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Discussion Starter #1
This is probably a dumb question and I'm really just thinking out loud, but...

We have a 9-day San Juan Trip coming up (hopefully) and I'm trying to strategize the coolers. I have several frozen gallons of water with KoolerGel (the ice extender) in them. We are going to pick up 15 lb. solid frozen blocks of Moab Ice in addition.

I'm trying to decide whether to make more frozen gallon bottles with KoolerGel or if I should just save the cooler space for the 15 lb. blocks of solid ice. I do plan to drain the coolers often (into my day beer cooler) so that the main cooler lasts as long as possible. I will probably put a layer of beers in the bottom of the cooler so that the ice isn't sitting in meltwater.

Google tells me a gallon of H20 weighs 8.34 lbs, which means the Moab Block Ice conains quite a bit more frozen mass than one of my frozen gallon bottles.

My initial thought is that the 15 lb. solid ice blocks will last us longer than additional frozen gallons of KoolerGel water.

All agreeing and dissenting opinions are welcome!
 

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I don't know anything about kooler gel, it looks interesting.

I do know there is a gas station with ice and a pizza place a half mile walk up from the Mexican Hat boat launch, just to keep in mind if you're running low or want some cubes for cocktails.
 

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I hope your trip goes off as planned. Anyway, one thing to keep in mind, if you haven't already, is that you can get more ice in Mexican Hat. Last time I went through there was block ice at the gas station there.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I don't know anything about kooler gel, it looks interesting.

I do know there is a gas station with ice and a pizza place a half mile walk up from the Mexican Hat boat launch, just to keep in mind if you're running low or want some cubes for cocktails.
Thanks! The San Juan Inn (right next to the bridge in Mexican Hat) also has block ice (but just the cheaper 10lb. compacted blocks). I already confirmed with them that we can top off there, which we're planning to do.

That was also part of why I'm leaning toward more blocks. Anything that melts above Mexican Hat can be replenished there wheras the 1 gallon bottles don't free up any space when they melt.
 

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My name isn't Will
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If you are planning to line the bottom of your cooler with beer to keep the ice out of meltwater, freeze the beer first.



First let it chill in the fridge a few days, then move carefully to the freezer for several days. The fridge lets the maximum amount of CO2 dissolve in the liquid so you don't split cans open. Crazy thing; as your water ice melts, if that layer of beer is enough below 32F, the water will re-freeze into a beer-block. Of course you'll need OTHER beer to drink while you wait to get to the bottom of your cooler. If it's a short enough trip, you'll be thawing beer by the fire, so don't freeze all of it!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If you are planning to line the bottom of your cooler with beer to keep the ice out of meltwater, freeze the beer first.

First let it chill in the fridge a few days, then move carefully to the freezer for several days. The fridge lets the maximum amount of CO2 dissolve in the liquid so you don't split cans open. Crazy thing; as your water ice melts, if that layer of beer is enough below 32F, the water will re-freeze into a beer-block. Of course you'll need OTHER beer to drink while you wait to get to the bottom of your cooler. If it's a short enough trip, you'll be thawing beer by the fire, so don't freeze all of it!
Thanks! Unfortunately, I'm running pretty low on freezer space with the 4 frozen gallons in there, so not sure if I'll be able to freeze many beers but I'll definitely do a few. The KoolerGel gallons will be at the bottom of the cooler too, so should help with really chilling that meltwater before I drain it. I figure even refrigerator chilled beers at the bottom will be beneficial since they can prevent the blocks from sitting in the water.
 

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My name isn't Will
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I have borrowed space in a neighbor's chest freezer for my gallon water jugs (just plain water, though). I would probably trust him with the beer, but you just never know....
 

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Has been discussed before, but bringing up again. If freezing beer, be cautious of lower alcohol content beers expanding and busting open in your freezer. Speaking from experience.
 

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I designate a cooler for ice blocks, top with dry ice that goes in insulated sleeves (bubble wrap on inside, silver reflective outside)

Seal the cooler; it does not get opened until needed on the river

No beer with the dry ice!
 

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We use a layer of dry ice on the bottom.... We then cover that with two layers of cheap yoga mat and then start to layer ice and food..... keeps really well.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
So back to the original question... Assuming 3 1 gallon Koolergel frozen bottles are in the cooler along with 15 lb. solid blocks...

If you had to decide which one to add more of, which would it be?
 

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I dont know how the Kooler Gel stuff works but I bet its not exponentially better, that being said I think a 15# block of ice is a better bet.

I've found they live longer if you keep them in their bag or the container you froze them in if you make your own.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I dont know how the Kooler Gel stuff works but I bet its not exponentially better, that being said I think a 15# block of ice is a better bet.

I've found they live longer if you keep them in their bag or the container you froze them in if you make your own.
Thanks! I'm pretty sure the KoolerGel works by turning the water into a gel... so when it melts within the bottle, the frozen part is only in contact with a gelled form of water and not sloshing around in completely melted water... but I'm not a chemist. :-D
 

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Whats keeping you from buying some bigger plastic containers at Walmart and making bigger blocks of Kooler Gel? 2 gallons will get you over the 15# blocks you're wanting to buy. There are spaghetti container etc there that come in interesting shapes for cooler Jenga™?
 

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I have used the koolergel and it is okay, a little better than straight ice, but and it is a big butt. Other than keeping food or beer cold it is useless. You cant drink it as it melts and it starts melting before you pull out of your driveway. Only way to refreeze is dry ice on the road. I freeze at least one 10 liter jug per cooler so Have very cold ice/water as it melts. All my ice is in containers so no melt in bottom of cooler other than cube ice if I use it to fill in the gaps. The larger your blocks of ice the longer it takes to melt completely. If cold beer is a priority, I suggest a separate cooler for beer/drinks only.
Opening your food cooler to dig out beer is an ice killer. Running a smaller day cooler that you put your days worth of cold beer/drinks in during the morning and any frozen food your having for dinner saves Ice and eliminates opening any frozen cooler more than once in the cool of the morning per day. I like a cocktail so I carry four 64 oz Walmart cheap double walled vacuum sealed wide mouth bottles.I chill them in refrigerator before adding cube ice and put in beverage cooler. I refill with fresh Ice day before launch and have had a few ice cubes still seven days later. I wrap the bottles with Mylar coated bubble wrap, the kind used on heat ducts. A layer of the same on top inside your coolers helps with Ice retention. More opinions the you probably wanted. Back to your ? Yes my experience is that a two gallon block of ice will outlast a one gallon koolergel block.
 

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For information.

On my last San Juan full length trip, we had lunch plus topped off ice and water at Mexican Hat. The cafe served great cheese burgers and fries.

A nice treat we thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks all! We do plan to have a separate dedicated beer cooler and will not be going in/out of the main coolers during the day for beers. We have reflective bubble insulation for both of these main coolers too. We will also be using wet cooler towels.

For the main coolers, from bottom to top, I'm thinking:

- Layer of cold/frozen beers so they're the only things sitting in meltwater
- A couple 1 gallon Koolergel bottles and 15 lb. solid blocks
- Frozen and late trip food on top of this layer
- Layer of bubble insulation
- Early trip food and a couple 1 gallon Koolergel bottles (since they won't melt onto everything and will keep everything cool above the insulation layer.)
- Another layer of insulation at the top of the cooler.

We have two giant main coolers for a 9-day trip for only four people and will probably bring along another decent sized cooler just for beer... so it seems we should have plennnnty of room for blocks of ice.

I did a 7 day San Juan trip last year in hotter weather with only one giant cooler for 5 people and was able to make it last with the 1 gallon bottles and 15 lb solid blocks (and a topoff at Mexican Hat). I didn't have the bubble insulation layers so think we should be good, but cooler management is always the thing that keeps me up at night!
 

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Here's more info you weren't looking for...:)

If you have a cheap coleman extreme cooler like I do, the LIDS are not insulated; only the sides.
I drilled a few holes in the lid, and then filled the lid with great stuff insulating foam.
You would not believe how much better the cooler performs. Ice lasts at least 3-4 days longer. Just got back from 8 days camping in San Rafael Swell where it was nice and warm. Returned home with cubes remaining.
 

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I did a 7 day San Juan trip last year in hotter weather with only one giant cooler for 5 people and was able to make it last with the 1 gallon bottles and 15 lb solid blocks (and a topoff at Mexican Hat). I didn't have the bubble insulation layers so think we should be good, but cooler management is always the thing that keeps me up at night!

I think you answered your own question here


Block Ice vs. Kooler gel seems like more of a personal preference than a make or break. You seem to have a pretty good understanding of cooler management, either way it sounds like you will have a cold cooler.


My preference is for block ice, again I think it just boils down to personal preference.


Getting your cooler cold before loading it makes a big difference. If you can find a place with a walk in freezer to let you pre chill the cooler is very helpful.
 

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On my last GC trip we used Moenkopi. They fill their coolers almost half full of water and put them in their freezers. We had a little ice and very cold beer at Diamond Creek. If you cover the cooler with heavy towels or burlap and keep them wet it will make a big difference. On my last MF trip I froze 4 gallons in a plastic tub and it lasted 9 days with no problem. It helps that the MF stays very cold all summer.
 
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