How to Pack a Cooler Like a Pro

A best mini coolers or a big coolers…Does it even matter, if you don’t know how to place items properly, so they will all fit, there’ll be enough space and the temperature will be low enough to keep everything chill? You may ask – common, how hard can it be? You just put stuff in it, throw some ice – done! Not so fast. Guess you’ll change your opinion after having some poorly refrigerated food or spending time trying desperately to find some ice. And all because of a wrong packing. But don’t worry, I’m going to give you some solid tips.

Choose wisely

This may sound pretty obvious, but choosing a good cooler is really important. You may want to save an extra buck, but don’t act surprised if the quality won’t meet your expectation.

Division of labour

If you have a big group, a lot of food and your budget will live through it, you may consider bringing two coolers: one for food, one for drinks. Cooler with drinks will be opened more frequently, thus it’ll warm up sooner. However, cooler with food will remain cold!

Think in advance

  • Make sure to bring the cooler inside at least a day before the trip. The cooler’s temperature will be lower resulting in longer cooling performance. You may also fill it with cold water or a pack of extra ice to enhance it.
  • This also applies to food. All the items you take with you should be pre-cooled, this’s almost the most important thing to remember before the long trip.
  • If you’ve planned to have a sandwich on the last day of your trip, put it at the bottom. Vice versa, if you want it one the first day – put it at the top, so you won’t have to struggle through every item in the cooler.

Food packing

Good tip to save space – pre-chop all the veggies, portion out all the liquids into smaller vessels, remove all the extra packaging. Your six pack surely doesn’t need the cardboard caddy that comes along.

Choosing ice

  • Block ice or reusable freezer pack are the best ice foundation.
  • To fill in the spaces between items you may consider using ice cubes. They melt faster, but they will keep every crack cold.
  • The dry ice is a good option for a long trip, but be careful with it, because it’s freezing anything it touches, including your hands.


  • Cooler is the last thing you put in a car, but don’t put it in a hot trunk, it will overheat.
  • Always assume, that everything leaks, so put all the containers with liquid strictly vertically.
  • To prevent heating up in the sunlight, use reflecting panels.
  • If you are not on the road, put your cooler underneath a table or a bench, somewhere shaded.
  • Though some people say it’s a common rule to drain melted water, I would recommend to keep it inside, helping the cooler stay cold for a longer time.