With so much planning and thinking ahead to do, it can be easy to forget that your tiny 6 pack cooler is not adequate for a family of four to tackle the outdoors.
There’s the planning for sleeping arrangements, figuring out where the campsite is actually going to be, figuring out how much food to bring, and then there’s the equipment to worry about. It can get incredibly stressful.
This is one of the reasons people often wind up with the wrong sized cooler. This may not seem like a serious problem, but you’ll have a different opinion when you’re on the last two days of a seven-day camping trip with no food or clean water!
So when might you need a certain size cooler? When do you need a large cooler rather than a small cooler? Does the cooling material you use inside matter or is it okay to simply dump a bucket of ice into the cooler and presume it will work?
How To Tell What Size Cooler You Need
The first thing to do is gauge how much your rations will weigh you down. Recently, civilian MREs have become quite popular. They’re small, lightweight, and give you all the nutrition you need for a meal. Because of how easy it is to carry multiple MREs, many people simply buy a one-month’s supply of civilian MREs and call it a day.
If you do this, you’ll only need a small cooler. You won’t have to worry about food, but you will want to carry fresh water with you. However, MREs can get a bit expensive. This leads many people to choose non-perishable foods from the grocery store. There’s no problem with doing this, but it does require more space.
To see what size cooler you may need, try putting all of your food into a box. See how easily you can fit things, and how you might do so. You’ll want to find a box that’s a little bit larger than you strictly need. By getting a cooler that’s slightly larger, you’ll have room for cooling devices as well as room to easily search to the bottom and find what you need.
How Should You Cool Your Food?
Now comes the big question. Should you use ice to keep your stuff cool, or something else? That can depend on what you want and need.
If you have a device into which you can put ice and it works as well as anything else to keep stuff cool, then that’s a good idea. However, don’t use loose ice. It may be cheap to grab all the ice from your freezer, but then you’ll be carrying around dirty water. It could taint your fresh water. If people are going to be sticking their hands into the cooler, then you probably want a few cold-packs.
Coolers That Can Be Camping Fridges
A cooler is no longer just an Esky that you can throw bags of ice or blocks in. These days you can get powered coolers like this 40-quart 12v cooler by Coleman found on amazon here, which are ideal for car campers or campsites that have access to solar power.
These coolers cost considerably more money but work as a portable fridge for camping. So the cost is certainly worth the investment.
Most powered coolers allow you to plug the cooler into your 12v car outlet or into the mains. So no matter where you are camping, if you have access to some sort of power you can have cold food and drinks all round.
A cooler like this, it’s worth investing in a larger capacity model. For the extra bucks you have to spend, why not maximize how much food you can keep colder for longer.
But the downside to this is that the cooler will take up more car space when traveling. But it also means you can store food inside the cooler while driving to the campsite.
Stopping The Water From Spoiling Your Food
The worst thing about camping with a cooler as your source of keeping food cold is that the melted ice can quickly and easily spoil your food. No matter how hard you try to organize the cooler and its food contents, the water always seems to find a way to get in and destroy dinner.
The best way to stop this from happening is to get a watertight container for camping. A container that is not only airtight, but leakproof will work hand in hand with your cooler to give you fresh and cold food for your next camping dinner.
The Decision Is Yours, What Size Cooler?
Ice can be great if you’re using a cooler to hold beer for a cookout or any other drinks or snacks for an event. If the cooler only needs to keep things cool for a short period of time, then you might as well go with the cheap, easy option.
But if you are a serious camper, you should have access to power and not settle for anything less than a cooler that is powered to keep your food cold enough for the entire trip. While the initial upfront costs may scare you, it’s well worth the investment while you’re out sleeping with the air.