Icebox and Fridge Hacks – What You Need to Know
Fresh food and icy-cold drinks are must-have items when you're on a camping holiday, fishing trip or enjoying a picnic in the great outdoors. The way to keep everything cool and avoid food spoilage is with an icebox or 12v camping fridge. But you don't even need the best camping fridge or icebox to get the job done - you just need to know how to use your equipment wisely.
A portable electric fridge can be a heavy investment for camping beginners. Likewise, some of the best fishing and picnicking spots in Australia don't have access to mains power so, even if you have purchased the best icebox in the market, it's still important to know the hacks for keeping your food and drinks as cold as possible, for as long as possible.
Reducing the workload of every camping fridge or icebox and extending its cool factor is easy. No matter what the weather, the following simple hacks will ensure you still enjoy cold drinks and tasty food without running the risk of draining an energy source or spending a fortune on constant trips to and from your camp spot to the nearest petrol station for bags of ice.
Seal the deal
Before getting excited about hacks for your icebox or fridge, the first thing you should do when preparing for your outing is to check the seals of your icebox or camp fridge. A reliable seal is the best energy-saving measure because it keeps the cold in, and cuts down on the energy required to ensure the contents of your icebox or fridge stay colder and fresher for longer. Without a tight seal, it doesn't matter what tips or tricks you use, even the best icebox or camp fridge won't be able to do its job properly.
Similarly, trying to avoid opening and closing the lid of your fridge or icebox more often than necessary is a very simple tip for keeping the cold air in your icebox for longer.
It pays to pre-chill
Putting items into your fridge pre-chilled is one of the easiest and no-nonsense icebox hacks you're likely to come across. If the items are already cold, your icebox won't have to work as hard to chill the contents in the first place. Consequently, it makes it easier to keep them colder for longer without having to replace the ice.
When choosing ice for your icebox, stay away from party ice or petrol station ice, unless you can't avoid it. This kind of ice melts too quickly, which means it isn't really great value for money. Party ice is fine as a last-minute top-up and will do a good job of pinch-hitting if the contents of your fridge or icebox are already cold.
Using block or dry ice instead of party ice is a much better hack. If you can, consider getting a block of dry ice from places like BOC, Supagas or Air Liquide. Wrap the ice in newspaper to avoid direct contact with your skin and it should last you for three to four days.
Drink bottles or plastic bottles like empty soft drink, milk or juice containers, or even plastic ice cream containers, can double as great, cost-effective ice blocks. Along with keeping everything in your icebox or fridge from perishing, the beauty of using plastic containers is they can double as a source of fresh drinking water once they've defrosted. Freeze them for at least 48 hours to three weeks in advance of your trip if you can. Basically, the longer they've been frozen, the lower the temperature they'll be at, and the longer they'll last in the wild.
If your camping area has a kitchen with a communal fridge, putting the defrosted water bottles in the freezer means you'll have ice blocks ready for when it's time to head home.
As well as block ice, gel cooling packs and ice packs also perform better than servo ice. Because of their flexibility, gel packs can be folded around food or positioned in places where block ice might not be able to otherwise reach.
Packing with precision
There are some great hacks you can deploy when it comes to packing your icebox or fridge to keep everything colder for longer. Frozen packages of food and meats - which can also double as additional ice packs - should go at the bottom of your icebox where the temperature is coldest, then they won't be impacted too much by constant opening and closing of your icebox lid or fridge door.
If you're using servo ice, place your drinks or food (which you will have pre-chilled) in your icebox first and then empty your bag of ice over them, not the other way around. Remember, the base of your fridge/icebox is coldest, so that's where your food and drinks need to be.
Throw some shade and feel free to vent
Keeping your fridge or icebox out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources is a must. Although the ambient temperature inside your icebox will be lower than the external air temperature, it can do with all the help it can get to keep things cooler for longer, so always put your icebox or fridge in a shaded area. If you're camping or picnicking by a lake or at the beach, submerging your icebox in water is a great tip for keeping things cooler for longer.
Ventilation is another handy hack. If you're running a powered fridge, the compressor pumps out warm air. Making sure there's plenty of space for this heat to escape from your fridge results in better efficiency.
The more, the merrier
Many seasoned campers, as well as those who take their picnicking seriously, swear by having more than one icebox or fridge at their disposal. Why? Having one icebox for food and one for drinks saves the icebox being opened all the time to remove beverages, especially if you've got thirsty kids in your camping party.
A second - or even a third - fridge on a fishing trip could be used exclusively for keeping that day's haul as fresh as the moment you caught it until you make it back to camp (or home) for a delicious evening seafood meal.
Drawing from our host of hacks, tips and tricks means you can ease the workload on your icebox and ensure tasty food and refreshingly cold drinks across a range of weather conditions, without spending huge sums of money.