How to keep your cooler box and drinks cold when camping
April 6, 2019
Today I want to discuss an extremely important subject, and that is, how to keep your cooler box and drinks cold.
Of all the subjects we can discuss around camping, that is most probably the most important. Without cold drinks, who wants to go camping? So I would like to share two products that I make use of to keep my drinks cold, other than using my National Luna fridge, which is of course essential.
But I’ve got a camping fridge…
Any sort of fridge that can keep your stuff cold is essential while you camp but there’s also the issue around keeping drinks cold either in a glass or in a cooler box. Now, when you go to the swimming pool or to the beach, you’re not gonna lug your very expensive, very heavy fridge with you, so then what do you do?
That’s easy, I’ve got ice!
You’ve got two options. The one is to purchase ice, or alternatively to make your own ice and throw that in a cooler box or maybe use either one of these two products. Now, personally, I’m not all that keen on throwing ice into a cooler box. I hate it when that ice melts and causes a layer of water in the cooler box itself, especially when I’ve got food products or meat in that cooler box. There’s nothing worse than opening a cooler box with that very nice steak lying in a layer of water, looking white and bleached.
That just doesn’t work for me.
No ice in your cooler box?! Then what?
Keep things frosty
I make use of a product called Techni-Ice. There are alternatives to Techni-Ice. All of these product works basically in the same way. Within these little blocks is a gel which is highly absorbent of water. When you purchase it initially it is as thin as a sheet of paper. When you put it in water (leave it in there for about half an hour) it swells up significantly absorbing water into this gel.
I typically cut the sheets in half the moment I purchase them. I find it more practical, also when you put it into a smaller cooler box that for example can only take a six pack of beers. You can cut it any size. So each of these blocks you can cut literally then into single little blocks if you’d want to.
You then throw it into the freezer. It freezes rock solid and now you can put into your cooler box. The advantages are:
- it keeps stuff cold a lot longer than normal ice.
- when it is fully defrosted, there’s no loss of water.
- In other words, your cooler box is still bone dry inside.
You then just pop this back into the freezer, freeze it again and off you go.
Keep things warm
You can apparently use this also by heating it up. I would assume that has to happen in a microwave and then you can keep stuff warm. I have never tried that myself, I’ve got no idea whether it works.
A word of caution
Because it is highly absorbent, you do not want to leave it in a cooler box with meat until it totally defrosts. When the meat is not sealed and it forms that bloody run-off at the bottom of the cooler box when defrosted, the Techni-Ice will absorb that bloody run-off and you might as well then just throw it away. There’s no way to get that out of the gel. So do keep it separate from that.
I find this Techni-Ice very, very effective. They’re fairly expensive but they do last me years. What happens over time is eventually, the plastic wrapping starts cracking. This one for example, I don’t know if you’ll be able to see on the image, has cracked and then when it does defrost the gel starts leaking out. What I typically then do is I would cut this little block out and just keep keep on using it. Eventually, there’s not enough blocks left and I’ll replace it, but it doesn’t last me years.
I think it’s a pretty decent investment considering how long I can use it for.
No ice in your drinks?! Then what?
While I do have the ability to make ice when I go camping I’ve never really found a practical way to make ice while travelling on the road. I want to make ice while driving, even when traversing uneven terrain.
I know you can buy little plastic bags that you can fill with water, seal it and chuck it into the freezer. I’ve never used it myself but I’ve heard they work very, very well.
My answer is, I simply use these (see the image) which I happen to have bought from Camp World. They’re little plastic blocks filled with liquid inside, which means they can’t leak.
I throw this is my freezer and I end up with little blocks of ice that I can then throw into my drinks or that I can throw into the cooler box. Again, if this defrosts in a cooler box, I don’t have water forming in the bottom of the cooler box. When I’m done I chuck this back into the freezer and I freeze them again.
The added advantage of course is that when I throw this into my drink, even when this melts, it doesn’t add water to my drink. This of course makes them perfect for cooling your beer. It cools your beer off, but you don’t add water to your beer.
The ironic thing is of course that nobody likes putting ice into their beers. Considering that beer is made with water, in reality throwing a cube or three of ice into your beer doesn’t make any difference. But for some reason, I’m uncomfortable throwing ice that melts into my beer.
So there’s two options in helping you keeping things cold.
You can of course purchase an ice maker which is very expensive even more so for 12 volt model. They take more space and it is one more thing that can break.
If you do have a freezer that you can take with you when you go camping, or fridge that you can set to be a freezer, then these are practical purely because you can use the existing equipment you have.
Yes, the Techni-Ice does have a bit of a price tag but they really do work exceptionally well and they last for years when looked after.
I can’t recall what I paid for the little plastic blocks but they were very cheap. I think it was in the region of sub- R 25 for something like 10 blocks. It wasn’t expensive at all so it was worthwhile getting the blocks.
So yeah, there we go. Cold drinks.
Nice and cold. Cheers!