How to Use Dry Ice in a Cooler

Does it annoy you to have to reach to the bottom of a cooler filled with freezing cold water? Are you planning a long trip and need to keep items frozen? Dry ice is an alternative to traditional ice cubes which melt and hide your cooler’s contents. If you have the right type of cooler for dry ice, it can be a great addition to your camping trips. Read below to discover how to use dry ice in a cooler and what coolers are compatible.

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See Our Experiment: Dry Ice Vs Block Ice Vs Cubed Ice

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What is Dry Ice?

Traditional ice is formed through freezing water, which over time will melt and turn back into water. Dry ice is carbon dioxide. The same gas that you breathe out when you exhale and it is also responsible for the fizzy stuff in your soda. What most people do not realize is that it is also very cold. Dry ice temperature can average about negative 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest difference between ice is that it does not liquefy as it warms. It simply becomes a gas that fades away in a [sometimes] smoky way. Often times you may see it transform into smoke when it is exposed to heat. This is simply the reaction of the gas being released rapidly into the air and not a cause for concern.

Dry Ice For A Cooler

This is why it makes a great addition to coolers. You eliminate the water from ice melt. It simply evaporates when you release the gases into the air by opening your cooler. However, you should know ahead of time that there are specific ways for you to use dry ice and handle it as well. We were recently contacted by a reader that suggested that we also include important information regarding dry ice and when it sublimes it becomes carbon dioxide (CO2). There have been several studies showing that enough dry ice in a sealed environment (like a car) can displace the oxygen as the dry ice sublimes. When using dry ice take extra caution with not only handling dry ice but also take extra precautions to ensure environments where stored are adequately ventilated.

How to Use Dry Ice?

Before you run out and buy a cooler or a lot of dry ice, you should be aware of the fact that dry ice is best for freezing items. You may want to put items such as meat not to be used for days in the cooler that has dry ice. The negative 109 degrees temperature is very far below freezing. This is why most mail-orderered meats comes packaged this way.

Dry ice does not last very long, even in an approved dry ice cooler. You should expect to replace the ice or have your cooler’s contents thaw out after about a day. This largely depends on how much dry ice you have in the cooler and how frequent the cooler is opened. You will also keep contents cold longer by putting dry ice on top instead of on the bottom of your cooler. Lastly, opening the cooler as little as possible will prolong the lifespan of dry ice.

Approved Dry Ice Coolers: 

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Yeti Tundra
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Pelican ProGear
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Grizzly Coolers
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Engel Deep Blue
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Igloo Yukon
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Yeti Roadie
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Yeti Tank
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ORCA Coolers
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Coleman Marine
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Looking For Other Coolers⇒ Full Cooler Comparison Chart

You should wear gloves, preferably leather ones, on your hands to protect your skin from contact with the freezing temperature of dry ice. This will prevent you from getting burned by the dry ice. Freezing cold burns are similar to heat burns and can be just as painful and scaring. You can then wrap the dry ice in newspaper or other material to keep it cold longer. You should also keep in mind that when you put dry ice in an unvented cooler, if airtight, may expand and in some cases, explode.

Make Sure Gas Can Escape Cooler!

When packing a cooler with dry ice, you will notice that dry ice is purchased by the pound. It is often sold in one pound blocks. If you have a cooler that is 48 quarts you will most likely need to purchase two blocks for a 24 hour period.

Choosing a Dry Ice Cooler

You may choose to use the cooler you already have if you’re wanting to use dry ice. However, you may need to add blankets or newspapers to the cooler to ensure that the dry ice stays cold as long as possible. It is also important to keep in mind that your cooler must be full. Dry ice works best by limiting empty space inside the cooler. Of course, make sure that your cooler is dry ice compatible. YetiTundra35

There are many coolers that are designed to work with dry ice. They are often built sturdier than other coolers. Some may have more insulation in the cooler walls as well as other features that make them more effective at holding dry ice. Read Our Cooler Reviews or consult the table above to find a cooler compatible with Dry Ice.

Full Cooler Comparison Chart