Pro Tips for Packing the Perfect Cooler

Summers are made for road trips, and this year, even more so! Need to break out of your daily routine? Pack up the cooler and camping gear and hit the back woods for a dose of nature -or- maybe take a respite at the beach.

No matter where your adventure takes you, we have the pro tips you need to pack the perfect cooler. Whether you need the cooler to last for days or simply need it to survive in a hot car on a long drive, you’ll want to bookmark these great tips.

Pro Tips for Packing the Perfect Cooler

STEP 1: Prechill your cooler overnight with one or two bags of ice. This is especially important if you store your cooler in a hot garage or attic.

Bonus Tip – Use the water and ice you don’t need the next morning to water any plants before heading out of town!

STEP 2: Layer the bottom of your cooler with frozen water in sports bottles. Not only will this help keep your cooler cold, but you’ll now have access to ice cold water throughout your journey. Fill in any empty spaces with ice.

STEP 3: Create a dry zone in your cooler by placing baking racks on top of the frozen bottles and ice layer.

Pro Tips for Packing the Perfect Cooler

STEP 4: Prep food ahead of time to save time on your trip and space in your cooler. Bonus Tip – Crack a dozen eggs into a reusable water bottle with a spout to avoid broken egg shells in your cooler!

A few great recipes that we recommend for camping include:

Beef Jerky Trail Mix

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bites

Brats & Grillin’ Beans

Grilled Spicy Cajun Chicken

STEP 5: Take advantage of packaged foods from Harris Teeter for things like salads, kabobs, sandwiches and more. Dressings and condiments are included, meaning there’s one less thing for you to worry about!

STEP 6: Organize your cooler by meal. This will ensure that you don’t have to keep the cooler open for long periods of time.

Pro Tips for Packing the Perfect Cooler
Pro Tips for Packing the Perfect Cooler

STEP 7: Keep beverages in their own cooler. You’ll open that cooler more often to access drinks, and you want to ensure that your meat and dairy will stay cold in the food cooler.

STEP 8: Don’t forget the ‘bells and whistles’. If you’ll be eating from your cooler for multiple days, get a small thermometer that you can insert inside to monitor temperature. The acceptable window for the cold holding of food is between 33 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Also consider duct taping glow sticks to the inside roof of the cooler if you’re camping. This will ensure you can always see inside the cooler at night!

STEP 9: Before closing your cooler, place a few reusable ice packs on top to ensure that you have cold zones on the top and the bottom of the cooler.


Pro Tips for Packing the Perfect Cooler

Katie Harding is the publisher of Forks and Folly . A self-taught cook and die-hard foodie, Katie lives in Charlotte with her husband and three boys. Besides cooking and eating, she loves craft beers, running, and napping.