Reuse This Pantry Staple To Help Keep Your Food Cold While Camping

Picture this: you are sitting in a foldable chair by your perfectly built fire at one of the most beautiful fall camping destinations in the U.S. However, when you reach over to grab a snack from your cooler, you discover that after a long day of sitting out in the sun, all the ice in your cooler has melted and everything inside is tepid and warm. Now, not only do you have slimy and warm food but you also have to worry about whether or not all the food you hauled to your campsite is even safe to consume. Luckily, to prevent this from ever happening to you, there's an easy fix and all you need is one common kitchen ingredient — rock salt. 

Because we use salt on the roads in winter to melt ice, you may be wondering how adding salt to a cooler full of ice could possibly make it colder. While it is a little counterintuitive, salt has both the power to melt ice and to make ice water colder. This works because salt lowers the freezing temperature of water. In a cooler, this means that adding salt may melt some ice at first, but the resulting salt water will be very cold (colder than the temperature of most standard freezers). This frigid salt water and ice mixture will then help lower the general temperature inside the cooler to help keep your food colder for longer.

How to use salt to extend the chill time of your cooler

So, now that you know that it works, how do you do it? To start, go ahead and fill your cooler with the food and drinks you'd like to keep cold. Then, pour in plenty of ice. You should try to fill the cooler all the way up to the top as any extra air will make the ice melt faster. Next, simply take some rock salt and pour a layer of it over your ice. It is okay to eyeball the amount of salt you add to the cooler, however, if you'd like to be more exact, America's Test Kitchen recommends using the ratio of one cup of salt for every one pound of ice as a way to make a particularly chilly ice bath.

While adding salt to your cooler can help make the inner temperature colder and extend the length of time your food stays chilled, this will only work well if you are doing it in combination with other ice-saving techniques. Even with the added salt, you should still try to open the cooler as little as possible, keep it out of direct sunlight, and not drain the  excess water.