The Best Ice Chest
For Keeping Food Cold

With summer camping there is always the need for an ice chest to keep perishable foods cold and this can become a chore in the hot summer heat. I have some beach camping tips to help make sure your food items stay cool and safe.

My Favorite Cooler For Camping

I have found the 1 1/2 inch thick styrofoam ice chests hold the ice longer than the nice plastic department store coolers.

I'm able to have blocks of ice for several days in my cooler, keeping our food cold during a long week-end camping trip.

The newer styrofoam coolers seem to be even better with an interlocking lip on the lid, which should help you keep ice longer than I'm able to with my older style styrofoam chest.

This type may not be as durable but I have been using the same one for years.

I painted the outside with a few coats of white latex paint and reinforced the lid hinge with packing tape.

I know from what I have experienced that you will find it easier to keep ice and your food cold for several days with a 1 1/2 inch styrofoam cooler.

New Super Insulated High Performance Ice Chests

Even though I have found the thick styrofoam coolers to work much better than the plastic department store coolers, there are some really great super insulated high performance chests available to buy. You just can't go wrong with one of these newly designed ice chests.

You will find these high performance coolers to be very durable and super insulated. They have an air tight rubber seal on the lid designed to keep the cold from leaking out, which is a big help with keeping ice even longer than the thick styrofoam coolers.

Some models will hold ice for 7 days. There are models that can even be locked and are bear proof. Now I would say that is one tough cooler.

Well there aren't any bears at the Outer Banks, but if you ever do a camping trip to the mountains it may be a consideration.

These high performance coolers are obviously more expensive, but you are truly making an investment that can last for a life time of camping.

So check them out. You may decide that even though the styrofoam coolers are a lot less, it would be better to make a one time purchase and have one of these super insulated high performance ice chests.

High Performance Camping Cooler

What is the best ice to use?

You may ask, is there really a difference in ice? Well if you want ice to last, I recommend using blocks of ice rather than loose ice cubes.

Ice cubes are really good for keeping food items and drinks very cold but they melt fast, lasting maybe only one or two days.

Blocks of ice usually last 3 or 4 times longer.

beach camping outer banks

How to save money from buying ice

Buying ice every day can become expensive in one week's time. We like to freeze blocks of ice at home several days before we leave for our camping vacation and store them in our freezer. This way we have a good supply of ice to start out on our trip.

To make block ice, we use square plastic dishes that hold at least 1 quart of water but a half gallon to a gallon size is better.

If you purchase two coolers, be sure to get one of the styrofoam coolers or a super insulated high performance coolers I mentioned and use it to store extra blocks of ice. They will last several days longer because you're not opening the lid continually getting stuff out to drink or use for meal preparation.

Best way to pack a cooler to keep food cold

  • Put enough block ice in to allow space between each block.
  • Best to have food items in ziplock storage bags to prevent water-log.
  • Food items stay colder if they are placed between the ice blocks.
  • When the weather is 80 degrees or more, I like to put ice cubes on top of any food placed on top of the ice blocks.
  • Drain the water out of the cooler twice each day to slow down the ice from melting.
  • Don't let the ice get too low before you add more.

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