Stay Cool

May 26, 2023

Written by Anthony Garzilli

The joys of summer include reveling in the outdoors with your favorite beverage or snacks nearby. If you are heading to the beach or spending time at a park, it’s essential to efficiently pack a cooler.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure your snacks stay fresh.

Chill out
The first step is to make sure the cooler is clean and dry. Scrutinize the cooler and wipe it down, getting rid of debris or sand. Make sure the cooler is in a cool place inside your home the day before you plan to use it. You don’t want to pack a warm cooler.

After the cooler is clean and before you start packing it, consider cooling it off. Add ice and let it sit for an hour or so. Or put the cooler overnight in a large or commercial freezer, if possible.

Once you are ready to pack the cooler, drop in enough ice to cover the bottom. It’s recommended to use ice blocks, Outside online said. Just freeze water in Tupperware. The blocks won’t melt as quickly.

If you can, freeze what you plan to pack, including water bottles. This will help keep the cooler cold and keep the items cold longer.  Put frozen items at the bottom, which act as ice packs.

Be conscious of how often you open the cooler. The more it is opened, the warmer it can get. Have a plan before you reach for the cooler — and make sure it is closed tightly after use.

Puzzle pieces in place
Think of packing the cooler like a puzzle. Consider layering the cooler with the heaviest items at the bottom and lighter ones on top.
Keep foods separate and think about how they will be organized. It is a good idea to try to put food and beverages in certain sections, which cuts down on time spent rummaging through the cooler. Have designated spots for vegetables, sandwiches, snacks, water, and colas.  If you have perishable items such as meat, pack them last so they are easy to reach and can be consumed while fresh.

If you enjoy chips, don’t count on a scrunched-up bag to keep them fresh and tasty. Put the chips in a sandwich bag that you can snap closed or in a container that you can easily close. This will also cut down on the likelihood of food falling and creating a mess.

You might have room for food and drinks, but another way to keep things cool is to use a separate cooler for drinks. Beverages can take up space; another cooler ensures the drinks stay cooler longer and it will be easier to reach in and find what you want.

Try to keep the cooler in a shady spot. If possible, rest it under an umbrella or a tree - any place away from direct sunlight.

Cool picks
There are a variety of cooler options, but a few stand out. Consider a Yeti 18 Soft Cooler (around $300), which can hold up to 16 cans plus ice and is good to pack a day’s worth of lunch. The Coleman 316 Series Insulated Portable Cooler ($75) holds up to 100 cans and includes cup holders with drains molded into the lid.

A Columbia Crater Peak Wheeled Cooler ($56) includes a foldable cart with all-terrain wheels. It can hold up to 100 pounds of food and drink items.