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Expert Tip: Packing Your Cooler
Most RVs and campers today are equipped with many of the comforts of home, including nice-sized refrigerators, and often freezers that make food storage easy. But even if you have the luxury of modern conveniences, you may need to occasionally supplement your storage if you have a long trip planned or a big group to feed. Or, if you don’t have the benefit of built-in cold storage in your vehicle, a little planning and a well-organized cooler is essential:
- Choose an appropriately-sized cooler that’s well insulated and has a lid that locks down tight. Coolers with multiple lids or access points are nice to minimize “cool air loss” when the lid is opened and closed.
- Use frozen foods to help keep your cooler cool without the bulk of loose bagged ice.
- Freeze all items that won’t be damaged by freezing and thawing to help extend the life of your ice supply and keep your foods cool. Bacon, sausage, lunch meats, prepared meals and meats are great choices.
Packing the Cooler
- Pack foods in order of anticipated use to help preserve cool temperatures that will keep your foods at a safe storage temperature. Put what you plan to eat first or snack on frequently on top. Foods for later in the trip can go to the bottom of the cooler. If your cooler has trays or dividers, use them to keep raw foods and precooked or fresh foods separate to avoid any cross contamination. If you don’t have dividers, you can make your own by using large plastic storage bins that will fit inside the cooler. A plastic cutting board can also work well as a divider and serve as a cutting surface on the road.
- If you have the luxury of space, use two coolers – one for food and one for drinks to keep your foods the coldest. If you’re using one cooler for all of your supplies, separate the food from the drinks so they’re easy to grab with a quick open and close of the lid. Or, if your RV has a refrigerator, store food inside and keep drinks in a cooler to limit frequent opening and closing of the fridge door.
- When you’re on the road, keep your cooler in a shady spot to help preserve ice. Unless your vehicle is “climate controlled,” you shouldn’t keep your cooler inside. Drain your cooler frequently to avoid water buildup that will deplete your ice supply quickly.
- In very hot climates, if you have access to water, try putting a wet towel over the top of your cooler to create an “evaporative cooling effect!”