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Ten tips on how to get 10 days out of your five-day cooler

By IRV OSLIN Published: July 4, 2017 4:00 AM
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If, like most of us, you can't afford a cooler that costs more than your car, you can still keep your food and beverages cold for more than a week.

Here's how.

1. Start with quality. If you want a cooler that will keep things cold in 90-degree heat, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg. A few fingers, perhaps, but not an arm and a leg. My Coleman Extreme cooler has served me well for more than a decade. I paid $45 for it. These days, they sell for $60 or so.

2. Ice cubes are great for mixed drinks, not for coolers. Always use blocks. I make my own by using gallon containers. If you want to bring along frozen foods, such as ice cream, use dry ice if you can find it. Word of caution here: Make sure you isolate your dry ice and frozen foods from other items in your cooler. Newspaper works for that purpose.

3. Freeze it! Start out with frozen food. Any meat items you don't plan to eat on the first day should be frozen. Keep them clustered and separate from eggs, cheese, vegetables, etc. Especially the etc.

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4. Don't run on empty. Eliminate air space inside your cooler with a closed cell foam mat. You can buy "custom fit" mats for this purpose. The cheapest ones cost around $20. Or you can save money by cutting off pieces of that yoga mat you no longer use -- or your camp mate's sleeping pad.

5. Throw a towel over it. Draping a wet towel over the top of a cooler helps keep it cool. This is especially useful when you're transporting it in a canoe on a sunny day. Use an old towel or do what I do -- buy one from Goodwill. Keep the towel wet by pouring water on it from time to time or placing a wet sponge on top of it. When on river trips, I dip the sponge in the river, let it soak up as much water as possible and set it atop the cooler. The towel will draw water from the sponge, keeping it wet for hours.

6. Keep the lid closed. Keep the lid closed. Keep the lid closed. I don't know how many times I've been on camping trips and looked around to see cooler lids ajar. (By the same token, I don't know how many times I've seen people on camping trips drag their coolers in front of the fire and sit on them.)

7. Close the drain plug!

8. Strap it down. By using a cam buckle strap, you can keep the lid closed tightly. This is a necessity in places with raccoons. Some of them are clever enough to open a cooler that isn't secured with a strap or other device.

9. Bag it. Occasionally, I've kept a cooler at my base camp for a few days in 80- to 90-degree heat. In that situation, I wrap it in an old sleeping bag and put it inside a light-colored tent.

10. Take care of your cooler and it will take care of you. When storing a cooler, keep it out of the sun or sunlight. This can break down the insulation. Also, store it with the drain plug open and the lid ajar.

Or, if you don't want to go through all that, you can spend upward of $750 for a high-end expedition cooler.


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