Best Way to Pack a Cooler for Camping

Most of us crave traveling long distances and having good food, but what if all the traveling experience gets ruined just because you didn’t pack your food well. We have got you a complete guide on the best way to pack a cooler for camping. You can learn how to pack your food and drinks properly so that you enjoy your trip and make the best memories out of it.

People often forget how important it is to have the right cooler with all the contents placed at the right positions to ensure that they remain cool and fresh for a longer period. They fill the cooler without realizing that the slightest of mistakes can leave them starving throughout their journey. They will make memories on the road, but the ones to forget, so make sure that you go through all the below-mentioned tips and tricks to come back with stories to remember.

What if you don’t pack your cooler properly 

Damaged food items

Food items such as eggs are sensitive and cannot survive a bumping ride, so make sure that you place all the food items accordingly. Nobody wants to waste their money by throwing the damaged food away, so make sure that you don’t let it get damaged in the first place.

Soggy food 

Ice in the cooler can also infiltrate to make the food soggy. All the recipes you dream of trying on the campsite can remain a dream only if you don’t keep your food separated from the ice. 

No chilled drinks

Drinks are the most exciting part of your travel, you may not ask for food while traveling on a long road or after having a long walk, but you will ask for drinks. Placing drinks in the right place with the ice is important to ensure that your energy gets boosted with chilled energy drinks when required.

Melted ice

If you place ice at a place where it gets exposed every time you open the cooler for drink or food, you have made a huge mistake. Ice quickly melts when it is not placed correctly in an adequate amount inside the cooler, making all your food inedible before you even get a chance to cook it.

a Yeti camping cooler sitting on a campsite

Choosing the best cooler

Before packing the contents inside the cooler, you must know which cooler is the best for you and your camping demands. If you are going out camping for more than a week with a group of more than two people, you need to buy a cooler that has enough space to fit all the food and drinks to satisfy the whole group. It would be best if you kept in mind a few things before selecting a cooler for your camping trip.


The size of the cooler is one the most important things to get right; you must choose a cooler that has enough space to carry all the cans, food, and ice inside it. For instance, a 45 quarts cooler has space for 45 cans and 20 to 25 pounds of ice inside it. 


You should always test the material of the cooler before buying it. Some coolers are made of plastic, while others are metal. Metal coolers are usually heavier than other types, making them fairly difficult to carry if you are traveling alone, so make sure that you buy the easy one for you to handle.


Always look for the coolers that are well insulated because this is the reason behind damaged food in most cases. It also helps food to remain cool and fresh for a long time, allowing you to try all your favorite food recipes at your campsite without worrying about your ingredients getting damaged along the way.

a blue cooler packed with bottled water

Best way to pack a cooler

Preparing yourself for every situation is what makes us efficient and effective. The case with packing your food is quite similar, so you must start preparing the contents of your cooler before packing them.

Cooler preparation

Preparing your cooler is the first step that has to be taken before packing your food inside. We advise you to clean the inside of your cooler using warm water and soap to kill any bacteria that may be waiting to attack your food inside. 

Once you are done with the cleaning, move on to the next step that most people miss while preparing for a long trip. They do not realize that the way your oven needs to be preheated before baking, your cooler needs to be pre-chilled too. Put some ice inside your cooler and let it rest until it changes the temperature inside. Coolers are well insulated, allowing them to keep the temperature inside them unchanged for long periods. 

Food preparation

Preparing your food before placing it inside the cooler is important. Cut all your veggies into small pieces and put them in the watertight jar. Similarly, take all the other ingredients you need to execute your recipes and cut them into small pieces to fit them into separate jars.

We also recommend that you remove the packaging of some food items and take only the amount required, as this can free up a lot of space for extra ice to keep the temperature cool. Most of the packaging is not watertight and can cause the items inside it to get damaged or soggy by the ice water, so you must not put them directly in the cooler under heavy ice.

At last, put all the food items you can freeze inside your refrigerator a day before leaving. Freezing the food items can keep them fresh and edible throughout the journey.

Ice preparation 

Prepare your own ice in your refrigerator a few days before you leave for your trip. There are several ways to use ice in a cooler.

The first is to use block ice, as this can save up a lot of space than ice cubes or crushed ice. Make an ice block by putting water inside a small container of any type with a size equivalent to the surface of your cooler. Put the water in the refrigerator a day before leaving, as the large water area requires more time to freeze than regular ice cubes.

After preparing the ice block, make some ice cubes to fill the empty space between the food and drinks. Crushed ice can also be used for this purpose as they both help retain the same temperature in all areas of the cooler.

camping cooler behind a truck with a tent

Drinks preparation

Prepare your drinks by pre-chilling them a day before in your refrigerator. Pre-chilled drinks allow the ice to stay frozen and melt slowly.

Cooler to Ice ratio 

The ice to cooler content ratio must be 2:1. Any amount of ice less than that would not keep a low temperature inside the cooler for longer. You can add more ice to improve the performance but at the expense of carrying less food.

Packing the contents inside the cooler

All the contents, once ready, need to be placed in a specific order to ensure maximum cooling performance. The three easy steps are as follows. 

Ice at the bottom 

Place the ice block you prepared at the bottom of your cooler, making sure that it fits well inside the cooler. The main reason behind placing the major part of the ice at the bottom is that it allows the ice to remain hidden beneath the contents and doesn’t get exposed when you open the lid.

Food in the middle 

Place all the food packed in the watertight jars in the middle of the cooler above the ice block. Fill the space between the jars with ice cubes or crushed ice. 

Drink at the top

Before closing the lid tight, fill the top of the cooler with all the beverages you want to carry. Drinks are often taken out of the cooler than food, so make sure that you put them at the top so that opening the lid repeatedly does not affect the other contents present inside.

Close the lid tight

It is often neglected, and people throw their food because the air gets inside, melting the ice and leaving all the food inedible. So please close your cooler’s lid tight enough to resist all the bumps that it might face on the road toward the campsite.

Why you should consider taking two coolers on camping  

It is considered one hectic job to carry two coolers for camping, but it is one of the most underrated practices that can help you mitigate the risk of damaging your contents. Separating your drinks and food by placing them in different coolers should be taken into consideration if you have enough space in your car to carry more than one cooler.

campsite with a camping cooler and other packed food supplies


Packing a cooler for a camping trip is not as difficult as it seems, but placing things in the right place and in the right cooler requires a little bit of knowledge and experience. We have provided you with a complete solution for the best way to pack a cooler for camping, so come back and give this guide one more read before you leave for your next camping trip.


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