Using Dry Ice to Keep Food Cold While Camping

A group of campers enjoys a fresh meal thanks to the food storage benefits of dry ice.

Using Dry Ice to Keep Food Cold While Camping 

Camping can be a great way to relax—that is, until your ice melts and the food in your cooler gets ruined. That’s why, just like your trusty hatchet or your emergency drinking straw, dry ice is an invaluable tool you don’t want to camp without. Compared to traditional “wet” ice, dry ice lasts longer, doesn’t melt and keeps frozen items from thawing and spoiling, making it much more effective for long-term food storage.

Avoid the leaks, the mess and the hassles of traditional ice by adding Penguin Brand Dry Ice® to your packing list.

A few basic things to keep in mind:

  1. Pack frozen foods and chilled foods in separate coolers, since each requires a slightly different packing technique. (Don’t worry. We’ll explain below.)
  2. Make sure you pack enough dry ice to last your entire trip. We recommend packing 10-12 pounds per day in each standard-sized cooler.
  3. To prolong the life of your dry ice, avoid placing coolers in direct sunlight.
  4. Purchase your dry ice on the day you head out on your camping trip, as it will begin to sublimate (transform from a solid to a gas) right away.
  5. Avoid storing glass containers in your cooler with dry ice. The extremely cold temperatures can cause glass to become brittle.
  6. Remember to always handle dry ice with gloves or a hand towel, as dry ice is a skin irritant.

What sublimation is (and why it’s important to know a few safety tips)

Dry ice isn’t really ice at all—it’s solid carbon dioxide (CO2). And unlike regular ice, it doesn’t just turn into water over time. It sublimates, which means it transforms from a solid state to a gas state. So, why is that important? Simple: If your car’s full of CO2 gas, you won’t be able to breathe.

When transporting dry ice, take sublimation into consideration. Store your cooler in the trunk of your car or the bed of your truck, and open the windows periodically. If you’re using an air-tight cooler, keep in mind that the carbon dioxide gas will expand inside the cooler as the dry ice sublimates, creating pressure that’s got to be relieved somehow. Unscrew the drainage cap slightly or open the cooler a few times each day.

How to keep food chilled while camping

For items that don’t need to be frozen, use dry ice in conjunction with regular ice cubes. The dry ice will help to keep the wet ice from melting over time.

  • Step 1: Find Penguin Brand Dry Ice at a store near you.
  • Step 2: Insulate dry ice with newspaper, cardboard, etc.
  • Step 3: Place dry ice at the bottom of the cooler.
  • Step 4: Layer wet ice over dry ice.
  • Step 5: Add items to be chilled.
  • Step 6: Pour wet ice over top of items.

How to keep food frozen while camping

When items need to stay frozen, ditch the wet ice and place additional dry ice on top.

  • Step 1: Place dry ice at the bottom of the cooler.
  • Step 2: Add a layer of insulation (newspaper, cardboard, etc.).
  • Step 3: Add items to be frozen.
  • Step 4: Add another layer of insulation.
  • Step 5: Place dry ice on top and close cooler.

Ready to get packing?

Before you hit the old dusty trail, grab your Penguin Brand Dry Ice at a store near you and review our safe handling guide to make sure everything goes smoothly.

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