside and maximizing its cooling efficiency. When the cooler is opened frequently or left open for extended periods, warm air from the surrounding environment enters the cooler. This warm air can quickly melt the ice and compromise the overall cooling performance.

By keeping the cooler closed, you create a barrier that helps trap the cold air inside and prevents the intrusion of warm air. This allows the ice to last longer and keeps the contents colder for an extended period. Opening the cooler only when necessary and minimizing the duration of each opening significantly reduces the exchange of air and helps maintain a consistent cold environment.

It's important to plan ahead and retrieve all the necessary food at once when opening the cooler. Avoid unnecessary rummaging or leaving the lid open for too long. This practice is especially crucial in hot weather conditions or when the cooler is exposed to direct sunlight, as the external temp can have a more significant impact on the cooler's interior.

Remember, every time the cooler is opened, cold air escapes, and warm air enters, forcing the cooler to work harder to regain its desired temperature. By keeping the cooler closed, you preserve the cold environment, reduce ice melt, and ensure the longevity of the cooling effect, allowing you to enjoy chilled food, beverages, and perishable items for a longer period while maximizing the overall efficiency of the cooler.

Store the cooler in cool pace

Storing a cooler in a cool place is essential to maintain its effectiveness and keep your cooler cold for as long as possible. When a cooler is exposed to high temperatures, such as direct sunlight or a hot environment, it can quickly lose its cooling efficiency and struggle to maintain low temperatures.

By storing the cooler in a cool place, such as a shaded area or a cooler location indoors, you create a favorable environment that helps preserve the cooler's insulation properties. Cooler temperatures in the surroundings reduce the external heat transfer to the cooler, minimizing the strain on its insulation and allowing it to work more effectively.

Direct sunlight can have a significant impact on the cooler. When a cooler is exposed to the sun, its exterior absorbs the heat, which gradually transfers to the interior. This not only accelerates ice melt but also warms the contents of the cooler. By storing the cooler in a shaded area or using a reflective blanket or tarp to shield it from sunlight, you can significantly reduce the heat absorption and a cooler interior temperature.

Moreover, cool storage areas provide a more stable environment for the cooler. Extreme fluctuations can affect the cooler's insulation and compromise its cooling performance. By storing the cooler in a cool place, you minimize variations, ensuring that the cooler has a consistent cold temperature for a longer duration.

It's important to note that the cool place where the cooler is stored should be well-ventilated and not prone to excessive humidity. Proper ventilation helps prevent the buildup of condensation, which can dampen the insulation and reduce its effectiveness.

Replenish the Ice

Replenishing ice in your cooler is a key practice to ensure that it stays cold and optimizes cooling performance. As time passes, the ice inside the cooler will inevitably melt, resulting in a loss of its cooling capabilities. This melted icewater can gradually increase the warmth inside the cooler, potentially affecting the freshness and coolness of your items.

To combat this, regularly replenishing ice is necessary. By adding fresh ice or ice packs to the cooler, you restore the cold temperature and bolster the cooling efficiency. The newly added ice replaces the melted ice and helps sustain a lower temperature within the cooler.

The frequency of ice replenishment will depend on various factors, including the ambient temperature, the quality of insulation in your cooler, and the length of time you need to keep food cold. It's a good idea to monitor the ice levels inside the cooler periodically. If you notice a significant reduction in ice or a notable rise in temperature, it's time to add more ice.

When replenishing ice, it's recommended to follow the layering technique mentioned earlier. Place the fresh ice or ice packs on top of the existing items, ensuring that they come into direct contact with the contents that require the coldest temperatures. This approach helps maintain a consistent cold environment and prolongs the cooling effect.

By regularly replenishing the ice in your cooler, you can extend the cold storage duration and ensure that your food, beverages, or perishable items remain chilled and safe for an extended period. It's a simple yet effective method to preserve the coolness and freshness of your cooler's contents.

Ideal For the Drinks

If you put some loose cans on top of the blanket you used inside the cooler, it will keep your drinks cold. The great thing about this is that your drinks will be at around 35 to 40 degrees.

Some people prefer their beer to be cold, and by putting it at the top, it will be. With the loose drinks on top you won’t lose any cold inside the cooler when you retrieve a drink.

Keep your cooler cold Conclusion

Hopefully, this will help you keep your cooler colder for much longer while on your fishing trip. It will also help save you a lot of money on ice if you make your own ice blocks at home.

Another note on the insulation blanket is that you can even keep that in the freezer overnight, as well. This will help a great deal if everything that goes inside the cooler box is already cold.  Additionally adding frozen water bottles will serve as ice that won't melt.