Couple carrying cooler at campsite

Photo provided by Newspaper Toolbox

So, you’re going camping for two or three days. Here are a few smart organization tips to make the most out of your cooler space.

First, plan all the meals you’ll be making. That way you’ll only have to bring the food that you need. About 20 percent of the content of your cooler should consist of frozen products (cartons of juice, pasta sauce, etc.). These items will also act as ice blocks, helping to keep your other items chilled. If you need another way to keep your items cold, opt for ice packs rather than real ice. They’re more effective and won’t get your items wet as they warm up.

At least one hour before filling the cooler, use ice packs to get the cooler itself really cold. Pre-cooling your cooler will help food stay fresher for longer. For the same reason, only put in items that actually need to be refrigerated. It’s usually best to avoid dairy products (except hard cheeses) and fresh meats (opt instead for cooked meats).

Finally, place your items into the cooler in the order in which they’ll be eaten. In other words, have what you’ll be eating last at the bottom of the container. Put perishable foods as close as possible to frozen items, and place ice packs toward the top of the cooler (cold falls while heat rises). Of course, to keep your items cold for as long as possible, open the cooler only when necessary.

At the end of the season, clean your cooler from top to bottom and don’t close it completely. That way, you’ll prevent bad odors from developing.