Categories: CampingGuides & hacks

How to Pack a Cooler for Camping

When you’re camping, nothing is worse than opening your cooler to find a soupy mess of half-open hot dog containers, soggy cardboard packaging, and rapidly warming provisions… okay, except for realizing your friend snagged the last brew, but we digress. Packing a cooler properly for a camping or glamping trip is one of the best and easiest ways to ensure your food stays chilled to perfection throughout your entire adventure. Hipcamp teamed up with one of the very coolest cooler brands, YETI, to show you a few tips and tricks for packing your cooler for your next camping trip!

1. Keep food cold longer by pre-chilling the cooler

Every good diner preheats your mug before serving your cuppa joe, because the coffee stays hot way longer. Cooler packing works the same way — starting with an already chilled cooler means the ice can save its efforts for keeping things cold, not making them cold. Bring your cooler inside the house a day or so before your trip, and give it a thorough pre-clean to make sure it’s looking and smelling fresh. Bonus tip: Pour a bag of “sacrificial” ice in the day before, which will get the cooler super frosty before heading out! You’ll want to dump that ice out, and start fresh before you pack your food in for the trip.

2. Pre-prep the food, remove packaging, and re-package

Do yourself a favor, and remove all the excess packaging trash from your items ahead of time. By taking all your beverages out of the boxes and repackaging s’mores goods into one reusable container, you’ll reduce the amount of garbage you’ll have to pack out from your campsite and ensure that soggy mystery items aren’t floating around in your cooler. Not only is spotting opened hot dog packaging floating by your drink cans super gross, it’s also a health hazard. Store these kinds of goods in reusable jars or containers to keep things fresh! Pre-chopping produce also means your dinner is ready faster after a long day of hiking and exploring. Pro-tip: Preparing a dish at home and freezing it in blocks will reduce your prep time once you’re at camp, and act as additional ice keeping the rest of the food chilly in your cooler!

3. Lay a foundation of block ice at the bottom of the cooler

Big blocks of ice melt much slower than small chunks, which is why you’ll want to start with those as your base. If you need your cooler to stay cold longer, you can start with a block of dry ice. However, for an average weekend trip, simply place some big reusable freezer packs (the YETI ICE is perfect for this) or a frozen jug of water at the bottom. Then, cover your foundation with a layer of ice cubes.

4. Reduce open-time by organizing your food and beverages by meal

To reduce open-cooler time, which makes the ice melt more quickly, we recommend placing all beverages on one side and food on the other. Go a step further, and organize your placement by meal, so the items you need first are always on top!

5. Use ice cubes to fill air pockets in the cooler

Any pockets of air in your cooler will use up energy and melt the ice, which means you’ll want to avoid air contact with the contents of your cooler. Use regular cubed ice to fill any spaces between your food and drinks, and try to open your cooler as few times as possible for the shortest amount of time possible.

6. Take your cooler camping

The best part about packing your cooler for camping is that YOU’RE GOING CAMPING! Get out there and enjoy an off-the-grid ice-cold whatever. Remember to #leaveitbetter.

7. Use your cooler as post-camping gear storage

So your camping trip is over, and you’ve got memories to fill your pockets. But if you’re like us, you arrive in your living room un-showered, a little sore, and wondering where the heck you’re going to store all this gear. It’s a face-palmingly obvious one, but you can save a ton of space by storing your camping gear inside your cooler while not in use! And thank yourself next time when all the goods are in one place.

Super bummed to be back indoors and already ready for the next adventure? Get inspired by this list of Instagrammable Hipcamps across the US, and get something in the books!

8. Enter to win a YETI Tundra 65 cooler!

Want to stay updated on the latest contests, discounts, and amazing new Hipcamps to visit? Join our newsletter, and we’ll keep you in the loop. Also, if you haven’t already, enter our Instagram giveaway for the chance to win a YETI Tundra 65!

Coffee-drinkin', true-crime obsessed, small-town gal from Texas, living in a big city + trying to save our planet!

Recent Posts

Top Hosting Tips for This 4th of July Weekend

The 4th of July—stars and stripes, good eats, and hopefully, a fully booked campground! This is one of the year’s…

4 weeks ago

Support Local Makers: Shop Goods Made by Hipcamp Hosts

Hipcamp Hosts take pride in their land, caring for it and sharing it with the Hipcamp community. But beyond their…

2 months ago

Hipcamp Host COVID-19 Safety Standards

The health and safety of our community is our top priority during the novel coronavirus pandemic. With that, we’ve created…

2 months ago

How to Recreate Responsibly During COVID-19

The health and safety of our community is our top priority during the novel coronavirus pandemic. With that, we’ve created…

2 months ago

10 Ways to #LeaveItBetter in Honor of Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary

Now more than ever, it’s important to appreciate the time we get to spend outdoors and care for our environment.…

3 months ago

A Note From Alyssa: Supporting Our Community During COVID-19

Dear Hipcamp community,  We, like many of you, are paying close and serious attention to COVID-19 and its widespread impact…

4 months ago