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  • Coolers and camping.

    So, I'm in a number of camping related groups on Facebook, regularly people ask for recommendations for a good cooler.

    There are so many out there now, that's a tough question to answer, especially without knowing specifics. Area, type of use, frequency of use etc. Usually, I will answer by asking about the above mentioned variants.

    Lately it's been a more generic answer. Today my response got a bit long winded. As I read back through it, I thought it would make a nice informative thread here and fit well in this section needing some more threads. So, hope it's okay and hope you find it helpful.



    Most of the extreme coolers do well under normal camping conditions. I do think, in certain circumstances, there is a difference (IE: bear country, desert or extreme heat, commercial use such as a guide etc).

    I have a Yeti, Gander Mountain roto molded, Coleman Extreme 6day and a regular Coleman. There is a significant difference between the regular Coleman and the rest. The others are pretty compareable under my camping use (which is very typical) weekend trips, a couple long weekends and a couple extended trips.

    There are some things you can do to improve any cooler. A number of the roto molded coolers actually talk about this in their literature.

    Pre chill your cooler. I put a couple frozen two liters in the night before a trip. Change the next morning before work, then again as I'm packing it to leave.

    Fill with drinks etc that are already cold. Whatever meat I'm taking I take frozen, may leave one meal fresh so it's ready to go, the rest thaw as the trip goes.

    Take two coolers. One for food, one for drinks. Constantly opening for drinks (especially if you have kids) will melt ice and lose cold fast. Food cooler only opened a couple times a day makes a huge difference.

    A blanket or refectix can make a big difference. I don't use it, my Yeti (food) goes in a slide out tray in my campers galley so it's always in the shade. My drink cooler, I'll keep under the picnic table that's under my canopy.

    I've talked with people in the past who were very unhappy with whatever extreme cooler they had. The majority of the time, those folks put hot drinks in a hot cooler but didn't understand why the ice was gone in less than a day. Coolers aren't designed to get things cold, they're designed to keep things cold. On extended trips, when I know I'll have to add more drinks, I take an extra cooler. When I get close to needing more drinks, I use it to get them cold so it doesn't kill the cold and ice in my main coolers.

    A common misconception is leaving water in the cooler helps, that's not accurate. Water is warmer than ice, a bunch of water will melt the ice much quicker. I tend to drain water daily. I've done a ten day trip, in 90*+ temps, as described above with my Yeti 45 as the food cooler and only added one bag of ice one time.

    One final thought (and sorry this got so long winded). If you have an extreme or roto molded cooler that has the rubber gasket and/or the rubber closures. Do not store it with the closures closed, leave them loose. Long term storage like that will compress the gasket and stretch the closures, greatly reducing the efficiency.

    If you do decide to get one of the extreme/roto molded coolers, be sure you can get replacement parts, closures and gaskets especially. They do wear out over time and while they aren't cheap, they're certainly cheaper than a new cooler.

    Happy camping!

    B
    "It's not the years in your life but the life in your years"



  • #2
    Originally posted by Brian S View Post
    So, I'm in a number of camping related groups on Facebook, regularly people ask for recommendations for a good cooler.

    There are so many out there now, that's a tough question to answer, especially without knowing specifics. Area, type of use, frequency of use etc. Usually, I will answer by asking about the above mentioned variants.

    Lately it's been a more generic answer. Today my response got a bit long winded. As I read back through it, I thought it would make a nice informative thread here and fit well in this section needing some more threads. So, hope it's okay and hope you find it helpful.



    Most of the extreme coolers do well under normal camping conditions. I do think, in certain circumstances, there is a difference (IE: bear country, desert or extreme heat, commercial use such as a guide etc).

    I have a Yeti, Gander Mountain roto molded, Coleman Extreme 6day and a regular Coleman. There is a significant difference between the regular Coleman and the rest. The others are pretty compareable under my camping use (which is very typical) weekend trips, a couple long weekends and a couple extended trips.

    There are some things you can do to improve any cooler. A number of the roto molded coolers actually talk about this in their literature.

    Pre chill your cooler. I put a couple frozen two liters in the night before a trip. Change the next morning before work, then again as I'm packing it to leave.

    Fill with drinks etc that are already cold. Whatever meat I'm taking I take frozen, may leave one meal fresh so it's ready to go, the rest thaw as the trip goes.

    Take two coolers. One for food, one for drinks. Constantly opening for drinks (especially if you have kids) will melt ice and lose cold fast. Food cooler only opened a couple times a day makes a huge difference.

    A blanket or refectix can make a big difference. I don't use it, my Yeti (food) goes in a slide out tray in my campers galley so it's always in the shade. My drink cooler, I'll keep under the picnic table that's under my canopy.

    I've talked with people in the past who were very unhappy with whatever extreme cooler they had. The majority of the time, those folks put hot drinks in a hot cooler but didn't understand why the ice was gone in less than a day. Coolers aren't designed to get things cold, they're designed to keep things cold. On extended trips, when I know I'll have to add more drinks, I take an extra cooler. When I get close to needing more drinks, I use it to get them cold so it doesn't kill the cold and ice in my main coolers.

    A common misconception is leaving water in the cooler helps, that's not accurate. Water is warmer than ice, a bunch of water will melt the ice much quicker. I tend to drain water daily. I've done a ten day trip, in 90*+ temps, as described above with my Yeti 45 as the food cooler and only added one bag of ice one time.

    One final thought (and sorry this got so long winded). If you have an extreme or roto molded cooler that has the rubber gasket and/or the rubber closures. Do not store it with the closures closed, leave them loose. Long term storage like that will compress the gasket and stretch the closures, greatly reducing the efficiency.

    If you do decide to get one of the extreme/roto molded coolers, be sure you can get replacement parts, closures and gaskets especially. They do wear out over time and while they aren't cheap, they're certainly cheaper than a new cooler.

    Happy camping!

    B
    EXCELLENT THREAD SUBJECT

    while growing up most of our camping was long weekends and real block ice was our goto product

    then in the mid 1950's we rebuilt an old campping trailer of my grandfather's including rebuiding the 4' wide cooler riding on the tongue

    50# of block ice (25# on each end) would keep our food stuffs for a long week(both weekends)

    the Yeti craze hit me when i joined folks on a week long saiing event on the Texas coast in June w/ very little access to supplies along the way

    after reading the previous accounts of the event i bit the bullet and got a 45qt Yeti

    long story short(r) so far when pre-cooled w/ a full bulk dump of vending machine ice 24± hours prior to loading/departing for a trip/event the Yeti has dunn me a real well job of keeping food stuffs COLD for at least 5 days in SW U.S. summer heat(June-August) and safe/cool for a good week

    the prime scenario is to access it ONLY 1x/day moving cold/frozen food out for thawing and daily eats go into the daytime cooler w/ the drinks(Igloo type) and as mentioned above keeping it in the shade/under cover

    shade/blanket/reflectix...

    water can cool faster than simple air therefore if you didn't have room to keep drinks cool from the beginning of the trip you're up against cooling them down during it

    throwing drinks in ice water cools them off quicker butt does consume frozen water doing so

    again as mentioned above store the empty rubber sealed coolers without the seals compressed or misshapen

    which brings us to repair/spare parts availabiity

    i bought a 2nd basket for the Yeti and turn them both downside upwards w/ the hard center of the lid resting on them for storage

    gaskets baskets latching systems and hinges WILL eventually get wonky and need replacing

    i paid the premium back in the beginning and the Yeti did it's job when i needed it

    NOW there are several super duty rotomolded contestants on the starting line for anyone entering the race and i've been along side folks w/ some of them and they worked quite well based on personal observations

    the old Igloos Colemans... do a real well job for folks who only need a cooler for weekend trips or even cross country trips camping nightly and traveling each or every other day

    if you're going to be on an extended trip/event off grid or w/ limited re-supply opportunities i'd suggest looking seriously at the HD rotomoulded units

    BON CHANCE

    sw

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by swoody126 View Post

      EXCELLENT THREAD SUBJECT

      while growing up most of our camping was long weekends and real block ice was our goto product

      then in the mid 1950's we rebuilt an old campping trailer of my grandfather's including rebuiding the 4' wide cooler riding on the tongue

      50# of block ice (25# on each end) would keep our food stuffs for a long week(both weekends)

      the Yeti craze hit me when i joined folks on a week long saiing event on the Texas coast in June w/ very little access to supplies along the way

      after reading the previous accounts of the event i bit the bullet and got a 45qt Yeti

      long story short(r) so far when pre-cooled w/ a full bulk dump of vending machine ice 24± hours prior to loading/departing for a trip/event the Yeti has dunn me a real well job of keeping food stuffs COLD for at least 5 days in SW U.S. summer heat(June-August) and safe/cool for a good week

      the prime scenario is to access it ONLY 1x/day moving cold/frozen food out for thawing and daily eats go into the daytime cooler w/ the drinks(Igloo type) and as mentioned above keeping it in the shade/under cover

      shade/blanket/reflectix...

      water can cool faster than simple air therefore if you didn't have room to keep drinks cool from the beginning of the trip you're up against cooling them down during it

      throwing drinks in ice water cools them off quicker butt does consume frozen water doing so

      again as mentioned above store the empty rubber sealed coolers without the seals compressed or misshapen

      which brings us to repair/spare parts availabiity

      i bought a 2nd basket for the Yeti and turn them both downside upwards w/ the hard center of the lid resting on them for storage

      gaskets baskets latching systems and hinges WILL eventually get wonky and need replacing

      i paid the premium back in the beginning and the Yeti did it's job when i needed it

      NOW there are several super duty rotomolded contestants on the starting line for anyone entering the race and i've been along side folks w/ some of them and they worked quite well based on personal observations

      the old Igloos Colemans... do a real well job for folks who only need a cooler for weekend trips or even cross country trips camping nightly and traveling each or every other day

      if you're going to be on an extended trip/event off grid or w/ limited re-supply opportunities i'd suggest looking seriously at the HD rotomoulded units

      BON CHANCE

      sw
      I used block ice for years. Unfortunately, it's not available much any more (I suspect because they figured out how much more ice will sell if cubes are all that's available) there is a place I can get it local but it's a 30 minute drive. Frozen bottles have a similar affect.

      I have both two liter bottles and gallon juice bottles. I use the two liters to prechill and in the bottom of the Yeti 45 for food. I use the juice bottles in my drink cooler, I found the squared off juice bottles fit better, are easier to pack drinks and ice around.

      Seems you're using one of my favorite tshirts as your profile pic. LOL


      B
      "It's not the years in your life but the life in your years"


      Comment


      • #4
        Deleted

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        • #5
          I would agree with azgrumbles the Dometic CFX 35 is a HUGE game changer. This is my food cooler and I use a basic coleman for the drinks, utilizing some of the same tricks/recommendations above for ice and draining the water, etc. The Dometics are pricey but well worth it IMO. Plus super efficient and won't drain my battery. I can even monitor it from my phone, change the temperature, place an alarm for low battery, etc. Game changer!

          Comment


          • #6
            I've got a T@G that came equipped with a Norcold NRF 30 12 volt refrigerator and have just discovered the simple solution to the problem of low voltage cut off when running off battery power! My Norcold has always been great when plugged in to 110 volts but when operating on battery power, it would frequently shut off when the unit first came on and it caused the voltage to drop below the cut-off threshold of 10.4 volts. Yes, this happens even with two well charged 12 volt batteries hooked in parallel. I understand that this is a problem that has been common to these refrigerators. After talking with many people for many years about the problem, a neighbor recently made a suggestion that totally solved the problem. For the price of $38 on Amazon, I purchased a capacitor (the type used in super car stereo systems and about the size of a 16 oz can of beer). I installed it on the power cord leading directly to the refrigerator in parallel (pos to pos, neg to neg). The capacitor maintains a steady flow of current when the refrigerator's compressor kicks in. No low voltage cut off problems! I hope this will help anyone else with this problem - Happy trails! - Camper Chris

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Camper Chris View Post
              I've got a T@G that came equipped with a Norcold NRF 30 12 volt refrigerator and have just discovered the simple solution to the problem of low voltage cut off when running off battery power! My Norcold has always been great when plugged in to 110 volts but when operating on battery power, it would frequently shut off when the unit first came on and it caused the voltage to drop below the cut-off threshold of 10.4 volts. Yes, this happens even with two well charged 12 volt batteries hooked in parallel. I understand that this is a problem that has been common to these refrigerators. After talking with many people for many years about the problem, a neighbor recently made a suggestion that totally solved the problem. For the price of $38 on Amazon, I purchased a capacitor (the type used in super car stereo systems and about the size of a 16 oz can of beer). I installed it on the power cord leading directly to the refrigerator in parallel (pos to pos, neg to neg). The capacitor maintains a steady flow of current when the refrigerator's compressor kicks in. No low voltage cut off problems! I hope this will help anyone else with this problem - Happy trails! - Camper Chris
              That's a great tip!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Brian S View Post


                There are some things you can do to improve any cooler....Pre chill your cooler. I put a couple frozen two liters in the night before a trip. ...
                Take two coolers. One for food, one for drinks. Constantly opening for drinks (especially if you have kids) will melt ice and lose cold fast. Food cooler only opened a couple times a day makes a huge difference.... A blanket or refectix can make a big difference....
                Great thread, agreed. I've been doing the night-before pre-chill thing for years (ice if I happen to have it handy, if not just a few cold items), and it does help.
                It took me years to finally stop mixing food + drinks in the same cooler (I was organizing the multiple coolers according to "items used most/least often"), and I now do like the separate cooler for food/drink system much better. Additionally, I now use a THIRD cooler, which is "meat-only". I use a very small cooler for this (a 6-pack size or so), basically only open it 2-3 x's per trip, VERY briefly. That has, so far, cured the it's-supermarket-wrapped-plus-additional-double-wrapping-but-STILL-soggy hamburger issue, as well as the "jeez, it's now Day Three, hope this hamburger doesn't kill us all" anxiety.

                I also use reflectix AND a mover's blanket, which helps quite a bit. I should clarify, I generally camp in the South, often in June-August, so 98+ temp in the shade is not unusual. I don't have any "expensive" coolers (no Yeti's etc). Just using basic quality Coleman etc. I used to use one or two fairly large coolers per trip, then switched to a system of two smaller size coolers plus the tiny 3rd one just for meat. My best "system" so far.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I too use 2 and sometimes 3 coolers. Every year, we boat camp in the Everglades for 5 nights. There is no fresh water so you have to bring your own. Generally, 1 gallon per person per day. So with 2 people, we have to bring 10 gallons of water. So what I do it freeze 2 of those 2 !/2 gallon jugs of water that you get in the supermarket. So that is 5 gallons. The other 5 gallons is in a 5 gallon water cooler and that is the water we use first.
                  So after I freeze those jugs, I put them in the bottom of a 75 quart Yeti. U then fill the crevices with ice cubes. I then put a yoga matt cut to fit over that and all the food goes on top of that. That cooler now becomes my fridge. I then organize all the foods in there according to meal. Dinner on the left, lunch in the middle and breakfast on the right. Then another yoga matt goes on top of that. So when you open the cooler, you only lift up the yoga matt in the area of the food you need. So you are keeping the cold air in there.
                  Because of the yoga matt on the bottom, when the ice begins to melt, my food doesn't end up in water.
                  Then when we run out of water, we will pull one of the 2 1/2 gallon jugs out.
                  I then have another Yeti or a built in boat cooler iced down with drinks. Because we open that cooler a lot, that ice is generally gone by the 2nd or 3rd day. There is ice water that still keeps the drinks cold but no ice for your bourbon. So we have a 3rd cooler with nothing but ice but no one opens it ever until the 3rd day when the ice has ran out of the 2nd cooler.
                  It takes me 10 hours to drive to the Everglades and 10 hours back. So total of 7 days. And every year, I still have one of the 2 1/2 gallon jugs that is still mostly frozen. And this is in hot temps. In cooler temps in October in the Smokies, this system lasted me for a 12 day trip.
                  We have a sailboat that when my kids were younger, we would take on vacation to the Bahamas. It had a build in chest cooler. I would do the same thing with block ice, line the bottom and side of this insulate locker with block ice and we could go for 3 weeks with that set up.
                  this is one of the reasons, I did not got with a Coleman fridge/cooler or the Dometic because I knew with this system, I would only have to replenish once a week. My only problem is on the road for a month in a tear drop, you can't freeze the bottles and finding block ice is getting harder and harder to find. But for a week, this system is the best.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Padre View Post
                    ... I then put a yoga matt cut to fit over that and all the food goes on top of that. That cooler now becomes my fridge. I then organize all the foods in there according to meal. Dinner on the left, lunch in the middle and breakfast on the right. Then another yoga matt goes on top of that. So when you open the cooler, you only lift up the yoga matt in the area of the food you need. So you are keeping the cold air in there.
                    Because of the yoga matt on the bottom, when the ice begins to melt, my food doesn't end up in water.
                    ...
                    I laughed (appreciatively) at your "dinner on the left, lunch in the middle..." etc comment, thinking "that's ORGANIZED". I often start out with good intentions, organizing-wise, but sometimes, after the first meal the plan disintegrates. (Hurriedly placing items back into the cooler "wherever" etc). The yoga mats ---- are they made of the same foam material as pool noodles? I like that idea of adding the layers of yoga mats to help seal in the cold. Smart!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Nick T View Post

                      I laughed (appreciatively) at your "dinner on the left, lunch in the middle..." etc comment, thinking "that's ORGANIZED". I often start out with good intentions, organizing-wise, but sometimes, after the first meal the plan disintegrates. (Hurriedly placing items back into the cooler "wherever" etc). The yoga mats ---- are they made of the same foam material as pool noodles? I like that idea of adding the layers of yoga mats to help seal in the cold. Smart!
                      No they are a little less pores. Yeah I am not anal organized because details are hard for me. I'm more of a big picture kind of guy. But after doing this for a while, I realized this was the way to keep it colder longer. I learned this whole process from the Grand Canyon Raft outfitters. That is what they do but they use block ice. I just replaced it with the frozen water because we have to bring water to the everglades. I loaded a pic of the matt. Click image for larger version

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                      Attached Files

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                      • #12
                        Sorry about 3 pics. Trying to learn this forum

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                        • #13
                          I've been using Coleman Xtremes. I took a 50 quart and a 70 for one trip. It was in the 90s. They did pretty well in shade, but i did add ice once over five days. I kept a wet towel over the 50. I don't open them very often. A 50 fits on the trailer rack by the truck box, but it is scarcely big enough. I don't have room for a second cooler, so I plan to try an Rtic cooler if it fits. I have removed the truck box and will use an Action Packer for miscellaneous stuff to make room for the bigger cooler. If the Rtic fits, it will be very close if it can open. It isn't a lot bigger inside but should use less ice. Such problems! People seem to be happy with the Rtic, and i settled on it due to size and price.

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                          • #14
                            Here's an update on my posting from January 2021. I lamented about the problem with my Norcold 12 volt refrigerator that came stock with my TAG stating that when operating off-grid solely on the RV battery(s) the refrigerator would draw so much power at the initial start-up that the battery voltage would dip below the low-voltage cut-off and would therefore shut down. In my 1/21 post, I declared the solution was to install a audio capacitor to eliminate the problem. During a recent 29 day road trip, I found (to my dismay) the capacitor helped but did not totally prevent the low-voltage cut off problem. I did, quite fortunately, meet a fellow on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC who provided a suggestion that has proved to solve the problem entirely - or at least for a five day period relying only on the batteries with no other electrical input!

                            The solution was to purchase a relatively small solar generator (240 watt Jackery - Amazon - $160). I have configured the electrical input to the refrigerator as follows: I cut the original power cord from the camper to the refrigerator (located behind the refrigerator) and attached the power supply wires to a female 12 volt receptacle that I mounted in the galley cabinet. I then plugged the solar generator into the female receptacle. I then attached a 12 volt male plug to the power cord for the refrigerator and plug it into the solar generator which is also in the galley cabinet. The end result is that the solar generator powers the refrigerator and delivers steady current (even at start-up) and the RV battery(s) keep the solar generator charged.The Jackery is a "pass-through" unit meaning that it can receive a charge while providing power. So, whether completely relying on battery power, solar power, or getting a recharge from the towing vehicle, the refrigerator works perfectly and the solar generator stays charged. In an additional test, the 240 watt Jackery will power the fridge for about 12-24 hours by its self. And of course, when plugged in to 110 volt, the solar generator stay fully charged.

                            Iv'e uploaded a couple of photos to help illustrate. Click image for larger version

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