How long will food stay frozen in a cooler

Every camper or road-tripper who takes a several-day trip is familiar with the puzzle of keeping food fresh for the duration of their stay.

The material and size of the cooler, the type of refrigerant, and the choice of storage all have an impact on how long you can rely on that frozen dairy product casserole you made just for the occasion.

An advanced camping cooler is able to heat and cool, it makes it easier to arrange and carry your food, and they are both lightweight and durable as well. They are completely adjustable to your specific requirements and the kind of camping you enjoy, with a wide range of functions from which to pick.

No matter if you want something that can hold ice and keep it for days, or if you want a power source that will keep your cooler cold, you can find one that does the trick.

We have put together a list of the definitive camping cooler pros for you so that you can be outfitted with this vital piece of equipment if you have not done so before.

  • They’re easily transportable

If you consider a camping cooler, you probably picture carrying something heavy through the countryside simply to be able to enjoy a couple of tins of cold beer, asking yourself if it’s actually worth it.

However, today’s camping coolers are made to be easily carried and are unbelievably portable due to the use of materials like plastic and polyurethane foam.

Certain models come with carrying accessories such as wheels or handles that let you pull them, so they’re a lot simpler to carry around with you than you might realize.

  • You can easily feed an army

Once you’re in charge of taking along your camping cooler, you definitely will want to know that it’s got to be one that has sufficient room to feed the masses.

The good news is, camping coolers come in some impressive sizes with over 50-gallon capacity or more. There’s enough space for anything you may need and plenty of room to keep the food and drinks for everybody on your camping trip so that one is everything you have to take with you.

  • You will be able to enjoy a variety of food and beverages

Going camping with no proper cooler is more like a penalty than a good time, and you will be greatly restricted in the kinds of food and beverages available for you to savor.

Great food equals a great camping experience, and with your cooler, you will be able to pack fresh meats, cheeses, dairy, chilled lemonades and beers, and just about anything else you might like to take out of your fridge at home to fit in the great outdoors to enjoy.

  •  They are cheaper than you think

Many people shy away from investing in a camping cooler because they think the price will be too lavish.

A good camping cooler starts at around $100 for an insulated model and a few hundred for an electric or battery-powered model, though these prices can go into the thousands if you’re so inclined.

If you’re someone who does a lot of camping or enjoys time outdoors and away from home, they’re a smart investment and one that will pay for itself after the first use.

  • You can cool and heat

Modern camping cooler is not only cooler, but it’s also warmer.

A number of brands of coolers feature two sections that work at varying temperatures. These are able to take advantage of the power of insulation to keep the cool stuff chilled and the hot stuff hot, and the ones that use thermal electricity actually perform an even greater task.

While the majority of people only count on their camping cooler for chilling, it’s great to know the option out there if you’ve ever wanted to save some odds and ends or hot coffee and maintain them at the perfect temperature.

  • You keep your food cold

This might seem a bit obvious, yet it’s the greatest advantage a cooler can provide, meaning we just couldn’t omit it.

A camping cooler keeps your food chilled, and with a few of the newer brands operating with no electricity, this could provide up to five days of freshness.

If you didn’t have a cooler, you would be dining on dry packages of freeze-dried food and beverages that are warm rather than refreshing.

How long will ice last in a cooler

Most users packing or shopping for a new cooler often ask themselves about how long the ice inside the cooler is going to keep. The answer is based on a number of different variables, including the size of the cooler you choose to buy and, most significantly, the kind and quantity of ice you pack in the box.

In terms of the kind of ice, block ice usually holds much longer than cubes, though the latter chills things more quickly. In terms of numbers, block ice, when applied to food storage, will keep for approximately 5-7 days in a properly insulated ice cooler, even at temperatures above 90.

Cube ice is excellent for shorter refrigeration times since it holds for approximately 1-2 days. No matter if you choose to use ice blocks or ice cubes, be sure to take them out of their holders like milk jugs and bowls before putting them in the cooler, since the plastic will tend to insulate the ice, leading to a lower cold temperature for the objects kept in the ice cooler.

How long will food stay frozen in a cooler

The information below provides a basic guideline for keeping food in a cooler. It is anticipated that your cooler would be very cold, maintain the food at 40 degrees or colder, and would be packed with lots of ice.


  • Seafood, chicken, and ground meat: these foods are highly spoilable and potentially dangerous. Do not store any of these foods in a cooler longer than one or two days – never more than two.
  • Steaks and chops: these should hold up in a cold cooler for about three or four days.
  • Cooked bacon and luncheon meats: The cured properties of these meats give them a longer shelf life. Consume them within a week after storing them in the cooler. Be careful with cured meats, which might not be cured and may not hold up as well.


  • Milk: Milk can be kept in the cooler for one week. However, don’t count on milk remaining in the cooler longer than two or three days unless it is placed next to the ice and the cooler is maintained at under 40 degrees the whole time. Smell or taste the milk before using it to confirm it is still fresh, particularly if you are going to cook it, where spoiled milk might not be identified.
  • Cheese: If stored in the manufacturer’s container, safe from air and moisture, cheese has a long shelf life – harder cheeses will last longer than soft cheeses. You can safely hold the cheese in a cooler for one week or even more.
  • Yogurt, sour cream, and cream cheese: schedule to consume them within a week.

Eggs and butter

  • Eggs: If kept in a cool place, your eggs stored in a cooler should hold up for a week or two. Dispose of any eggs with cracked shells. Don’t forget that eggshells are porous. Avoid keeping eggs in water on the floor of the refrigerator, where they may get spoiled.
  • Butter and margarine: Margarine can be stored for longer than butter. In fact, margarine can be kept for two weeks or longer; butter can be kept for a period of at minimum one week. Butter turns rancid. In addition, it takes on odors from the cooler. Make certain you keep your butter in zippered plastic bags. Avoid getting it wet.

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Ripe fruit: When it comes to shelf life, there are three classes of fruit. Berries and cherries have a shelf life of only one to two days. Soft fruit – grapes, melons, pears, peaches, plums, and apricots – will keep for three to four days. Apples and citrus fruits will keep for a month.
  • Fresh vegetables: broccoli, peas, summer squash, and lettuce will last for two to three days. Carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, and green peppers have a shelf life of one week. Potatoes, winter squash, and dried onions can be stored for a couple of months without refrigeration. The perfect storage temperature for these vegetables is 50 to 55 degrees.

cooler for food

How long does it take for food to go bad?

The “danger zone” refers to perishable foods that are between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The general consensus is that hot foods that fall below 140 degrees are safe for about two hours, while cold foods that rise above 40 degrees are safe for about the same amount of time. When food falls into the danger zone, bacteria can quickly develop and cause foodborne illness.

How to keep a cooler cold?

If you want to keep your cooler cold for as long as possible without ice, you’ll need to do some preparation and take some steps to make certain that your belongings remain as cool as they can be.

Since you don’t have ice to help you, if you don’t prepare and pack your cooler properly, you’ll find that everything gets warm pretty quickly.

  • Pre-cool or freeze food/beverages

Despite its name, a cooler doesn’t actually cool anything, it just helps maintain the temperature of the items you put in it. It just prevents heat from coming in or out. You can even use a cooler to keep things warm. Therefore, it is important that you cool or freeze your items before putting them in the cooler. If you put items in that are room temperature, the cooler will keep them at room temperature and not cool them down. So you want things to be as cold as possible before you put them in the cooler.

Freeze your drinks, meats, and any other food items when you can, if not, place it all in the fridge the day before to chill it before packing it into your cooler.

  • Pre-chill your cooler

When you have a costly cooler, like a Yeti or anything like that, you might consider trying to chill your cooler before loading it.

Once your cooler is empty, warmth can collect in the insulation. If you place cold items in a warm cooler, then the warmth in the insulation is going to warm up your items and your cooler won’t function correctly.

Just put some ice or frozen water bottles inside overnight before you start using the cooler.

Doing so will chill the insulation and when you place things in the cooler, the insulation will not heat up, but rather will keep them cold.

  • Use ice packs or frozen water bottles

When you would like to avoid using loose ice, yet you still have the opportunity, it is a nice option to freeze some ice packs or water bottles and put them in your cooler.

While these are awesome because they function exactly like ice to keep stuff cold when they do melt, they do not leave your cooler and all your food supremely soggy.

Frozen water bottles will be awesome since they are inexpensive, they can be used again, as well as once the ice melts inside of them, the water is available for you to drink.

  • Place towels on top of the food/drinks – get rid of the air space

Unless you have ice to hold things cold in your cooler, you would like to minimize the exposure of your food and drinks to the air in your cooler as much as possible.

Having empty air space in your cooler is the enemy of maintaining a cool temperature. Obviously, the greater the amount of air space in a cooler, the sooner items will warm up.

If you wrap your drinks or food in towels, the free air space in the cooler becomes even more insulated, and if you add additional towels to pad out the extra air space left in the cooler, that will be helpful, too.
You may be amazed at how much longer this will allow your products to stay cold if you are not using ice.

  • Always leave the cooler in the shade and away from the heat

Make sure you minimize your cooler’s exposure to heat at all times. Coolers aren’t perfect and there is still a bit of heat seeping through, which is why you have to put your cooler somewhere cool and shady and put it out of straight rays of sunlight whenever you can. If this isn’t an option, place a blanket on the cooler to give it a little insulation from the heat of the sun and let the cooler remain chilly for a bit longer.

  • Bury your cooler in the ground

If you’re at the beach or camping and have the luxury of digging a hole, you can partially bury your cooler in the ground to keep it cold much longer. The ground itself acts as an insulator and the deeper you dig, the cooler it will be. This is why in places like Coober Pedy in Australia, people build their homes underground or partially underground. If you partially bury your cooler in the ground, it will stay cooler longer.

What temperature should a cooler be

Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that the temperature in your cooler is 40F or below (frozen foods that you want to keep frozen should be stored at or below 0F).

Frozen foods stored at 0F or below have a much longer shelf life. However, since it is difficult to keep food frozen in a cooler, it is best to use these time guidelines even if the food is frozen at the beginning of your trip. Use an appliance thermometer to make sure the temperature in the cooler is 40F or less.

How long can unopened lunch meat sit out

The United States Department of Agriculture indicates it is hazardous to consume cold cuts, sausages, prepared foods, and sliced veggies if they have been kept at room temperature for two hours or longer (or for one hour over 90° F). The reason for this is bacteria will grow rapidly when these foods are stored at temperatures ranging between 40° F and 140° F. When sandwiches with these contents have been out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours (or one hour over 90° F), you should throw them away.

How to keep food cold in a cooler for 2 days

Sizeable blocks of ice maintain food cool in the cooler for a minimum period of two days. Dry ice can hold food cold even longer.

However, if none of these are available, there are bags of crushed ice that you can pick up at camping supplies stores to place in the cooler, though crushed ice does have a tendency to melt faster.

How to keep a cooler cold for 3 days?

The cooler keeps food cool as long as the inside temperature remains below 4 C, therefore it is recommended to keep a thermometer at hand.

If you store ice or cold packs in the cooler, you will be able to maintain your food cold. Even in extremely hot weather, ice blocks can keep from 5 to 7 days when your cooler is properly insulated.

Putting a cover or rug over your cooler offers additional insulation for your cooler allowing it to maintain food cold for longer periods of time.

As soon as the internal temperature of the cooler increases, the food products have to be eaten in a few hours.


Forward-thinking is the way to guarantee the successful preservation of your camping food. Take into consideration the number of days you will be away and buy the corresponding kind of cooler. Schedule in advance and pack the cooler appropriately, but not until you have pre-cooled it (as well as your food!). Include additional insulation, use more than one kind/size of coolant, and be sure to get a good place for your cooler when you set up camp. By doing a bit of pre-planning, you won’t have any issues enjoying all of the food you have cooked up for your particular trip.

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Steve Toomey

The main inspirer and creator of this resource. In passion about gardening, home decor & interior. Also, likes to DIY projects and interesting in house gadgets. Moreover, he likes to find out how to make cooking easier and simple with kitchen gadgets. Read More.

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