Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

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Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby JuneBug » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:28 am

Just came across this article about a product that keeps food above the ice (and inevitable melt water) in the bottom of a cooler. It's called, wait for it, The Cooler Tray: thecoolertray.com/

This is simply a perforated plastic platform on little adjustable feet. So it occurred to me to ask: what home-made solutions do you all use that is the equivalent to The Cooler Tray? I'm a person who hates, hates, HATES coolers in general because of the resulting soggy mess. We don't camp often enough for me to have been motivated to seek a solution and DH is oblivious and thinks coolers are fine, just fine.

Also, with The Cooler Tray, you must remove all the food to refill ice in the bottom, but I don't see a way around that.

So, yes, for a short weekend, filling containers with water and freezing them works as the mess-free cooling element. For longer trips, where you have to refill with ice on the road or at the campground, this won't work.

Digression: I did a 3-day float trip n the San Juan River (southern Utah) in May and one of the folks on the trip wrapped the top and sides of their cooler in Reflectix, and also placed a piece of reflectix inside the cooler, over the food. It worked well and I'm sure extended the life of the ice in the cooler by a significant amount.

Confession: On impulse, we bought a pop-up trailer two months ago. I'm already seeing the downsides. Hoping DH will too. It does not have a refrigerator. :thumbdown:
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby 39Ratrod » Thu Jul 14, 2016 7:45 am

I recently started using the plastic liner from a soft sided cooler placed inside of my main cooler. Think of a small plastic garbage can off to one side in the cooler. Works great for me.
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby S. Heisley » Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:03 am

I freeze water in plastic containers that are built like a cereal box and put one of those at each end. When the ice melts, I refill the containers with ice from store-bought bags...no mess.

Watch out for carcinogens!
Incidentally, they have recently found that plastic that is frozen will release even more carcinogens into the thawing water than when hot water is put in plastic; so, don't drink that water!

Add salt?
I recently saw that adding salt to your ice chest water before freezing it will keep food colder longer. (The article didn't say how much to add.) Has anybody tried it? What's the ratio of salt that should be added?
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby jstrubberg » Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:05 am

We put any food in the cooler inside a ziploc bag.
The more stuff I take along, the more time I spend taking care of my stuff!
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby jstrubberg » Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:07 am

S. Heisley wrote:I freeze water in plastic containers that are built like a cereal box and put one of those at each end. When the ice melts, I refill the containers with ice from store-bought bags...no mess.

Watch out for carcinogens!
Incidentally, they have recently found that plastic that is frozen will release even more carcinogens into the thawing water than when hot water is put in plastic; so, don't drink that water!

Add salt?
I recently saw that adding salt to your ice chest water before freezing it will keep food colder longer. (The article didn't say how much to add.) Has anybody tried it? What's the ratio of salt that should be added?


I doubt the salt thing is true. Adding salt to water and THEN freezing it can get you longer lasting ice, because salt water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water. Adding salt to existing ice isn't likely to do anything but make the melt water salty.
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby 3GKnight » Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:45 am

I use a plastic (Tupperware or Rubbermaid) cereal box to contain the ice. It's a lot better than a leaky bulk ice bag. Mine's a bit oblong but it works. If I know we'll be in warmer weather or out for longer, I supplement with a few small ice packs. Next go around for those, I plan on velcro'ing them to the bottom side of the lid.

Just have to remind the kiddos not to dip their dirty hands in it for drink ice.

I like the idea of putting something reflective on the outside of the cooler. The cooler in the size I wanted was black. Not a good color for a cooler...
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby Stacie Tamaki » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:16 am

I went and found tall sided plastic storage containers that all fit into the cooler with ice below and packed around them. Fruits and veggies go in one, Condiments in another, etc. Eggs, milk, and any meat products sit right on/in the ice. Everything else stays dry because the ice doesn't come into contact with any of it. When it's time to replenish the ice I can lift the three containers out with everything inside of them. Huge time saver and a lot less effort than how I used to do it.
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby GuitarPhotog » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:23 am

Since my trips tend to be long enough that I have to replenish ice, I use block ice (2 blocks in a 70 qt cooler) and I use pink hospital basins on top of the ice blocks. The basins keep stuff dry and out of the melt water. Stuff in jars and bottles can go down in the melt water between the ice blocks.

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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby 3GKnight » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:26 am

Stacie Tamaki wrote:I went and found tall sided plastic storage containers that all fit into the cooler with ice below and packed around them. Fruits and veggies go in one, Condiments in another, etc. Eggs, milk, and any meat products sit right on/in the ice. Everything else stays dry because the ice doesn't come into contact with any of it. When it's time to replenish the ice I can lift the three containers out with everything inside of them. Huge time saver and a lot less effort than how I used to do it.


I wanted to do this but couldn't find a set of containers that didn't waste a lot of space with weird shaped lids 'n lips. Do you know what brand & line you have?

Thanks Stacie!
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby Stacie Tamaki » Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:45 am

3GKnight wrote:
I wanted to do this but couldn't find a set of containers that didn't waste a lot of space with weird shaped lids 'n lips. Do you know what brand & line you have?

Thanks Stacie!


They are all different brands, kinds of plastic, etc. But all are square or rectangular shaped.

Basically I measured the inside of my cooler then went to Meijer (which is like a Walmart, Target kind of store) and went through their closet storage, kitchen storage (one is designed for in the fridge), and misc. storage container aisles and pieced together a combo that worked for my needs. So basically one large container and two smaller ones. I just wanted the sidewalls to be high enough that even if all of the ice melts it won't drain into the food containers.

A couple were kind of pricy (they are clear acrylic for the fridge. I'm going to the store right now and will look for the brand for you.) but I knew what they would save in food not wasted they would pay for themselves in no time. Especially the fresh produce. Keeping it from coming in direct contact with the ice made all the difference in the world. I had no spoilage even on a multi-week trip.

I would just discard any lids, and lips are no problem since a layer of ice holds them apart. I did find having a small extra container was handy to scoop the ice into the gaps between the containers and sidewalls.

Am also always looking for and saving appropriately shape containers to nest inside where a double layer is required.
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby bobhenry » Thu Jul 14, 2016 11:07 am

Yep ! Started doing this in 09..........

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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby 3GKnight » Thu Jul 14, 2016 11:08 am

Stacie Tamaki wrote:I'm going to the store right now and will look for the brand for you. .


Thanks Stacie! No need to go to the store just for me though.


(Yeah, I didn't really think you were...) :)

And I just saw your sig line where you're tracking miles on your TD. Hadn't thought to do that but now I might.
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby Cosmo » Thu Jul 14, 2016 12:45 pm

My experience has been items above the water line don’t get cold. The primary heat transfer is conduction (contact) not convection )air flow).

Convection is not very effective in a cooler – even if a fan is added. The air passing over the water and/or ice does not exchange a much heat.
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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby GuitarPhotog » Thu Jul 14, 2016 1:55 pm

Cosmo wrote:My experience has been items above the water line don’t get cold. The primary heat transfer is conduction (contact) not convection )air flow).

Convection is not very effective in a cooler – even if a fan is added. The air passing over the water and/or ice does not exchange a much heat.


That's why my food, in the basins, sit directly on the blocks of ice. Conduction is good.

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Re: Coolers! Soggy Food! Solved?

Postby Stacie Tamaki » Thu Jul 14, 2016 2:48 pm

3GKnight wrote:
Thanks Stacie! No need to go to the store just for me though.


(Yeah, I didn't really think you were...) :)

And I just saw your sig line where you're tracking miles on your TD. Hadn't thought to do that but now I might.


Just for you! :lol:

The ice goes underneath and around all four sides.

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"The Glampette" is adding smiles to my miles. We're together now and bonding on the road. 15,473 miles so far since 6/20/13
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Build details and pics are here http://theflirtyguide.blogspot.com/sear ... 0-%20Build Also find me on Instagram @Tinygami

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