Whether you’re a camper or not, you’re familiar with coolers. They come in different shapes (mostly rectangle), sizes, and materials like Styrofoam and plastic. They’re sitting in your garage, at your uncle’s barbecue party, or in a car on its way to a picnic somewhere. What if we told you there’s more to coolers than being stuffed with ice and catering to your thirst on a hot day? What if you could make retro cakes with them or help the world save energy? Now that we have your attention, here are 4 cooler uses and hacks you didn’t know you needed.

Your cooler’s literally a fridge.

There’s a reason why we used to call refrigerators iceboxes way before they operated on household electricity. Now that the words icebox or chilly bin, depending on where you’re from, have a closer meaning to the modern polyethelene plastic cooler than that tall magnet-coated box standing on your kitchen right now, it’s easy to forget some small but significant details. When you go camping, you can take a fridge with you instead of a box full of ice (which will melt and make your food float desolately back and forth, not to mention fill up space faster). Rather than placing your provisions directly on ice, organize your cooler in different sections with racks and store your food in mini baskets on them. Get the racks that are around 5 inches off the bottom of the cooler so you can fill enough ice under them (or think 1/3 of the entire box).

Here are some more useful tips:

  • Block ice > ice cubes.
  • If you’re a fond of your protein, it’s better to store canned or processed meats rather than fresh meat in your portable fridge.
  • Make sure those canned meats and other items are pre-cooled over night.
  • Store your food and drinks in two separate coolers. Chances are you’ll open the cooler for the drinks more often than the food and you don’t want the warmer air outside get in so much to melt the ice faster than necessary!
  • Speaking of ice melting, if your cooler has a drain, keep it closed except when you really need to drain water out. Having a bit of water isn’t that bad, though. Anything is better than the outside temperature getting in.
  • You have baskets and all but don’t forget to use your space wisely. A cooler packed to the brim will preserve the ice longer. See that room down there? Can a tube of mayonnaise fit?

With a cooler, you’ll find desserts in a treat-less place.

S’mores may be your favorite but it ain’t the only camping treat around! Take your outdoor experience up a notch with refreshing easy-to-make desserts like mini trifles and “icebox” cakes. Often when you stock up your cooler for camping, there won’t be enough space left for ready-to-eat meals. So when all you can take is fresh produce, optimize your box and think about dessert! Bring along a canned whipped cream and some berries. Of course, you’ll also need small cups, Graham crackers/sponge fingers, Nutella, fruit preserves, and other preferred toppings, but they don’t need to stay in the cooler. (Refrigerating Nutella is a sin, by the way).

It’ll only take roughly 2 hours to prepare — 15 minutes to layer your ingredients, another 1.45 hours for the treats to cool in your recently unloaded icebox. Now after a campfire dinner, you have retro treats perfect for the whole family.

A cooler makes fishing “cool” again.

While on an outing, what could be more all-American than a man’s taking his kids on a fishing boat? But dads, don’t just fantasize about your son’s first catch or those ~manly~ beers and forget to bring back something for dinner. This is why, beside fishing essentials like a rod, bait, tackle bag, and cold drinks, a cooler may be a no-brainer, too. Transporting the fish in a drink bucket is fine and all but a cooler is a much more convenient alternative. With the box’s proper insulation, your catch will be kept fresh. And if you need to drive back to your cabin or campsite, rest assured that the smell of fish won’t stink your car.

You can make an air conditioner out of a cooler.

Sure, it’s fall and everyone’s hyping about the warmth of seasonal lattes and knitted sweaters, but summer heat will return soon enough and there’s no harm in getting to grips with this next hack while there’s still time. Beat the dog days of August in a matter of minutes with a mini DIY air conditioner, especially when you’re a college students living in a AC-less dorm room or a sensible person who wants to save on the electric bill. You’ll need:

  • A plastic or styrofoam cooler
  • A big block of of ice or frozen bottles water
  • A small fan (12 VDC 10W 0.8.)
  • A small PVC pipe
  • A solar panel (15 watt) or a battery
  • An electric screwdriver or a knife

Now follow this complete and easy instruction video below. (Kudos to the channel for this upload!)

If you have any more “cooler” tips to add, tell us below.

 

*Palm Coolers is not affiliated with Coleman.