Deep Freeze: Coolers & Dry Ice

Smoky and extremely cold, dry ice is a mysterious, sublimating matter. Grab a chunk and get ready for some industrial-strength chill.


Pound per pound, dry ice offers far more freezing power than frozen water. It’s a secret weapon of commercial operations and savvy fishermen or campers alike. In a quality cooler, dry ice can significantly extend a food-preserving timeline in the wilds.


Dry ice is the frozen form of carbon dioxide. At -109° F, it gives twice the cooling power per pound as regular water ice. It’s signature fog? That’s dry ice changing from a solid to a gas, and there is no intervening liquid form in between.

Water ice melts and pools. As per its name, dry ice leaves a surface (or the inside of a cooler) absolutely dry as it sublimates and disappears into thin air. Nothing is left to soak your cold cuts.

So Cold It Burns…

Used alone or combined with water ice, dry ice is safe in open areas and outdoors. However, protective gloves are required to prevent damage to your skin.

We wore the patriotic leather gloves above to move around a block purchased for $8 from a local supplier. Even through the cowhide, we could feel the smoky substance and its unearthly cold.

Frostbite is a real concern if it contacts skin. And don’t use dry ice in your drinks as a small chunk ingested could cause injury.


As noted, when dry ice sublimates it gives off carbon dioxide gas. Without ventilation (for example, riding in a closed vehicle) it can cause shortness of breath, and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness as carbon dioxide will displace oxygen.

This article is sponsored by YETI, a company that recommends and offers best practice tips for using dry ice in its hard-side coolers. Be sure to read the manufacturers’ recommendations before employing frozen CO2 in your cooler.

Want to try dry ice on your next excursion? YETI offers a wide range of coolers that are compatible with dry ice.


  • Protect Your Hands. Oven mitts, leather gloves, or thick hand towels can prevent freezer burn when handling dry ice.
  • Ventilation. Sublimating dry ice gives off a fog (carbon dioxide gas) that can be dangerous if confined. Use dry ice outdoors or in ventilated areas.
  • Fortifier. Dry ice can be used in combination with cubes or blocks of water ice. Solid CO2 will help keep frozen H2O longer.
  • Wrap It. Confine blocks of dry ice in several sheets of newspaper or towels to slow the sublimation process so ice keeps longer.
  • Pack on top. Dry ice can be loaded on top or below food in a cooler. YETI notes food is kept cold longer when dry ice is packed closer to the food.
  • No dead space. When packing a cooler, minimize air pockets to keep dry ice frozen longer. Water, ice or a towel can be used to fill in open spaces in a cooler.
  • Cover the cooler. For maximum chill, store your cooler in shade and cover it with a blanket or sleeping bag.

–Post sponsored by YETI. See the company’s range of ice-retention tips