How To Prevent Water Logged Foods In Your Cooler

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Soggy food is just one of the many things that can ruin a day at the beach or on a camping trip. It’s frustrating and sometimes even disgusting when your whole cooler becomes water logged. Keeping items dry, no matter what time of year you are storing them, can be easy if you use these 10 tips to keep your food dry and enjoy it all summer long!

Table of Contents

1. Tray for the cooler

Using a cooler tray is the easiest method to avoid moisture build-up inside a cooler. On the flip side, the trays can be a bit of a hassle since they need to be on top of the ice.  If your cooler is bursting at the seams, it can be quite the pickle when the ice start to shove the tray upwards and you cannot close the lid properly. 

It also makes it hard to use that section directly under the tray because ice fills that space, as soon as you add any drinks or other frozen produce, they will not fit anymore. So, while trays aren’t perfect, they are definitely the easiest solution unless you are able to afford a more expensive cooler with insulated walls.


A cheaper alternative is to get an old wire shelf from a fridge and cut it to fit the bottom of your cooler. The wire shelf allows water to drain out of the bottom and everything else sits on top.

2. Watertight bags

Waterproof bags are practical solutions to protect your items against moisture and dampness within the cooler. To maintain the freshness and dryness of food items that are prone to spoilage, such as vegetables and cheese, you can use freezer bags. 

However, the bag’s exterior becomes excessively wet and this will cause water to seep inside  when you try to retrieve your items. Although this may not be a significant issue when using perishable items like vegetables, but it can cause issues for items such as cheese. Even a droplet of water can spoil the entire block, rendering it unusable.

3. Plastic food storage containers

Reusable plastic containers can help you keep your food out of the water and put back onto the ice to keep it cool without getting soggy. Another advantage of using these containers, is that you can keep your food items segregated, preventing any possible cross-contamination. This way, you can be assured that your food will remain safe, hygienic, and free from harmful bacteria.

The downside is that they take up a lot of space, making it hard to fit everything into your cooler. You need to sacrifice some space to make room for ice and the container. But, with some creative cooler-packing strategies, reusable plastic containers can be a game-changer for your outdoor adventures.

4. Trashbag And A Towel

We have a simple trick to prevent water from getting into the bottom of your cooler. Start by placing a small trash bag filled with ice on the bottom of your cooler, then place a towel on top of that, followed by items to be kept cold and lastly a second towel on top of those items. 

This will ensure that there are no gaps for water to get underneath and dampen your stored items. Make sure not to fill up your cooler with stuff because this will create more weight that causes it to be packed with ice which is not good for food storage. We always leave the drain hole open so any water drains out instead of staying in the cooler.

5. Tall Storage Container

A good way to prevent waterlogged foods is to place tall plastic cereal type storage containers in your cooler. We leave the lid off and then we are careful that the ice does not go over the top! These containers will keep your items separated and prevent water logging. This also makes it much easier to organize the cooler and avoid digging through the loose items trying to find what you want.

6. Freeze Water Bottles


Use a vacuum sealer to pack food in advance and freeze. This way you can throw frozen pouches of meals and snacks into the cooler and pull them out when it’s time to eat. To keep ice from melting, freeze water bottles first and then fill up the ice chest with them as needed. and then when the ice melts it stays in the bottles and you can drink the water.

7. Multiple Coolers

It would be good to use two separate coolers, one for beverages and the other for food items. You can fill the cooler for beverages with regular ice, and you can use ice blocks made from frozen water bottles or igloo packs in the cooler for food. If you have enough space, you can consider the 3rd cooler as a backup freezer. However, it’s essential to exercise caution while handling dry ice. Incorrect handling can cause cold burns on your skin and should not come in direct contact with food items. You can use dry ice to refreeze your ice blocks, but be sure to handle it with care.

8. Use Better Coolers

Investing in a high quality cooler is the ideal solution to solve water logged foods in the cooler. A high-quality cooler is designed to keep ice for longer, and you usually find that the insulation is way better. This means you will not need to worry about water seeping into your food items. There are a variety of coolers available on the market that comes in a range of sizes and prices to suit every budget.  Take a look at our suggestions for top-notch coolers.


For those of us who can’t afford to buy a new cooler, there are other inexpensive options. One solution is to customize your own foam box which can be easily purchased from hardware store.  Or you can line the inside of your cooler, by cutting the foam to fit inside your existing cooler. You then can fill it with ice packs or ice blocks to keep your cooler cold for longer.

9. Precook And Prefreeze

Cooking your food prior to a trip is a great way to do that. We’ve been doing this for years, and it’s saved us valuable from cooking meals from scratch. You can avoid carrying raw ingredients, which can be cumbersome. Select recipes that can be easily multiplied, such as soups, stews or casseroles. Double or triple the recipes so that you have enough for multiple servings.
Freeze and vacuum pack them ahead of the trip, which will help to extend their chill time you do not need to use as much ice. You will find that freezing your food items also minimize the water they release as they defrost. So before you step out, place your food in a container that can withstand freezing temperatures. Then allow it to cool down for a few hours before transferring it to a cooler. Do remember to leave adequate space in the container to expand during the freezing process.

10. Place Under A Shade


Exposing your cooler to direct sunlight can quickly raise its internal temperature, and lead to melted ice and water buildup. So, make sure to place your cooler in a shaded area such as under canopy or a tree. If you don’t have any available shades, using a tarp or a cloth to cover your cooler can help.

Another smart trick is to place a mirror-type blanket on top of it. These blankets work by reflecting the sun’s heat away from your cooler. This will keep the inside of your cooler cool and prevent the ice from melting too quickly, so you wont need to worry about your food going bad.
If you’re planning to spend a whole day at the beach, placing your cooler under an umbrella will help to shield it from direct sunlight. Umbrellas are readily available and easy to set up. This simple step can provide an effective barrier against the sun’s UV rays, helping to keep your food and drinks fresh.

11. Use Ice Packs

Although the classic way of using ice cubes is effective to keep your cooler cold, the reality is, ice can melt. You risk getting your food damped and ruined.


To avoid this disaster, consider switching to reusable ice packs instead of ice cubes to keep your food cold. Ice packs are designed to melt slowly, and this results in less water accumulation, ensuring that your cooler contents stay dry.

12. Drain the water regularly

One of the most obvious ways to prevent water logged foods is by draining the water from your cooler on a regular basis. As the ice melts, it will produce water that can accumulate at the bottom of your cooler and this will make your food items soggy.
You can get rid of the accumulated water in your cooler by opening the drain plug located at the bottom of the cooler and allowing the water to flow out. Otherwise, tilt the cooler slightly to facilitate faster drainage.

To Sum It Up

It’s always a good idea to bring along some towels, just in case. You never know when you might need to mop up a little spill, or if you need to make a makeshift tablecloth. And let’s be real, if you’re eating camping food, a little mess is almost inevitable!
So, there you have it, folks. With these tips, you’ll be able to prevent water-logged food in your cooler and enjoy your camping trip to the fullest. And, if all else fails, just remember – soggy food tastes better with a little bit of ketchup!”

What’s Next

If you are tired of hunting for ice and having soggy everything, consider getting yourself a portable RV refrigerator. Check out our recommendations for the best portable RV refrigerators for outdoors.

About Us

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Jules and Ken

Hi! We are Jules and Ken. We are outdoor lovers, travellers, and writers all rolled into one. You have seen our posts here reviewing lots of different types of outdoor gear, camping equipment, RV equipment, kayaking, to cycling. Our reviews are guided by our years of experience being outdoors. We are happy to share our knowledge with you to make a better choice when you are outdoors.

We hope you enjoyed this article and if you have questions about How To Prevent Water Logged Foods In Your Cooler or want to leave your own personal comments, feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

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