How To Use Dry Ice in Your Cooler Safely

How To Use Dry Ice in Your Cooler Safely

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you know the importance of a properly packed cooler. You don’t want to waste your time outdoors worrying about whether or not your food will spoil.

If your cooler isn’t packed properly or you don’t have enough ice, your contents will not stay fresh as long as intended. Using dry ice in place of wet ice when packing your cooler may elevate your outdoor experience. Dry ice can keep your food fresher and help your cooler do what it was built to do. 

What Is Dry Ice? 

Dry ice is the name used for solidified, frozen carbon dioxide. The making of dry ice includes liquefying carbon dioxide gas and freezing it. Carbon dioxide must be compressed and cooled to turn it from a gas to a liquid. Once the carbon dioxide has liquefied, the pressure is lowered. 

Slowly, the carbon dioxide begins to harden into something resembling snow. This is then placed into molds and frozen to create an ice block or smaller cubes. 

What Is the Difference Between Dry and Wet Ice?

There are a few differences between wet and dry ice. The main difference is that when dry ice heats up, it returns to a gaseous state rather than a liquid. The process of going from a solid to a gas is called sublimation. Essentially, dry ice does not melt the way that wet ice does. 

Dry ice is also made from carbon dioxide (CO2), while wet ice is made from freezing water (H2O). Carbon dioxide is made into dry ice at temperatures of -100 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Wet ice, on the other hand, can form into a solid at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Therefore, another big difference between wet and dry ice is that dry ice is much colder. 

What Are the Advantages of Using Dry Ice?

Here are a few advantages of using dry ice over wet ice that comes from dry ice’s composition: 

Dry Ice Lasts Longer 

As we’ve mentioned before, dry ice does not melt but turns directly into a gas when it heats up. This saves you the trouble of emptying your cooler of that leftover lukewarm water at the end of your camping trip or outdoor adventure. 

As wet ice melts in your cooler, the water can accelerate the melting of the rest of the ice. Therefore, using wet ice in your cooler means you have to empty the water frequently to prevent faster melting and your food from spoiling. 

Since dry ice does not melt, you won’t need to worry about water filling your cooler and causing the remaining ice to melt as well. You can rest assured knowing that your ice will last for a long time and will result in less clean-up afterward. A block of dry ice can last on average up to 24 hours in a vented cooler. 

Dry Ice Freezes the Cooler’s Contents

Dry ice does not just keep things cool as wet ice does; it freezes them. This is specifically important for camping trips that include bringing raw meat or ice cream. Dry ice will keep your meat fresh until you are ready to thaw and cook it while keeping ice cream frozen and ready to enjoy. 

Dry Ice Helps Preserve Wet Ice

Another advantage to dry ice is that it can be combined with wet ice. Dry ice not only keeps your cooler and its contents frozen but it extends the life of your wet ice. Combining wet and dry ice can be a great idea for long camping trips where you need to keep your food fresh for longer periods of time. 

What Are the Dangers Associated With Dry Ice?

While dry ice has a number of advantages, there are a few things to be aware of before handling dry ice. 

First, dry ice’s extreme temperatures can cause frostbite or burn your skin when handled with bare hands. Another danger of dry ice is that too much carbon dioxide gas in a non-ventilated space may result in suffocation. 

However, these dangers can be easily avoided if dry ice is handled properly by a qualified and careful individual.

If you aren’t looking to deal with the hassle of dry ice, there’s a simple solution. Check out Rotomolded Hard-Sided Coolers that preserve ice for up to ten days. 

Safety Tips for Handling Dry Ice

In order to ensure safety when handling dry ice, there are a few measures to take

Wear Gloves

First of all, gloves must be worn when handling dry ice. You should also wear long sleeves when handling dry ice to prevent any opportunities for your skin from coming into contact with the ice. This will protect you from any burns or potential frostbite. 

Wrap It in Newspaper 

Second, you will want to wrap dry ice in newspaper before placing it inside your cooler. This will keep it from coming in contact with the food and drinks in your cooler and your cooler walls. Plus, it might freeze the food you’re planning on eating later, resulting in you missing your lunch.

If dry ice comes into contact with the walls of your cooler, it can cause damage to the material. Wrapping your dry ice in some newspaper will also protect your hands when reaching into the cooler to access food and drink. 

Place Dry Ice at the Top of Your Cooler

Since dry ice cannot come in contact with cooler walls, you’ll want to place dry ice on top of your food and drinks instead of at the bottom of your cooler. This will protect your cooler and extend its life. 

Ensure Proper Ventilation 

Lastly, when traveling with your cooler full of dry ice, you will want to make sure that your vehicle is properly ventilated. As we have mentioned, one of the dangers of dry ice is that it can cause suffocation in extreme cases if left in a space with little ventilation. If you are traveling with your cooler in the car, driving with the windows down may help promote proper ventilation. 

One other possible concern is pressure building inside the cooler. You’ll want to loosen the drain plug to release built-up pressure. An overloaded cooler combined with excess pressure can not only damage the cooler but potentially cause serious injury. 

Where Can I Buy Dry Ice?

Dry ice is not as readily available as wet ice but can still be located at most grocery stores. You may want to call ahead to ensure that they carry dry ice before venturing out. 

Since dry ice is generally kept in a separate location from traditional wet ice, you’ll likely need to request the help of a grocery store associate. 

Safety First

There are many advantages to using dry ice when packing a cooler. While dry ice can last longer and keep cooler contents frozen, you’ll want to make sure to follow certain safety precautions to ensure proper handling. 



What is Dry Ice? | Department of Health

Frostbite- Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic

How Does Dry Ice Work? | HowStuffWorks

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