Pack a Cooler

How to Pack a Cooler

If you have ever wondered how to pack a cooler for a weekend trip or a picnic then you have come to the right place! Learn to pack like a pro by following our helpful tips and tricks on how to organize and pack your cooler to keep your food cold and safe. 

  • Packing an Insulated Cooler
    Packing an Insulated Cooler
  • How to Pack an Insulated Cooler

    1. Line the bottom with frozen ice packs.
    2. Place raw meat directly on top of ice packs. If this meat is not going to be cooked that day, it should be frozen and put into sealable plastic bags in a flat layer. Add more ice packs on top, if there is room. 
    3. The next layer is eggs, dairy and other perishable foods. Make sure all liquids are in sealed jars or plastic containers that don’t leak. 
    4. Next, layer in fruits and vegetables. Put lighter and more delicate ones on top.
    5. If you are only packing one cooler and will need beverages before the food in your cooler, tuck bottles and cans into open spaces near the top. Try not to crush anything else.

The 2 Hour Rule

It is important to follow the 2 hour rule when “dining” outdoors. The 2 hour rule states that all perishable or frozen foods must be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of being at room temperature or outdoors. If the weather is hot, more than 27°C (80°F), reduce that time to 1 hour and use your cooler. Any perishable foods that have been left outdoors for longer than these times should be discarded.


  • Clean your cooler by washing with water and dish detergent; rinse and dry. If something has spilled in the cooler and you need to disinfect it, wash and then use a disinfecting spray or 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach in 4 cups of water.
  • Plan your menu so that perishable foods will be eaten, not leftover, and will not have to go back into the cooler.
  • Use clean reusable ice packs. They are available in many sizes and often are more efficient at keeping temperatures colder.
  • Only put cold food into the cooler; pre-chill all items. Coolers are made to help keep food cool, not to cool them down.
  • Freeze bottles of water or juice boxes to act as cooler packs. Then drink the contents after they melt.
  • Wash and prepare fruits and vegetables at home. Package foods in re-sealable plastic bags or containers. This will keep bugs and dirt out and prevent cross-contamination from other foods.
  • A full cooler keeps its cold temperature longer than a partly filled one. Empty spaces can be filled with clean towels.
  • Use more than one cooler. Keep one just for beverages and snacks as this one can be opened more frequently.
  • Open the cooler as little as possible and close it right away.
  • Always store your cooler in the coolest possible place when camping or picnicking. Keep it in the shade and cover it with blankets. In the car, keep out of direct sunlight by using a blanket or sleeping bag.
  • Clean after use and store with the lid open for a few days. This will ensure that your cooler is dry and will help to remove food odours.