There is always a place for spontaneous adventure. The “sure, let’s do it” is an empowering feeling. On the other side of that coin, are the benefits of a well executed plan. Creating an executing on some fundamentals can lock you in for a series of outdoor successes.
One such skill is correctly packing a cooler for a road trip. And, don’t tell anyone, but with advance planning this can work for the most spontaneous triptaker.
These 7 Steps Will Perfectly Pack Your Cooler
Start with an icepack layer
Every cooler is a different size but there are all shapes and sizes of ice packs that can be purchased. A frozen ice pack will stay solid longer than loose ice, which makes it the perfect foundation. They are also reusable. This is going to take some loose planning. So just always have them in the freezer!
First thing to do is get the bottom of the cooler as completely covered with ice packs as possible. It will do wonders for the rest of the situation.
Add frozen meals and water bottles to the bottom right
This is where there is some level of actual preparation comes into play. Whether you have this completed way ahead of time, making spontaneity possible, of just freeze the meals and water a day ahead is up to you.
It is obviously best to use a correctly sized/shaped container for food. A general estimation for this example is to cut the cooler in half and use the bottom corner for this stage. Also, it is smart to use square or rectangle water bottles. The combined level of the ice pack with the frozen food and bottles of water is your bottom 1/6.
Cans go to the left of that
Right on top of the ice pack goes the cans of . . . whatever you choose to take on your road trip in a can. Sparking water.
This is an easy to access section of the cooler. There are also the benefits of the heavier objects being on the bottom to eliminate the risk of smashing food. It contains the cans between all frozen objects which will keep them cold. It also adds the benefit of building on a solid foundation. This level should get you close to the height of the frozen food and water bottles.
Add loose ice
Simple as it sounds: this is where loose ice finally comes in.
It will go on top of the cans of . . . coke zero sugar. And on top of the frozen water bottles. Shake it into the gaps and you have a killer base of ice that is going to keep everything cold. It also should create an easy, level, base for stacking on.
The cooler should be about half full now.
Stack food vertically above the frozen food
This is simple logic mixing with Marie Kondo.
Whether dry food or something that needs to stay cool, stack it above the frozen food. You will presumably need it before the frozen food, so you will not disturb your base. That is the logic part. The Kondo part is that if you stack clothes vertically it is easier to see them, so just change it to food. If you can see what the item is you will do less digging and disrupting.
Having clear containers or a label atop the container, will help. It will also the other side to be more accessible.
Here is your chance to freelance
You have pretty close to the top left quarter of the cooler left to do with what you want. If you packed properly there is a firm base below with ice, cans, and an ice pack. On the other side is a vertical container creating a solid surface. You can put anything you want in this top corner.
Fruit. An accessible bag with materials to make a sandwich or two. Packs of chips or fruit snacks. Some extra cans or even some drink pouches. Whatever you need to have a good trip you can place over here and it will remain cool.
Fill it with ice
You are laying that top inch of ice and feeling like a champion.
The immediate benefit is that you have a clean space for items that may be quick-grab. There is minimal loose ice to make a watery mess. If you need to get to the bottom for a can it is easy. All of the food is organized and easy to get to without digging through the whole thing.