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traveling with dry ice: input needed

13292 Views 24 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  lhowemt
Looking at 3 days travel time needing to keep well-frozen food frozen. Dry ice has been suggested as best. I've been told that one cooler, vented when we stop would probably not be an issue. ? thanks
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Looking at 3 days travel time needing to keep well-frozen food frozen. Dry ice has been suggested as best. I've been told that one cooler, vented when we stop would probably not be an issue. ? thanks
This will work just fine. We did this last summer with no significant issues. Note that the DI will freeze almost anything solid - including beers which (as mentioned elsewhere on these threads) will split most cans.

Also mentioned elsewhere here, but setup your coolers so that the DI is on top of the stuff you want frozen, preferably near the top of the cooler. Capt. Obvious reminds you, "Colder air sinks". We kept cheap space blanket (reflective) on top of the DI and taped the cooler shut.
Keep in mind that dry ice sublimates directly in to poisonous carbon dioxide gas. Don't put it in the back seat with the windows up and A/C on. That stuff can kill you.
Keep in mind that dry ice sublimates directly in to poisonous carbon dioxide gas. Don't put it in the back seat with the windows up and A/C on. That stuff can kill you.
Carbon dioxide is not poisonous. It's what we breath out. Carbon Monoxide.....That's a different story.
If you had a Yeti all you would need is block ice. Also freeze all the meats before hand. And have something covering the cooler. These questions are silly, how about best reading materiel for the groover accessories kit. Or who on the buzz can get the most blasted and have a clean line on Govt Rapid.
Teletoes has it right with his warning. Yeah we exhale it but when it's all there is to inhale you won't last long. Carbon monoxide is a different story.

You don't need too much Dry Ice to start if you can buy more on the road. A little goes a long way.
How much is enough? I think the local market sells it in 6"x3"x3" bricks...
A couple?
Lots of factors but the beauty is that Dry Ice is sold every where. Start with a few the night before you leave and take a look see when you get on the road. If you need some more stop at a supermarket and buy some more. No harm done opening the cooler if you can add some more dry ice. By the time you get to the put in you will have a handle on it. Just be aware that anything that shouldn't freeze shouldn't be in the cooler because it will freeze. You could have another cooler with produce and at the put in you could remove the dry ice and add the produce.

Wrap the dry ice in something to insulate it and slow the sublimation. Packing foam works well but even newspaper will work.
I regularly use dry ice for multi day trips, like 7 days on the SanJuan with 2 days driving to get there. Here are some things that work for me...

1. I freeze anything and everything I can before hand to act as ice. Frozen meat, canned beer, pre-scrambled raw eggs. All freeze and thaw well.

2. I make a 3" block of solid ice in the bottom of the cooler. Lacking access to walk in freezer I do this by sawing blocks of ice to fit, then filling the craks with crushed ice and tap water. I freeze this solid by placing a block of dry ice on top the night before departure.

3. in the morning I pack it full with the pre-frozen food, leaving a few inches clear at the top. Then I add a block of the dry ice to the top and cover all with a piece of old blanket. I have abandoned efforts to use the dry ice cooler for any fresh veggie. Try as I might I always ended up freezing it. Instead I use this cooler only for frozen stuff and transfer ice to a smaller cooler for day use and the veg.

4. I have drive with the cooler in the car but prefer it in the trailer, due to the aforementioned CO2 concerns. If it goes in the back seat I make sure the cars fresh air vent is open. My Coleman 'steel belted' doesn't seal tight enough for there to be any pressure buildup, but that might be different with a Yeti.

5. During the drive I periodically check the dry ice supply and top off as needed, coordinating to top of the dry ice at the last town before the put-in.

6. Dry ice is typically sold by the pound. The blocks start out 6x3x3 then gets smaller as they sit in the store, so it doesn't make sense to sell by the bag. I usually buy 1 lbs to freeze the big ice block the night before, then I add about 1 lbs for every 2 days of driving.

1 lbs of dry ice lasts for about 3 days on the river keeping the temps well below freezing. (ice cream will be like a rock) When it's gone the big block of regular ice starts to melt and it can go for another 4 days.

I was able to serve popsicles on day 4 of the San Juan, and ice left for cold drinks at the take-out. Daytime temps well over 100 degrees.
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Is there any concern about damaging your cooler with dry ice? I read a review somewhere for the Igloo Ultra Marine and one said they loved the cooler but it cracked after using dry ice. I have not heard anyone else say anything about this. I would like to try dry ice but don't want to damage my cooler. Any thoughts?

Buildup co2 in your blood triggers your body to breathe. Air is only 16% oxygen and 78% nitrogen. I would think excess co2 would increase your breathing rate. At some point you would roll down the windows and the excess co2 would escape with the inrush of fresh air. CO (monoxide) however is a killer but its a product of incomplete combustion and not a product of the sublimation of dry ice.

Dry ice is helpful especially if you want to start the trip with a deeply frozen cooler. Adding fresh ice and rock salt I have been told is a way to deep freeze the remaining ice after the brine is added. The freezing point of the brine is lower so the remaining ice has to get colder for the energy to be conserved.
If you want to maximize your cooler ice retention do not open it often, do not drain it, and keep it out of the sun and covered at all times with a wet towel. This will chill the outside surface and reduce rate of heat transfer into the cooler.
Evaporation requires 540 cal per gram of water. Ice melting only requires 80. Evaporation is free when you have water. When the ice melts you cant make more of it. So the evaporation effect is a free method of improving the life of your chilled food.
I have used dry ice for years without any damage. However it does get really cold, much colder than regular ice.

(reg ice = 32 degree F vs. dry ice = -109.3 F)

So I could see how some types of plastic could become brittle in the extreme cold. My Coleman is the stainless steel variety, but I have used it in plastic coolers.
Plan on having gloves handy as it will 'burn' your skin on contact.

I have used several times when getting to the rio takes a couple of days. For normal trips it hasn't been necessary.

I have also used to extend my freezer space at home during pre-rig.
The cracked coolers may be from letting the dry ice freeze free water into a very expanded block in the bottom of cooler.

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Most molded plastic coolers have a radius edge and slightly sloping sides. This seems to be enough to make the expansion force the ice up rather than out. I would want to keep the block thinner than about 4". But your mileage may vary.
Thanks, all. This is the kind of feedback that is helpful. Especially using dry ice to freeze water in the cooler.
Co2 will displace oxygen and you will get light headed in closed tifgt quarters. I have seen it happen in trandport so keep it outside. Freeze the shit ouy of an already frozen cooler for travel and it will take days for anything frozen in the ice to become accessible. I have filled the bottom of our cooler with blocks of ice then 2-3 inches of water and frozen it with dry ice. This could easily be done twice or 3x as long as you can keep the cooler out of the heat.

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The cold will go right out of the bottom of the cooler and freeze what the cooler is sitting on. Don't leave it on something that can't take it overnight.
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