How to Use Dry Ice in a Cooler - Wilderness Redefined (2023)

What's the secret to a good camping trip? Keep your food (and beer) fresh throughout your camping trip! If it's completely off the beaten path and you don't have access to stores, consider using dry ice, but you may not be sure how to use dry ice in a cooler.

Here are the 12 steps to using dry ice in a cooler:

  1. Use a suitable cooler
  2. Consider using two coolers
  3. Buy the right amount of dry ice
  4. Freeze your food first
  5. Be sure to wear protective gloves
  6. Wrap the dry ice in brown paper.
  7. Create a barrier between the dry ice and the food.
  8. Put ice in the top or bottom of the refrigerator.
  9. Strategically pack your groceries and ice in your cooler
  10. Minimize air gaps with newspaper
  11. Store your refrigerator in a cool place.
  12. Dispose of dry ice safely

Read on for more dry ice cooler tips!

table of contents

1. Use a suitable cooler

Dry ice is not like regular ice; is carbon dioxide (CO2) frozen below 109°F. Consequently, when carbon dioxide is heated, it does not melt but sublimes, releasing CO2.

It is important to use a refrigerator with adequate ventilation and insulation to prevent the CO2 in the refrigerator from building up to pressure and exploding. Dry ice must be handled with special care and if you do not have a suitable cooler we recommend that you use one.other food cooling methodsinstead.

For regular campers, we recommend investing in one of these quality coolers:

  • Yeti-Tundra.Available in three sizes (35, 45 and 65) perfect for camping, fishing and other adventures. The Tundra 45 holds 28 beer cans, including ice.
  • still roadie. Smaller than the Tundra and better suited for road trips. Only available in one size and big enough for wine bottles.

2. Consider using two coolers

If you're camping in a group of four or more, a cooler probably won't provide enough storage space. While one cooler should be enough for two people, consider using two coolers if space permits.

The advantage of two coolers is that one can be used to store dry ice and regular ice as a freezer, while the second cooler is used for food and drinks.

Take regular ice from the first cooler to place in the second as needed. Using coolers in this way slows the sublimation of dry ice and eliminates the risk of food freezing.

3. Buy the right amount of dry ice

You don't want to overfill the cooler with ice, but you also don't want your food to heat up in the middle of camping. Knowing exactly how much dry ice you need can help you use your cold storage effectively, keeping your food fresh at all times.

As a general guideline, you will need twice as much ice as food/drink or a 2:1 ice to food/drink ratio. This keeps food and drinks cold throughout your trip.

4. Freeze your food in advance.

It's a good idea to freeze any food you plan to take with you about two days before you travel. By freezing food ahead of time, you keep the refrigerator temperature low, which slows down the sublimation of dry ice.

The added benefit of freezing ahead of time is that it helps you stay organized and gives you plenty of time to stock up on more snacks in case you need them.

5. Be sure to wear protective gloves

Dry ice is very, very cold! So cold that you can seriously burn your hands if you're not careful. It is important to wear protective gloves when handling dry ice, e.g. B. Insulated rubber gloves.

Have a burn ointment in case you burn yourself. Dry ice burns are treated the same as normal burns. Rinse the burned area with warm water and apply burn ointment if necessary. In case of severe frostbite or burns where infection is possible, seek medical attention.

6. Wrap dry ice in brown paper

Wrapping dry ice in newspaper or brown paper serves two purposes. First, it isolates dry ice and slows down the sublimation process. Secondly, newspapers protect you from frost in case you accidentally touch it.

Two to three layers of newspaper will do, but you can add more. If you plan to place the dry ice in the bottom of the cooler, you can wrap it thick enough to fill the entire surface and minimize air gaps.

7. Create a barrier between the dry ice and the food.

Sure, you want your food cold, but frozen food isn't edible. To avoid frozen food, you must avoid direct contact between food and dry ice.

While newspapers around the dry ice will help a little, they won't be enough. A folded towel works great as a buffer and prevents food from freezing. You can use the towel to clean the cooler at the end of the trip, so two stones!

8. Put ice in the top or bottom of the refrigerator.

Many people place dry ice in the bottom of the refrigerator as it is more convenient and reduces the risk of accidental burns when handling dry ice.

Placing dry ice on top will keep your items cooler as cold air will sink down. However, you have to deal with ice more often. Choose what works best for you.

9. Strategically pack your food and ice in your cooler

To keep food and dry ice cold longer, open the fridge as little as possible. Pack the items you'll use last or least often at the bottom to avoid taking everything out for that one item at the bottom.

If you must bring food for lunch, pack everything you need at once to keep opening and closing to a minimum.

10. Minimize air gaps with newspaper

The less air there is in your cooler, the slower the dry ice will sublime, keeping your food cool and your journey comfortable.

Efficient use of space when packing minimizes most gaps. For any other air gaps left after wrapping, you can use crumpled up newspaper or brown paper.

11. Keep your refrigerator in a cool place

High quality coolers like Yeti coolers keep your produce cool even in full sun, but a cool spot helps. Keeping your cooler in a shaded area will keep the contents fresh much longer! After all, the sun is a source of heat.

You can create a shaded area with a tarp or net, or place the cooler inside your tent when there is no shade.

12. Dispose of Dry Ice Safely

If you need to dispose of dry ice, it is important to do so properly and safely. Carbon dioxide poisoning is not to be taken lightly!

The easiest way to get rid of dry ice is to leave it outside to sublimate. You need to keep an eye on it to make sure no children or animals touch the ice before it sublimates. If you can't keep it outside, place it in a well-ventilated area.


How do I use dry ice in a cooler? ›

Wrap dry ice in towels or newspapers before placing it in a cooler. Put the dry ice on the bottom of the cooler or on top of cooler contents. Use the newspaper to fill empty space within the cooler. Dry ice can be used in conjunction with conventional ice.

How do you activate dry ice? ›

Pour warm water over the dry ice to activate it.

Do you put dry ice on top or bottom of cooler? ›

Freeze it for When you Need It

It is recommended to have dry ice at the bottom and top of your perishables, whether frozen food or the fruits of a hunting expedition. Due to its extremely low temperature, dry ice will freeze the food it comes into direct contact with.

How long will 5 lbs of dry ice last in a cooler? ›

The following table for how long dry ice lasts is based on an average five-pound brick of dry ice that remains whole (not broken into pieces): In a cooler – 18-24 hours. Outdoors – 3-5 hours. In liquid – 15-45 minutes.

Do you pour water on dry ice? ›

Follow this tip: Let any remaining frozen dry ice melt into a gas in a well-ventilated space. Pouring warm water will help speed the process up.

Do you need to vent dry ice in a cooler? ›

Dry ice will always have some amount of sublimation, so dry ice must be ventilated at all times to let out the gas. However, keeping dry ice in a thickly insulated cooler will keep it from sublimating as quickly. Dry ice sublimates faster when exposed to air.


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