Should You Use Dry Ice in a Camping Cooler

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Should You Use Dry Ice in a Camping Cooler

Dry ice might be the answer to keeping your drinks and snacks cold in your camping cooler on a hot, sunny day.

It’s certainly a bummer when your ice melts and things start to heat up. Or worse, the ice cream turns to liquid. But is dry ice in a cooler safe, and is it even worth it?

We’ve weighed the pros and cons of using dry ice and laid them out for you.

Let’s dig in!

Can You Use Dry Ice in Your Camping Cooler?

Yes, you can use dry ice in your cooler. But it’s not quite as straightforward as pouring wet ice into a cooler.

Dry ice is solid CO2 (carbon dioxide), which means it doesn’t turn into water as regular ice does. Instead, it sublimates. This means it turns from a solid to a gas over time. Dry ice requires extra precautions for this reason.

When dry ice turns from a solid to a gas, it shouldn’t be in an enclosed space with people. For example, if it’s in your car or RV, you won’t be able to breathe when the CO2 gas fills the space.

It’s critical to transport dry ice, even when in a cooler, away from people. This could mean putting it in the bed of your truck or the basement storage of your RV while you’re traveling.

Just remember that the gas inside the cooler needs to be relieved, as it builds up pressure when it sublimates. Open the cooler several times a day to release the pressure.

The Benefits of Using Dry Ice in a Camping Cooler

Even though the word sublimate may scare you away from dry ice, there are benefits. For example, it doesn’t create puddles, and it’s colder than wet ice.

No Puddles

Dry ice prevents everything in your cooler from getting wet, which in turn gets rid of the puddles wet ice creates. This keeps your camping experience more efficient and drier.

Colder than Regular Ice

Dry ice is colder than regular wet ice. It’s usually colder than negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, it stays cold much longer than melting regular ice. T

en pounds of dry ice can last up to 24 hours in a 25-quart cooler before it’s in a complete gas state. To prolong the life of the dry ice, keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and open the cooler as infrequently as possible.

The Disadvantages of Using Dry Ice in a Camping Cooler

There are also disadvantages to using dry ice. It has a short shelf life, releases unhealthy gases, and will burn skin. 

Short Shelf Life

The shelf life of dry ice is at most 24 hours. Since it’s solid CO2, it needs to turn to a gas state, whereas wet ice can be stored in a freezer for weeks until you need it. 

Unhealthy Gases

Dry ice is CO2, which is dangerous for humans and animals. CO2 removes oxygen from the air and therefore limits your oxygen for breathing. It can cause nausea, fainting, and other medical complications, as well as death.

Will Burn Skin

Dry ice burns skin upon touch. Since dry ice is so cold, it’ll cause cryogenic burns. Always handle dry ice with care. Never touch it with your bare skin. 

What Precautions Should You Take When Using Dry Ice?

Due to the unhealthy gases and extreme cold of dry ice, you should take the following precautions.

Wear Gloves and Long Sleeves

Always wear thick gloves and long sleeves when handling dry ice. This protects your skin from direct contact. Gloves are a must, and long sleeves are an added precaution if your cooler is deep or there’s any chance of the dry ice touching your arm. 

Keep Your Cooler Secure When Driving

Be sure to secure your cooler when you’re transporting it. If the cooler were to tip over and open, the CO2 could leak into places it shouldn’t be.

Keep Away from Your Tent or Camper

Keep dry ice away from your tent or RV to prevent exposure to CO2. It’s important to eliminate any risk of unhealthy gases seeping into your living spaces.

Can You Combine Dry and Regular Ice in a Camping Cooler?

Yes, you can combine them. A common way to use both in a cooler is to wrap the dry ice in a newspaper – this prevents anyone’s skin from accidentally coming into direct contact with it.

With gloves on, put the wrapped dry ice on the bottom of the cooler. Place your food and drinks in the cooler and pour some regular ice on top for added cooling.

Should You Use Dry Ice with Your Camping Cooler?

The choice to use dry ice with your camping cooler is ultimately up to you. If you feel comfortable with it and have a safe place to transport it and store it while camping, it may be a good option. Be sure to review the precautions we’ve noted in this article and take all safety measures if you do use dry ice.

If you want to try using dry ice on your next camping trip, you can find it by searching online for local vendors. Some Walmarts do carry it in the store but not online. You’ll likely need about 10-15 pounds of it per day.

Have you ever tried using dry ice in a cooler before?

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