How To Keep My Cooler Longer?

So we’re on our summer camping trip in Long Sault, Ontario, and I’m faced with the nagging question on how to keep my coooler colder longer.

3 days I ago, I filled it up with ice, and today the ice is all melted, but the water inside it is ice cold.

I just bought 3 more bags of crushed ice, so…

Do I drain the icey cold water first, and then add the 3 bags of fresh ice, or do I simply add the 3 bags of ice to the present ice water already in the cooler?

WHich choice will result in my beers staying colder longer?


Use block ice, not crushed ice.

Drain the water and put the new ice in. The water is warmer than the ice, so will melt the ice faster.

What Ol’Gaffer said.

If you’ve already got bags of crushed ice, just put them in whole, don’t open them. Then next time buy block ice.

And do toss out the water that’s in there before you put the bags in.

Ol’Gaffer is right on a practical level. We did this on a theoretical level for a single ice cube a while back (can’t find the thread right now), and it turns out that leaving the water in will actually make the ice melt faster, because it’s got more surface area to transfer heat with.

However, with multiple ice cubes, leaving the water in would actually lower the exposed surface area (with sufficient volume, of course. I’m thinking this is a pretty big ice chest if you’re putting 3 bags of ice and it’s lasting for 3 days), allowing less heat transfer to take place. Less heat transfer in means the ice stays cooler longer.

At the same time, leaving the water in will zap the latent heat of fusion right out of the ice, bringing it up to 32F pretty quick, instead of allowing it to remain at, say 0F. I think the answer may depend on the initial temperature of the ice (but I don’t think it depends on the ambient temperature).

ETA: You can put enough beer in an ice chest to last you 3 days? :dubious:


Put the warm beer in first and let the water cool it down as much as possible, then buy ice and fill the drained cooler with ice. Keeping it out of the sun will help too. When you’re near cold water you can prolong the ice in the cooler by keeping the cooler submerged up to near the top in the water.

Actually, it depends how warm the icey cold water is. If the water is still cold enough for you, then don’t empty it. It takes a lot of energy to warm water. The ice you add may melt faster, but all of the energy needed to melting the ice will be taken from the water once again reducing it to 0˚C. Only this time you will have a larger mass of water that needs to be heated.

Gotta disagree with the whole no water in the cooler thing.

Dry cooler, what’s keeping the goodies cold? Direct contact with the ice and cold air.
Wet cooler, what’s keeping the goodies cold? Direct contact with the ice and cold water.
Simple question, would you rather spend the next two hours in a room with 35° air or a pool of water at 35°?
(Just checked it, glass of 70° tap water, handful of ice cubes, five minutes later with an accurate instant read thermometer ~35°.)
One leaves ya cold, the other leaves ya dead.
The other thing is all that water increases the mass that your trying to keep cold. A big pitcher of ice water stays cold a lot longer than a glass of ice water does.

The biggest cooler (with the thickest walls and an insulated lid) you can find/justify for the amount of stuff you plan to keep cold, plus room for the ice! One big cooler is better than many smaller coolers.

Block ice and cubes; blocks for a long slow melt, cubes to fill the gaps between the stuff in the cooler.

Keep adding ice as needed (removing excess water as needed), but never let the amount of ice (block or cube) get too low. It’s easier to keep a cold cooler cold, once it starts to get warm your back to square one and you’ll need more ice to get back to where you started than you would to keep the temperature steady.

Never put anything that isn’t already cold, or preferably frozen if it can be, into the cooler if you can avoid it (e.g. the steaks for the first nights dinner cold, the burgers for night two frozen. Excess melt water from the cooler, or as Harmonious Discord suggested any cool water can knock 10° or 20°+ off that sixer before you put it in the cooler to get cold.).

If your not near an easy source of ice an extra “ice only” cooler ain’t a bad idea (Preferably one that fits into the big one. You can shift the really perishable goodies into it and put it in the big cooler with the drinks when the ice starts running low).

Keep the cooler out of the sun, or anywhere else that’s warmer that the ambient temperature (anybody who’s spent a late night by the campfire knows how pleasantly oven-like a tent is at 11:00 AM). Cover it with heavy, soaking wet cloth (thick blankets are much better than towels), basically a swamp cooler for your cooler.

CMC +fnord!
Big caveat, when I was worrying about keeping a cooler cold it was filled with highly perishable comestibles, not just tasty beverages. So for me it was a choice between a week of shits and giggles or a week of shits and projectile vomiting!

I took ice cold water to mean 32F, by definition. :stuck_out_tongue:

I enjoyed reading al the replies.
Thanks everyone.

Gus → Still camping, drinking, and playing online poker.
Ahh, the hardships of roughing it :slight_smile:

If you’re talking about getting warm (or room temperature) stuff cold, you want ice + water (if you add salt it’ll get colder faster), but if your beers are already cold you don’t need (or want) to transfer heat faster, you want to prevent the transfer of heat.

My impression of the original post was that we’re adding new ice to a cooler in which the old ice has melted, and the beers are already cold. The key to keeping stuff cold, and making the ice last longest, is to get rid of the melt water before adding new ice and draining the new melt water often. Air is a much better insulator than water is, so the ice will melt much faster if it’s sitting in water.

We did a two-week rafting trip a few years ago and we prepped our food coolers by putting them in a restaurant freezer overnight and freezing 4 inches of water in the bottom of each. We packed in all of the food in reverse order of use and mapped everything.

We had an advantage in that the chests were sitting in the bottom of a boat that was in 60 degree river water (coming off the Glen Canyon Dam), though the trip was in May/June and air temps exceeded 100 every day.

The coolers were drained of melt water twice a day and never opened more than a few inches (we had straps on them) or for longer than it took to pull the items we wanted. We ran out of ice in the vegetable cooler on/about day 13. The meat cooler (in which everything was frozen when packed) still had an inch-thick sheet of ice weighing 10-15 pounds at the pull-out on day 17.

Never use the cooler as a seat. Though it may seem perfect for this, yer butt is gonna warp the lid and lessen the lifespan of the ice. My neighbor will threaten anyone with bodily ahrm if he sees their butt descending towards any cooler.
The man takes cold beer seriously.

Put lots of salt in the water and then add the ice.

For what it is worth, the instructions on my cooler specifically state not to drain the water in the bottom.

Dry ice is an option. There’s some info in this thread:

How important are:
a cute cooler
expense, and
prep time?

If a colder cooler, for more days, is more important than those things, buy a sheet of 2 inch Styrofoam®, and build a box, a second layer, around the cooler. The finished product will be 4 inches bigger in every direction. It won’t be pretty. It will be a much, much, more effecient cooler.

When the curious inquire, you can tell them it contains delicate research equipment. A wide variety of phrases present themselves as options to stencil on the outside.

For example: Live Penguins, Save for Pandora, ATTN Dr. Indiana Jones or Mastodon DNA.