How to Use Dry Ice for Camping – Tips and Tricks

dry ice

For those who are wondering how to use dry ice for camping, it is actually really simple and straightforward. So much so that it can be summed up in about three steps which you can find below. I have also included some important safety tips for handling dry ice near the end of this article, which I strongly recommend taking a look at.

Step 1

Before storing the dry ice in your cooler, first wrap it in layers of newspaper. There are three main reasons for this; firstly, the newspaper insulates the dry ice, slowing down evaporation time.

Secondly, this can help prevent you from accidentally touching any dry ice with your bare hands as this can burn.

Thirdly, if dry ice comes into direct contact with food, it will freeze it. Most campers don’t want to find all of their food frozen inside their cooler, but rather just kept cool. Wrapping the dry ice will prevent this, and you could even add some cardboard for an extra layer between the dry ice and food.  

Step 2

Place the wrapped dry ice on top of your food in the cooler. Feel free to place regular ice below, just don’t let the dry ice come into contact with any water so that it lasts longer.  

Step 3

Fill the rest of the cooler with crumpled newspaper. The less dead space there is, the longer the dry ice will last.   


There are a bunch of advantages to using dry ice for camping.

Dry ice is much colder than regular ice. This is because it consists of frozen carbon dioxide gas at temperatures of -109.3°F/-78.5°C or colder, as opposed to regular ice which is just water frozen at 32°F/0°C or colder.

Since it is much colder, it’s more effective at keeping your cooler, food, and drinks cold.

What’s really great about dry ice is that it doesn’t melt and leave behind a puddle of water. As it gets warmer, it simply turns into a gas, rather than liquid.

You may be wondering exactly how long does dry ice last in a cooler for? Well, on average, a five-pound brick of dry ice that remains whole and not broken into pieces, can last anywhere between 18 and 24 hours. Outdoors it can only last 3-5 hours, and in a liquid just a mere 15-45 minutes.


The main disadvantage of dry ice is that it has a short shelf life. Although it lasts a decent number of hours inside of a cooler, storing it before your camping trip isn’t really possible. This is because your freezer would have to be at -109.3°F or -78.5°C, otherwise it would just become a gas and disappear. Around five pounds to ten pounds of dry ice can be lost within 24 hours.

So, you should buy dry ice right before your camping trip.

Safety Tips

Since dry ice gives off carbon dioxide gas, you should never keep it near you in an enclosed space. Don’t leave it inside your tent with you, and when transporting the cooler in your car keep it in the trunk.

There’s the potential that levels rise to an unhealthy level to the point where you can get a headache, rapid breathing, and even faint.

It is also important to always wear gloves when handling dry ice, and long sleeves if possible, because it can burn you just like fire can.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I use dry ice in a cooler?

As long as there is a way to ventilate your cooler, yes – you can use dry ice to keep food cold in a cooler. In order to have adequate ventilation, your cooler should have a lid that doesn’t seal completely shut or a drainage cap that is usually located near the bottom of the cooler.

How long does dry ice keep?

On average, 10 pounds of dry ice can last up to 24 hours in a standard 25-quart cooler. Dry ice lasts longer when kept whole rather than broken up into smaller pieces. It also helps if the food stored in your cooler is frozen or at least refrigerated beforehand as well.

How long does it take for a pound of dry ice to melt?

Just one pound of dry ice can last around four hours before it turns into gas. This can vary depending on the thickness of insulation, temperature, and air pressure.

How do you use dry ice to keep food frozen?

For your dry ice camping cooler, keep in mind that if the dry ice makes direct contact with any food, it will freeze it. If you don’t want your food to be frozen, but rather just kept cool, then add an extra layer between the dry ice and food. Cardboard, newspaper, or cloth are great materials to use as a barrier layer.

Is dry ice expensive?

Dry ice is usually priced by weight, but prices still vary from one seller to the next. Generally, prices seem to range between $1 to $3 per pound. Some places offer discounts for purchasing in bulk.

Can dry ice last 3 days?

Around 15 pounds of dry ice can last 3 days. It helps if the dry ice is not broken into little pieces, and this can still vary depending on insulation, temperature, and air pressure.

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