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Cooler vs 12 Volt: Tips on Keeping a Cooler Cold Longer

I’ve had this 12-volt electric cooler for a LONG time now. You can read the full review of it here: Van life without a fridge? And is an electric cooler worth it?. The short version is that it’s a cooler that can be plugged into a cigarette plug or a wall socket.

It’s great for trips to campsites where I know I’ll have electric hookups.

But…

But, but, but…

Y’all know that this van is my daily driver. The drive from my house to work takes about 15 minutes. Not long enough to cool this thing up for a full day in the sun. I *thought* it would be good to keep a week’s worth of lunch in and save myself the hassle of hitting a fast food drive through.

That’s simply not the case.

Again, it’s a great electric cooler! Great for JUST camping. In short, I needed something else. With $20 and a wish to build a dream on, I purchased this Igloo 36 can cooler from Walmart.

Gotta tell ya, I’m loving it.

Usually, I just load her up with those reusable blue freezer blocks that you can pick up for a few bucks. I have a freezer full of ’em and just switch them out.

Ice?

I only put in ice if I’ve completely spaced out and forgot the freezer blocks.

…like I did in this pic when I was in desperate need to keep the rum cold for an unexpected weekend in the woods.

Tip: I’ve learned not to drop ice loose in the cooler.

This leads to:

  1. A soggy mess
  2. Something that I’m now going to have to lug someplace to dump out
  3. Wet hands when digging for stuff (and yes, this is bothersome to me)

So instead, I keep big Ziploc bags in the van for ice emergencies. I dump ice in the bags to make ice blankets that line the sides and top of the cooler.

How to keep the cooler cool for 5 days?

‘Cause this a 2 day cooler, but I’m not finna change this every two days.

  • Step 1: Line the sides and top of the cooler with ice or reusable freezer pacs, as pictured above
  • Step 2: Put a piece of Reflectix on the inside lid. I imagine you’d get more mileage by wrapping the whole thing in Reflectix, but aesthetics…
  • Step 3: Keep it out of the sun. I have the 12-volt under the bed. I’m too lazy to keep switching locations, so I’ve placed the new cooler just behind the front seats. There’s a thick cover on top to protect it from the sun and trap the cool inside.

By doing this, I only have switch out the reusable packs on the weekend. I can make it to Thursday/Friday with the ice in cooler weather.

I hope this helps someone out. If you have any questions, drop them below.

2 comments on “Cooler vs 12 Volt: Tips on Keeping a Cooler Cold Longer

  1. Dude, the whole time we lived in our van we had one of those, and we did exactly the same thing! We actually stuck it right between the two front seats and put a big cushy blanket on top so our dogs could sit up front with us 😂 it worked great and didn’t cost $1000 off the bat (I’m looking at YOU, dometic).

    Also digging through loose, partially melted ice is ICKY and PAINFULLY COLD so I fully support your dislike of this 😍

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  2. Have you tried small bottles of frozen water instead of ice. I think the larger the ice the longer it takes to defrost and you also have something to drink at the end. You could also freeze one of your meals and have that the second day.
    I remember my ice melting and totally destroying the egg cartons and all the food in the containers down the bottom that were not water tight.

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