As anyone who has been camping for more than a night or two can attest, keeping your food supplies refrigerated long-term is not very easy. Ice cubes are effective, but after a few days you end up with your food swimming in a large amount of dirty water. Reusable ice packs of the sort used for shipping insulin or keeping injuries cold will avoid the waterlogging problem, but they only last about a day.
You can solve the problem by using mostly non-perishable foods, but there are three main disadvantages:
- Canned goods work well, but they are heavy and you end up eating canned food.
- “Regular” non-perishable food is usually very expensive.
- You can’t have a good campout without seared animal flesh. That just isn’t possible in a non-perishable form.
My family is planning a major campout in Yellowstone next year. While we were in the initial discussion phases, I hit on the possible solution of using dry ice. I’m not sure how well this will work – it may require some experimentation. Some questions that need to be answered:
- The cooler’s plastic material probably was not designed to deal with the subzero temperatures dealt out by a block of dry ice, which could result in cracking or even breakage. Is this really an issue? If so, how can it be avoided? Would wrapping it in an old towel solve the problem? Is styrofoam subject to these problems?
- Is it possible to have some food in the same cooler frozen and some refrigerated? Perhaps this could be accomplished if the dry ice is put into a towel, placed into small styrofoam coolers for frozen items with either the lids missing or holes punched in near the top, which is then placed into a larger cooler for the refrigerated items. Gravity would have a tendency to keep the coldest gas inside the smaller coolers.
- Would dry ice provide relatively consistent cooling through a four or five night camping trip?
- If you use enough regular ice to provide ample cooling, it takes up a lot of room, requiring either a huge cooler or lots of small coolers. Would a good supply of dry ice take up less space?
- No matter what cooling method is used, keeping the lid closed is critical … but is this more or less of an issue with dry ice?
- If the rest of these questions can be worked out, is dry ice cheap enough to make it worthwhile?
Has anyone ever tried camping with dry ice and had any success? Any recommendations about where to get experimentation supplies real cheap? Would anyone like to collaborate on the project?