How Much Dry Ice Do I Need for a Cooler?

Car Fridges, Coolers, and Dry Ice: How to Choose and How to Use

First, let’s start with the fact that choosing the top rated camping cooler or fridge that matches your needs is vital. For example, for some long trips in hot areas, relying on icebox solely is impossible. It is very beneficial to have a mobile fridge. But you can benefit even more in some cases by using both refrigerators and coolers with dry ice. Let’s take a closer look.

Car Fridges

Car Fridges

Depending on your preferred style of camping, you can choose the type of fridge that fits your needs best. There are three main types of camping fridges and freezers, each suited to different styles of use. Here they are:

  • Compressor fridges. Their main advantage is their extreme power efficiency. They are ideally suited to a car traveling and operate well on 12v. Depending on the size of the battery in your car, such coolers can run for many hours with the car turned off. They are best for touring, solar camping, and generator camping. In a word, they are suitable for most campers.
  • Absorption fridges. These types of coolers have no moving parts and cool using refrigeration gas and the heat exchange process. Because of the way these coolers work, they are not very effective with 12v, meaning that their functionality is only suited to moving between home and the campsite. Such a fridge is a good solution for those who spend a longer period of time in one location.
  • Thermoelectric fridges. These fridges are also often referred to as cooler warmers and are similar to absorption fridges. They function using a thermoelectric plate. Because of nature, these coolers actually draw a lot of power. They are not very efficient and are able to only cool a certain amount below the ambient outside temperature that depends on the size of the thermoelectric plate. Such coolers are suitable for transporting food between hotels or between campgrounds.

Camp Coolers

Camp Coolers

Sometimes, you do not have to buy car fridges. Coolers are the no worse solution if you choose a suitable one. Before making a final decision, consider how long you want to keep foods fresh and how much you are going to carry with you. Here are five common types of coolers:

  • Cheap plastic coolers. Their main benefits are durability and resiliency. They are able to hold a large amount of food in them, and they are typically equipped with wheels or handles, so they are easily transportable.
  • Metal coolers. They have the highest durability, but they are quite heavy. Therefore, they are necessary only if you are going to do some serious activities like fishing.
  • Styrofoam cooler. They are just what they sound like. They are hard Styrofoam boxes that have removable lids which can be filled with ice. They are not as durable as the plastic ones, but they are lightweight.
  • Fabric or insulated cooler bags. These bags are a smaller format of camping coolers. They are made from a synthetic fabric with cooling packs. They do not hold cold for very long. They are suitable for those who are going to trek to their camping site on foot.
  • Electric coolers. They plug into the car and are similar to mini-fridges. They are useful if you plan to stay out in the camp for a longer period, and you have the battery power to keep it going.

Dry Ice

Dry Ice

Dry ice can successfully replace traditional ice cubes from water, which melt and make the items placed in the cooler wet. Dry ice is made through freezing carbon dioxide. It has a temperature of around -110 F degrees. Its main benefit is that it does not turn to liquid as it warms, so it allows you to avoid the water from traditional ice. It just evaporates in a smoky way.

How to Use Dry Ice

The main advantage is that it can be used with almost any cooler. But it is essential to know how to use and handle it properly.

First of all, here are some safety directions:

  • Always use gloves and wear clothes with long sleeves when you are going to come into contact with this substance.
  • Place the cooler in the trunk or another separate area while driving.
  • Store the cooler away from the tent.

Before placing it into the cooler, use a newspaper to wrap the ice. Once you’ve wrapped it, put the piece of ice on top of the food inside of the cooler. Lastly, fill it with more crumpled newspaper to leave no free space inside.

It should be mentioned that this cooling agent is not very long-lasting, even if it is used appropriately. You will likely have to replace it or deal with your foods getting warmer after around 24 hours. This significantly depends on the amount of cooling agent in the cooler and how frequently you open it.

How Much Dry Ice Is Needed

In general, 10 pounds of dry ice will last up to 24 hours in a standard 25-quart cooler. Dry ice typically sublimates at a rate of 1% per hour in the cooler. This sublimation starts from the time of purchase. Because of this, always pick up the dry ice maximally close to the time needed.

You will probably need several trial runs before you understand how much dry ice fits your particular scenario. Typically, it is always better to overshoot a bit, since it is better to have too much than not enough.

Here are approximate amounts of dry ice required for different cooler sizes and periods of time. If the cooler’s size is 25 qts., use 10 lbs. of dry ice to keep the foods cool up to 24 hours, and 15 lbs. to keep them cool up to 48 hours. If the cooler’s size is 50 qts., use 10 lbs. of dry ice to keep the products cold up to 4 hours, 15 lbs. to keep them cool up to 24 hours, and 20 lbs. to keep them cool up to 48 hours. If the cooler’s size is 100 qts., use 15 lbs. of this cooling agent to keep the items cold up to 4 hours, 20 lbs. to keep them cool up to 12 hours, 25 lbs. for 24 hours, and 35 lbs. up to 48 hours.

The above estimate amounts are a good start, but you should figure out how much dry ice you need yourself.