If you love camping, then you know that there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cold beer at the end of a long day by the campfire.
But keeping your beer cold while camping can be a challenge—especially when you don’t have access to a refrigerator.
Luckily, there are several simple and effective ways to keep your beer chilled and refreshing throughout your trip.
Keeping your beer cold outdoors is best done with a cooler
One of the most popular methods for keeping beer cold while camping is to use a cooler—and for good reason.
Coolers are affordable, portable, and designed to keep your food and drinks cold for hours.
But not all coolers are created equal, and some are more effective than others at maintaining a consistent temperature.
By choosing the right cooler and packing it properly, you can ensure that your beer stays cold for days on end.
How to choose the right cooler for your beer
You may be tempted to buy a new cooler because it’s on sale or fits within your budget, but it’s important to stop and consider some of these factors before you do:
The insulation of the cooler is one of the most important factors to consider.
Look for a cooler with thick walls and a tight-fitting lid to keep the cold air inside.
Some coolers also have additional insulation in the form of foam or other materials to help keep your beer cold for longer periods of time.
Size and capacity
The size and capacity of the cooler will depend on how much beer you plan to bring and how many people will be drinking.
A small cooler may keep beer cold for a shorter period than a larger cooler because there’s simply less space.
The more cold items you can put in a cooler, the longer it will stay cold.
Nowadays, you can get portable electric coolers that plug into a portable power bank or your car to help keep your beer cold when ice or ice packs aren’t enough.
These types of coolers use advanced insulation technology to maintain a consistent temperature.
Some coolers come with extra features that can help keep your beer cold, such as built-in ice packs or drainage plugs to remove excess water.
You may also want to consider the colour of your cooler since a darker colour may absorb more heat from the sun, while a lighter colour may reflect more heat.
Make sure to “pre-cool” your cooler
Your cooler should ideally be ice cold before you fill it with beer.
The easiest way to to pre-cool your cooler is to put it in your freezer, but if your cooler is too big, you can also fill it with ice a few hours before you plan to add your beer.
This will help to bring the temperature of the cooler down quickly and ensure that your beer stays cold for as long as possible.
You can then dump some (or all) of the ice out before adding your beer.
How to pack your cooler with beer the right way
You can’t just throw beer cans and ice into your cooler and call it a day.
There’s actually a bit of a technique to it…
Layer ice and beer
This will help keep the cold air deep inside the cooler and minimize the amount of warm air that gets in.
Start by placing a layer of ice at the bottom of the cooler, then add a layer of beer.
Repeat this process until your cooler is full, making sure to end with a layer of ice on top.
Use ice packs
Ice packs are a convenient way to keep your beer cold potentially longer than ice will, depending on how large the ice packs are and how many you can fit inside your cooler.
Simply place them in your cooler alongside your beer or layer them between the beer cans similar to how you would with ice.
Freeze bottles of water or juice
If you don’t have any ice packs, you can use frozen water bottles or juice boxes and as ice packs.
The’ll help keep your beer cold and provide you with a refreshing drink once they thaw out.
Wrap or cover your cooler
You can also use a reflective blanket to reflect sunlight and prevent the cooler from heating up.
Just be sure to keep the lid closed as much as possible to keep the cold air inside.
How to keep your cooler cold for longer
Your cooler won’t stay cold forever, but you can extend its cooling time by doing a few simple things.
Keep it packed as full as possible
The more empty space you have in your cooler, the more air you also have, and the harder it is to keep it cold.
Try to minimize the amount of air in your cooler by packing it tightly with ice and beer.
You can also use ice packs instead of ice to reduce the amount of water in your cooler.
Keep it in the shade
Direct sunlight can quickly heat up your cooler and melt your ice.
If you don’t have natural shade, you can create your own by using a tarp or umbrella.
If you have to leave it in the sun, cover it with a reflective blanket or tarp to help keep it cool.
Avoid opening it as much as possible
Every time you open your cooler, the cold air escapes and warm air enters.
Try to limit how often you open your cooler to avoid letting in too much warmth.
For instance, if you’re grabbing another beer, be sure to ask your fellow campers if they want another beer to help reduce the number of times you have to open your cooler.
Another good tip to follow is to designate someone as the “beer guy” or “beer girl” who’s in charge of serving beer to everyone so multiple people don’t repeatedly open it.
Keeping beer cold while camping FAQ
How long does a cooler keep beer cold while camping?
A cooler can keep beer cold for anywhere between 12 and 48 hours, depending on the size and type of cooler you’re using, the method of cooling you’re using (ice/ice packs), the outside temperature, and how often you open it.
Do glass beer bottles or beer cans stay colder for longer?
Glass beer bottles will stay colder for longer than aluminum cans because of their stronger insulating properties.
However, glass bottles are prone to breaking and cans are lighter and easier to transport and store in a cooler.
The difference in cooling between glass and aluminum may be minimal if you’re packing a lot of ice or ice packs, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
How do you keep beer cold while camping without a cooler?
If you don’t plan on bringing a cooler on your camping trip your only other option is to use natural resources, such as streams or rivers.
This is really only convenient when your campsite is right by a body of water, and the water is cold.
By submerging your beer in a bag and placing it in a nearby body of water, you can take advantage of the natural cooling properties of the water to keep your beer icy cold.
However, it’s important to be mindful of any waves or current to avoid losing your beer and inadvertently polluting the environment.
Are cooler bags better at keeping beer cold than hard coolers?
The type of cooler you use (bag or hard) doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of keeping your beer cold.
What matters more is the quality of insulation, the size, how it’s filled, how often it’s opened and closed, and the outside temperature.
Cooler bags, however, may be a more lightweight option and are easier to transport.
Additionally, they can be collapsed when not in use, making them a great option for those with limited storage space.
Can you use dry ice in a cooler to keep beer cold?
Yes, you can use dry ice in your cooler to keep beer cold—but with caution.
Dry ice is colder than regular ice and will last longer, so it’s a great option if you need to keep your beer very cold for extended periods of time.
To use dry ice safely, make sure to wrap it in a towel before placing it in your cooler.
Also, be sure not to touch the dry ice with your bare hands, as this could result in severe frostbite.
Finally, avoid breathing in the vapour released by dry ice as it can be hazardous to your health.
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).