How to Pack a Cooler with Dry Ice

How to Pack a Cooler with Dry IceUsing dry ice in your camping cooler is an efficient way to keep food frozen without having to deal with the mess of melted water getting your food soggy. Dry ice is actually not ice at all, but carbon dioxide gas, frozen to a temperature between -109.3° and -78.5° Fahrenheit. When dry ice begins to warm up, it doesn't melt, it sublimates. This means it turns from a solid straight into a gas. Dry ice is perfectly safe for use in your cooler, but some precautions need to be taken.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Prepare your cooler by loading the food inside. This should be the last thing you do before getting into the car and heading out of town. Keep the food packed as tightly as possible and fill any gaps with wads of newspaper for maximum efficiency. This will keep the dry ice from sublimating as quickly.
Step 2
Leave at least three to four inches of room at the top of the cooler for the dry ice, which generally comes in blocks that are two inches thick. You will want to keep the dry ice wrapped in the paper it comes in, so leave an extra inch or two to compensate.
Step 3
Load the dry ice into the cooler. Always use gloves when handling dry ice--even if it's wrapped in paper--as an added safety precaution. It is usually is sold in 10-inch squares. Two of these squares should fit into a standard cooler and will last about 24 hours.
Step 4
Keep the lid of the cooler slightly ajar. While this may seem counterproductive, you do this to prevent the sublimating gas from accumulating in your airtight cooler and bursting. In order to keep your ice chest ventilated and insulated, wrap a sleeping bag or wool blanket around it.

Tips & Warnings

Load cold or frozen food into your cooler. Using dry ice to cool food down will reduce its efficiency.
Purchase dry ice from ice cream vendors or special order from a supermarket.
Keep your car ventilated when driving with dry ice. A build up of carbon dioxide in an airtight vehicle can be extremely dangerous.
Always keep dry ice in a well-ventilated environment.
Never allow children to play with dry ice.

Article Written By Nikki Jardin

Nikki Jardin began freelance writing in 2009 and focuses on food and travel articles. She has been a professional cook and caterer for more than 20 years. She holds a degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University.

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