How to get the most from your icebox! Get the maximum performance!

Author: Jon Burrell   Date Posted:8 April 2019 

Howe to get the best out of your coolers

On a recent trip to Fraser Island with friends, it came to my attention that there were many differing opinions on how to get the most from your icebox, esky or cooler.  This created lengthy heated discussions, with everyone adamant that their method was the best - no arguments - handed down from generation to generation.  

In the end, we all agreed to disagree and moved on and continued to enjoy our holiday.

This got me thinking though.  If I don't know with 100% certainty which method is best for ensuring your food stays cold for the longest when camping.  How many of our customers do not either?

So I went and reached out to the product engineers at Dometic, Yeti and Evakool.  They are experts in cooling, and keeping food cold and have a terrific range of iceboxes. Sure enough, full of scientific and engineering info, they gave me this list of tips.

The first one being obvious, buy a quality icebox and pay attention to the insulation used.

Not all coolers/iceboxes/eskies are built the same and in many cases are not designed for camping, but more so for parties where 12 hours from ice is all you need.

We define a cooler as a product with 2 walls with no insulation in between. Great for one day of keeping drinks and some cold food. Not good for overnight camping. People often call these Eskies.

An Icebox is defined as a style of cooling with insulation between the walls of the box. Brands such as Evakool / Icekool, Dometic and Yeti are true Iceboxes.

Our range of Iceboxes

Tips on how to keep ice for as long as possible in your icebox.  

  1. Use Quality Ice - party ice is not suited to camping.  It has high surface areas and often isn't deep-frozen and is not dense - hence it melts quick.  Great for quickly cooling a carton of beer, but not for lasting a long time.
  2. Use Block Ice - you can make your own by freezing water in milk containers, or ice cream tubs.
  3. Consider using the new fandangled Ice Packs from such brands as Downunder Arctic Ice or the Yeti Ice Bricks. These are either soft packs or solid blocks filled with chemicals that actually freeze a lot colder than ice. You put them in your freezer for over say, 48 hours and then use them in place of ice. We have used these ourselves and have witnessed the packs refreeze thawing ice. Very clever and a great investment. 
  4. Pre-Cool - Before you load your camping ice, drop in some party ice to cool the icebox itself.
  5. 1/3 ice ratio - your icebox should be a third full of ice. This is the best ratio of ice/beer etc there is.
  6. Reduce Air Space - fill your icebox to the brim - leaving no room for air - which does not retain temperature.
  7. Load Cold/Frozen Food - Try to only put in frozen or cold goods into your icebox.  This saves your ice from having to do the hard work of bringing it down in temperature.
  8. Reduce opening time. -  Try to organise your icebox in such a way that means you can quickly find what you need & close it again. 
  9. Refasten the latches - The latches to hold the lid down are not just for transport, but ensure you've got the best seal holding in all the cold.  
  10. Open your icebox less - Try to minimise how often you open your icebox.  
  11. Do not drain your icebox - Water retains temperature better than air.  Do not drain water from your icebox except to make room for new ice. You are losing stored energy by tipping cold water away.
  12. Consider buying two smaller iceboxes.  Usually, you want your icebox to keep your food cold & drinks cold.  Consider getting separate iceboxes for each purpose.  This should reduce the openings on your food icebox, meaning your food will stay cold longer.  It's also easier to carry! And they're also more convenient for taking to parties.

Many campers do also use dry ice, but in some areas, this is not easy to find and comes with its own complications - in addition to being a little dangerous.  So if you do go this way, please be careful and consider whether it's really necessary.

Thanks for reading - Happy Camping! 

Ice packs


Comments (6)

Ice box

By: on 31 December 2020
I find if you leave the water in, the ice melts faster. Think it’s a catch 22.

ice box lid

By: on 3 July 2020
cut an old foam camping mat to size and place on top of your food/drinks. insulates quite a bit

Extra tips

By: on 15 February 2020
Fit a silver windscreen reflector and place inside the esky on top of the contents. That way when you open the lid warm air doesn’t rush into the spaces between your cold drinks. You just peel up a corner to fetch a drink. Put block ice on top of drinks so when it melts the water fills the voids in between. Empty a little cold esky water into a bucket to chill down warm drinks before packing them into the esky. This water can then be used for washing up later.

How to make your ice last longer

By: on 14 February 2020
Thanks for your tips. Really helpful.

Icebox Efficiency

By: on 14 February 2020
Liberally sprinkle salt over the ice blocks or preferably add to water prior to freezing. Salt alters the freezing point and therefore the melting/thawing point of water. Keep icebox in the shade and cover with a white towel preferably wet. White iceboxes are more efficient than coloured as they reflect heat.

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