You need great camping tips to enjoy hot summer outings and avoid getting bummed out from blistering temperatures. Knowing how to keep drinks cold when camping is key for beating the heat with a frosty beverage whether it is cold water, soda, beer or your favorite cocktail!
There is nothing worse than a hot drink when you are parched and ready for a cold, refreshing concoction to quench your thirst on a sizzling summer day.
Tips For Keeping Camping Drinks Cold
Keeping your drinks cold at the campsite…
- starts at home,
- continues during transportation to your site, and
- while you are at camp.
Keeping Drinks Cold At Home
Start the cooling process before you ever leave your house.
Tip #1 Make ice blocks yourself.
The bigger the block ice chunk, the longer it lasts before melting.
But it also takes up more space so there is a balance.
I like to make ice blocks in my freezer at home by filling plastic food containers that are approximately 4x4x2 inches then use regular ice cubes to fill in the little gaps to eliminate hot air pockets inside the cooler.
Plan far enough in advance to fully freeze the blocks and leave expansion room when filling the containers.
When you are ready to pack your camping cooler for your trip, use the blocks to line the bottom of the cooler and place them in layers between the beverages.
Tip #2 Freeze your water bottles.
If you freeze your drinking water at home, you can use it as “ice” in your drink and food coolers … as it melts throughout the trip it will be ready for drinking.
Tip #3 Freeze your freezable drinks.
Did you know milk can be frozen?
Consider freezing milk, juice, mixed drinks (like vodka and lemonade) and other non-carbonated beverages before leaving home … make sure the containers have room for expansion so they don’t crack.
Then, when you get to camp, leave them in the cooler as long as possible but don’t forget to leave enough time for defrosting so they are drinkable when you are ready to consume them.
Tip #4 Make large ice cubes.
When you use ice to cool down a drink in a glass, if you use large cubes they will last longer … and not water down your drink.
So, make large ice cubes at home and place them in plastic freezer bags to keep them clean.
They will act as ice to keep your cooler cold as well as be used for drink ice during your trip.
Tip #5 Pre-chill your drinks and coolers.
Your cooler ice will melt crazy-fast if you put warm drinks into warm coolers so just pre-chill both the day before you depart so they have an edge on the melting process and stay cold longer.
Thanks to Janeene for the tip she shared in her comment: Make sure the cooler is in a cool house (rather than a hot garage) for your pre-chilling.
Tip #6 Use TWO drink coolers.
You should have one smaller cooler that has enough drinks for the day and a larger cooler that contains the drinks for your entire trip.
Once you get to camp, the larger “long-term storage cooler” should only be opened once a day to restock the smaller “day cooler” that will be opened multiple times every day.
Tip #7 Organize your cooler.
When you pack and restock your coolers, if you keep them organized you will be able to quickly open your cooler, grab what you need and close the lid.
For example, you may want to keep the beer on the left, sodas on the right, milk, juice and water in the middle.
Tip #8 Use re-freezable ice packs.
If you have a freezer at the campsite (like in an RV or a freezer box you can plug into a power source) you can refreeze ice coolers as necessary throughout your trip.
If we don’t have enough room in our RV freezer or are tent camping, we use dry ice in a cooler to keep re-freezable ice packs, frozen food and drinks frozen. Learn more about this and how to pack a cooler for maximum efficiency.
Tip #9 Use a well-insulated cooler.
The better the cooler, the more insulation it has, the longer it will keep ice from melting and your drinks cold.
Tip #10 Add extra insulation to your cooler.
If you don’t have a really good cooler, you can enhance its insulation aspect by adding more insulation to it.
Here are several ways to add insulation to your camp cooler:
- On the outside: Wrap the cooler in a wet blanket or beach towel and re-wet it as it dries. As the water evaporates it will chill the cooler.
- On the inside: Place a mat over your cold stuff to protect it from the air gap between your drinks and the cooler lid. You can use something like reusable ice mats or even reflective foil insulation.
Keeping Drinks Cold On The Road
Continue cooling while in transit.
Tip #11 Keep your cooler protected during transportation.
Don’t let the drive to the campsite rob your drinks of the pre-cooling you did.
- If you have room inside an air-conditioned vehicle, that is the best choice,
- a shaded un-air-conditioned RV storage compartment or trunk is the next best choice,
- the bed of a truck or outside cargo area that is exposed to hot sunlight and asphalt temperatures is the most undesirable option.
Keeping Drinks Cold At Camp
These are the best tips and hacks for keeping your coolers cold at the campsite (#18 is my favorite!)
Tip #12 Keep coolers in a cool, shaded location.
Direct sunlight and hot surfaces (like concrete and asphalt) are enemies of your camp coolers!
Find a location that is protected and plan on moving the cooler throughout the day, if necessary.
Tip #13 Keep the cooler closed.
One of the most important things you can do to keep your drinks cold is trap the cold in … and … keep the heat out of your cooler by keeping the lid closed as much as possible.
Here are a couple of ways you can do that:
- Take orders. If 5 campers are getting toward the end of their drink and all need a refill, act like a good waiter and take orders … go into the cooler and grab all 5 drinks at one time and close the lid as quickly as possible.
- Illuminate your cooler contents. A cooler light will help you find what you are looking for in the dark so you can avoid keeping the lid open for extended periods of time to search for the drink you want. I like the kind that stick to the inside cooler lid and automatically turn on when the lid is opened and turn off when the lid is closed.
Tip #14 Keep your coolers full.
When there is empty space inside a cooler it gets filled with warm air so pack it tightly and keep it filled.
Tip #15 Bury the cooler.
You know how basements are cooler in the summer than the rooms above ground level?
Well, the insulation factor of the soil makes burying your cooler a great option to protect it from the warmer air temperatures of hot summer days.
If you bury your cooler, keep it in a shady location and only bury it deep enough to keep the lid exposed and operational.
It is best to cover the lid with a wet towel for an additional cooling factor.
Tip #16 Cool your drinks in bodies of water.
If you are camping near a stream, river or lake that has water that is colder than the outside air temperature, you can submerge your drinks to cool them … a mesh bag works well for this.
If you fully submerge the drinks, they will be cooled in about 10 – 20 minutes.
Personally speaking, this is one of my favorite camping hacks we used to chill our beer in the Merced River which is one of the best places to hang out in Yosemite National Park … check out our top 10 things to do in Yosemite and see the video!
Tip #17 Only restock with pre-cooled drinks.
If you need to restock your cooler during your trip, use pre-cooled drinks.
Take drinks out of their packaging and use the water cooling method we discussed in Tip #18 above if you are camped near water … if not … set them in a cool location overnight.
In the morning, place them in your long-term storage cooler in the organized way we discussed in Tip #7.
Tip #18 Use foam beverage sleeves aka koozies.
If you are drinking from cans or bottles, a koozie will keep your beverages cold, eliminating the need to steal drink ice from your cooler.
Tip #19 Cocktail shaker drinks.
Do you know how to make an insanely cold cocktail?
You shake it in a stainless steel cocktail shaker!
You won’t have to keep refilling your glass with ice if you shake your drinks in one of these cool gizmos.
Cold Drink Cocktail Recipes
If you want to try some new and exciting camping drink recipes, we’ve got them!
Some are boozy, some are virgin and others can be made either with or without alcohol!
How To Keep Food Cold While Camping
If you are concerned about keeping your perishable foods and other temperature sensitive food items cold on your trips, we have an entire post to teach you how to keep food cold while camping, whether you are in a tent or RV.
You should also check out these food safety tips and the best way to pack food for camping to avoid cross contamination and dangerously warm food temperatures.
Camping Food To Serve With Your Cold Drinks
When you are sipping on your icy cold beverages, you may want to nibble on something or enjoy a full-fledged meal.