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Cooler Use 101: Get the Best Ice Retention from Your Cooler

  • 5 min read
You got a Pelican Elite Cooler because you heard it was the best cooler for ice retention. But now you want to know how to keep ice in the cooler longer. If you want to get the best ice retention from your Pelican cooler, then you need to know all about ice. And it’s not just about how much ice you use in your cooler—you also need to know the advantages of block ice vs. cubed ice, how to use dry ice, and more. Who knew there was so much to consider about ice?

Use the Right Amount—The 2:1 Ice Ratio

The first rule for best ice retention is the 2:1 ice to goods ratio. You should always use twice as much ice as you have goods in your cooler. It seems like overkill, but it’s not. Remember, your cooler doesn’t create cold, it just maintains cold. So following the 2:1 ice ratio ensures your Pelican cooler will always be the best cooler for ice retention. Heck, any high performance cooler will see improved ice retention when you use the 2:1 ice ratio.

Use the Right Kind of Ice

So now that you know how much ice to use in your cooler, it’s time to consider what kind of ice to fill it with. That’s right. All ice is cold, but it’s not all created equal. So what are the options you have when it comes to ice?

Block Ice vs. Cubed Ice

Start with the basics. Frozen water (sometimes called wet ice to distinguish it from dry ice—which we’ll get to in a bit) comes in many different shapes. But the main shapes you should think about are block ice vs. cubed ice. Both blocks and cubes are really useful in your mission to improve your Pelican’s ice retention, and with a little planning you can use both to the best effect!
A person holding a bag of cubed ice while standing next to an open Pelican Elite Cooler.

Pre-Chill with Cubed Ice

As you know, when it is time to pack your high performance cooler, you need to pre-chill it for 12–24 hours. In a head-to-head match up of block ice vs. cubed ice to pre-chill your cooler as quickly as possible, cubed ice is the winner with no doubts. Pre-chilling pulls the stored thermal energy out of your cooler’s insulation (in other words, it cools down the insulation). Because ice cubes will melt faster, they’ll pull the thermal energy out of your cooler’s insulation faster. Just put in 10–20 pounds of ice cubes (depending on how big your cooler is), and boom: pre-chilled cooler!

Block Ice for Best Ice Retention Longevity

If cubed ice is best for pre-chilling because it melts faster, then it follows that block ice is best for ice retention longevity because it melts slower. However, in a block ice vs. cubed ice match up, there are other reasons to choose block ice too! It’s more compact, which means the same amount of ice will take up less space in your cooler. Plus the more compact shape will be easier to pack around.

Combined Power of Block Ice and Cubed Ice

Of course, to get the best ice retention from your cooler, you shouldn’t get caught up on block ice vs. cubed ice. Instead, you should use both block ice and cubed ice! Each one has advantages, and by using both, you’ll extend your cooler’s ice retention further than you even meant to. Pre-chill your cooler with cubed ice. Then empty it out, layer the bottom with block ice, and pack your cooler, being sure to add layers of cubed ice and fill in any open spaces with more cubed ice so that you are following the 2:1 ice ratio. You’ll get the best of both worlds.

How to Get Enough Ice to Fill Your Cooler

Since you’ll be using both block ice and cubed ice, it’s time to take a moment to think about how you’ll get it. Some freezers have ice makers that will churn out ice cubes you can use, but will it produce enough for you to follow the 2:1 ice ratio? Heck, not every freezer even has an ice-maker, and who has the time or space to freeze tray after tray of ice cubes? So it may be more time effective to swing by the grocery store and buy 10lb or 20lb bags of ice.

Buying block ice is more difficult to do. However, it’s easy to make by filling a cheap plastic storage container with water and popping it in the fridge. And just like the compact nature of block ice helps to save room in your cooler, it also helps to save room in your freezer. Heck, there are easy cooler hacks to create extra block ice that will keep your cooler cold at the start of your adventure and then be usable water as they melt. Who’s ready to freeze some water bottles?
A person pulling a 5lb Pelican Ice pack out of a Pelican Elite Cooler. There is ice frozen all over the reusable ice pack.

Reduce & Reuse: Pelican Ice

If you want to give your block ice a power up, then you need Pelican Ice! These reusable ice packs are the easiest way to extend your Pelican’s ice retention. Why? Well, for starters, Pelican Ice freezes at 28°F—that’s 4° colder than ice. It may not sound like much, but when you see the ice cubes in your cooler freeze to your Pelican Ice instead of melting, you’ll understand just how much those 4° matter. Pelican Ice is also the best choice for extending your Pelican’s ice retention because they’re designed to fit perfectly in Pelican’s many coolers. Whether you have a Dayventure Soft Cooler, a core Elite Cooler, or one of the Elite Wheeled Coolers, you’ll find a Pelican Ice that works perfectly for it.

How to Use Dry Ice in a Cooler

Want to know how to keep ice in a cooler for the longest time possible? It's one of the most commonly asked FAQs about Pelican coolers. And the answer is to learn how to use dry ice in a cooler. To start with, always make sure to follow these rules for dry ice safety:
  • Do not handle dry ice directly. Use protective gloves or oven mitts when handling dry ice.
  • Ventilation is a must!
  • Your cooler needs to be able to vent the sublimating carbon dioxide gas. Pelican Elite Coolers have a gap in the gasket to allow for this, but other high performance coolers may need to have the lid left cracked open or the drain plug open to act as a vent.
  • Make sure the area where you’re using the cooler with dry ice is also well ventilated. Roll down your car windows to avoid a dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide gas while you’re driving. Better yet, store the cooler outside the car on a trailer, in the truck bed, or tied to the roof.
  • Most importantly, DO NOT use dry ice in Pelican soft coolers. These coolers are designed to be leak-proof and the buildup of gas inside them could cause an explosion.
So to create a deep freeze that will maximize your Pelican’s ice retention, you’ll want to use the dry ice very similarly to how you would use block ice. Be sure to keep the dry ice out of direct contact with the cooler by using a layer of cardboard, a dishtowel, or even a few paper grocery bags. Place the dry ice at the bottom of your cooler and cover it with another protective layer before adding cubed ice and your goods. In no time you’ll be ready to transport ice cream, popsicles, and more, because you know how to use dry ice in your cooler.

Now Prove that You have the Best Cooler for Ice Retention

You have the high performance Pelican cooler. You know to follow the 2:1 ice to goods ratio. You know about the different kinds of ice and how to keep ice in your cooler longer. So it’s time to go out adventuring and put your cooler through a real world ice retention challenge. How long will you go? Find out!
An open Pelican Elite Cooler filled with drinks, ice and two 5lb Pelican Ice packs.

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